Balsa Foam African Masks

by AMACO brent

Large balsa foam masks before after

Carve and paint an African mask from 
Balsa Foam®. Then each student can 
create a personal ‘cultural’ mask.


If you have a large piece of Balsa-Foam® cut it into smaller pieces for the masks. Our masks are all less than 3″ in height and less than 1″ deep. Students can use wood modeling tools and / or needle tools to shape the Balsa-Foam® . A suggested class project involves students researching different African cultures and carving three different masks representing the cultures they have studied. Students should explain how the masks they have carved reflect the cultures they have studied. Students can then use a 4th small block of Balsa-Foam® to carve their own cultural mask and explain the importance of the symbols they have used in their design.

Carve a Mask

Large mask2 unpainted

Sketch the design you plan to make. Using a pencil, draw an outline of the mask profile onto the side of a small block of Balsa-Foam®. Draw an outline of the front of the design on the front of the block, and a rear outline on the back of the block. Carving involves making a decision about the surface you remove and the surface you leave behind. The sketched outlines will help you determine what to carve away and what to leave. Start by removing the unwanted larger areas around your shape, referencing the outlines you have drawn. Once you have the initial shape, start carving the details into the mask. Work carefully and continually check against your drawing to ensure correct positioning of elements on the mask. Continue to work the shape taking less away each time as you develop increasingly smaller details in the mask.


Large mask1

When you are happy with your design, coat it with a thin coat of Gesso to seal it and set aside to dry.


Large mask2

Using acrylic paint colors of your choice, paint your mask with a very light coat of paint. If you do this, the texture of the Balsa-Foam® will still be visible giving it a very interesting surface.


    Balsa-Foam African Masks Download File


    Balsa Foam Carving Tools Pencil Paper Gesso Acrylic Paint