Paper Mache Holiday Projects Paper Mache Masks

Make a Joker Mask with Paper Mache Clay

joker mask

Edit – I made this mask before I developed the fast-setting paste and shop towel technique that I used in my mask book. The mask shown below was really fun to make, but the hard paper mache clay can be uncomfortable to wear against your face. Before getting started on this project you might want to watch my videos about the Pantalone mask, beginning with this post, to see the technique I would use now if I made this mask today.

I confess. I haven’t seen the movie. I specifically chose not to see it because of all the photos of Heath in his Joker makeup, and it just looked too creepy. I don’t watch creepy movies.

But this morning I saw an ad for a Joker mask, and something just came over me – I had to make one myself. I don’t understand myself sometimes…

I started the mask with a flattened ball of crumpled paper and masking tape, which I squinched and pressed until it was the general shape of Heath’s heart-shaped head. (I’m sure I’m violating all sorts of copyright laws here – oops.)

Starting the Joker Mask

Starting the Joker Mask

Then I added the brow bone, cheek bones, nose and mouth with aluminum foil covered with masking tape. Most of the modeling was done with the clay, so I didn’t stress too much about the form. If I took the Joker a bit more seriously, I probably would have spent more time on making the form, but it still came out OK. I’m not a portrait sculptor, not even close, so I was counting on the makeup to cover any mistakes in modeling.

Filling out the Form for the Joker Mask

Filling out the Form for the Joker Mask

I applied the paper mache clay, and smoothed it with the flat side of a damp knife blade. I left the eyes open so I can see out when I go trick or treating.

Applying Paper Mache Clay to Joker Mask

Applying Paper Mache Clay to Joker Mask

I threw the mask in the oven set at 200F and left it for several hours. When it felt firm enough to hold it’s shape, I removed the inner form. The clay next to the masking tape was still wet, so it went back in the oven for a while. If you try this project, be sure you don’t try to remove the backing too quickly, or your mask might warp while it continues to dry.

Joker Mask, Form Removed

Joker Mask, Form Removed

It’s a bit rough inside. Again, if I was taking this project seriously, I might line the inside with felt to make a nice soft surface. (I tried it on, and it actually fits.)

When it was completely dry, I covered the clay with a few coats of gesso, made with two parts joint compound, one part Elmer’s Glue-All and a dab of Burt Sienna to give it that “flesh tone,” as the Crayola people used to call their Caucasian pink. Do they still do that?

Adding Gesso to Joker Mask

Adding Gesso to Joker Mask

When the gesso was dry, I smoothed it out a bit with a damp sponge. I didn’t want to smooth it too much, because the texture would help make that creepy makeup effect.

Smoothing the Joker Mask with a Damp Sponge

Smoothing the Joker Mask with a Damp Sponge

I brushed on some white “grease paint” over the flesh color, and when it dried I added the black and red patches. I discovered that somebody left the cap off the black paint. Who could that have been? (Why are there never any scapegoats around when you need one?) But I managed to dig out enough.

Adding Makeup to the Joker Mask

Adding Makeup to the Joker Mask

Now some hair was added, using some old burlap I had from another project. The burlap was brown and I needed yellow, so I tried to get rid of the brown by running it through the washer with some bleach. It stayed brown. Note to self – burlap should not go in the dryer – next time I’ll remember.

For some reason, gluing the hair onto the flesh-colored bald spot was kind of creepy.

I used some yellow paint to lighten the hair a bit, but it needs more. And I used a glaze made from acrylic glazing liquid and a bit of Burnt Umber to bring out the creases and wrinkles on the Joker’s face.

Adding Hair to the Joker Mask

Adding Hair to the Joker Mask

And he’s done. Hair could use some work.

After spending the day with this guy, I’m starting to think I might watch the movie after all. Maybe.

Joker Mask, Paper Mache Clay

Joker Mask, Paper Mache Clay

After I was too far along with this mask I found some photos of the Joker with much more interesting expressions. I hope someone else will try this, and maybe use different resource photos. If you do, be sure and let us see how it turns out.

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About the author

Jonni Good

I'm a sculptor, author, gardener, and grandma. When I'm not catering to the needs of my obnoxious cat, I make videos, create stuff, and play around with paper mache. I'm also the author of several highly-rated books on paper mache. You'll find them in the sidebar, and on amazon.com

22 Comments

  • Hi Jonni, I’ve been watching a lot of your videos lately (much enjoy them!), but have a question that maybe you can answer for me. I’m working on a dinosaur skull “mask” for my son but am not sure which method would be the best option. The skull will go over his head and he will see through the open mouth. I’ve made the base shape out of cardboard. No part of it will be directly on his face or skin so there’s no need to keep that into consideration. I would prefer a lightweight and durable option as he is 4-years old and would like it to last past this year’s Halloween (starting early).

    Thanks so much! Instant fan of your work!

    • Hi Ozzy. If you’re trying to make a light-weight mask, you’ll probably want to skip using the paper mache clay. The hyena mask I recently made (part 1 and part 2) has just two layers of paper strips and paste over the cardboard. Even with the extra padding I added with the aluminum foil, it’s still really light, but strong enough to hold up to a bit of rough handling.

      Good luck with the project. I hope you’ll take some photos so we can see the mask when it’s done.

  • Hey Jonni!
    Thank you for your help. I finished my mask! Not that I’ll wear it, but it was a fun project! I’ll do it with the shop towel next design. Thanks for the recipe and all! I appreciate it. What do you think?

      • Meh, I make the costume, then the character. Nothing for this one. I’ll just keep it as practice, use it to make me a better artist. I just need the materials, I already have the designs

  • This is AMAZING! Your talent is outstanding and I’m always so excited to see your projects! I was just wondering if you could use this method but instead to make animal masks? Would it also work using aluminium foil for padding the features e.g muzzle? Thank you ever so much I LOVE your Projects,blog and videos! I also own your book ‘Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay’ it is brilliant! You have inspired me! :)

  • You are simply amazing. Your website is a tremendous resource for people interested in the subject, and everything you make seems to turn out awesomely.

    Great job, on everything. Hell for that matter great job on creating the paper mache clay. I’d love to use it myself but I don’t have a mixer, electric or otherwise.

    Keep up the good work and as for the movie, I haven’t seen Batman Begins (which is the first one) but The Dark Knight is an INCREDIBLE movie and it’s the one that features the Ledger Joker. You should DEFINATELY see it. It makes me want to see the first one because it’s excellent.

    Also since you made the mask first, you have a unique position in that seeing your creation alive on screen doing dastardly deeds will probably creep you out something fierce. That’s a MUST watch.

  • Wow! The mask is wonderful! I am going to experiment using your process with my High School 3D Art class. I was wondering, before you apply the paper mache clay to your paper/tape/aluminum foil mold, do you put a layer of plastic wrap over the mold, so the paper mache clay does not stick? Before I saw your site, I had my students sculpt an armature out of air dry clay and then attempted to place paper strips over it using a traditional paper mache method. Unfortunately, I found that the paper mache layer is sticking to the mold. Thanks for any advice!

    • I didn’t bother with plastic or a release, but the clay doesn’t really stick firmly to either the foil or the masking tape. It was fairly easy to pull it off. However, the little bumps and ridges left inside, because of the clay following the shape of the crumpled foil, were a bit distracting. Putting a layer of plastic wrap over the mold might be a good idea, just so the mask will be smoother inside.

      Let us know how your class project turns out!

      • Thanks for the advice Jonni. I followed the directions for your paper mache clay and it worked perfectly!!! The students constructed their masks with masking tape and foil and then covered it with a layer of paper mache clay. I loved how you could lightly sand the mask after it dried. The due date for their mask is next week. When I have all of the masks turned in I will take pictures and post. Thanks for all of your helpful tips!

  • Jonni,
    i decided not to watch the movie for the same reason! The mask just looks like a nice old man untill you add the “make up”. yikes! anyway i have been trying to figure out how to make a mask, so this tutorial wass very helpful. thank you!

  • First, I love the mask.

    On the burlap hair. Next time you could try coating the fabric in a paste from bleach powder. I mean, it takes 15+ min to bleach real hair why wouldn’t it take additional time to remove a dark dye from cloth.

    BTW, I’m so trying your dough recipe. I want to make my friend a tree stump jar with a faerie sitting on the lid and I’ve been trying to figure out what to use for it. I think this will be it.

  • I really love it! I’m talking about your skill and creativity! I’m making somethings now and am so excited. I’m going to try your clay recipe Yay! Thanks for sharing all your info. with us :)

  • Cute little critters and a scary creepy Joker mask! What a great range of skill you have Jonni and so well done!
    Thank you for sharing….again!

  • Thanks, guys. I hope the makeup person who worked on that film got an Oscar (I’m too lazy to look it up and find out – oh dang, I did just look it up, and they didn’t win) because the use of smeared lipstick and eyeliner touches some deep primal fear – maybe it’s a mother’s worst nightmare, a son gone bad not because he liked torturing animals but because she let him play with her lipstick. Or maybe it’s because the smears are an indication of mental instability – if there hasn’t been a doctoral thesis in abnormal psychology based on that costume, there should be.

  • Love this since I am particularly fond of making masks with paper mache. How did you get the detail with just paper and tape for your armature? And was this form solid enough to hold its shape under the weight of the wet paper mache? Is drying in the oven required since it dries quicker thus making your armature stronger?

    • Hi Joanne. I didn’t try very hard to get much detail in the armature, but the nose, mouth, chin, eyebrow bones and cheek bones were all made with aluminum foil, since it’s easier to squash it into the shape I want. I just tried to get the general proportions close to right, and the real details were modeled in the clay. The flil was all covered with masking tape. It was plenty stiff enough to hold up while adding the paper mache clay — the crumpled paper was pretty tight when I added the tape and then the foil and then more tape.

      The paper mache clay was applied in a fairly thin layer, as you can see in one of the photos, so it doesn’t weigh much.

      You really don’t need to throw it in the oven like I did – I needed to speed up the drying because I was really supposed to be mopping the floor – I have company coming to stay for the week, and I tend to put off my chores. :)

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