Paper Mache Masks

Character Made with Magic Sculpt and Plaster Cloth

Character Made with Magic Sculpt over Plaster Cloth
In this video I show you how I built this character by placing plaster cloth over a clay sculpture.

Then I added Magic Sculpt, an epoxy clay product that gives you plenty of working time. This is an experiment I’ve wanted to do for almost a year, but other projects kept getting in the way.



My character started out as a mask, until I realized that you’d need to be cross-eyed to see out of it. I hope to finish it someday. But first, I want to play around with a product I ordered that might help me make permanent outdoor sculptures. For the results of those experiments, stay tuned. 🙂

Items mentioned in the video:

My mask book: http://amzn.to/2d5CLUo
Magic Sculpt: http://amzn.to/2cjhIvW
Plaster Cloth: http://amzn.to/2d3xPMY
Stan Winston School of Character Arts: https://goo.gl/BQyeub
Latex gloves that actually fit: http://amzn.to/2cEy6o5

Be sure to watch the video at the Stan Winston site, if you can. I think they’ll let you sign up for a short free trial to their website. (I wish I could watch all their videos, but my budget won’t stretch that far …)

As I mentioned in my video, after I finish the Magic Sculpt portion of my character, I’ll get a can of spray primer and give it one or two coats. Then I’ll use acrylic paints to finish him, using the colors from one of the horned toads. The colors are soft and subtle, but I think they would work well for this crazy character.

I started this project thinking I’d make a dragon, perhaps a soft and friendly one like the characters in the How to Tame Your Dragon movie. Then I started wondering why the main dragon’s eyeballs are so far forward – it seemed like a strange design. Then I remembered that I’d seen someone who looked rather like that dragon – and I did a search for horned toads. They don’t put their eyes quite so far forward as the movie dragon, but there is a slight family resemblance. Then, of course, I started playing around with the shapes, giving my character an underbite and mutton chops, and those curvy horns.

The fun part, though, was seeing what the Magic Sculpt would do. If you make anything with it, I hope you’ll come back and show us how your sculpture turned out.

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38 Comments

  • Just moving in, will send those pics to you as soon as I can. Sand is the most accessible material on the surface of the planet, we live in a concrete jungle.

    Those dinosaurs average 1/4 inch thick. Going to test a mix media wall sculptures of epoxy sculpt, plaster cloth, winter-stone, paper and tin foil. The challenge will be blending of colors.

    Two heads are better than one, enjoyed your experiments online. There is a good chance something big can come out of this serious fun.

  • Hi Jonni

    My name is Paul I am a profesional sculptor of 42 years in many materials mostly sand and concrete Sculptures. I am looking at lightweight wall bas relief Sculptures.

    I tried your paper mache methods yet did not care for limitations for sculpting abilities. Where your last experiment of plaster cloth and magic sculpt looked very promising for diversity in sculpture.

    Pros- molding possibility, free form sculpting abilities and most of all light and strong. If you buy magic sculpt by 100 lb it comes out to 50 sq. ft. at a 1/4 inch thick or $6 a pound. I used epoxy sculpt for 2 life-size raptor for a museum. Worked beautifully.

    You said you consider this material for outdoor sculptures?

    • Hi, Paul. I would love to see some of your work – especially those raptors. Do you have any photos online? Which brand of epoxy did you use for your birds?

      The makers of Magic Sculpt claim it can go outside, but I don’t know if it would hold up well outside if it’s used over plaster cloth. If there are any pinholes or cracks in the epoxy shell, the plaster could soften. It would be worth experimenting, though. Right now I’m playing with Smooth-On’s Free Form Sculpt epoxy clay, which is somewhat lighter than Magic Sculpt (and a lot softer). My armature is made out of crumpled aluminum foil. I’ll leave the small sculpture outside this winter to see how it holds up to Minnesota weather.

      • That be a real test – Minnesota, I know Winterstone concrete works for casting and free form sculpting for outdoors.

        My foam epoxy sculpt dinosaurs worked for four venue displays. They were stolden three times and hit by a car at 60 km per hour. It was an easy fix and then sold them for more than I made them for.

        Sand sculpture is the fastest carve I have ever done. Want to sculpt sand then plaster wrap it and then epoxy sculpt it.
        You think it will work or am I just mad?

  • Hi Jonni: Love your work. Where did you get the female head form bust you used in demonstrating your latest video “Character Made with Magic Sculpt and Plaster Cloth”?

  • YES!! We are grateful for your tutorials and blog but the ongoing expense for you is unreasonable and eating up your profits. We can subscribe to your YouTube channel!!! Facebook is easy to use too.

  • Hi Jonni, I check you site on a daily basis anyway, I do not need the email notification. I check all of the different areas like the forum, your home page and the daily sculptors page. It is easier that way. Yes, sometimes we have to be selective as website prices are going up beyond reason and reasonableness. It is harder for the small fry that is you and me to keep a web presence. Facebook will be an excellent source to keep up with your messaging. I love this tutorial but that magic sculpt is going to have to wait as it is a little to costly for my budget. But when it does improve, I will try it.

    • I can’t believe I bought the Magic Sculpt last year and then never used it! I do things like that – I hear about a great product, and when I have a few extra bucks I buy it. Then I realize I can’t really afford to make anything with it, unless I find a new way to do it. The project on this page took about a pound of material, but it would take more if I completely covered the surface of the plaster cloth. You can see why I won’t be making many more.

      The expense issue is starting to be a real problem for me. Not just the cost of materials and web hosting and all that, but the cost of time, as well. I love making projects to share, but there’s at least two days, and often a week or more, in the project itself. Then hours of video has to be edited down to fit into the average length of time for a YouTube video. That takes another day. In the meantime, I’m not doing anything that might help me pay for cat food or save money for painting my house in the spring. You know how it goes. In fact, this week I thought about getting my new kitten a friend so she wouldn’t be so bored, trapped inside my house (it’s illegal here to let them run around loose) but I couldn’t afford a new kitty and the vet bills because I spent almost $100 on supplies for my outside sculpture experiment!

      I’m thinking about trying to create long-form video courses, but I would need to charge for them. Since there are over 425 free projects on this site, do you think anyone would be interested? And if so, any ideas about what subjects someone would watch, if there was an hour or more of in-depth instruction?

      (And I’ve been meaning to thank you for checking the forum and so graciously replying to people who post there – I regret that it’s one thing I haven’t done for so long that it would now be embarrassing to go out there to see what I’ve missed.)

      • Jonni, how about asking some of you fervent followers like Eileen or Rex Winn and I who graciously post and help on this site to help with the questions that people ask and to post their projects as they go along and maybe that will free up some time. You are in need of a revamp that is for sure and now maybe some of your fans can step up to the plate. As for courses, that will be a great way to generate income and your skills are that of a professional and need to showcase that. The link you posted of the guy who made magic sculpt masks, charges a leg and an arm, but that is for the really serious future professional who might be into cosplay. Paper Mache is now coming into its own as an art form and no longer just a fad. Now, you have the ability to expand the process in a more lengthy and cohesive format as I am sure your processes are more involved than what you show in the videos. I really think that is one idea you should pursue. I feel the time has come.

        • Hi Christine. I always appreciate suggestions for guest post from my readers, and I think it’s fantastic when comments get responses by people other than myself. We have a great community on this site, and I know I couldn’t keep up if it wasn’t for people who were generous with their time, like yourself and others. (Did you know there are almost 27,000 comments on this site?!) I wouldn’t want to give up answering the comments, though, because I really have fun doing it – but I admit I completely dropped the ball on the forum – I hope I’ll be forgiven for that. (The forum program doesn’t tell me when someone posts, so I tend to forget the forum is there. Plus. there’s just too much going on, and I’m easily distracted.)

          I’ll play with my outdoor experiments – the last thing I need should arrive on Wednesday. Then we’ll see how many people are interested in that subject. And I’d love to hear from anyone who has an idea for a multi-part video tutorial for a specific paper mache (or ??) project or technique that I might be able to turn into a paid course. In the meantime, if you have any ideas for a good how-to article that you’d like to share as a guest post, please let me know!

      • Jonni- I have an idea for your video course or even a new book. Over the years, there have been a few consistent questions. One is working with paper mache with children, another is on outdoor sculpture. Perhaps a video directed to teachers with some easy paper mache projects-perhaps even from this website would go over well. Teachers do have budgets that could pay for that sort of thing. Of course, you would have to have all kid friendly ingredients and such in your recipes. If you were to do a video, you could even include segments to be shown directly to the students.
        I think a lot of us were drawn to paper mache due to the low cost of supplies for one reason or another. That may inhibit people from buying a costly video. No, I am not saying paper mache artists are cheap! Personally, I loved the fact that I could create on a budget at first. Now it has become my “signature style” as it were. People are amazed at what can be done with paper!
        Another thought is to write a book specifically for children and the use of paper mache. You could do this…just talk to your grandson.
        You should also revisit the idea of the Paypal option or a Go-Fund-Me Campaign(I am not sure if that is the correct name.) If you did a short video explaining some of these barriers that you are experiencing, I KNOW people would contribute. It is easier for a whole bunch of people to donate $10 than to put an item up for sale that is a bit more costly. If people did not contribute, then you are no worse off. You have been doing this for free for how many years?
        Just some thoughts. We hate for you to be in this dilemma.

        • Thanks for the ideas, Eileen. As for the children’s book – I’ve thought about it, but there are two problems. First, I don’t have any teaching skills for people that age (and my grandson is only interested in computers and cameras, so he can’t help me with crafts). Second, there’s already a fabulous book on paper mache for kids. It’s from a British author, but you can find it on the US version of amazon.com, and on amazon.co.uk. In fact, that was the book that inspired me to play around with PVA glue mixed with plaster. James uses it as a home-made gesso, while I use it as fast-setting paste when making masks out of blue shop towels. I can’t imagine making a book for children that’s better than Mr. Cochrane’s. (In fact, I think I’ll go add his book to my sidebar, right under the one by Dan Reeder.)

          The donation idea has always made me nervous. I suppose it’s because there’s a hint of ‘begging’ involved. If people want to support this site, I’d much rather that they buy one of my books. My ‘core’ readers already have my books, of course, but plenty of other people don’t even know about them. I should learn how to market them better. I’m not very good at that. One more thing to learn how to do – 🙂

          • You may not think you have children’s teaching skills but really, are the skills any different than for adults? Your current methods are totally kid friendly and children would have no problem understanding you. Besides, the video could be directed to the teachers. I just had an elementary school art teacher contact me for ideas and recommendations for projects for her students. I, of course, referred her to your website!
            As far as the book is concerned, Mr. Cochrane’s book is well out of print. One can only get used copies, some for exorbitant prices. Maybe it is time for a new one? If I were to give a gift to a child, I would not want to give a used book. I would give a brand new book with all the supplies and paints needed for a project to be completed. Just a thought.
            I understand about the “begging”. I wonder if the Elmer Glue company or one of the joint compound companies would be willing to sponsor you since you bring them so many customers? That would probably require ads and such to be on your website.
            I will keep thinking.

            • Hi Eileen – you have great ideas, but I think the fact that Mr. Cochrane’s book is out of print is a good indication that there isn’t a good market for another paper mache book for kids. If it sold well (and it should, since there’s no book that’s better), the publisher would still be printing it. Maybe we should tell him about self-publishing?

              I hate to get too technical about the business of books, because that’s not what most of our readers come here to learn about, but I know from experience that any new book I write about paper mache will just compete with the other ones I already wrote, which will not increase my income – and it takes me months to build a book. A few people will buy every book I write, but most people really aren’t that dedicated or excited about the craft, and the paper mache niche is fairly small. I probably should do some research on other big craft sites to see how they’re monetizing their traffic. We get up to 10,000 visitors a day, which is pretty darned good, so maybe I could make a few minor changes that wouldn’t be too disruptive.

              I’m not really worrying about it too much, to be honest. It looks like there’s another recession coming, so we’ll all be tightening our belts soon enough. I just got a head start. 🙂

          • As encouragement, it shouldn’t be a hindrance that another book on paper mache for an audience of children exists; rather, it means there is a proof that the market exists for such a thing. Choices, options, alternatives, etc. are absolutely something I look for when shopping for anything. I think it is a fine idea, a kids paper-mache book!
            LOve your work, and am inspired by your passion and teaching!

        • Eileen, I love your ideas, but how about the fact that one really has to really look hard to find what they want and this is all over the place. Jonni, you could spend time in going over some of your past videos and make updates and sell them on Amazon for a fixed price. An example would be your bobcat. Your work has progressed over time and your methods have evolved also. You could make the presentation longer, more inclusive and really show the steps from the start, the middle and the finish. As Eileen stated, your methods are kid friendly and adult friendly. A go fund me campaign would not be begging. Many people are using this method to garner funds for their businesses and I think it might help. Like I said, you need a revamp in your business model. Like it or not, free as this site is, it had a plan to start with and became like a business. How about trying to get advice from SCORE, which is comprised of retired business men and women who offer advice for budding and poor entrepreneurs. They might be able to offer tangible advice on how to make this work for an income. Just a thought. We love this site a lot and would like to see you succeed.

          • Good ideas, Christine. I have been doing some research about how to use this site more effectively, and all the “experts” say I should increase the size of my email list, instead of abandoning it. I’m sure they’re right. Of course, they also say I should try to sell something to my email subscribers occasionally – and that’s something I usually forget to do. As for finding things on the blog, that’s always a problem with a site this big. Last time I looked, there were 424 projects on the site! They’re organized by categories, and I have menus and links and a site-map and a search bar, but most people still find what they’re looking for by doing their original search on Google. We get between 5,000 and 9,000 visitors a day, so Google must be doing a pretty good job. 🙂

  • I love your mask. I used to see horned toads while “herding” cows in the desert as a boy. They were the coolest thing, and your inspiration to use one as a mask is awesome.

    I’m slow at everything, so this would be a challenge.

    • I think the trick is to mix up really small amounts of the Magic Sculpt. It does take patience, for sure. My dad worked on the railroad that went behind our house, and he found a horned toad one day while he was working, and brought it home. I can’t remember what happened to the poor beast, but I’m sure my father made sure it was returned to the wild. We had blue-tailed skinks, too, and I loved hunting for them under the rocks.

  • Jonni, I love everything about your new sculpture and your video (including the kitty). The spots are a great touch. You’re just the best. Thank you so much for sharing more wonderful with us.

  • Jonni, I love your new character, the horned toad, and the innovations in expression you added to him! I bought your book and the book ” Masquerade” which is really amazing and inspiring. In your horned toad tutorial, a few ideas came to me: could you not put Saran Wrap over the wet clay and a layer of Vaseline over it, to facilitate the release? How about using a second bowl of water with a bit of food color or paint added to it so that when you apply your second layer of plaster cloth you won’t miss any areas. How about conditioning your Magic sculpt in a pasta machine as we do with poly clay? Thanks for the great tutorials!

    • Interesting ideas, Julie. You could certainly use the plastic wrap if you don’t put too many details into the original sculpt. I don’t think you’d need to use a release over the plastic, since the plaster should slip right off of it. The food color idea is perfect – that would have kept me from putting only one layer on a couple of spots. As for the pasta machine – that’s questionable. The resin will coat your rollers, I think, and it would be really hard to get it off. And the Magic Sculpt is quite stiff. You can make it softer by adding a little water, but I don’t think you’d want to add very much.

      Unfortunately, there aren’t many videos out there that show us how to use the product. But that gives us the opportunity to do some experiments of our own, eh? If you do any experiments, please let us know how they turn out.

      I tried to find the book you mentioned (Masquerade) on Amazon, because it sounds familiar. It’s probably on my shelves somewhere, but there are so many by that title on the website. Most of them seem to be novels. What’s the author’s name?

      • The pasta machine I’m sure would work quite well and save time and your hands! You must dedicate the pasta machine to these clays and not use it for food. These hand cranked machines are available very reasonably from Walmart and Amazon for around $25-30 and up. There are videos on YouTube about the use of these for “conditioning” poly clay.
        I was thinking that releasing your mask using plastic wrap would save clay and labor, and would not compromise your detail as you are adding detail later with your Magic Sculpt. It would depend on the intricacy of the sculpture of course.
        The book “Masquerade” is one you highly recommended!!!!…( in one of your videos, or in your book?) You mentioned it was out of print, but I bought a ” like new” copy used, on Amazon for a fraction of the new price. It’s: Chronicle Books, 1993, Maurice Tuchman.
        ISBN: 0-8118-0445-3
        It’s an ” Art” book, not a how-to. It does not cover ethnic masks.
        ???

        • Yes – I knew I read that book! And I found my copy, too. (Note to self – organize the bookshelves!)

          The Magic Sculpt might work in a pasta machine. I’m just worried that the epoxy clay may glue your rollers together – but maybe not. If you try it, let us know what happens.

          • So far, I don’t see anyone on YouTube using a pasta machine to condition this stuff but, as water keeps it from sticking you could probably wipe the rollers down with water as needed and after use. Another thing I have used for conditioning hard poly clay is whacking it with a large rubber mallet! It’s just that I hate to endlessly knead hard material and it would be uncomfortable for arthritic hands. I like the idea of being able to carve and sand this magic sculpt after it’s cured. Might give it a try, thanks!

  • Hi Jonni- it was nice to watch your last 2 tutorials, though I was saddened for you at the loss of your kitty. What a character he was! Every time I lose a pet I swear I will never get another because the loss is too hard. That resolve only lasts a short while because I miss a pet around too much.
    I have never used the Magic Sculpt. How is it for fine detail? Does it dry too fast to really do fine detail, or do you just need to plan ahead and do it one section at a time?
    If you have too many sculptures, you should enter them into an art show, ask for a fine art price and see if it sells. That is what I do…I only sell enough to keep me in supplies! I would definitely be a starving artist if I relied only on what I sell! Just a thought…then you could make more sculptures!
    Oh- another thing- I have not been receiving the email notifications of the new tutorials that I used to get. Have things changed? If so, what should I do to keep getting them?
    Again, sorry for your loss and that was super sweet of Rex!

    • Hi Eileen. Thanks for your nice comments about my cat. And yes, it was a wonderfully generous of Rex to send the stained glass letters. They really made the stone special.

      As for the Magic Sculpt, you do need to work up just a small amount at a time. If you have the patience, you can get very fine details. It would take quite a bit of experience, I think, to really feel like an expert. The final sculptures are very strong, and there’s no worry about mold. (I never worry about mold, anyway, but people in more humid climates have to think about that sort of thing.) After the epoxy clay is hard, it can be sanded, material can be removed with knives and rasps, and you can use a Dremel tool. It is an expensive modeling material, though.

      • And the emails – I forgot to answer that portion of your comment before. Sorry about that.

        Rex mentioned that he isn’t getting the emails on a regular basis, either. I don’t know why that happens, unless your email service provider is tagging them as spam and choosing not to deliver them to your inbox. However, I’ve been thinking about cancelling the service that send the emails, anyway. It costs $30 a month for the service, even when I don’t write any posts for them to send out, and I have to sell almost 10 books a month just to pay for it. When you add the amount I pay for web hosting, and software, and the service that keeps pharmaceutical companies from taking over the comment section, the costs of keeping this blog going is getting more expensive every year. If I cancel the email service, people could subscribe to my YouTube channel instead, in order to stay informed. Or maybe I could figure out how to use Facebook a little better. (Or at all – I don’t do anything on FB now.)

        • Oh Jonni, don’t bother yourself, we can just get use to checking the new post section. Save yourself the money. I do get responses from my postings but haven’t been receiving the new posts notifications. Do what you need to do to keep costs down. We are just grateful to have your blog at all!

        • Jonni, I agree with Eileen about the email service. I’m going to check for new posts all the time anyway. I love this site and am really grateful to you, but you need to make life easier for yourself. I feel so guilty that I can’t afford to assist. At the very least I would buy all of your great books.

          • No guilt required! I love making stuff and talking about it. And Eileen, I’m rethinking your suggestion about making projects for kids. Specifically, home-school kids. When I imagine a room with 30 children and one teacher and a bowl of paper mache paste, I cringe. On the other hand, lots of children (and college students, and adults) have been able to produce beautiful sculptures of their own using the ideas on this blog. If I just eliminate the idea of a horde of children, and think about one at a time, that might work. Probably not as a book, though. I’ll do more research. Keep the ideas coming, folks!

            I ordered a book about selling art online, and it should arrive on Friday. I don’t think I want to do that myself, but you never know. I’ll let you all know what I think of the book after I get a chance to look it over.

            • I can imagine you making greater money teaching sculpture workshop’s. Also selling some of your art work on line or local galleries.

              Sculptor is a practice unless you perfer more writing and reading. I think you have a good feel for sculpture and around age 60 is prime time for sculptors. I taught a woman to be a world champion sand sculptor like me.

            • Thanks for the thoughts, Paul. I’d love to see some of your sand sculptures. Do you have a website? Or maybe you have a photo or two you would be willing to share in another comment? We don’t have much sand where I live, but the idea is fascinating.

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