How to Make a Pantalone Mask

Get a fast start on your next paper mache project or hand-made gift with Jonni’s easy downloadable patterns for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts. The patterns help you create a beautiful work of art, even if you’ve never sculpted anything before.

My book How to Make Masks! is now officially published, and it’s available on Amazon.com. To celebrate, I put together the first of a short series of videos so you can see the actual process I use to create the masks in the book.

Pantalone is one of the characters in the Italian Commedia del Arte tradition. A Venetian mask called the Bauta, which appears in the book, is made in almost exactly the same way.

Today’s video shows how to make the positive mold over a mask form, using modeling clay (I like to use Super Sculpey). In the next day or two I’ll make another video showing how to make the fast-setting paper mache paste. I’ll use the paste along with large pieces of super-strong shop towels to add two layers of paper mache over the mold we make in today’s video. When that’s dry I’ll make a third video showing how I finish the masks.

So – just in time for Fat Tuesday, here’s my YouTube video about how to make a mask:

If you missed the other videos in this series, you can find them here – How to Make a Mask, Part 2, and How to Make a Mask, Part 3.

72 thoughts on “How to Make a Pantalone Mask”

  1. I really enjoyed this tutorial. I love how using the shop towels gives a really flexible material to maintain as much of the detail of the armature as possible. Very cool.

    Now I just have to see if I can find something similar here in New Zealand. I’ve been hunting around online. I don’t think we call them “shop towels”, so I will have to check out some hardware or automotive stores to try to find something similar.

    What is the difference between ordinary paper towels and shop towels? Just so I know what I’m looking for.

    I just bought a copy of your book, too. Yay! But it’ll take a couple of weeks to get here (New Zealand).

    • Hi Jon. I hope you like the book. As for the shop towels, they’re a lot thicker than kitchen towels, and they’re slightly stretchy. The ones they sell here in the States are blue, but I don’t think the color matters very much. And they’re sometimes sold in hardware stores or where people buy parts for cars.

      Good luck!

  2. You’ve got me interested in making commedia dell’arte masks. Where do you get the mask form that you use as the base? Does it need to be solid? Will a styrofoam head work? What do you suggest? Thanks!

    • Hi Tom. Yes, you can use a styrofoam head. Just make sure you cover it with plastic or a release, so the paper mache won’t stick to it. You can also make your own mask form. I often use plastic ones I buy online, but you need to make sure they’re the right size. A lot of the plastic forms are made for kids.

  3. Hello, Jonni-
    Thanks so much for posting this tutorial with the shop towel technique.I i had been looking for a new, perhaps quicker, method for producing my paper mache items. Have enjoyed exploring the technique, and after a few initial bumps, it is working very well. Wanted to share a few of the resulting Jack-o-Lantern wall sconces that I have been producing using your technique. I installed a small balsa wood shelf into the interior base for accommodating a tealight (battery-operated, of course!) and incorporated a sawtooth hanger into the interior top for wall hanging. Thanks again for all of your great tips!

    Best regards,
    Kent

  4. Thanks for the tutorial. I’m sharing this, per your request in the video.

    For others who are curious about alternative techniques, here is what I ended up doing. A disclaimer: I had done sculpture before, but never paper mache beyond elementary school, so I was really figuring it out as I went, as I imagine many of you may be.

    1) I bought a cheap mask form (a sort of cardboard/canvas material) from Michael’s craft store, blocked out the eyeholes with aluminum foil, and covered with petroleum jelly and plastic (like the video).

    2) After scouring the internet, I amassed a series of photos of other Pantalones to emulate (this one for the nose, this one for the checks, this one for the forehead, etc.). I started building up features with Super Sculpey (like the video—can’t imagine using anything else). My ambitions were a little more complex than Jonni’s, so it took a fair deal of trial and error…

    3) The first coat of paste I mixed like Jonni, according to her recipe. First layer of shop towel down.

    4) Second coat of paste the same. Second layer down. Patched some holes.

    5) Now, I deviated a bit. I mixed in a great deal more plaster to the paste and applied it evenly. Let dry and harden.

    6) Added some water to the paste, applied a layer of newspaper (not shop towel) for a smoother finish without having to sand down a joint-compound gesso mixture. Let dry. One more coat of paste with a little more plaster.

    7) This one hardened really nicely. Sanded down, cut out, cleaned out. Now, I tore fine strips of shop towel to apply over the cut edges, like around the inside of the eyeholes or outside of the mask frame, to make it softer on the face (I would be playing Pantalone in a Commedia Dell’arte show and needed it to fit comfortably). I mixed some more paste and applied them easily.

    8) Same as above, but now over those with newspaper. Baked in the oven cautiously, watching to let it all dry out.

    9) Now I painted. All black acrylic paint first, then dry-brushed 2 shades of red over it in select parts (Pantalone’s signature colors are black and red).

    9) And finally, with a stroke of inspiration, I hot-glued some crepe hair eyebrows and moustache. The mustache I put on a thin copper wire to make its shape adjustable.

    Thanks again for the video—a perfect starting place. I wouldn’t have known where to begin. Good luck to any other attempters of this project! It’ll be fun.

    • Wow – very nice! I don’t suppose you took a few photos as you were working – if you did, even just one or two, I would really like to post your comment as a guest post so more people could see it. With your permission, of course.

  5. Thanks for the tutorial. For others who are curious about alternative techniques, here is what I ended up doing. A disclaimer: I had done sculpture before, but never paper mache beyond elementary school, so I was really figuring it out as I went, as I imagine many of you may be.

    1) I bought a cheap mask form (a sort of cardboard/canvas material) from Michael’s craft store, blocked out the eyeholes with aluminum foil, and covered with petroleum jelly and plastic (like the video).

    2) After scouring the internet, I amassed a series of photos of other Pantalones to emulate (this one for the nose, this one for the checks, this one for the forehead, etc.). I started building up features with Super Sculpey (like the video—can’t imagine using anything else). My ambitions were a little more complex than Jonni’s, so it took a fair deal of trial and error…

    3) The first coat of paste I mixed like Jonni, according to her recipe. First layer of shop towel down.

    4) Second coat of paste the same. Second layer down. Patched some holes.

    5) Now, I deviated a bit. I mixed in a great deal more plaster to the paste and applied it evenly. Let dry and harden.

    6) Added some water to the paste, applied a layer of newspaper (not shop towel) for a smoother finish without having to sand down a joint-compound gesso mixture. Let dry. One more coat of paste with a little more plaster.

    7) This one hardened really nicely. Sanded down, cut out, cleaned out. Now, I tore fine strips of shop towel to apply over the cut edges, like around the inside of the eyeholes or outside of the mask frame, to make it softer on the face (I would be playing Pantalone in a Commedia Dell’arte show and needed it to fit comfortably). I mixed some more paste and applied them easily.

    8) Same as above, but now over those with newspaper. Baked in the oven cautiously, watching to let it all dry out.

    9) Now I painted. All black acrylic paint first, then dry-brushed 2 shades of red over it in select parts (Pantalone’s signature colors are black and red).

    9) And finally, with a stroke of inspiration, I hot-glued some crepe hair eyebrows and moustache. The mustache I put on a thin copper wire to make its shape adjustable.

    Thanks again for the video—a perfect starting place. I wouldn’t have known where to begin. Good luck to any other attempters of this project! It’ll be fun.

    • Hi Jacob. Do you have a photo you could share so we can see how your mask turned out? I’d love to see it – those eyebrows sound especially intriguing.

  6. Precious kitty cat you have there. Gorgeous cat. I have two cats. You’re so nice with her, glad to see that. Kitties like to help !
    🙂

  7. Thank you Jonni Good! All the work you do to make these tutorials and keep a running website is so helpful. You are a talented artist and it’s honorable that you share your knowledge with the world.

    Here’s what I did with it.

  8. Hi, Jonni
    I have a quick question. I’m doing a project of a arecchino mask (its due tomorrow yikes!) And I was wondering how long do I have to wait for the paste to cet in before I do anything? And do I have to bake the mask? And I’m getting your book in the mail tomorrow! I’m really excited! You are really good at what you do. Thank you for the video it is helping
    -Desarae

    • Yikes is right! If you used Super Sculpey and put the mask in the oven to harden quickly, the Sculpey will also harden and it may be impossible to get the paper mache off the form. If you used an oil-based modeling clay for the form, it would melt in the oven. The best option would be to put the mask in front of a fan, and turn it every hour or so. If your furnace is on, you could also put it over a furnace vent, as long as it isn’t hot enough to bake the clay. Then as soon as the paper mache is hard enough to be taken off the form, and you’re sure it’s hard enough to not flatten out without the support, you can then finish the drying in the oven, around 200 degrees F.

      Good luck! And be sure to let us see how the mask turns out.

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