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UAB art professor offers tips for crafty Halloween masks

  • October 21, 2011
Save money, have fun by creating your own Halloween mask at home with a few tips from artist Doug Barrett at UAB.

When you’re deciding on a Halloween costume, why limit your imagination to what’s available at the store? For many people, making a Halloween costume is far more fun than buying one. Not only is it more creative, exciting and unique to make your own, it can also be more affordable and better for the environment.

To make your own mask, or help children make one, take some tips from UAB Assistant Professor of Art Doug Barrett, M.F.A., who also is vice-president of the Birmingham chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

  • First, you’ll need heavy paper, paper plates, or face mask forms available at craft stores. Barrett uses blank mask forms that come in a variety of animal face shapes. Your imagination is the limit when creating your own mask. Some heavy paper plates are especially good because they become like paper mache when painted, he says. If you are using a paper plate or paper, grab a pencil and some scissors and carefully sketch and cut out eye holes.

  • Supplies include acrylic craft paints, paint brush, foam paint applicator, a cup of water to clean the brush, a plate for a paint palette, glue, tape, string or elastic and any desired embellishments, like glitter, sequins or feathers. These can be purchased or scavenged from broken jewelry, thrift-store finds or old clothing. A hair dryer comes in handy for fast drying.

  • Barrett paints the masks by placing two colors of paint in two streams next to each other on the palette, then dabbing and dragging the foam applicator straight down the middle. This creates an effect that keeps each color distinct but blended in the middle: using white and red creates pink between them. Dab the applicator, using the same direction to keep the colors consistent, and apply paint to the mask. Between layers of paint, use a hair dryer for shorter drying times. Apply a darker color around the outer edge to give the face depth, and outline the eyes too. For animal masks, add a touch of pink paint on the ears and nose.

  • When the mask is dry, fold along the form’s lines and tape, or create your own shape and use tape to secure it. Glue on feathers, sequins and jewels to add pizzazz.

  • The final step: secure a string or piece of elastic on the back of each side to wear the mask, or glue to a wooden stick to hold it.

    Barrett will lead mask making workshops, “The Art of the Mask,” for children 3-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011, and for adults for Mardi Gras 7-9 p.m. Nov. 10 and Jan. 26, 2012, at Four Corners Gallery, 4700 Highway 280 East. For more information go to