The Big How-To Post

In the last few weeks, I’ve been getting a number of questions about how to make leather masks, what kind of materials to use, etc. I suppose I could make my own tutorial, but there are a number of them out there that are probably better than I could do. Instead, I’m going to use my fabulous skills at wasting time on the internet to put together a giant resource dump.  If you know of other good resources for the beginning mask maker, or have suggestions about materials, please let me know in the comments!

In case it isn’t obvious, I didn’t make any of the linked tutorials, or sample masks (well, ok, I made one of them), and I don’t own any of them. I’m just linking them here as useful references for aspiring mask makers.

Leather mask-making tutorials:

I usually use 5-7 oz. vegetable tanned tooling leather. For some kinds of detail work, or for layering, I might use as light as 3 oz.
Thicker leather like 6-7 oz will be more durable and hold its shape better (this is especially important when you have thin pieces like horns– you don’t want them to go droopy!), and will give you more visible impressions from carving and tooling.
Thinner leather like 2 or 3 oz. will be more flexible, and you can get a lot of folding and detail out of shaping it. So, to some extent, it depends on what you’re trying to make. Here are some examples of what can be done with different thicknesses of leather, done by various artists.

2-3 oz:
Celtic Mask
Faerie Mask
Dragon Mask

3-4 oz.:
Hearts Mask
Oak Leaf Mask
Greenman Mask

5-6 oz.:
Striker Mask
Rabbit Mask

6-7 oz:
Owl Mask
Dragon Mask

8-9 oz:
Root Maze Mask
Zombie Mask
Maximillian Mask

Tandy (brick and mortar store, mail order)
Springfield (brick and mortar store in MO, mail order)
Wickett & Craig Tannery  (wholesale)

Brick and mortar stores are especially good for beginners, because you can go in and get advice, and see and touch the leather before you buy it. Also, they often will let you buy in smaller amounts,  which is good for experimenting. For more advanced leatherworkers, direct ordering from a tannery is a great option, because the quality is often higher, and you get wholesale prices.


You certainly don’t need all of these things for your first project, but these are the things in my kit.

  • Heavy paper for pattern making
  • Tracing film, if you need to transfer a detailed design
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Utility knife or heavy duty X-acto knife, for cutting out your mask
  • A bit of sandpaper for smoothing down edges
  • Stylus, for drawing details on the leather before cutting or tooling
  • Swivel knife, for cutting designs into the leather
  • Leather punch, for making holes for the ties. I actually like to use the hammer punches instead of a rotary one, so don’t have to make the hole near the edge of the leather.
  • Skiver, for cleaning up edges, or for thinning the leather to make it fold easier in a particular place
  • Mallet
  • Bone creaser, for smoothing and defining folds (doesn’t actually have to be bone)
  • Tooling stamps. The ones I end up using a lot are the beveler, backgrounder, pear shader, and mule’s foot, but there are only about a billion of them out there
  • Rivets/rivet setter, if you need to attach multiple pieces of leather, and don’t want to sew or glue them
  • Paint brushes
  • Artist’s sponges
  • Wool dauber dye applicators (you can get these wherever you buy your dye)

Tooling Tutorials:

Most of these are meant for traditional, Western-y  leather products, but the techniques are applicable to mask-making as well. Just try to forgive the folksy soundtracks 😉

Paints, Dyes, and Embellishments:

  • Liquitex soft body acrylic paints- colorfast, flexible so they won’t craft, and come in about a bajillion colors.
  • Liquitex iridescent medium- great for adding shimmer to custom colors
  • Extra fine glitter
  • Fiebing’s professional oil dye- great, even coverage, but the fumes are terrible.
  • Tandy’s Eco-Flo dyes- sometimes it takes several coats to get good coverage, but they mix well, and no fumes!
  • Other mask-makers have recommended the Fiebing’s water or alcohol-based dyes, but I haven’t tried them yet. Alcohol-based dyes are good for stiffening the leather, though.
  • Ribbon, suede lace, elastic lace, or whatever you want to use to tie the mask on
  • Cord stops- not strictly necessary, but it’s easier than tying, and gives you a more snug fit

Glues and Sealants:

  • Contact Cement
  • Goop
  • Fiebing’s Leather Sheen Aerosol
  • Liquitex Matte Acrylic Sealant- I tend to use this one instead of the Fiebing’s if I’ve done lots of weird, transparent layered stuff with the paint


Leather Mask Art on Deviantart

1 Response to “The Big How-To Post”

  1. 1 Eirewolf February 14, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    I just wanted to say thanks for compiling this information! It’s very helpful for a beginner in leather maskmaking.

    Here is a new tutorial video from Angela Sasser (Angelic Shades):

    I’ve been getting some of my Angelus leather dyes lately from Dharma Trading Co. ( Their prices are sometimes a tiny bit better than other sources, though they don’t have the wide range of leather supplies that Tandy or Springfield do. By the way, if you’re selling your work, it’s worth it to get a business account with Tandy and Springfield Leather; you get much better pricing.

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The Mummer's Cat on Etsy

Both ready-made and custom masks can be purchased on my Etsy site.


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