No character is as terrifyingly recognizable as the demonic nurses populating the game world of Silent Hill. Both sexy and scary they have intrigued games for years all through their various designs. One thing remains through most every model: their hideously warped and deformed faces. For my own recent Silent Hill Nurse cosplay, the task I was most intimidated by was replicating this grotesque deformity that would be so key in bringing my cosplay to life. This was no easy task, but with a little advice, the progress can be easier and honestly, pretty fun as well!
The first step in making any kind of mask is creating your base. In the case of the Nurse mask, this base will need to fit mostly around your entire head. I first dug through our Halloween decorations and found plenty of skulls, but most of them were life-sized which would have produced a mask that would only fit over another skull and not a real head. I finally decided on a skull-shaped cookie jar. Once you’ve found the right size base the next step is a whole lot of fun.
To protect the skull and make the masks slide easily on and off, seal the cookie jar tight with sliced plastic sheets from gallon-sized Baggies, and a lot of duct tape. Before sealing it up, take sheets of paper and fill in the empty eye sockets and nasal cavity.
To create paper Mache on a budget just use equal amounts of flour and water in a big mixing bowl, then mix them together until you’ve created a nice soup. It’s kind of a tradition to use strips of newspaper when building with paper Mache, but I recommend avoiding it as the black ink will show through when it dries. Instead, I used a stack of 24 lb. copier/printer paper. Paper Mache is the stage that you worry about consistency and smoothness. Don’t sweat the other details, just create a nice, flat base.
WARNING: (Drying the paper Mache should take almost a full day in good conditions.)
Cutting the mask off of the base can be extremely intimidating, but honestly, a few cracks here and there are really harmless in this particular design. Around the back of the mask where I knew I would be cutting away a lot of material I only layered the paper Mache five or six sheets thick. I used a good pair of scissors and cut away from the curve of the chin to the back of the head. For the sake of safety, I slid a butter knife between the mask and the skull and it slid effortlessly.
Next up you’ll make the mouth and eye holes. They’re going to look a little silly at first but remember the outside of the mask is going to have shaped gauze glued on which will camouflage the holes. Put the mask on and with a pencil make a scribble where you think your eyes and mouth are. With an X-Acto knife poke a hole in the mask and twirl the knife so you’re drilling through the paper Mache. Keep putting on the mask and see how close you are to having the eye holes lined up. The mouth hole is less crucial.
Meanwhile, on the stove keep a pot of water boiling. As you work, slowly add tea bags and instant coffee to get the dirty tint we’re looking for. Then cut up strips of standard drug store gauze and keep dipping them in until they are stained. I dyed six rolls of gauze and in the end I only used a little more than four.
TIP: (Save the tea afterward for your uniform and other things you may want to dye.)
Next up you’re going to need a can of spray glue (or Spray Mount) and an area that has a lot of airflow. The first thing I did was coat the outside of the mask with a good coating of spray glue. Your rolls of gauze should be dry by now, go ahead and cut them in half so that they aren’t overlapping too much as you lay them down.
Now it’s time to put the gauze on your sticky mask. Once you get your flat strips down you will want to wrap the excess ends of the strip around the edge and into the inside of the mask. There are so many different ways to do this it’s next to impossible to make a mistake. I swirled the design so it rose up from the chin and made a curve around one eye and then back down to hit the other eye and mouth. I built it up around the eyes and mouth slit so that I could easily disguise them.
When things are dry to the touch it’s time to add some contrast. I used mostly one tube of black acrylic paint, filling in an area around the eyes and mouth to create the Nurse’s rotted areas. Then use a brown paint to paint the inner creases of the gauze. Stay light at this stage because it’s easier to go darker than it is to go lighter. I used progressively darker shades to build up the contrast. When you’re pretty much finished, put it aside to dry.
The last thing is to try it on again to check the fit. It should wrap around the back of your head like a baseball cap, but the front should come down to cover your face down to just under your chin. If you look in the mirror and freak yourself out, you’ve been successful. Now get down to work!