abstract bird mask

How To Make A Paper Mask That Moves When You Speak

I love Halloween. It might actually be my favorite holiday. The trouble is that I’m trying to be more eco-friendly, and Halloween just isn’t. So this year, I set myself a challenge to see if I could make a costume that wouldn’t be headed for landfill on November 1st. Because I also wanted to share this project with you, I knew it would need to be something adaptable. I decided to concentrate on making a paper mask. That’s because you can wear pretty much anything with a mask and still look festive.

It took quite a lot of tinkering, but I’m happy to share this easy paper mask with you. It has a few fun features, too. First, it can be recycled when you’re done. Second, you can put it together quickly from things you probably have laying around the house. Third, if you tie it right, the mouth will open when yours does!

Here’s how to make a paper mask

What you will need

  • Heavy paper in various colors
  • White letter paper (printer paper)
  • Reusable adhesive putty (or glue)
  • Scissors
  • Pen/pencil
  • About 30″ string
  • Hole punch
  • Masking tape (or any strong tape)
  • Costume eye mask

Make templates

The first step is to make templates for the top and bottom of your paper mask. To do this, take two pieces of plain paper and stack them on top of each other. Then, fold them in half the long way. Next, cut the shape you want for your beak. Since the papers are stacked, the top and bottom will match. I made mine a large arc.

Then, separate the papers, unfold them, and cut two arcs on the opposite edge of one piece. Like this:

top template

These small arcs in the top template (above) will help the mask fit better around your cheeks and eyes.

Then, cut a large arc at the opposite end of the other piece of paper:

bottom template

The larger arc on the bottom template (above) will help the mask fit more comfortably on your neck. You may need to make adjustments to some of the arcs to accommodate your individual shape. We’ll get to that in the fitting stage.

Cutting the paper mask

When your templates are done, trace them onto heavy paper. I used 65 pound paper, which I found in a nice multi-color pack. Next, cut along your trace lines so you have something like this:

top and bottom of paper mask

Assembling your paper mask

I told you this would be quick, right? We’re already at the assembly stage. For this part, align the top and bottom of your mask. Then put two layers of tape around each corner. Punch a hole in the middle of each piece of tape.

paper mask taped together ready for string

The tape will hold the two halves together, and also reinforce the hole for the string. I experimented with taping just the sides and also taping the side and back. The difference is that if you tape the back, too, your beak will be a little flatter (think duck-billed platypus).

Attaching the string

To attach your mask to your face, and get it sitting properly to open when your mouth does, cut about 30″ of string. Thread the string from the bottom up through the top of the holes on each side. My mask fits best with the string just through the top hole, like you see here:

detail of hole for string

You can run it through both holes, though, if that’s more comfortable. In case you are wondering why the mask is suddenly blue, the photo came out better on this one.

However you decide to thread the string, make sure that there is a loop at the bottom and that the two loose ends come out the top. Here’s what it should look like:

proper threading to make a moving beak

When you put the beak on, the loop will go around the back of your neck, at your hairline. Then you will pull the loose ends so the mask fits comfortably, and tie them together behind your head. That part should rest on/above your ears, like eyeglasses would. Like this:

how to fit eye mask and beak together

Testing the fit

Before you spend any time decorating your mask, test the fit. Try your beak on with the eye mask. Make any adjustments necessary to the notches. You want the mask to fit comfortably, and, of course, for the beak to open and close.

If you do make changes, then take the beak apart and trace it onto white paper. That way you will have a new template that’s perfect for you.

Decorating your paper mask

All that’s left now is decorating. The eye mask I found is pretty sturdy, and made from something synthetic. It’s clearly not recyclable, but it could be reused. Keeping this in mind, I used removable adhesive putty to adhere the decorations. That way I can take everything apart, recycle the paper, and save the mask for next year. I can also switch the decorations pretty easily for different Halloween events!

I made an abstract bird mask by cutting some feathers from more of the heavy paper:

feathers made from red paper

Then I attached them with the removable adhesive putty:

what you need to decorate an eye mask
paper feathers attached to the back of an eye mask

Here’s what it looks like finished:

red feathers and yellow beak for abstract bird costume

Operating your paper mask

I was a little nervous at first that the mask I fit to my face wouldn’t work when my husband kindly agreed to model it. But it did! We had to move the bottom part around a few times to find the right spot on his chin. When we got it right, he was able to open and close the beak when he talked. Check it out:

bird mask with paper feathers and beak closed

The mouth opens up when his does:

abstract paper bird mask with opening mouth

I think the trick was making sure the bottom part of the mask sat far enough back on his chin. We also threaded the string through both holes when he wore it.

Now I just need to find a yellow marker to color over the masking tape. It worked pretty well for the Frog Prince mask, as you can see here:

paper frog prince mask with green bill and yellow crown

I’m really excited to wear these masks for all the Halloween events we have planned this year. Even answering the door for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters will be more entertaining! If you’re looking for even more Halloween fun, try making some macabre gingerbread cookies (recipe here):

spooky headless gingerbread man cookie

As always, feel free to ask questions or leave comments. Don’t forget to subscribe to Creatorvox to get new posts right in your email. You can also follow Creatorvox on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more tips and tricks between posts. Thanks for reading, and happy making!

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