Friday, September 16, 2016

My Faux "Respirator" Mask For Cons - Free Template & Tutorial!

A few days before Dragon Con I dashed together a quick and casual mask for me to wear during non-cosplay times. I'm more comfortable in masks, plus this one has functional cotton filters to help protect against con crud:

Considering that most of my fellow DCon friends fell victim to the crud - and for once I didn't! - I've gotta say, this is one cosplay accessory that can actually be good for your health.

That mask was a very quick, make-it-up-as-you-go affair made from leather scraps, so after the con I decided to make another one - only this time out of craft foam.

The instructions are largely the same whether you use leather or foam, so it's your choice. Leather is more comfortable and durable - and less steps to make - but foam is easier to find, and of course the vegan option. The leather I used came from a bag of scraps from the craft store, so it didn't cost much - I think the whole bag was $10? - but I also used waxed cord and a specialty punch for the stitches, which adds to the cost.

In fact, let's break down the materials. 

You Will Need:

- Scrap leather OR a large sheet of 3mm craft foam (Make sure it's 3mm! The 1mm is too thin.)
- A 1.25 inch PVC sink drain coupler, which is the thing on the left here:

You can find it at the hardware store for a couple of bucks.

- A set of plastic hair rollers from the Dollar Store (you'll only need 2)
- 3/4 inch elastic  (for the strap)
- small rivets with setting tool
- Waxed cord (for leather) or regular thread/cord (for foam)
- black plastic spray paint
- Gold Rub N' Buff (or gold paint)

If you're using craft foam you'll also need contact cement, cheap craft paint in black & brown, and a water-based sealer like Mod Podge.

And for specialty tools (ie stuff beyond paint brushes & scissors), you'll need:
- A heat gun or hair dryer
- A hot glue gun
- A hacksaw

Now, let's make a mask!

First, download and print this template:
It took me a lot of trial and error to get that shape right, so please, learn from my frustration.

Cut it out, and trace two pieces onto your leather or foam:

Remember to flip the template over for the second piece.

While you're at it, cut out some 3/4 inch straps, too; roughly 6 inches long each.

NOTE: For some reason all my local craft shops only carry 3mm foam in bright orange. If you can get it in black or brown, though, DO. The orange is a pain to cover up later. :/

- Position the PVC coupler where you want it, then trace on the INSIDE for leather, or on the OUTSIDE for foam:

 (Leather will stretch, which is why you want the hole too small for leather.)

Cut that out:

Then use this piece to trace the hole for the other side, and repeat.

- If using foam, crumple up some tin foil and iron the fronts of your two pieces:

Remember this fun texture from my Bracers Tutorial?

This is also the time to do any carving, if you want any.

Now apply two thin coats of contact cement to the front curved edges, and stick those suckers together:

Start at the top edge pressing down on a flat surface, then pick them up and carefully stick the rest together, forming the curve.

To keep the edges from separating, pop the nose section inside out while the contact cement firms up, like this:

If you're using leather, though, then you'll be stitching the two halves together, not gluing. I highly recommend a leather stitching hole punch for this, to get the spacing right.

Now let's make the "respirator" part.

- Pop off the covers of two hair rollers, and flatten them out using a heat gun or hair dryer:

I used a silicone spatula to help flatten it, so I wouldn't have to touch the hot plastic.

- Trace and cut round inserts from the rollers to fit inside the couplers:

Now you have a nifty little grid piece!

(Not gonna lie; I'm pretty proud of myself for dreaming this up, you guys.)

- Use a hacksaw to cut the threaded PVC pipe into two pieces. For my leather mask I just cut the pipe in half, so the pieces stuck out a ways, but for my foam mask I trimmed them so only the threads stick out, which I like much better:

The lower profile is easier to take pictures with; my leather version wouldn't let me get the camera near my face! Ha! OOPS.

- Paint all the plastic pieces flat black.
 - To place the PVC pieces in leather, saturate the leather with water and stretch it to fit. If you're using foam it should stretch enough as-is. With either material, though, go ahead and reinforce the back side with hot glue:

Don't worry if the glue is sloppy; no one will see it!

 Now, let's paint! 
(For foam, that is.)

Here I have two coats of brown craft paint, one coat of glossy Mod Podge, and a quick rubbed-off coat of watered down black:

Remember to paint the straps, too.

And to REALLY sell the "leather" look, stitch up the center seam with some cord, like this Hemp:



- Use Rub N' Buff on the edges and raised sections of the couplers to give them a worn-through, metallic look:

 I used gold, but silver or copper would look cool, too.
(No Rub N' Buff? Try dry-brushing metallic paint instead.)

Now, you could use all elastic for the strap, but it looks better to have the first several inches be leather/foam... so do that:

Attach the two straps with rivets so they can swivel a bit, then use elastic to bridge the gap, for stretch. If you wear a hat, this back section will be covered anyway:

Check out my steampunky sunglasses! They were less than $10 on Amazon - aww yeah.

- The last step is to make some removable cotton filters for your respirators. Cut two thin rings from either 1mm foam or card stock to fit your couplers, then hot glue on scraps of black cotton:
ONLY use hot glue or something equally non-toxic for this, please. You're going to be breathing through it!

- Trim the rings to fit, squish the whole shebang into the screw-on cap, and you're good to go.

Here are my two completed masks for comparison:


... and foam!

Both materials can be formed to fit your face better. For leather saturate it with water, and for foam use a heat gun. Either way, you should get a nice comfy fit.

Speaking of comfort, I had a tremendous amount of airflow with my mask, and was quite cool even in the grueling Atlanta heat. By contrast, I also brought a cotton medical mask ordered from Japan, and barely lasted an hour in its muggy awfulness. Because this mask isn't touching most of my face, it's much cooler and feels less restricted.


Plus I look all bad-ass and mysterious in blurry, blown-out selfies.
And you just can't put a price on that.

Now, who wants to see my knockers??



This... this is why I don't do selfies, you guys.


Feel free to go nuts decorating your mask with extra doo-dads, chains, carving, etc. Here's another leather one I made a few years ago, where I added chain and gears:

And finally, while this may be obvious, let me point out this mask is not a real respirator. It is not air-tight, and the filters are not medical-grade. This is simply a sneeze-guard sort of protection, on par with a paper mask, which is still pretty darn effective at protecting you from common airborne ickiness in large crowds.
Questions? Suggestions? Thoughts on airborne ickiness and/or the air speed velocity of unladen swallows? Then hit me up in the comments!

And as always, if you make one of these yourself, PLEASE share pics over on the Epbot Facebook page, so I can fawn over/congratulate you!

Pssst. Want more crafty goodness? Then check out my Tutorial Page to see ALL my projects in one place!


  1. I really love this craft, but am afraid it may be a bit beyond me at this point. I cheered myself up by admiring your lovely necklaces throughout the post. :D And the glasses are great. I am too busy at work to go shop on Amazon right now, but I'll put that in a file in the mind palace for future reference. ;)

    -Just Andrea

  2. PS: Wow, what knockers! Love them. You know what else I love? A good roll in the hay; roll, roll, roll in ze hay! It's fun. :P (that's a movie reference, y'all)

    -Just Andrea

    1. It's pronounced "Fronkensteen."


  3. I'd imagine you could make a removable filter system using cotton swab pads (the things that are like Qtips, but are a circular pad instead of on a stick).

    1. oooh - I like this - one of the cotton pads behind Jen's one thin layer of black cotton fabric would really up the particulate filtration - but might also cut down on ventilation - experimentation would be key to finding what you're comfy with. You could also infuse the pad with an essential oil for calming if needed, and insert that for aromatherapy (or to mask sweaty con crowd smells)

  4. wow, the foam one looks more leather than the real leather =)

    think I'm gonna have to do a steampunk Halloween costume =D

  5. Sorry if this is weird, but your eyebrows are AMAZING.

    1. Yay, I'm not the only one who thought that!

    2. Yes! The great eyebrows! I'm jealous.

    3. Hey, that's what I was going to say. (really fantastic eyebrows)

    4. +1 for amazing eyebrows!! They are "on fleek" I believe the kids would say.

    5. Another eyebrow fan here! I noticed them in the first picture. Soon they'll have their own facebook page or twitter account, like Mr. Carson's eyebrows.

    6. HA! I wanted to say the same thing. Eyebrow tutorial next? XD

    7. add another vote for awesome eyebrows! And can we talk about the adorable elven ear in the 2nd pic, not to mention the fabulous hair?? Da-yum Jen lol!

    8. Yes, please! Eyebrow tutorial. They look amazing in a "I didn't pour hot wax on my face to look like this" kind of way.

    9. Ditto here. First thing I noticed and envied. Now you have a whole mutual admiration society for your eyebrows.

  6. I've been wondering what I was going to do for Halloween. I don't work that day since I ALWAYS book it off - we just started up a costume contest at work again, but with restrictions on those of us who work in food prep, it's really not fair and food prep people are extremely limited in costuming, meaning it's always those who can wear full costumes with makeup and wigs and everything, that win :( THIS however, opens possibilities... it's a mask, BUT it's not restrictive to vision, plus opens up costume parameters that can work within those safety rules.

    Not saying I'm gonna give up my holiday and actually WORK it, but hey... I *could*. Either way, I think I'm going to have to try making this... I unfortunately gifted all of my scrap leather to a friend for making dolls, BUT, I do have two beat up old bags that I've stubbornly held onto despite the fact they are complete and utter toast... think this would look pretty darn sweet made from some patchwork leather? lol

  7. Did you guys make those door knockers? If so I hope you do a tutorial, they look great!

  8. This might sound so bizarre ... But my first thought when I saw the first picture? "She has really nice eyebrows". :)

  9. I wear medical grade masks at work, we often don't have them tight on our faces, but close enough that we are breathing mostly through them. But if you want to make your mask more germ resistant, cut out circles of the mask to put behind your black fabric.

  10. 1. You are a goddess!

    2. Thank you for this detailed tutorial and the template AND the vegan version, too! Hooray!

    3. How hard is it to talk while wearing the mask? Do you have to be all mumbly, or can you articulate as usual? How muffled is your voice through this?


  11. I think a big part of its anti-crud capability is due to the fact that you can't touch your face while you're wearing it. Yay for that!

  12. The masks are awesome! They look really cool, and I now want to make one, but I'm close to getting a claustrophobia-induced panic attack just looking at them. How close does it sit to your nose and mouth?

  13. Do you think metallic brads would work instead of rivets, to put the straps on?

    1. I think the downside of those would be that then the fold-out part of the brads would be on your face? That could get uncomfy.

    2. the strap won't pivot around the flat bars of a brad without a gasket of some sort, then I would put tape or another barrier over the folded out legs so they wouldn't scratch the face - even a rivet might need those

  14. Ozma! Very nice.

    This would be a good one to do with the Animaniacs.

  15. Ozma! Very nice.

    This would be a good one to do with the Animaniacs.

  16. This is great, gonna try this weekend.


  17. Joann's Fabrics has some interesting faux leathers that could be adapted for this project! FYI

  18. Brilliant.I wonder how much trouble I'd get into trying to wear one of these through an airport. Also, great eyebrows.

  19. I'm straight up in awe of how you thought this one up. Seriously amazing.

  20. Um. You're eyes are gorgeous!!

    Also, though, not only will this keep the airborne crud out, it would make it awfully difficult to accidentally touch your nose and mouth with cruddy hands, too. I sometimes catch myself trying to bite off a hang nail, to something, and instantly regretting it! :o)

  21. african, or european swallow?

  22. Joining in the chorus of great eyebrows/eyes!

  23. This is so awesome and brilliant! Check out my knockers . . . *snicker* Also, you have very pretty hair. Was that creepy? Sorry, I mean that very platonically and non-stalker-y.

  24. So cool. Exactly what I was looking for. The cheapest respirator mask at Halloween Express was $15.00 and didn't look that good. Will try making this tomorrow. Thanks.

  25. totally irrelevant comment but I love your eye makeup.

  26. LOVE this!!! I think this is the next set of accessories for a few costumes already in my arsenal!!

  27. I've been saving the tubing from my CPAP machine to make a respirator. Thanks for the tips. :)

  28. I wonder if I could get away with one of these on the train every day ... ?

    1. Why not? OWN IT! though you might be asked to remove it when you go into stores...

  29. I bet large-grid needlepoint canvas would work for the grid instead of messing with curlers and hot plastic! Like this: Also trying to think of another option for the screw parts for those of us without access to hacksaws :)

    1. Ali, I like JenG's idea below about the welding goggles being a good starting point for the filter bits

  30. Why is it that when Jen makes crafts they look super easy, when I start to pull things together - forget it???

  31. This is going to sound weird, but you look super sexy in that mask. It emphasizes your absolutely gorgeous eyes and eyebrows, and makes you look all mysterious and exotic. (Yes, I'm a straight, married, female. Why do you ask?)

  32. So, I LOVE Jen's eyes and eyebrows too, plus I've always been jealous of her hair, especially in these tutorials :)

    And I have an idea for another option for the screw parts, for those without access to hacksaws... how about you use welding goggles, and replace the lenses with the grid? Like these:

    Plus, when all the extraneous parts are removed, you have a cup that forms to your face nicely inside the mask, and elastic for attaching to the straps! :D

  33. Thank you for sharing the mask template! I just wanted a rough shape idea for a cloth mask I am attempting to sew for a Kitana cosplay! Love your work.

  34. Currently I am working with a new air purification company out of France and they will not release the template to me so I can layout logos, etc. Thank you for this pattern. I appreciate ya and that mask looks way cool.


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