How to Make a Pantalone Mask

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My book How to Make Masks! is now officially published, and it’s available on 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. Hi Jonni,

    I’m using your techniques to make a scarecrow mask and crow mask. I was unable to find a large form that would fit my husband, so I was wondering if you could explain how you made the custom one you used in the demo?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Robin. You can see the entire process if you go to my book’s page on amazon and sign in to your account. Then you can go to that chapter and read the instructions there. I don’t think I’ve ever put the photos of that process on the blog. It’s kind of a messy way of doing it, and I used the foil and tape just to keep the plaster of Paris from coming in direct contact with my face. However, lots of people make mask forms just with the plaster bandages applied directly to their face, and you can see a great video showing the process here:

      Don’t forget the Vaseline! And I hope you’ll show us your mask when it’s done.

  2. Hi, Jonni!
    Just wanted to drop a quick line to say thanks for the site, your videos, and your books! I love the mask book, and have purchased the other 3 books for my kids for Christmas. I flipped through them upon receiving them, and they are just as fantastic as the mask book!
    I’m currently neck deep in a paper mache project (due this weekend, yikes!), for my daughter. She decided she wants to be Maleficent for our church Halloween “trick or trunk” this year. (Parents decorate their car trunks, and the kids go around the parking lot from trunk to trunk trick or treating for candy. Makes for a nice, safe trick or treat since you know who’s giving what, and know where it comes from. I still remember the scares from when I was a kid of rumors of people putting razor blades in apples or other nasty things in trick or treat items, so this way is much better and safer for the younger crowd.) Anyway, I made paper mache horns and talons for the wingtips using the methods found in your mask book, and also after crawling this site and the internet for ideas. They seem to be turning out quite well, considering it is my first time doing paper mache since I was in grade school using newspaper and nasty flour goop layered over balloons. I’ll post a pic of the costume once complete. But wanted to give a big thanks for your methods making it possible!
    Also, on a slightly unrelated note, during my crawling around on the ‘net, I discovered someone on Flickr who has some amazing masks that he scuplts. They are quite inspirational to me, and I thought I’d share with everyone here. He appears to have a plaster head that he scuplts clay onto, and uses the cheap, brown, “gas-station bathroom” -type paper towels with glue for the mache. He’s got some really great forms out there, and I was amazed that he uses very similar techniques to yours! Anyway, here’s the link to his Flickr account. Hope you enjoy like I did!!
    Thanks again!
    – Adam

    • Hi Adam. What a great idea for a Halloween party – and I can’t wait to see the costume when it’s done. I hope your daughter has a great time.

      And thanks, too, for the link to Douglas’ photos. I’ve been wondering what he’s been up to lately. He used to check in quite often. Unfortunately, a lot of the images he posted are no longer showing up because I changed the upload plugin, and it messed up some of the older comments – but he’s got some amazing talent. Those twisted faces are really something.

      • Wow, I didn’t realize that he had posted on here! I had actually found some of his masks separate from this site while doing a Google Image search about a year or so back, and then promptly lost his site. I was quite happy I found it again while searching around for ideas for this costume. I completely agree with you in regards to his talent. His stuff is very inspirational for sure. I’ll be sure to let you know how the party goes! And thanks again!

  3. Jonni, I recently purchased your book How to Make Masks! in order to complete a project that I am making. The mask is part of a much larger project entered into a competition, but I won’t bore you with the details of that.

    You mentioned that you like to see what people are doing with your instructions, so I thought you might get a kick out of my mask making endeavor. I documented the entire process and it’s posted to my website, YouTube channel and the competition website. You can view it all at

    It was fun and your instructions were great. I’ve linked to your video and book all over the place, so hopefully more people will buy your book and give it a go. Thank you so much for sharing your skills and artistry.

    • Excellent video, Lori – thanks so much for sending the link. Your mask is great, too. When you have the entire project finished, will you be sure to let us see how the entire creation turns out?

      • Of course, I’d love to show you the completed project. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I wouldn’t say my mask is great, but I’m learning. I really enjoyed making it and already have ideas of more that I hope to make. I’ve got my eye on your Baby Animal Dolls book. My forte is sewing, after all.

  4. Hi Jonni,

    Would this technique work for covering cardboard? I am working on a costume helmet, the structure of which I have already built out of cardboard, and now I’m trying to decide the best way to finish it with a smooth surface and painting. Originally, I was considering Bondo, but a friend of mine suggested paper mache instead and directed me to your website. I like the fact that the recipe used for the Pantalone mask is fast drying and also that you describe it as slightly flexible, especially because my helmet has a long narrow noseguard that I would worry might crack after extended use unless there’s some flexibility. Any advice you can provide would be much appreciated.

    Your website is excellent, by the way! I’ve been learning lots by reading and watching most of your videos.

    Many thanks,


    • Hi Joe. Yes, you can use this recipe over cardboard. I put a Plague Doctor mask in my book, and there’s a long narrow beak. The two layers of shop towels and fast-setting paste were plenty strong enough, even though my mask was completely hollow. With the additional strength of the cardboard you’re using for your helmet, it should work out really well.

      Good luck with your project. I hope you’ll show us how it turns out.

      • Hi Jonni,

        Your shop towel technique worked really well and that, along with your air-dry clay, some compound filler and plenty of sanding, gave me a fairly smooth end result. The helmet is now nearly done; I have painted it with Americana brand acrylic craft paint and now I’d like to coat it in a clear semi-gloss finish of some sort to hold the colours and protect it from the rain, if possible. Can you recommend something that would do that? I live in Canada, in case that makes a difference with regard to what’s available.

        I can’t wait to show you the finished piece! πŸ™‚



  5. OOPS!

    I thought that greenman drawing would show up as a small avatar pic, NOT a huge image. Sorry about that, and feel free to delete it. I would do it myself but don’t see a way to edit a post.

  6. Hi, Jonni

    These are really great instructional videos! A friend asked me to make him a Venetian-style mask since I’m known to be artsy-craftsy, but it had been a LONG time since I’d done paper mache’ and needed a refresher course. Using shop towels is an inspired way to avoid the tiny pieces of paper and many many layers I remember using in the past.

    Based on the video it seemed that you didn’t wait for the first layer to dry before adding the second (or third), but I wanted to confirm that before I got started. Just add all the layers at once?

    You seem to have a very clear and concise way of explaining projects so I *will* be ordering your book soon! Thanks again for the excellent videos.

    • That’s right – the second and third layers go right on, and will actually stick better if you don’t let the previous layers dry. That’s because I’m using plaster in the paste recipe. If you use flour and water paste, you could do it either way.

  7. Jonni,
    I just wanted to say that instead of a plastic model with Vaseline I have a Styrofoam head. I have had great luck with using the Glad Press and seal plastic. It sticks just well enough to stay on the face/head and you remove it exactly the same way you do with your plastic.

    I have just finished my second Dottore mask for Commedia Dell’Arte. The first one was OK but I finished it after midnight and botched it up a little. I’m not allowed to do anything after midnight. πŸ˜‰

    Thank you for your videos and the time you put into finding a system and with formulating a way to teach it via video. It was an immense amount of help to me.

    When our troupe gets a website up I will send you the link so you can see us using all the masks that I am making using your system.

    • Good suggestion about the Glad Press. I’l grab some next time I’m at the store. And I definitely want that link. Let us know as soon as your website is online. πŸ™‚

      • Here are the post Gesso and Pre painting Dottore masks. The first one ( on the right) had a nose problem that I was able to fix later.
        the Second one allowed me to play with voids a bit more.


        • Diane, your photos didn’t come through. This usually happens because the file size is too big. Please edit the photos and try again – we’d love to see your masks.

  8. Hi Jonny,

    I’m from the UK so super sculpey isn’t as obtainable as it might be in america, and as you have said, it is quite expensive. I have a few blocks of Newplast plastercine clay, if your familiar with it? Would that work for these projects, or is there a distinct chemical reason that you use super sculpey?

    Eagerly await your reply,

    Kindest regards!

    • Hi Alex. Any modeling clay will work. I like the Sculpey product because it doesn’t stick to my fingers as much as most oil-based clays, but it’s just a personal preference.

      • Thank you very much! That was fast!

        I will try my clay, but will definatley have to try super sculpey some time.
        Apart from it being re-usable, would your mask recipes seperate from a baked Sculpey Postive mold? (In case i’m ever lucky enough to make a mask other people like and I can make more of them!)

        I promise not to take up much more of your time! πŸ™‚ By the way! I have your book on order!

        Kindest regards,

        • Hi Alex. If your baked Sculpey mold has no deep undercuts and you use a release, it should work. If it does have undercuts, the paper mache may become distorted as it’s removed from the mold.

          I hope you like the book!

          • Thank you very much Jonny. I suppose baking the clay would defeat the point in using it!

            I am really looking foward to reading the book! I’m a mask enthusiast and loved them from a young age. Although I aspire to draw and write graphic novels (Projects i’m working on), I have never been good at ‘crafty’ stuff. But your methods seem like ones I can get on board with!

            All the best to you!

  9. hi Jonni
    sorry my english is terrible
    I can read but not write
    I just ordered your two books, and must now wait 5 to 7 days (in belgium)
    I really want to make the cat( of the video’s) because I have nine cats and five of them are ragdolls
    but first I will start with the easiest in your book, perhaps that is the best hahaha
    I see all the nine masks on my wall of the cats in my mind,
    thank you for all those wonderful videoes and tutorials you post

    • Yes, starting with the first ones in the book is helpful, because the easiest ones are at the beginning of the books, and new techniques are added with each project. That’s especially true in the book about making animals with paper mache clay. I hope you’ll show us what you make. (And your English is just fine!)

  10. This may be a stupid question but after you’ve sculpted the mask with the clay, do you then bake the clay or just apply the paper mache as is?

    • I don’t bake the clay – I just cover it with the paper mache, and then I can remove the Sculpey and use it again to make something else.

  11. Hi all, (Sorry for long post!)
    Here is my prototype mask (the one where I’m just testing the technique)
    It appears stretched out, but when you view image on it, it will show up just fine.
    The interesting tiled patches on the forehead were an accident – I spraypainted the mask in a garbage bag so I wouldn’t stain anything. So it dried with bits of garbage bag stuck to it, and when I peeled it off, it left glossy glass-like patches – which I highlighted . Next time I shall modpodge them so they stay glossy before painting the rest of it.
    This is such a wonderful technique – I’ve done tons of experimenting, and nothing has been this strong, light or flexible. With practice, I can be faster, which means I just might have some ready for the etsy store by fall.
    So – things I learned – Eyes – I need a templatecutter so they are both the same size. Edges – I need to be more careful about the noodle across the nose as mine ended up lopsided. Practice – I am so used to working with small strips that I have to watch fitting them over features. Sculpting – um, I’ve never really done it. Dragon masks only needhorns, but I’m going to a Cthulhu party on Halloween which means tentacles. Lots of them. I look forward to the challenge.
    Thanks again for sharing this with us!

  12. What a wonderful alternative to the infamous Wool Paper that the Venetian mask makers use.
    Also, this is something like Dave Riley’s sized felt technique, except more able to take detail, and certainly easier (I’ve had very little success with sized felt), andit looks as though it would be stronger. (in case you are curious)

    I make ritual masks, so they have to be very light because when you’re trying to go into trance/ritual for an hour, comfort is a priority (which of course I discovered the hard way).

    I have ordered your book and look forward to playing with the technique! And congrats for getting a book!

  13. Thanks for the ideas. I made a mask with my daughter for a school project. It turned out well, but when finished, even after a day of drying, the mask was very flexible rather than rigid. Is that normal? I’m wondering if I overdid it on the Vaseline layer and whether that affected the results.

    • Hi Doug. Your mask may simply need a bit more time to cure. Sit it in front of a fan for a few hours. If it doesn’t firm up, you can always add a third layer of paper mache to the inside of the mask to make it stronger. I don’t think the petroleum jelly would cause any problems with the paper mache.

    • We’re in eastern Oregon, so it does get up in the 90s for a few weeks in the summer. We used to get a lot of snow, or at least I seem to remember lots of snow. We didn’t get much this year, and it’s feeling like spring right now. I should get my tomatoes started soon, I guess. I think our weather is much milder than anything you’ll find in Texas, and it isn’t humid, like it is in some places down there.

  14. Jonni,
    Again, congratulations on your new book! WHOOP WHOOP
    I’m so glad you kept the first video up. I was asked a couple of years ago to create a Pantalone mask for a woman and I thought NO Way could I figure out how to even begin. So, two years later …. here I am creating one. Thank you so much for freely sharing with all of us here.

    Just want to add a remark referring to your statement…”When the cat knocks things off the shelf, I consider it a test to see how strong things are…”

    Years ago I painstakingly sculpted a couple of dolls using Sculpey. One fall off the dresser and the first one received an immediate amputation. Others followed…and enough was enough. What I have found using your paper mache is that it is virtually impossible to damage my art… I say this through experience because I can’t count the times I’ve dropped a piece (or some little grandchild or critter of mine has done likewise) and my hard work has yet to even receive a dent. So, I’m going back to attempting a paper mache doll. I will not use breakable clays again. So disappointing.

    Oh, I keep my ‘props for paper mache cannister’ of empty toilet paper rolls handy for when my kitties come in to visit. They’ll chase them around the floor like the maniacs they are. Love the show they put on.

    Can’t wait to get my copy of your new book!

    • Thanks, Sharon. And I can’t wait ’till people see that wonderful bear mask you let me include in the gallery section of the book. They’re going to love it.

  15. Augh! I’m on the edge of my seat, Jonni! πŸ™‚
    I like your manner on the video, too. Very natural, and the cat is a homey touch. (I sympathize! I installed doors on my studio just to keep the cats out. They’re mayhem in little cat pyjamas!)

    • Ah – we haven’t even approached the subject of cat hair in the paint. I get around that little issue by pretending it isn’t there. When the cat knocks things off the shelf, I consider it a test to see how strong things are. I keep little balls of aluminum foil handy to throw for her when she’s bored. (Must be quick with the entertainment or I get a gentle bite on the ankle to remind me). Not that I cater in any way…

      • I also *ahem* pretty much ignore the hairs that I can’t get out of my paint (of course I’m almost as covered in cat hair as the cats! And let’s not even discuss the dogs!), but they also seem to like to bite my paint tubes, which makes them more like colanders than containers, and “fish” in my brush water. *sigh* And eat my plants (it’s the only room we can have plants!) I’m sure I’m not saying anything surprising to my fellow cat-ownees. πŸ˜‰

        I like the breakability testing aspect, though. Finally! A use for cats!

  16. Just received my copy of How to Make Masks. You’ve outdone yourself. If I could teach and write as well as you . . . I’d be a very happy fellow. I am, however, very proud that you included a mask of my making in your book. I’m in the “Jonni Fan Club” who appreciate and follow you.

    Hope you sell a zillion copies . . . you deserve it. Thanks for another great Jonni Good book.


    • Thanks, Jim. And thanks, too, for designing and creating a mask using these methods, and allowing me to show it off in the gallery section of the book. I can’t wait for people to see it. You, Sharon and Cory were very brave and generous, and I thank you all for your help.

  17. Hi Jonni- your mask is just great – you form the mask similar to the way I form mine. The big difference is that I am not making a mold with my clay as you are doing. Another great method of getting the job done. Can’t wait for the next installment. By the way, it is great to see you looking straight at me when you are instructing, and of course your kitty is just delicious – the adorable way he or she says with you is such a pleasure to see. Yours, Joanne

    • Hi Joanne. Thanks for the compliments on the video and the cat. I was thinking bad thoughts about that cat at the time, because I turned on the camera three or four times, and the cat would immediately start talking. Holding her is the only way to get her to shut up. And she’s heavy! (Good cat, though. We’re good friends).

      And if you’re looking for a town that’s less expensive than New York, you should check out La Grande. It’s pretty, houses are cheap, we aren’t in the middle of a droubt like Texas. It’s small, though.


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