How to Make a Day of the Dead Mask

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How to Make a Day of the Dead Mask. Day of the Dead is a colorful and often whimsical event celebrated by many Spanish-speaking countries. Day of the Dead involves several long-standing customs to honor the deceased, but none are as notable and well recognized as the practice of wearing costumes, especially a traditional mask called a calaca. Get into the spirit of the festivities by learning how to make a Day of the Dead mask.

Things You'll Need

  • Paints
  • Halloween mask
  • Bowl of water
  • Decorations as desired
  • Plaster gauze
  • Petroleum jelly

Learn How to Make a Day of the Dead Mask

Make a Day of the Dead mask the easy way by using a purchased Halloween mask that imitates a skull as a mold. The traditional mask (calaca) worn by revelers during Day of the Dead always depicts a skeleton face.

Smear a thin coating of petroleum jelly on the inside of the Halloween mask. This will form a protective barrier between the mask mold and the plaster mask you're going to make for Day of the Dead.

Cut plaster gauze into appropriate length strips to cast your Day of the Dead mask by first measuring the length and width of the mask mold. Note that plaster gauze comes on a roll and is usually pre-shrunk. Still, it's a good idea to add an extra inch or so to the length of your strips, just in case. You can always trim them from the mask later, if necessary.

Dip a plaster gauze strip into the bowl of water and gently smooth it down with one hand to remove excess water. Then place the plaster gauze strip on the inside of the mask mold, starting at the outer edge first. Repeat, adding moistened plaster gauze strips one at a time, and working toward the center of the mask mold as you do.

Allow the first layer of plaster gauze strips to dry to the touch before adding additional layers. Once dry, add at least one more layer of plaster strips, or two if needed for strength, depending on the plaster gauze you are using. Let these subsequent layers dry too before proceeding.

Peel away your new Day of the Dead mask from the mold carefully, taking care to work the outer edges free first. The petroleum jelly applied earlier should make this task fairly easy.

Decorate your Day of the Dead mask with paints, as desired. For instance, you might paint the face white and outline the eyes in black to give a skull-like appearance. Of course, you can also add dashed lines or symbols in various colors, or even glue on decorative pieces, such as gemstones, beads or feathers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Halloween and Day of the Dead share some similarities, especially in the wearing of masks. However, where a Halloween mask is intended to ward off evil spirits, a Day of the Dead mask is worn to demonstrate a respect for eternal life and a lack of fear of death.
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