Painting My Garrus Mask

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In the last post, More Garrus Mask Work, I showed how I sculpted and cast the lower jaw and mandibles for my Garrus mask, as well as the beginning part of the neck. This one will cover the paint job, a very important step – and definitely the one that makes this mask start looking like a proper turian!

The mask is painted in acrylics, all done with a sponge (and a little bit of paintbrush here and there). No airbrushing. I’ll be the first to admit, this is not normally how you’re supposed to paint latex! In this case, acrylics work because the mask is not at all flexible. It has enough interior support that it’s almost as rigid as plastic, hence, no bending points that would make the paint crack. Because it’s stippled on with a sponge, it won’t peel off like it would if applied entirely with a paintbrush.

I went with sponge stippling rather than airbrushing because, well, take a good look at some turian screenshots! Their plates and scales have a tremendous amount of texture. Airbrushing simply turns out too smooth to produce the right effect.

The first coat was very dark grey, nearly black. I then went over it with progressively lighter greys, letting the dark color remain in the details and deeper points of the sculpt. I used a piece of one of those pseudo-natural bath sponges to get that grainy stippled effect. Details and edges get a bit more emphasis with a paintbrush so they’ll stand out nicely. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough! These are the details that’ll really make a mask stand out from the crowd, and look great in photos.

A quick note/tip: If I had this to do over again, the one thing I’d do differently is tint the latex dark grey to start with. That way, if any of the paint DID scrape off, it wouldn’t look strange. (Fortunately, I didn’t have any problems with this.) You’ll see that I did end up tinting the latex casts of the neck scales in my next post.

Here’s a side view of the mostly finished base coat. Again, notice how the details are emphasized – the peaks of each crest, the edges around the fringe and brow plates, the sculpted grooves and facial scars. Take photos as you paint, with and without a flash. This’ll help you judge how your costume will look when you take it around at shows.

Now, the detail work begins. Here, I’ve painted in the scars and done yet a bit more darkening of certain details and highlighting of others. I darkened the color around the eyes as much as possible so it would not be too obvious where my vision points were.

I stopped here to do a quick test fit. Definitely starting to look like an alien!

The bottom jaw and mandibles getting their paint job. You can also get a glimpse of the teeth and tongue, painted a pale blue, based on what I could see of his mouth in game – which wasn’t much! The blue makes for a nice contrast, though, when the inside of the mouth is visible.

Here, the full base coat is done on the face, jaw, and mandibles. The whole thing has received a couple layers of Krylon Crystal Clear gloss sealant at this point, for a nice shine. I also used a little bit of Mod Podge in a couple places around his scars for extra shine.

I elected to seal the mask before painting on his facial markings as a “just in case” measure. I wanted to make sure I got the markings looking right! Sealing the base paint job allowed me the ability to wipe the markings back off before they set, without risking damage to the original paint work.

It turned out to be a little overcautious, because the markings went on just fine! Once they were painted on, I sealed the freshly painted areas.

And then it was time for… you guessed it… another test fit! (I love my test fits.) I even did a little posing this time.

At this point, the mask is nearly done, so there’ll be two more posts where I’ll show you how I finished it off, and then I’ll go on to the armor and lighting. The next blog, Garrus Mask Neck Building, covers how I did the musculature, skin, and scales along his neck.

View all Garrus costume blog posts