Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ezio Venetian Assassin Mask Walkthrough Part 3

In the last part, I wet-formed and dyed the mask.  Now for the finishing touches!

To get that nice aged metal look on a leather mask, I use my finger to dab paint onto the surface.  Because my finger is soft and has some give, it makes soft transitions and also when dabbing lightly it only affects the raised surfaces of the masks, which is what you want if you're going for a patina feel.

(I did a full tutorial on this effect. "How to Create a Buffed Metal Look in Leather" )

After dabbing with your finger, accentuate the random
highlights with a small brush.

PROTIP: Don't use your nice brushes for craft acrylic painting. They sell multi packs of cheap brushes of every size plus foam square brushes at most craft stores.  Acrylic dries to a permanient flexy goo in your brushes, so remember to wash up afterwards with soap or brush cleaner! I tend to use my retired watercolor brushes after their bristles fray.

Well now, looking spiffy there, Mr. Sexy Assassin Man!

But we're not through yet! Notice how dull the black areas are?  It's time to varnish.  I use Liquitex Satin Varnish because it dries flexible, but also brings a nice subtle sheen to the mask. I don't like using Glossy because it seems too shiny and overpowering for my tastes.  The other great thing about Satin is that the difference between your metallic and dull areas still show through so they're not all an equal level of shiny.  That subtle contrast between iridescent and dull areas is what makes a mask like this so stunning.

PROTIP: Do not use Matte sheen if you want to preserve the metallic look of your paint!  It will make it instantly dull looking.

Now that the mask is all varnished up and ready to go.  Time to punch holes for the ribbons.  I use a rotary hole punch set to the 2nd largest hole setting.

You can tell where to punch the hole by lining it up with the
angle of the corner of the eyehole.

Next,  I like to use silver dancer's ribbon to tie this mask to the wearer's face because it adds a nice decorative Venetian touch.  For a tighter more reliable fit, black thin elastic bands work well too.

(Just don't tell any assassin wearing this mask that
he's wearing a pretty dancer's shoe lace!)

And that's it!  You're ready to wear this mask to the ball...and shank a foo!

Ezio Venetian Assassin Mask Walkthrough Part 2

In the last part, I talked about developing the design and gathering the tools to help mold your mask.  Next up, wet-forming the mask!  First, you soak it in room temperature water with the rough side facing upwards.  Once the bubbles have stopped fizzing out of the back, the mask is ready to put in the oven!

I set my oven to its lowest heat setting (about 200F) on Bake mode. This is to keep the mask from scorching or getting too brittle, too fast, which is the danger of cooking with too high of a temperature.  I keep the mask from touching the oven rack by lining the rack with baking parchment paper that you can buy in rolls.  You can also bunch this parchment paper up and use it to prop up the mask once it has some shape to it.  I let the mask bake, checking it every 5 minutes and shaping it on Pat the Styro Head.

PROTIP: Don't forget to pinch the bridge of the nose where it meets the forehead or you'll end up with a very uncomfy mask that mashes your nose when you wear it!

Eventually, you end up with this - a wet-formed mask!
Angry pancake iz appeased.
Once the mask has dried completely, you're ready to dye it! I usually let the mask dry overnight propped on Pat the Styro Head so it retains its shape before I dye it. Some people like to bake the mask until it's dry, but I find that doing so increases the risk you'll make your mask brittle and hard. Taking the mask out of the oven before it's completely dries allows it to keep some of its flexibility, which generally makes for more comfortable masks.

PROTIPA mask needs to be supported while it dries or gravity will flatten it out.

If you're in a pinch, you can use a hair dryer set to low-med to quicken the process. Don't let it get too hot, though, or you'll singe the leather!  If the mask is still cold to the touch or is darker in color, that's a hint that it's still damp.

I dyed this mask with Midnight Black Eco-Flo dye by dabbing
with a natural sea sponge.

Ezio Venetian Assassin Mask Walkthrough Part 1

I've had many requests to learn more about my Ezio Venetian Assassin Mask, so when I last made it I took some photos of my process.  There's already a video of my basic mask process on YouTube if you'd like to watch instead of read.

The first order of business was to find references of Ezio's mask, which was not an easy thing when I first made it a year or so ago. Hardly any screenshots existed that weren't small and grainy.  Eventually, I came upon something like this:

Ezio is the main character of Assassin's Creed 2, from my
favorite game series! I just had to make the mask when I
first laid eyes on it.

This mask presents a problem, however, because most of the forehead is obscured, as are the fine details because of the pixelated nature of the game's graphics.  That's when I whipped out some good ol' fashioned imagination and made up the rest.  My version of this mask comes up to the hairline with swirly accents along the middle of the forehead and brows.  I had to make sure that a hood or a hat would fit comfortably atop the mask, thus the reason it ends at the hairline.

My head's name is Pat.
He seems oddly pleased
about something...
Next, I take measurements from the ear to the outer corner of the eye, the inner corner of the left eye to the inner corner of the right eye, and from the hairline to the tip of the nose. With the way this mask comes in so close to the eyes and stops at the hairline and nose, measurements are needed to make sure it lays right on the face.

Normally, I use a generic male styrofoam fashion head I bought at Hobby Lobby as a base to form the mask on, as the breadth of the face is wider than my own, which would be too small for most males.  If you don't have a Hobby Lobby closeby, most fashion stores (like Sally's) will have styrofoam wig heads.

Finally, I print out my design in blue ink so that when I'm tracing over lines with a ballpoint pen, it shows my progress by blacking out the lines as I go.  Before transferring, dampen the leather with a wet sponge so that the lines will be impressed into the surface.  They sell special transfer paper at Tandy, but using plain printer paper with the pattern printed in inkjet ink has always worked fine for me.  If you mess up your lines while transferring, you can always rub or sand the mistakes out later.

Eventually, you end up with something like this:
The Angry Pancake!

You can see in the photo that I've already started pressing in the lines with my beveler stamp and modeling spoon on the right side of the mask (left side of the photo).  The main lines have been cut into the surface using a swivel knife.  The process of adding dimension to your leather by creating depressions with stamps and tools is called tooling.  Tooling is a subtractive process, meaning you do not add things to the surface, but rather cut away or emboss the lines, so you have to think in the negative.  If you want an affordable swivel knife plus some basic stamps, I recommend grabbing this starter kit from Hobby Lobby using their weekly coupons.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How I Got into Leather Mask-making

If you're new here, you may not know that I have an all encompassing hobby called leather mask-making.  An obsession, if you will!  All artists need something to get them away from the drawing board, which is why I turned to mask-making years ago as my 'insanity relief'.  Read on to learn more about how this obsession first grabbed me!

Eirewolf on Twitter asks: How did you get into leather maskmaking, and what advice would you have for someone who is learning the craft?

First thing's first, I always harbored an obsession with masks. Something about them was intriguing, mysterious, both revealing and concealing of our true personalities all at once!  If I created a character for my stories, to be sure I would find an excuse to put them in a mask! All philosophy aside, they just look cool.

I had made masks out of clay before (you don't want to see those. They're lumpy hot messes), but lightening struck when my good friend Windfalcon linked me to Merimask's awesome tutorial on mask-making!  Leather was a material with so many possibilities and the fact acrylics were involved made it easy to cross-pollenate with my interests as a fantasy artist. Merimask put the tools in my hands and helped me find the path to my own inspiration and I'm forever grateful for that!
I bought my first shoulder of leather with Windfalcon (who was my roomie at the time) and we split it, the both of us embarking on our own mask-making journeys (her stuff is wonderful and you should go check it out too)! Ironically, it wasn't till a year later that I actually touched my half of our hide.

I've been a mask-maker for a total of 4 years, which still makes me somewhat new to the craft! My first mask creation was this rendition of Ichigo's Hollow mask from the anime Bleach. I have since branched out into all kinds of original and cosplay design ideas!  I am definitely still learning, with stitching and riveting next on my mask-making skill list!

My advice to future mask-makers:
- For a cheap starter set, the Tandy stamp and swivel knife set from Hobby Lobby is great! Don't forget your weekly 40% off coupon from Hobby Lobby's website when you get it.  They have small sheets of leather you can practice on too!

- If you decide to sell your creations. Price it on how it looks, not your skill level! Customers only know that you're not a master mask-maker if you price your work at the level of a cheap amateur. A good mask is a good mask whether you've been doing this 1 year or 100 years. Pricing cheap is also a hard hole to crawl out of later when you do want to up your prices later.

- Have fun and be creative!  If you're on DeviantART, come join us at the LeatherMaskArt Group where we welcome all leather mask-makers to the community.