How to make a Rorschach mask

Me as RorschachOf all the things I’ve posted to this site, nothing has generated more traffic than the discussion about making halloween masks based on the character “Rorschach” from the graphic novel “The Watchmen.” Last year I posted a picture of myself in the mask I made waaay back when (click on the pic to enlarge it), and people started writing to ask how they could make one of their own. I asked people to send pictures of their own Rorschach masks and the whole thing snowballed.

As my original instructions were in a comment on one of the postings, I’ve decided to repost it here to make it easier to find. If you’ve got tips for improving the mask-making process, leave a comment.

Happy St. Rorschach Day!

Instructions: You will need…

  • A pair of small, white dance tights, the kind that completely cover the feet
  • One sheet of cardboard cut from a cardboard box
  • Paper that is thin enough for magic marker ink to bleed through
  • Black magic markers (best to use the brand “Sharpies”)

Cut out a piece of paper in the shape of your head as seen from the front. Fold the paper in half down the middle of the “face.” Now draw your Rorschach pattern on one side with the Sharpie. The ink should bleed through to the other side, though you may have to touch it up so that both sides are symmetrical.

NOTE: Your final product will be more convincing if the black splotches cover the eyes on the face. Place the paper on the cardboard and trace the outline. Cut the cardboard so that it has the same shape as the paper.

Glue or tape the paper “face” onto the cardboard. Cut the bottom of one leg of the dance tights so that it forms a blank white mask. Stretch the mask over the cardboard. You should be able to see your Rorschach pattern through the mask. With the black Sharpie, trace the Rorschach pattern onto the mask. Fill in all the dark parts.

Remove the cardboard. Try on the mask. If you’re filled with Rorschach-like feelings of misanthropy and misogyny, you know it’s working! If not, use the other foot of the dance tights and try again.

NOTE: I am not responsible for anything you do while making or wearing your mask. That includes injuring yourself or contracting some disease. Use common sense. Safety scissors are your friend. If you can’t see with the mask on, don’t walk around in it. Strike a brooding pose and stay there all evening. Be safe and have fun.

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58 Responses to How to make a Rorschach mask

  1. Nelson says:

    Awesome!
    I’m definitely gonna give this a try…
    currently searching ebay for trench coats to wear.
    Man, they can get expensive if you buy them new.

    And where can I get dance tights? Same place as normal tights?
    …wait, where do I get normal tights?

  2. surly says:

    I got mine at Sears, but that was when there were a lot more Searses roaming the Earth. Call a dance store or costume shop, or maybe good old Target.

    Target is like what Sears was supposed to evolve into, except it didn’t.

  3. Nelson says:

    Ok. Ebay’d a trenchcoat. It’s coming in the mail.
    Got my fedora at sears…it’s a good quality one too, I’m gonna wear this all year long.

    My ONLY problem is the mask…it’s so tight that it’s hurts my eyes and nose. So much so that I honestly can’t keep my eyes open at all.
    I bought Large size tights and they haven’t helped either… I’m trying to figure out what to do and I can’t come up with anything! Any ideas?

  4. surly says:

    Dude, how big is your head? Try stretching out the mask on a pumpkin.

    If that doesn’t work, make your mask out of the butt part of the tights and use the fedora to hide the tied-off stumps of the legs.

    If your head is so goddamn big that you can’t fit it into the butt compartment, then you just need to scrap the Rorschach idea and go as Charlie Brown.

  5. Ringo says:

    http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=89679322&albumID=367815&imageID=17972498

    This was me, Halloween 2007.

    Unfortunately, there weren’t any good photos taken of the full costume and it got trashed as the night went on.

    I found the trench in a 2nd hand clothes store, sprayed it with various filth and sauce to mimic the bloodstains (caused by the killing of the guard dogs).

    Made the badge myself and used material paint for the blood stain.

    The mask: got a black dew-rag for the base layer. Bought two meters (just in case I messed it up) of white fabric, measured out how much I’d need to wrap around my face, with enough overlap. Made an inkblot with MSPaint, traced it onto the fabric, and cut two small holes for the eyes.

    I used velcro to join the mask at the back, hid the messy top part of the mask under my hat, and used the leftover fabric for the scarf.

  6. Stormfury27 says:

    I was looking through my room for fabrics that might work for a mask when I found an old white polo shirt, the kind with the little holes you can see (since I have other polos that are smooth cotton). Anyway, I stretched it out over my eyes, and I could see pretty well. I haven’t put any design onto it or started cutting it yet, but I thought I’d point it out as a possible alternative to tights/du rags.

    Also, someone is selling blank white wrestling masks under the title “DIY RORSCHACH MASK” or something like that, if you’re not the crafty type you can opt for those, but be aware that they sell 20$ and 44$ masks, the only difference being the 44$ one has a lower neckline (so it’s a rip-off…). Also, they’re spandex, so I’m not sure how a black sharpie would work on that.

  7. Stormfury27 says:

    Edit: I just tried Rorschach-ing one part of the polo fabric. I had to use a needle to remove one thread from one hole, that opened up about 6 larger (but still very small) holes in a neat row. Over that I sharpied a black blotch, and I wore that over my eye. I could see well enough to walk around, count fingers held up, and distinguish faces easily (I can easily read what I’ve just typed), and I’m told that the six small eye-holes are not visible within the black blotch.
    I’d get a picture for you but my camera-phone was confiscated today during lunch… D:

    Using this, I’m going to work on the actual mask part, and I’ll put up pics when it’s finished.

  8. Stormfury27 says:

    To anyone who’s looking to stay in the spirit of Rorschach with purple pinstripe pants, go to Amazon. Search “chef pants pinstripe baggy”. Click the first link and pick Burgundy color. I got mine two days ago, and they’re as purple and pinstriped as you can get, to match Rorschach’s pants. I still need the fedora, though.

    Also, I’m working on a video to explain how I’m making my mask out of a polo shirt.

    You can kind of see the purple pants and how my mask is coming along here- http://i34.tinypic.com/2dik5ts.jpg

    Sorry I have to take up space on your site talking about my own stuff, Surly.

  9. YOHA says:

    I got the trenchcoat at a thrift center for 10 bucks. I also found some pinstripe pants, but they weren’t purple, so now I’m making them.

  10. surly says:

    Stormfury27: Don’t sweat it dude. My site has never had this much traffic before, so keep dropping in.

    Are their any women dressing up as Rorschach? I know that’s a ridiculous concept, given Rorschach’s “mommy issues.” But things get strange around Halloween…

  11. sangoir says:

    Actually yeah, I’m a woman and I was pretty psyched to find bold purple pants that fit at a 2nd hand shop today. Who cares what sex you are if you’re wearing a mask. Only thing I need is the white scarf and the button, now.

  12. malignance says:

    Nelson:
    I bought a simple black mask with an elastic band.
    http://www.partycity.com/cgi-bin/parties/masks.cgi?parties=Halloween&productstype=Domino&products=176287&&zoom=1

    I had an idea that something like this would work and I am really happy with the results. It really has helped to keep the nylons from pressing so close to my eyes.

  13. Jordan says:

    What’s the difference between dance tights and regular tights?

    Just a thought,but you could probably have two layers of tights over your head to get rid of that transparency,no?

    Then again,whether you’re able to breath or not is a whole other kettle of fish…

  14. surly says:

    send pictures, sangoir!

  15. Nelson says:

    This is really starting to piss me off, I’ve had so many troubles making this mask.
    I’ve made three now and although there are a hundred other problems, my main problem is that no matter what kind of marker I use IT LEAVES A HUGE BLACK RESIDUE ON MY FACE. I’ve used a staples Black Permanent Marker, a Sharpie Rub A Dub Marker (meant for clothing, and a basic Black permanent marker that doesn’t really have a company name on it.

  16. Gary says:

    I tried the tights and it is not so easy to see through them and also pretty tight on face. I barely wear a size 7 in hats or small so I no it\’s not that my head is too big. is anyone else having issues seeing through the white dance tights?

  17. Stormfury27 says:

    surly: Thanks then.

    The link to the purple pinstripe pants I’m using is here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/6nd2ej
    This isn’t the cheapest option but it’s a sure way… even though Halloween is like six days away. Again, if you’re willing to spend the 30$, these are a good bet if you haven’t found the pants yet.

    For the purple gloves, I bought a pair of cotton-knit gloves at Wal-Mart for 97 cents, and I might find some dye or something to turn ‘em purple, but I think they look fine white.

    You can find fedoras at Target at great prices. I found 8 or 9 different fedoras, most of which can match a Rorschach outfit. I got my brown fedora for 14$ and it’s great quality.

    @sangoir: You don’t need to buy a scarf. At Wal-Mart I got one yard of white (polyester or cotton, I forget) for $3.97. I folded that in half twice so it’s one yard long but about five inches wide, and I wrap that around my neck. I tuck the rest into the trench coat and it looks great.

    You can see everything but the purple pants in my costume here: http://i238.photobucket.com/albums/ff72/Stormfury27/rorybetter.jpg

    I brightened the trench and the hat so you can see ‘em better since my cameraphone sucks. The only thing I have left to do is iron-on the velcro onto the back of the mask. For the pic I tucked it into the back of the scarf.

  18. Sammy says:

    i tried using the dance tights (butt end) but you can still see my face clearly. I tried putting 2 tights on my head but it’s still not opaque enough. Any suggestions? should i have specified for a more opaque pair when shopping?

  19. Scotland says:

    Uncovered a trenchcoat in my closet while reading the graphic novel. Realized it would work perfect and set off to work. All I need is to finish the mask and I\\\’ll have some pics up :)

  20. certron says:

    This seems to be turning into a bit of Rorschach central here, so I may as well throw in my few cents. Right now, I have a trench-ish coat that I got at a Goodwill store (the Salvation Army selection was rather disappointing), hat and off-white Queen 4 size opaque hose that I hope will work, red/maroon ribbon and a t-shirt (scarf or backup mask) from a craft store, and I’m just waiting to put it all together. I was really disappointed in my Wal-Mart’s fabric selection, since anything that could be described as white could also be described as see-through.

    I’m going to try with the tights, and if that fails, I’ll use the shirt as a back-up and find something else to use as a scarf.

    Judging from the interest that is shown here, there is a small but growing chance that two Rorschachs could meet… What would the natural reaction be?

    Thanks, everyone, for all the tips and pictures! Good luck to all the people who are giving this costume a go, myself included.

  21. Adam says:

    Here are two pictures of me as Rorschach for Halloween ’08.

    The mask was made following the steps seen here, except I stitched a mesh material over areas for the eyes. However, the stitches were bigger than I thought, so I had to make the mask pattern larger. It still turned out awesome though.

  22. Adam says:

    CORRECTION TO ABOVE

    Here are two pictures of me as Rorschach for Halloween ’08.

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=49473722&id=2303680

    The mask was made following the steps seen here, except I stitched a mesh material over areas for the eyes. However, the stitches were bigger than I thought, so I had to make the mask pattern larger. It still turned out awesome though.

  23. Scotland says:

    Well here’s my costume. I messed with the contrast and such to make it seem more like a comic book panel than an actual photo. Happy with the mask, given my resources, but I will improve for next year (Gotta dress for the premiere, after all). My scarf slipped a bit in the pic >.<

    http://i212.photobucket.com/albums/cc56/Stratoscotland/measror2.jpg

  24. Qaisar says:

    Also used the technique discussed in this forum (btw thank you Surly and Co) for my Halloween ’08 getup, except I found when using the bottom of the leg, that it stretched too much and so made it less opaque and more skin coloured (btw I used 70 denier opaque tights).

    So I opted for my second attempt to use the area occupied by the rear, as it was more spacious and didn’t stretch as much (whilst remaining white). I then tied the remaining legs into a topknot and wrapped it loosely around my neck (hiding it under the white scarf). The good thing about the topknot was I could pull it up to adjust the visibility and also when I wanted to take it off I could just pull it right off (as it acted as a handle) in a dramatic Scooby Doo unmasking way! I really enjoyed making it and was pleased with the results (and the feedback I got on the streets!) Here are a few pictures of me in full Rorschach mode:

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=566976229&ref=name#/photo.php?pid=1456392&id=566976229

  25. barbosa says:

    Hey surlyrobot,
    Just stopping by while looking at different rorschach masks. Last year for halloween ’07 I made my own mask. It didn’t get enough face time last year (no parties or get togethers) so I wore it again this year (much better face time and lots of complements). Anyway, thats beside the point, I was reading up on how all these people and you made your masks and it seems you all got pretty creative. Of course he was a pretty awesome character and the creativity and determination in becoming him is great. What I wanted to say is what I used to make mine. I don’t have pictures with me at the moment but I’ll be sure to post some later. It is pretty cheap this way too.
    What I used was:
    1 white t-shirt (a 3 pack for $5.00 or so at Wal-mart)
    1 grimm reaper mask/hood: the ones with the black screen you can see through I didn’t use paint or marker (too many problmes), I used the hood’s black cloth for the ink blot and the screen for the eye holes. (maybe another 5 bucks at Wal-mart)
    1 sewing machine using black thread and white thread (I had to ask my mom to teach me how to use it, its actually pretty fun)
    a scrap peice of cardboard. (pull it off your beer box or soda box)
    an elastic band cut to about the size of your neck (not too tight but snug).
    That’s about it. If you’ve got a relatively good imagination and a couple hours on your hands, you could make a great looking mask. I did!
    Thanks,
    Keep it strong.

  26. my mask made slightly different, i have way more pics that can go up on here, but for now, heres the DIY costume page I submitted to with my instructions.

    http://www.coolest-homemade-costumes.com/coolest-rorschach-costume.html

  27. Destro says:

    Been meaning to post my pictures so sorry for the delay.

  28. Destro says:

    I have been meaning to post some pictures up. Sorry for the delay

  29. Jenton says:

    Hi guys, so I used this article to help me make the mask, I just used a thin girls t-shirt instead of a dress stockings.

    http://www.vimeo.com/2424387

    Oh, and yea, I know it’s already way past Halloween, but I have a company costume party coming up, and I just finished reading Watchmen (friggin awesome, obviously). So I thought I’d give the Rorschach costume a try.

  30. alex says:

    I am liking it! and a great way to make a mask! check out my costume on myspace, add me my e-mail is: etixmophead@yahoo.com

  31. Farsig says:

    I’m planning to wear this costume to the IMAX release of Watchmen and this thread will help a lot. I was wondering about how to make the mask so I’ll try out some of the things you all said.

    Lucky I already had the trench coat and fedora from my dad. Now all I need is the pants and scarf + making the mask.

    On one side I’m hoping the movie people don’t make me remove the mask when I go in, but then again I kinda hope they do at the same time because I have the same hair as Rorschach and it just makes the costume all the cooler!

  32. ninjaboy3433 says:

    does any one have any way of getting in touch with the user here by the name of tone? the guy with the moving mask if u do please email me at

    ninjaboy3433@yahoo.com

  33. anon says:

    thanks im gettin my costume ready for the movie premier….. it might b a disappointment because i hear they got rid of the squid… and without the squid the whole story makes no sense

  34. Amber says:

    Would it be totally weird if a girl dressed up as Rorschach? haha….

  35. Scythe says:

    Girls should dress up as the Silk Spectre.

  36. Duckman says:

    Im Going To An Event In Christchurch Called Amourgeden As Rorschach And This Is Gonna Help Fuckloads, Thanks Heaps.

  37. eddie says:

    i followed your advice, and now have a great rorschach costume. how can i post it with the others

  38. Black Butterfly says:

    Is there any strechy materials which I can see through without having to cut out eyeholes?

  39. Walter Kovacs says:

    thanks alot
    havent finished mask (FACE) yet but the whole cardboard paper and sharpie thing worked in about 5 minutes ( screw dr mannhattan’s miricle cloth this is cheaper)
    [---- ----]
    . [ ] .
    [ ]
    — —

  40. Dark Rorschach says:

    i forget these:

  41. CaptPoco says:

    The real question is, how do you get the mask to change patterns according to your emotions?

  42. AllStar says:

    can anyone post a tutorial on how to make a mask with the thermal paint

  43. Farsig says:

    To see my mask go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5tM36hRpTY

    To make the mask: 1. Buy some ladies white pantyhose.

    2. Stretch the butt part over your face.

    3. Tie the legs up on top of you head. Cut off the legs past the knot you made.

    Now you have a mask with a weird knot on the top.

    4. I put the mask on my cousin’s head. Drew a rough outline of the shape I wanted on the mask. Took the mask off my cousin’s head.

    5. Stretch mask over a piece of cardboard. Not too big because you don’t want to stretch it out a lot. Just big enough so the mask is tight.

    6. Fill in your shape outlines on the mask. Take your time. I used a black permanent marker. It didn’t bleed through to my skin while wearing the mask.

    Now you have a Rorschach mask. What about the knot over your head? Cover it with the Fedora! The mask looks great and everybody will wonder where you got it.

    I wore my full Rorschach costume to the IMAX release and had TONS of people wanting pictures by the wall posters. The IMAX manager even took a few shots to send into her marketing team.

    To see the mask finished go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5tM36hRpTY

  44. Walter K. says:

    I bought an awesome mask from here: http://www.rorschachmask.com/

    Cheaper and easier than making one… and it looks damn good.

  45. xCLINTx 22 says:

    You might wanna let the ink dry before you put it on!
    I’m a mess!!

  46. surly says:

    BUY a mask! For shame, Walter K. You’re just putting money into the pocket of Ozymandias.

  47. jonas says:

    i think this person http://www.ehow.com/how_4871609_rorschach-mask-watchmen.html kinda plagiarized you. [unless that\'s you!]

  48. jonas says:

    I’m working on a genuine random inkblot mask(!): http://www.jonaslee.com/2/post/2009/10/making-a-rorschach-costume-chapter-one.html

    This one would be much better if I had pressed the mask into the inkblot instead of turning the inkblot upside-down and trying to rub it into the mask. :( Well, at least I know now! :)

    Jonas

  49. surly says:

    Hi Jonas,

    Plagiarism? I donno. At least he had the energy to actually add some photos to his instructions, unlike yours truly. My hat’s off to him.

    -Sorely Robot

  50. bobbied says:

    I’m curious, but did anyone try making one of these out of a beanie/ski hat? Im going to try that, because the premade ones look really cruddy and i cant find any stockings that fit over my head. I figure you should be able to get enough length out of it if you either undo the inner layer right below the stitching on the inside, or stretch it down in the front and sew it in place. Either way it should give you a tight fit.

  51. I’m curious, but did anyone try making one of these out of a beanie/ski hat? Im going to try that, because the premade ones look really cruddy and i cant find any stockings that fit over my head.

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