Mind you, I wouldn't actually recommend making the mask this way—these materials are heavy and brittle, and there are probably better methods to make this mask that use styrofoam, plastic, or even cardboard. Still, we worked with the materials my father and I are used to, and maybe this will help someone get ideas or at least learn from our mistakes!
This post is ULTRA CRAZY IMAGE HEAVY.
- A month and a half of time
- Chicken wire
- Papier mache
- Cardboard tubes
- Joint compound and/or spackle (we used both at different stages as we got our hands on new materials)
- Sunglass lenses
- Paper and a straight blade to make the symbol
- Elastic garters
- Wood glue
- Dap StrongStik
- Hot glue gun is optional or an alternative
- Spray paint primer and three different colors of spray paint; I used what I could get at Lowe's for about 7.98 a can I think.
We started with chicken wire to make the basic frame:
We were originally going to make the entire mask out of papier mache because it's cheap and light. DO NOT DO THIS; or if you are going to do this do not use chicken wire as your base frame. You'll see why as we go.
Shaping the wire to fit the curve of my face
We snipped out areas around the mouth area of the mask. This is where the middle tube of the respirator will go.
I think what amuses me the most is that as we go you can see my changing nail colors to indicate passage of time.
We made a smaller circular frame out of more chicken wire and lashed it to the main mask by twining the ends of the wires around each other with needle-nose pliers. We also snipped out around the eye area so that I could see.</center>
The frames of the sunglasses we stole the lenses from. (I wandered around my neighborhood's dollar store shops and got these for six dollars.) KEEP THE FRAME, you will need it to make measurements later on. Also, a background cameo from one of my cats.
Shaping the wire frame base to more accurately fit my face; the curvature is right but now nipping it in so that it ends at the curve of my hairline and cheeks and jaw. As you may expect all this wire is pretty sharp! Good thing I was going to coat the frame in layers of stuff—but when I hold my mask, the unfinished inside of the respirator area still slices my fingers sometimes.</center>
Anyway then it was PAPIER MACHE TIME
Newspaper strips for papier mache, yeahhh
This was a messy process as you may expect. We covered the table and mom was like /sigh just don't get it on the carpet. (We got it on the carpet, but it came out easy so motherly wrath was successfully avoided.)
I made the paper really long on the top half (by my forehead) so that it would definitely cover the sharp pokey edges, and also so that we'd have more room to work with. What we didn't use we cut away using scissors. I also looped around the edges to help cover all the sharp pointy bits; if you squint at the edges of the mask in the above photo, you'll see what I mean.
I decided to use the funnies first. I don't know why. It seemed like a Jake thing to do.
After the first layer, it had to dry! But it's such a strange 3-D shape that the best way for it to dry was to hang it in space, so...
SO THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULDN'T USE PAPIER MACHE: it gets wavy and wrinkly as all get-out, and Jake's gas mask is supposed to be as round and smooth as
Additionally, do not use papier mache and joint compound in conjunction like this, at least not the way we did (which I'll get to in a sec); the two different materials don't hold to each other very well and separated, which caused structural problems later the first time I wore this at a con. (More demonstrations of that later.)
Anyway, we made the respirators next! The two side ones were a long cardboard tube (originally used to hold gift wrap ribbon) which we sliced on an angle, so that the two sides would mirror-image fit my face. ...Yeah we used a saw to cut through the tubes because we're just that hardcore, idek.
(Sorry blurry photo is blurry but) you can see here how the respirators fit against the center tube. They point a bit forward because they were cut apart on an angle.
This photo allows you to see how they're cut on an angle! Additionally, we sealed the ends by cutting little circles out of more cardboard, and then flush-fitting them inside the tubes, and gluing them in place with wood glue. The cardboard circles don't fit perfectly, but the glue fills in the gaps so it looks good.
Interestingly enough, since this was a ribbon holding tube in a past life, it was coated in red wax whose color kept bleeding through the layers of joint compound. It stopped once we primed the whole thing, though.
We tried two ways to affix the respirators to the mask. This was the first way:
String! ...It didn't work, not rigid enough, too floppy.
We settled on using more wire. We combo duct tape + glued it to the inside of the tube, and then wound it around the middle part of the respirator to hold it in place. The hardest part was pulling it as tight as possible so it would have a minimum of wiggling, and making sure that the respirators were level with each other. You can also see here how we had to make slight adjustments to the cut of the tubes so that they'd rest flush against the main (wire) respirator.
See how they're tipped slightly forward because of the angle cut?
Anyway! Second layer, including papier mache coating for the respirator so we could paint it later. (We had not yet abandoned the papier mache idea at this point.)
Aaaand dried. It's smoother with this second layer, but still super wavy and wrinkly. :( especially the sides, which you can't see because the respirators are in the way. After it dried, we used caulk to seal the seams, which are the white bits you see around the respirator area.
At this point I decided to try and fix the not-smooth-and-annoyingly-wavy-surface problem by slathering the home-made flour glue I'd been using all over the not-smooth parts of the mask. The hope was that when this dried, it would be smooth and still somewhat lightweight.
This was probably the worst mistake I made the whole mask-making process! It took a million years to dry, cracked like crazy as it dried, and is probably the primary reason the two layers (papier mache + joint compound) didn't hold well to each other.
We also cut the eye holes at this point. This is why you need to keep the sunglasses frame—we laid it on top of the mask and cut using them as a guideline.
Anyway, so after the glue solution failed, we gave up and went back to our old mask/prop standbys: spackle and joint compound.
DRAMATIC ACTION SHOT
Joint compound is heavy and brittle and soaks color like a bitch unless you prime it, but it's also really easy to get super super smooth. You just lightly go at the surface with water and the brush-like object of your choice (paint brushes, rags, your fingers) until it's as smooth as you want. It was just a lot of eyeballing for this part; trying to get rounded curves for the cheeks and forehead and chin, figuring out how much of the cheeks towards my ears should be covered by the mask, etc.
Yeah, the respirators got really messy during this whole process. We just sanded them later before priming and painting them.
In-between coats, it dried in our boiler room:
Then we affixed another cardboard circle to the front, so that it would be flat. It was easier than trying to build up to a perfectly flat surface using joint compound, and probably a ton lighter.
AAAAAND THE BASIC MASK WAS DONE! All we had left to do at this point was prepare it for painting.
At this point I made the star on his forehead. It was probably one of the hardest parts of the mask and the one I'm most proud of, and yet it completely disappears in photos taken of my costume. Sigh.
I made a template for the star which you can see here, printed it, and then used a straight blade to cut it out.
Front and back views of the same paper as I cut through it
I kept screwing up, or the paper bits kept being so thin that they would tear. It took me maybe five tries to finally get it to work, but finally I succeeded! (I've wanted to be a surgeon since I was very little, and the closest I can get to that childhood dream now is doing painstaking detail work on cosplays.)
Back to the mask. We primed the surface at this point to prepare it for painting.
Preparing the inside of the mask. We put two styrofoam padding squares—one by the forehead, one by the chin—to make this a little more comfortable to wear. They were held in place with dollops of caulk. We used a three-point system with the elastic to make the mask stable and wearable, with a looped strap around the back of the head and one strap from the top. We secured it with Dap StrongStik, which is this hella strong construction-grade glue that my dad had lying around. The white patches inside the mask are where we used joint compound to further seal the chicken wire frame so it wouldn't poke me. u_u
We started to paint! We also made the eye holes slightly bigger; here you can see the lines we drew using the sunglasses frame template to help us figure out how large we could make the eye holes. Even though at the end they were as large as we could make them, I still have basically no peripheral vision. If I put my hand to the level of the tip of my nose, I can't see it anymore. (Stairs are interesting.)
We painted the mask in three sections, for the three colors, and covered unaffected areas with paper as we went.
Many people ask how I breathe in this; here you can see the answer! Underneath the primary respirator, we cut out a rectangle and overlaid it with mesh. That's my air hole. I also get air through some of the gaps around the edges of the mask. I sometimes have to blow out pretty hard to get new oxygen, and I can't wear the mask for more than two hours without overheating and dying, but for the most part it's pretty comfortable. Besides, WHAT IS COSPLAY WITHOUT SACRIFICE, I ask you.
MORE DRAMATIC ACTION SHOTS. (Thisi was back when I had long hair, before I donated it. Sigh)
The surface kept cracking as we made the mask, which gave us a lot of fits. Eventually we managed to get enough layers on to stabilize it, but that's part of why the mask is as heavy as it is.
Close up of how the straps are glued on.
After the straps were affixed to the mask, I cut the extra length and sewed them together as so.
To wear this mask, you have to wear it UNDER A WIG; at this point my hair is cut pretty similarly to Jake's and I still have to wear a wig, because the straps DO NOT play nicely with normal hair. They need a wig cap to grip onto. It also has the added bonus of making it appear as if the mask is floating on your face somehow, kind of like how it is in the comic! When I cosplay this, I usually carry the gas mask in one hand so I can see as I navigate throughout the con, and it means that every time someone asks for a photo I have to take my wig off, put the mask on, and then put my wig on again. It's very hard on my wig and a bit time-consuming, but I think it looks good in the end.
We also started to seal the edges with Dap StrongStik, and then got lazy and didn't finish. THIS WAS A BAD IDEA, because at the first con I went to, the fact that I hadn't stengthened it + people being overly excited about my cosplay = peeling and cracking city. Seal the edges with something really strong, it will help strengthen the whole mask and prevent layer separation.
I do not have photos of the last few stages of the mask's construction because I did them two days before the con and was panicking, but:
The star on the surface of the mask was first affixed with tiny tiny drops of hot glue, but there was still some areas of it which lifted up. So then I made a puddle of spray paint in the right color, dipped the end of a WD-40 straw into the puddle, slid the straw slightly underneath the paper, and blew the spray paint underneath the paper star and held it down, to act like glue. It worked well! (I really like detail work, can you tell.)
After the mask was wholly painted and detailed, I sprayed the whole surface with lacquer to give it more strength. It also made the mask really shiny, which is not something I'm a fan of, but the extra strength was necessary, so.
Lastly, we affixed the glass lenses to the mask with a glue gun at first. They cracked off at the con because the hot glue wasn't strong enough to handle people bumping me (or me bumping into them, since I can't really see). I did a temp fix at the con with duct tape, and then used the StrongStik to re-glue them, and they haven't given me trouble since.
AT LONG LAST, this is what the mask looked like when completed:
(Photo taken by femkatsteenboobs). If you want to see more photos of me with the mask on, check out my AnimeNextstuck tag on tumblr.
Sadly, the respirators are on slightly crooked!! This is why I never take straight-on shots with the mask—not only because 3/4 pose is the best pose, but also because it hides the respirators' unevenness.
AND THAT IS HOW I MADE THE MASK. (This is why when people ask how I made it, I mostly mumble at them. It's hard to explain quickly.)
If I had to do this again, I would either go straight for joint compound from the beginning, or simply look for a better material to work with.
I hope this is helpful to someone! Best of luck with your cosplays!!