The Ultimate Guide to Buying an Animal Mask

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The Ultimate Guide to Buying an Animal Mask

Animal masks are fun for all sorts different occasions, be it a childrens party, a theatrical or artistic performance, or for grown-up revelries. Since ancient times, when shamans and holy men used masks to conjure up the spirits of the animals that were sacred to them, through to the Roman use of animal masks to hide their identities at the notoriously wild parties they are known for, to the modern customs of halloween and fancy-dress, animal masks have always been popular. Never before has it been so easy to join in the fun as it is now, with a huge range of animal mask options available to buy, only a few mouse clicks away!

With loads of possible options available when shopping for the mask that is right for you and for the occasion, this Ultimate Guide aims to help you understand and explore all the possibilities out there, from simple DIY affairs to elaborate, ultra-realistic masks.

Types of Animal Masks

Animal masks come in all sizes, shapes and perhaps most importantly, construction materials. In the interests of making this wide subject approachable, this guide divides masks into the types children or adults are most likely to wear, and then divides them further by construction materials or manufacturing technique.

Children’s masks

Children love animal masks, and they make a great theme for kids parties or costumes for fancy-dress parties, trick-or-treating at halloween, or just playing around. Depending on the amount of time and money parents have available, masks for kids can be either made or bought. Even making a mask means buying the materials and paints needed in its construction, but can be a fun and rewarding activity that involves both the parent or teacher and kids being creative together.

Paper Masks

These are the simplest and cheapest kind of masks available, and can be made from scratch or bought part- or fully pre-made. They can be bought individually, fully colored and pre-fitted with elastic head straps, or bought in book form, where they are pressed out of the book and a little self-assembly is needed to fit the elastic head strap. It is also possible to buy paper masks that have not been coloured in, leaving that fun job for the kids to do. There are also lots of web-sites on the internet that will let you download face-mask templates for free, although the quality of these is not always as good as those that are commercially produced.

Making paper masks from scratch is also easy, and something that children can enjoy doing. Simple paper masks can be made by drawing an animal’s face onto a piece of paper such as heavy paper or card, before cutting round it with a pair of scissors. The eye-holes then need to be cut out before it can be colored in (watercolor paints or crayons are good for this). The mask is then attached to the head by making a small hole on either side and threading it with string or elastic tape. An even simpler variation of the paper mask is the "plate mask" made from paper plates with an animal picture painted on the front.

Papier mache masks

Masks made from papier mache can look absolutely fantastic, and are suitable for use by adults as well as children. Although it is possible and fun to make home-made papier mache masks, it is a messy, time-consuming business and it is much easier to make human face masks using a balloon or plastic jug, so that the the jug handle makes a great nose, than animal ones which are all sorts of odd shapes.

Paper Pulp Masks

Paper pulp masks are made, as the name says from shaped paper pulp, and  can only be commercially manufactured. Resembling well-made papier mache masks,  paper pulp masks are three dimensional, so the shape of an animal’s face can be realistically portrayed. Alternatively, some commercial masks display a great deal of artistic interpretation in their depiction of animals, and can be quite beautiful. While paper pulp masks can be purchased pre-colored, one of the great advantages they have is that they can be bought plain and, as they are made of paper, will absorb coloring material such as paints so they look great when self-coloured.

Foam Masks

Foam masks are a great alternative to paper masks for kids as they are inexpensive and much more durable; they can be sat upon, twisted or squashed and will spring back into shape. Foam also allows three dimensional elements to be built onto the mask, in  fact, it is possible to build an animal mask that covers the entire head out of foam. Unfortunately however, foam does not absorb coloring materials such as paint well, so the overall effect looks very artificial.

Foam animal masks are often bought in kids "party packs" and are usually intended to be disposable. It is also very easy to make foam masks at home using foam sheeting as foam used for upholstery is convenient for this. These are made in a very similar ways to paper masks, but as layers of foam can be built up or bent create three dimensional effects, it is possible to build surprisingly realistic animal faces. As mentioned above however, the effect is somewhat spoiled by the colour of the foam.

It is possible to buy much more elaborate foam, or foam and latex combination, animal masks for kids, similar to those designed for adults, which are discussed in  more detail below.

Plastic Masks

Commercially produced molded plastic face masks are always a popular choice for children as they look good, are quite sturdy but not as resilient as foam masks. Molded plastic allows for fairly realistic, colorful animal faces, and looks good as part of a whole animal costume. This makes them ideal for fancy dress parties and the like.

Face Painting

A less popular option than buying an animal mask, but one that is worth considering, is face painting. With a little skill and talent it is possible to paint a person’s face into a vivid and highly effective animal mask. While in theory anyone can do this from home if they have a set of face paints, creating a design that looks good does take a fair degree of skill and  talent. In fact, hiring a professional face-painter for an animal themed childrens party is bound to be a hit with the kids. It should also be noted that animal themed face-painting using more a mature artistic style also looks great on adults, and can make a very sophisticated statement at events for grown-ups.

Adult’s Masks

Animal masks are not just for children and there are a great many events and occasions when adults wear them too. Of course, adults want much more sophisticated products that look either much more realistic or give an artistic interpretation to the animal motif. Unlike most kids masks, which are face-only masks, adult animal masks often cover the entire head.

Latex Masks

These are probably the most common type of animal masks designed for adults and are made of shaped latex, designed to be pulled over the head. These masks are often very realistic looking, with well crafted detail and vivid coloring. They also often include other textures, such a lions mane or a chicken’s feathers for added realism. The main problem with these masks as is that, without any form of reinforcement, they are very "floppy". They can also be somewhat hot and uncomfortable to wear after a time.

Foam and Latex Masks

These are similar to the more basic latex masks described above, but have been reinforced with shaped foam to give them more rigidity. This allows for a much greater degree of realism, with fully realised features such as elephants trunks and ears. Generally speaking these are the best kind of pre-made animal masks commercially available, with the main downsides being that they can be quite expensive and have the same comfort issues found with simple latex masks. However, thanks to their more rigid design, face-only masks of this kind are available which can be more comfortable to wear.

Face Painting

As noted in the children’s section, when properly applied, face paints can be used to make fantastic looking animal "masks" for adults.

Foam Latex Mask Kits

Combining liquid latex, shaped foam pieces and pigments or face-paints, these kits can produce fantastic results for enthusiasts, and those willing to put the time and effort into creating fabulous looking masks. This is also the preferred means of creating masks, whether animal masks or any other kind, for costume design and special effects departments for film or theatre productions.

Papier-mache Masks

Not usually commercially available, professionally made papier mache masks can look stunning. Artists typically make the most realistic and artistic examples of these, and can make them to order.

Wooden animal masks

Wooden animal masks are generally quite heavy,and are not intended for wearing, although exceptions to this rule do exist, but can look great when displayed on a wall or mantle-piece. Most wooden animal masks come from Africa, and depict various African animals, although some come from Asia and elsewhere. Vintage or antique masks can command quite high prices and are often of superb craftsmanship.

A point to consider when buying any such goods of ethnic origin is whether they are certified "fair trade". Of course, this only applies to newer items and not antiques, but is important in insuring that the craftsmen and artists who actually made the masks are working in decent conditions and being paid a fair price for their work.

Looking After Your Latex Mask

Latex masks are extremely popular, and with care can provide years of fun. However, it is important to learn how to look at them properly. Things to beware of include:

Beware Of



This is one of the biggest dangers for latex as it will simply melt if left out in the sun too long. The mask will almost certainly be painted which affords it some protection, but this will  not last long in direct sunlight. It is therefore best not to leave a latex mask out on display. Put it in a dark cupboard or drawer instead.


Damages latex in the same way as sunlight. When storing, do not put in the same cupboard as the house storage heater


Wet conditions can bleach the latex white over time and encourages mold to grow

Oil based products

Products such as moisturising creams are bad for latex masks as they slowly break down the latex and make it brittle. The best way of avoiding this is to use water, rather than oil based products when wearing the mask

Sanitary issues

When worn, masks will likely become sweaty, and breathing through the restrictive nose holes results in them being covered with germs. If left in this condition they become breeding grounds for all sorts of nasty bacteria and  should therefore be sprayed or wiped with an antibacterial product after use, and allowed to dry out thoroughly before storage


Latex masks are very tough when it comes to being pulled or having force exerted on them, but if left in crushed conditions over a length of time they will start to lose their shape. Keeping mask in a box or something similar can help to prevent this.

Remember that no latex mask will last forever, but following the above hints should help ensure it has the best possible life-span.

Buying Animal Masks on eBay

As you can see from this guide, there are a very large range of different types of animal masks, suitable for a wide range of customers and occasions. This makes it difficult to provide specific advice on buying such masks on eBay,  apart from to click on the links provided above, or to enter search terms for the kind of mask that interests you: "latex chicken mask", for example. Follow the usual procedures of carefully checking that the seller has positive feedback from past customers, and ask any questions you might have before buying, and you are unlikely to have any problems.

However, buying wooden  masks on eBay, particularly antique ones, can be a bit more tricky as these are works of art, and it can be difficult to assess the quality of the craftsmanship, or to ascertain if it truly is an antique, without inspecting the mask in person. The best advice is to read the seller’s customers comments to ensure other customers are happy with the goods they offer, and to communicate directly with the seller to establish exactly what is being offered as above, but to be even more careful than usual.


Animal masks are a great way for people to have fun, whatever age they are and, as this guide has hopefully demonstrated, there are lots of different designs, styles and construction techniques available to ensure that everyone can find the mask they want. Although this guide covers a lot of ground, every consumer probably has a pretty good idea of what kind of mask they are after, or is appropriate for the event they are attending, so the best best way to find a suitable mask is to hit a bricks-and-mortar costume shop and see what is available, or to search on eBay. Using this guide will hopefully have given the reader a good idea of what sort of masks are out there, and maybe even been a source inspiration to arrange some animal mask themed fun. If so, then going to eBay and typing in adult or child, followed by one of the construction types outlined above, followed by the animal desired followed by "mask", will take you to your perfect animal mask. For example, typing "adult latex monkey mask" will bring up a selection of such articles. Having fun with animal masks has never been so easy.

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