Mask Materials Guide: Part 3
Hello folks and welcome to the third Installment of the Mask Making Material Guide.
So far we covered latex compounds and mold making materials. Over the next two installments we will take a look at some of the different methods for painting masks including paint mediums pro’s and con’s and ways to apply these mediums. So let’s start by looking at some paint options.
Rubber Cement Paint
When I first started making latex masks back in 1986, there was very little info on how to paint a mask. At the time, the conventional wisdom was that rubber cement was the best option. Published in the early 1980’s, Tom Savini had some info on this method in his excellent book, Bizarro, but that was about all I could find at the time. Any of you who have the book, may recall that Tom’s recipe was acrylic paint mixed with rubber cement and thinned with Rubber cement thinner. When it came time to pain myt first mask I couldn’t wait to try it! Unfortunately, I quickly discovered, acrylic paint is water based and rubber cement is a chemical solvent based product. So no matter how hard I tried or how many mixtures I made of this recipe I could not get it to work! I was so bummed out. As I turned out, the book had a typo and the proper pigment was not acrylic paint but rather oil paint. For me, the great lesson there was if you read it in a book, it might still be incorrect. Typos do happen. Fortunately, my persistence and frustration eventually led me to try the oil paint, which made much more sense. And of course it worked! Once I got it going all I needed to do was experiment. I also discovered that rubber cement is toxic!
What is rubber cement paint and how is it made?
Rubber cement paint (RCP) is a simple mixture of 1 part oil paint to about 5 parts good old off the shelf rubber cement. This mixture is typically thinned down with mineral spirits or VM&P Naptha to a pourable consistency. The result is a paint that sticks like glue to rubber and flex’s with the mask without cracking or rubbing off. The real benefit is that rubber cement actually bites into the mask and gets into the pores of the latex. The solvent causes the Mask Making rubber to swell slightly which opens up the rubber pores and allows the rubber to get in. Once the solvent flashes off, only the rubber cement remains, which is now tightly locked onto and impregnated into the latex rubber. This is the reason why the bond is so strong. With that said, you may be wondering why everyone isn’t using rubber cement to paint their masks. The answer is simple. This stuff is TOXIC!!! And unless you work area is unbelievably well ventilated, you use chemical resistant gloves and you have an enclosed air supplied ventilation suit, I do not recommend using this as a general purpose paint medium for your masks despite its effectiveness.
When is it appropriate to use rubber cement to paint a mask?
Rubber cement can be made somewhat less toxic by replacing the thinning solvent with D-Limonene, a natural, citrus solvent made from oranges. One of my favorite uses of rubber cement paint made with D-Limonene is for creating a rubout effect on a mask. The way it works is that you start out by putting down a base coat layer of latex mask paint (more on that later). Once the Mask Paint is dry, a very dilute mixture of rubber cement paint that is significantly darker than the base color is applied with a sponge. Once the RCP is dry you carefully go back over the mask with additional D-Limonene applied with a rag. The rag is first soaked in D-Limonene which is than used to gently rub the high points of the mask until most of the RCP is removed from those areas. The result is a high contrast accentuation of all the shaded areas of the mask where the darker colored rubber cement remains. Done well, the rubout can bring out all of the fine details that you can put into a mask design and serve as a beautiful background for additional detailing and color layering.
Keep in mind that even with using D-Limonene as a solvent replacement you still need to take careful precautions to protect yourself from the solvent that is in the cement itself. Incidentally, rubber cement paint made with D-Limonene has a slower evaporation rate than mineral spirits or other chemical solvents. It is also worth noting that Rubout or rubber cement paint can be layered in with latex based paints such as mask paint and are therefore completely compatible.
What are some of the safer alternatives for painting Masks?
Good question. Fortunately there are a number of safer alternatives to painting masks that are just as effective. The next oldest method that a number mask makers like to use is PAX Paint. For those of you unfamiliar with Dick Smith’s PAX formula, this is a mixture of Prosthetic Adhesive (Prosaide or similar) that is mixed with Liqutex acrylic and thinned with water. Liquitex Acrylic Paint comes in a wide variety of color choices that can be intermixed for an almost unlimited palette of color. Another nice thing about using PAX to paint latex is that it is non-toxic and can be made to go on like water colors. Colors can also be made translucent and built up to create depth and fine detailing on the mask. Some artists have added a much as twenty parts water to Prosthetic adhesive without losing the adhesiveness of the paint. This is good because Prosthetic Adhesives can be very expensive.
Another drawback of using PAX paint for masks is that it tends to remain quite tacky after the paint dries. The traditional method of removing tack is by powdering with talc. To get around this for masks we simply make a more dilute blend of paint with a higher concentration of water. This reduces the tack enough that it does not present a problem. To eliminate the tack completely a mask painted with PAX would need to be sealed with Kryolon Crystal Clear. The major downside of PAX paint for masks, is that is does not bite into the mask and is not as flexible as some other paint options. PAX paint does tend to crack if the mask is flexed and can rub off if handled excessively. For that reason PAX would only be recommended for display masks only.
In part four of the Mask Makers Material Guide we will take a look a two more options for painting Masks: Acrylic Inks and Latex Mask Paint.