Worbla Halloween Mask

This year I have to wait until after Halloween to go trick-or-treating because it’s convention time.

This weekend is Convolution, featuring guests of honor Brian & Wendy Froud who helped bring Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal to life. I’ll get to meet lots of creative pros from writers and costumers to fire-dancers and falconers. The convention theme this year is the Realm of Dreams. Saturday can only mean one thing:  the Goblin King’s Masquerade Ball.

I don’t own any dresses, or masks for that matter.

What I did have was a grab-bag of steel and leather armor pieces, and some thermoplastic scrap worbla left over from another project. Making a mask with worbla is super easy, just grab your heat gun and get to work.

MASK CONSTRUCTION!

1.  Make a pattern out of paper.  Put it on your face. Look in the mirror. See if it makes you happy.  If not, cut it up.

  • I folded the fangs under to make them more symmetrical, and decided that I liked the look so I kept it.
  • I aimed for a combo of sharp edges and curving, organic shapes — somewhere between Maximus’ helmet from Gladiator, and the wrought-iron beauty of a Nazgul crown.
  • Scaling back the design was necessary, because I hate stuff on my face and wanted to minimize the weight.
  • Make sure that your pattern conforms to the shape of your face, including the bridge of your nose.

Base mask with cheek spikes folded under. Top strip will become ‘crown’ pieces.

2. Cut out your pattern, trace it onto the worbla with a sharpie marker.

3. Cut out the your worbla mask. Worbla is very thin, like the kind of cardboard they use for cereal boxes. General-use scissors will do you fine. If you have to cut fine details, use an x-acto knife or razor blade that’s spent some time under the heat gun. Warm knife through butter.

4. Heat up the worbla with a heat gun and press it to your face so it’s nice and form-fitting.

  • Protip:  make sure it still fits no matter what your mood. I tried to smile in it after I’d finished, and my cheeks shoved the mask right into my eyes. Not very dignified. Now you know why Batman’s so unhappy. Can’t smile in his mask.

5. Use the heat gun gently on the decorative and base pieces until they’re warm but not floppy. Press the shiny sides together, no adhesive necessary.

Remember what I said about your pattern actually conforming to your face? The strip across my cheek wasn’t long enough to attach to the nose-guard. I cut out and affixed a little bridge piece. You can pinch the plastic together like clay until it cools. Flaws add character to rugged, barbaric costumes. It’s the princess dresses that suck to make.

I

Messy, but not unfixable. Trim off excess and sand smooth if desired.

6. Check for symmetry, string-holes and other details.  If your mask doesn’t conform to your face, you can re-heat and re-shape it once or twice more.  After that it gets too thin. If you have leftover worbla snippets, you can heat them up and sculpt them like clay. I added one to each cheek to make it look welded.

7. Hey, a mask!  Let’s paint!

Sittin’ pretty.

8. I used Rub ‘n Buff wax metallic finish to make it look like steel.

  • Gesso was not necessary with the wax finish. Nor was a seal.
  • I tried pewter and silver leaf RNB, and settled on silver. Pewter is a bit darker, and looked more like stone than metal.
  • Apply with a Q-tip in little circles.  Make sure you rub it in really well, a little drop will cover a few inches of surface area, and you don’t want it to rub off.

9. To get the patina, I used black acrylic paint and spit. Normal people use paint and water. Maybe the fumes got to me.

  • Darken the negative space to make your decorative details stand out.
  • Very lightly dry-brush black acrylic paint around the eyes, cheeks, teeth, and any other parts that would regularly come in contact with human grime.

Spit not pictured.

Check out your handiwork under different types of light to make sure you achieved the effect you wanted.

Combine that mask with black studded gauntlets, one segmented steel pauldron, black leather thigh-boots and a $12 black dress and you are all set to invade the Goblin Masquerade.  Dressed for a pit fight. Oops.

In the realm of dreams, I’ll rep the nightmares any day.

50+ likes on this post by Thanksgiving, and I’ll upload a snapshot of the whole getup.

The shadow is not inherently evil. If it is ignored or denied, it may become monstrous to compensate. Only then is it likely to “demonically possess” its owner, leading to compulsive, exaggerated, “evil” behavior.”
–  Rob Brezsny

All war is deception.”
– Sun Tzu

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13 thoughts on “Worbla Halloween Mask

    1. Setsu Post author

      Thanks Lauren! I hadn’t planned on taking many pictures. My dad’s a photographer, and I’ve inherited it that if you’re shooting you’re not ~in~ the experience.

      It’ll be dance-party-dark and I don’t have the equipment. If only I could pay Sam to follow me around for the weekend and shoot everyone I point at!

      Reply
    1. Setsu Post author

      Costuming standards and available materials are insane compared to what I screwed around with at conventions 10-20 years ago. Worbla is the easiest to work with of all the thermoplastics out there. Re-heatable, self-adhesive and forgiving of mistakes.

      Reply
    1. Setsu Post author

      I’m honored! I had a lot of fun working with it. Only downsides were that it got a little warm (piece of plastic molded to my face) and that it was thinner than I expected so I would have to double-up the material to make it substantial.

      Reply

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