Thursday, July 23, 2020

Mask Making with Stencils by Laurie Mika

When my four new sets of stencils were recently released, I was originally planning on doing my blog post about how to use these stencils on polymer clay but that post will have to wait for the future! I became obsessed with using my stencils to create masks not only for myself but for friends and family. Not being a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination I knew I would not be sewing masks but still wanted to create some in response to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. I have a neighbor who gave me a little stash of the mesh KN95 masks and thought I would try out my stencils on those.

I have outlined the steps that I used to create my masks. The first step is to NOT do what I did in my demo…..I stenciled on my mask when it was upside down!  Make sure to have the area for your nose in the right spot facing up. 
Once you have the proper orientation, it is time to audition which stencil will fit. I chose to use two small sacred heart stencils from my StencilGirl® Mixup Mika Sacred Hearts.

You may want to add a piece of a paper towel or wax paper to the inside of the mask so that paint doesn’t bleed through. I used acrylic paint out of the tube and mixed up a batch using magenta and red/orange paint. It is a bit tricky to stencil on the mesh material, you have to hold the stencil in place with one hand while applying the paint with a make-up wedge in the other hand being careful not to move the stencil.
You will have to use a fair amount of paint and press down hard with the sponge. I like to peek before lifting off the stencil to make sure I have enough paint on it.
Let this side dry before moving onto the other side.

Repeat the same process using a different heart design if desired. I used a crowned heart because the crown has come to symbolize the “corona” in the coronavirus in much of the work I have been doing during the pandemic.
The other thing that I often do is to come back and touch up areas of the stencil that aren’t dark enough and fill them in using a paintbrush. 
Let the stencil dry before moving onto the next step which is filling in the background with color.

I like to do a wash of color to get rid of the white “clinical” look of these masks.
To do this I mixed up a batch of turquoise deep and white paint, I also added just a dab of my favorite Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold paint….this will turn it into a light greenish color like a patina. Use a paintbrush and water down the paint so that it goes on like a wash. I do leave some white in and around the stencil design showing.
Note that because the paint is watery, it tends to bleed up the elastic bands…but I like that, but if you don’t like that, just don’t add as much water to your paint.

I left the border area around the mask white so that I could further embellish the mask by doing a black and white check border. I did this by using a small flat paintbrush and black acrylic paint. I made sure I had a paper towel in the middle so I didn’t have to worry about the black paint hitting the opposite side.
While I have the black paint ready, I will often go back with a paintbrush and just add a bit of a shadow to outline the heart and give it some dimension.
Let dry.

An optional step to add further interest to your mask is to add text. Make sure the wash of paint in the background is dry!
I used a small set of alphabet stamps and black Staz-On ink and stamped the words Love on one side and Protect on the other.
When I used Staz-On ink to stamp the words, I realized that I could add additional design elements using rubber stamps. Using a small stamp with a floral cross design, I stamped a random pattern and liked the way this looks. 
The Staz-on dries right away, so you can then flip over your mask and finish the opposite side.
I have attached a few other designs for inspiration using my other sets of stencils:
The two stencils on the left and right sides are the larger sacred hearts stencils from my

Much of my work is inspired by Mexican folk art. I love milagros, (miracles) the tiny tin charms used to give thanks for miracles and cures. They are often in the shape of body parts that need healing.  
Here I have used one of my hands from StencilGirl® Milagro.

The other influence that has recently shown up in my work is the imagery associated with alchemy, the Medieval forerunner of chemistry.
I know a few people who do not wear bright colors so I wanted to make a few masks in a more subdued palette and knew the stencils from StencilGirl®Alchemy would be well suited for this purpose.

There are so many possibilities to use stencils and stamps to create your own unique masks. I like that they can be personalized for the special people in your life. Realizing that we will probably be wearing masks for a very long time, it is nice to be able to put your own creative spin onto this new fashion accessory!


  1. I love your stencils and love your ideas for these masks. I've thought about painting masks, but haven't brought that idea to fruition. I do have a few questions: Looks to me like you used regular acrylic paint, not textile paint - is that right? Did you wash or heatset the masks? Do you think there are any issues with breathing in chemicals from the paints? Thanks for the wonderful ideas, Laurie!

  2. Thanks so much for the nice comments! I did just used acrylic water based paints that were applied like a wash with a lot of water (didn’t heatset).....and I would say overall, that these are probably more artistry than practicality....though I do wear my masks often, I put them out in the sun for the UV rays and haven’t thrown them in the wash.....I’m not sure how those KN95 masks hold up going through a wash cycle even without paint on them....acrylic paints are generally non-toxic....but I would suggest that people who might be sensitive research this a bit more. I am only making these masks for my own personal use and wearing them on a limited basis when I run into a store......though my cardiologist wants one with hearts on it, of course!

  3. Great tutorial, thank you for the inspiration. Your stencils are awesome!


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