In order to create my Darth Nihilus mask, the first thing we did was to create a
cast of my head. This was accomplished by using plaster bandages to create a mold
which was then filled with ultracal to create a hard and durable base that I will
be able to use for many different costuming projects.
You can see a tutorial about how we made this lifecast here.
Once I had the head cast, I drew a rough sketch on top of it to work out the contours
of the mask, determining what areas would need to have clay built up on them.
I then began sculpting out the rough shape of the mask using Chavant Sulphur-Free
Plasteline modeling clay. Given that the mask is skull shaped and the clay is a pinkish-red,
it really did start looking awfully creepy as I worked. Using sulphur free clay
was important because I planned to make a silicone mold, and if the clay contained
sulphur it would have inhibited the curing of the silicone.
As the mask continued to take shape, the hollowness of the cheeks was sculpted in
and the shape of the eyes was determined. Once the sculpture was finished and smoothed,
a 2Ē chip brush with the bristles cut short was used to give the clay a slightly
rough, bone-like surface.
We did this project in a two-step process. We could have saved a lot of time and
materials by adding the forehead decoration at this point, but we felt that we would
get a better bone vrs. metal result if we created them separately. That way the mask
itself would look more organic, while the forehead decoration that we added later
would have a sharper, more metallic look to it. So, instead of adding the forehead
decoration at this point, we stopped to make a mold of the mask without it. Water
based clay was used to create a wall around the Chavant clay, the deepest undercuts
were filled with clay, and then silicone was applied. When the silicone was fully
cured we peeled away the water based clay to reveal a flexible mold with sturdy,
solid edges. Solid edges are always important to a mold. Without the thickness
created by a good retaining wall, mold edges can come out too thin and flimsy to
make a good casting.
t with sharper
Silicone molds will not hold their shape without a rigid support mold, so the next
step was to create an Ultracal mold over the top of the silicone. We were concerned
that a one-piece mold might lock onto the sculpture, so we created a two-piece mold
instead. Once again water based clay was used to create retaining walls around the
After giving the two halves of the support mold enough time to dry and harden, we
removed them from the silicone, and then gently pulled the silicone off of the clay
as well. We were careful not to damage the clay sculpture so that it could be used
again when we created the hood later on. The silicone and ultracal molds were reassembled,
and then we cast our first fiberglass mask. The first layer of resin was thickened
with a large amount of talc, and then fiberglass cloth was added on top of that.
In this picture you can see the water based clay that was used to fill in the undercut
areas of the eye and nose sockets. This kept the silicone from filling that area
in and making the mold too difficult to remove.
After we trimmed the eyes and nose out of the new casting, we found that we had made
a duplicate of our sculpture that looked eerily like bone!
The detail piece that runs from the bridge of the nose up over the forehead was sculpted
onto this new hard master using oil based clay. We kept the edges of the clay as
straight and centered as possible, which was pretty much impossible on such a curving
surface. In spite of our best efforts, it turned out with a slight lean to the left.
We used a plastic gem from the craft store for the dome. The gem wasnít the correct
shape, so we sanded it down with the mouse sander, doing our best to keep it symmetrical.
Pieces of blue painterís tape were used to mark where the red stripes would be.
That helped us center the forehead decoration, but it also left a surprise. We
removed the tape before making a new silicone mold of the mask, but to our surprise
the silicone actually picked up the texture left by the tapeís sticky surface! Every
casting we make in the mold now has a very faint trace of where those stripes of
tape were located. That really shows how much detail the silicone can capture!
When the forehead detail was complete, a new mold was created using the same basic
steps as before. First we filled the open areas around the mask with water based
clay and built a retaining wall. A silicone mold was created, and then a two-part
ultracal mold was built on top of that. Here you see the first step, and the finished
mold before we took it apart.
Once again we cast a mask in fiberglass,
and this time we had a mask complete with the forehead design.
The mask was trimmed, and then we began the task of painting it. Acrylic hobby paints
were applied using an airbrush for a smooth finish. First we used masking fluid to
protect the forehead design, and then we used the airbrush to paint the mask a slightly
off-white color. Shading was added using a very thin mix of various gray and brown
When the white paint was fully dry, we used masking fluid to mark out the locations
for the red stripes. The entire mask was covered to protect it from overspray, and
then we painted the stripes in various shades of red. Highlights and darker shades
of red were used to enhance the depth of the eye openings. The forehead design was
painted by hand, using washes of metallic paints. The surface was covered with an
antiquing stain and then was wiped partially clean, taking away some of the extra
In the end, it took nearly a year to go from the initial concept for the costume
the mask, but I think that the end results were well worth the effort.
Darth Nihilus is supposed to be a ghost. He is a Force Spirit inhabiting his mask
and robes, so the facial features that would normally be visible around the mask
should be completely blacked out. To achieve this effect in reality, it requires
the use of a form-fitting blackout mask. It took me several tries to find one that
would suit my needs, but eventually I purchased a Zentai hood that works well. The
biggest challenge is finding a fabric mask that doesn't have a seam running across
the face or neck. Many have seams running vertically across the nose, while others
have a large seam under the chin. Both look strange with the mask on.