What are Theatrical Masks Made Of?

Theatrical masks are made from different materials depending on their purpose. Over time, the creation of theater masks has become more sophisticated with improvements in technology.

Around the world you can find masks made out of wood, leather, metal, fabric, paper, plastic, and rubber composites. In today’s world, a simple party mask found at a large retail store may be made of latex, foam, or fabric and plastic. Masks used for performance may combine many materials. Theatrical masks are made from materials that can survive regular use.

Greek Theater Masks

Before we look at what materials mask makers use for handmade theater masks today, let’s talk about ancient actor masks. Greek theater masks were likely made of stiffened linen or wood. These theatrical masks sometimes included wigs made of human or animal hair.

Because Greek theater masks were made from perishable materials, no theater masks used onstage survived to present day. Surviving artifacts from Greek theater are decorative theater masks made of terracotta.

Decorative Theatrical Masks

Decorative masks can be made out of many different materials. Common decorative theater masks are the Greek comedy and tragedy masks or Mardi Gras masks. Since decorative theatrical masks are for display, you have more options for materials. You can find the popular Greek comedy and tragedy masks made out of different materials, including plastic, clay, and wood.

Different Types of Theatrical Mask Materials

Jonathan Becker Theatrical Mask Maker
Theatrical masks are created with a variety of materials and methods.

Theatrical masks are made from many different materials today. Mask makers may choose to specialize in a specific material for their masks. Here are some different materials your mask maker may use to make your theater masks.

Papier-mâché masks are popular because the rigid form is very durable. Papier-mâché is a popular arts and crafts activity for kids. Skilled mask makers can make a more sophisticated form with the same basic material.

Few mask makers use leather for theater masks. As the leather warms up from your body heat, the mask will mold to your face. This organic material is found in masquerade masks more than masks for actor training. Though leather theatrical masks are very comfortable, they can be the most labor intensive.

Theatrical Masks for Actor Training

Masks for actor training are frequently made out of rubber compounds. This material enables mask makers to create durable theatrical masks that can last many seasons of regular use. When creating masks from rubber compounds, a mask maker can use a mold to make identical masks. This process makes the masks more affordable for troupes and universities, and it ensures uniformity for an ensemble.

Some mask makers use flexible latex for theater masks. This material tends to degrade over time. Flexible latex has a shelf life of 5 to 10 years because the brittle plastic starts to break down and fall apart. If you need your theatrical masks to last, you may want to find a mask maker who uses neoprene.

Learn more about the mask form and theatrical mask materials in this episode of “Revealed Through Masking”.

Regardless of the material, it is the [mask] maker’s intent to create a mask that appears to be alive and that actually has a life of its own.

Durable and High-Quality Theatrical Masks Made from Neoprene

As a mask maker for over three decades I have learned what works best for making quality theatrical masks. Masks in my collection are still in great condition after over 20 years. How can we have masks that stay in great condition for decades? The answer starts with durable, long-lasting materials.

I use neoprene to create theater masks from molds as well as for many custom theater masks. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber that is durable and semi-flexible. The medical and automotive industries also use this dependable, all-purpose rubber. You can find neoprene in medical braces, wetsuits, sport shoe soles, and more.

Neoprene is a great material for actor training masks because the masks can be sanitized between uses. Your acting students of today won’t have to share germs with those who wore the same masks in class 15 years prior. Neoprene is also completely latex-free. Theater masks made out of neoprene accommodate students and performers with latex allergies.

Theatrical Masks Made to Last at

Masks for performance and actor training should be able to survive regular use. These theatrical masks are an investment, and quality is especially important. If you buy poorly made theater masks, you may find yourself needing to order masks the next year.

When you order quality theatrical masks from a skilled mask maker, you are investing in something that lasts. The mask maker may also have suggestions on how to optimize and prolong the life of the theatrical masks.

Invest in a quality set of theater masks, and you won’t find yourself replacing your masks every two years. An investment in quality acting masks gives you peace of mind. You save money over time and you don’t have to spend your time finding replacement masks. This frees you up to focus on the work. Order your set of quality theatrical masks from today!