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How To Make Quick & Easy “Tiki” Masks

Recently, I made a rather amusing but very basic Crash Bandicoot costume, that got quite a bit of attention. From people going “W O A H” at me, as I walked around, to people who wanted pictures and even to ask if we made it ourselves, we came up with a pretty easy way to make an Aku Aku mask – But this technique can be applied to more complex masks, if you’re going full Tiki on your design. If you’re looking for something quick and easy to make, perhaps as a mask, or perhaps to jot around your home to show off a bit of your own personal creative flair, then consider making these quick & easy masks!

What You’ll Need

  • Foam Board/Foamboard (Sometimes known as Foamcore) – Note: There are cheaper places to buy this than Hobbycraft. I bought a pack of 5 of these for about £10, which has lasted me a long time.
  • Fun Foam – Note: Again, there are cheaper places to buy this than Hobbycraft; however their Fun Foam packs are actually pretty good value overall!
  • A fine grit sanding block – Useful for tidying up the edges.
  • Craft Knife – Any craft knife will cut through foamboard easily.
  • Acrylic Paints (Black & Brown for the wood at least; any other colours of your choice)
  • Clear Gesso/Matt Finish – Keep it wooden, with no shine coming through!
  • Pencils/Pens
  • Hot Glue Gun (With Hot Glue Sticks)
  • Pritt Stick (Optional)
  • Wire brush (Optional)

Instructions (Approx. Project Time: 3 hours)

  1. Cut out the basic shape/s

    This part is really rather easy, but consider the shape of a Tiki mask/wooden mask. Please note, the material you’re going to be using in this is completely inflexible. It’s a solid slab of foam which has been held together with two sheets of card. Foamboard is excellent if you want to retain the shape; it’s also brilliant for making boxes for wigs, or anything like that. However, it’s not so good at being flexible for your face. You may wish to consider nose holes/eye holes, too.

    I cannot tell you what shape to make, however for the purpose of this article, we’ll be talking about the Aku Aku mask. Cut out the base shape, then cut out any extra shapes required to be stuck to the base. For Aku Aku, we needed some eyes, some eyebrows, a nose, a mouth (with teeth), feathers and leaves. The feathers we will deal with later down the line, but the leaves will need a solid base. The reason for this is the Aku Aku mask is solid, except for the feathers at the top of his head, which float around.

    One point about foamboard; this stuff is very versatile for cutting. I amazed myself at how easy it was to cut out a near perfect circle (above).

  2. Paint the foamboard

    As basic as it gets really, just paint the foamboard. I’d recommend using a large brush, especially if you have a larger piece to deal with. However, some people may be wondering how I got such a wooden effect on the Aku Aku mask. The answer is simply having a base paint. Wood is quite dark; so I got an auburn brown paint as the top layers, but first, I coated the whole mask in a black coat of paint. A little trick I learned here was to put emphasis around different parts of the wood; let some of it look almost sun-exposed and some of it almost burnt. It just adds a bit of depth to the colouration of the mask.

    (OPTIONAL) Want your piece to have grooves/feel a little bit more wooden? Use a wire brush with a bit of pressure over the foam board. Be careful though, as too much pressure might make the card crackle, exposing the foam. Paint eats foam, but will not eat your card – So be careful!

  3. Glue the pieces together

    Yep, it really is as simple as that for this bit. Get your hot glue gun out, put hot glue directly on the back of the foamboard shapes you’re sticking down, then stick them onto the mask base. The simpler the project, the better the effect for this step!

  4. Cut fun foam to the shape of your pieces and glue them to your foamboard pieces.

    Again, the simpler the better!

    We loved this bit. It made the entire project feel like it was coming together. Here I will suggest you can comfortably use pritt stick if you’re not confident with a hot glue gun. The reason for this is that fun foam won’t get eaten up by the pritt stick; and it bonds the foam to the foamboard pretty well!

  5. Consider what type of strap you want

    I didn’t mention this bit in the “What You’ll Need” section, because this is now down to what you want your mask for. You may want to stick a strap to the back of the mask. I used Velcro and an elastic strap to act as a mask strap; the simpler the better!

  6. Final details

    Not all masks will be the same; for the Aku Aku mask, the feathers were cut separately and left to be loose. They were glued down with some Pritt Stick, allowing them to flow gently in the breeze. Consider if there’s anything that needs to flow; ribbon, leaves, cord, feathers – You name it! The joy of foamboard is the ability to glue to it, as it’s not exposed foam. Unless you remove the card; then you should be careful with what glue you use on it!

That’s it! There was no secret to making the Aku Aku mask; it is really doable in about 2 hours. This was such a fun and easy prop to make and seriously got peoples attention. It was also the easiest costume I had ever put together: Blue shorts, orange t-shirt, orange long socks, trainers, (p)leather fingerless gloves and Aku Aku. In total, the entire costume might have cost about £25 – Most of the expense came from the shorts!

Now it’s over to you – Are there any basic props you’d like to build, but aren’t quite sure how to get started? Have you ever worked with Foamboard before and have some stories to share with us? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook or Twitter.


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