Cultural Mask Project


Freshman student – Mask project – software illustrations

Freshman student – Mask project – software illustrations

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Duration: 6 days
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Bookmark Project

Project Brief

I created the Mask Illustration Project for Digital Media I, which introduces students to design concepts and introductory tools of the software.

Students will conduct comparative research of masks originating from two different cultures that share a similar purpose (Examples: Celebration, Harvest, Spiritual, Animal, Healing, etc.).  The ENMU anthropology department provided actual Asian Pacific masks to share in class at the start of this project. 

They will create three masks:

  • One mask is representative of a cultural purpose in Photoshop
  • One mask is representative of another cultural purpose in Illustrator
  • One mask that the student designs as a hybrid/collage of the two masks using their choice of software

For all masks:

Conduct research and write a brief description for each mask including the following information:

  1. The title of the mask
  2. What country/culture where the mask originated
  3. The purpose of the mask and who whore it
  4. When the mask was first used
  5. The material used to construct it
  6. Anything else you think the viewer should know

Include reference links.


Photoshop Mask

I created an Illustrator tabloid PDF template for consistency and efficiency. Students will create thumbnail sketches for critique before beginning the digital work.

  • If in the classroom: students can print a color proof of their 5x7 mask. Proofs can be hung on the wall for a physical critique and students can make adjustments before the final version.
  • If online: Save as a PDF and conduct a critique through screen sharing.

Add the description and upload the mask to the learning management

Learning Objectives

Creating the face of the mask involves understanding human proportions which relates to symmetry, focal point, and emphasis. Value and texture are used to create definition. Students will also learn research methods, conceptualization, sketching, design elements, color schemes, harmony, and the introductory tools of Adobe Suite Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign.


The completed Tabloid will contain all 3 masks with descriptions.


Graphic Design: The New Basics by Ellen Lupton.

International Museum of Folk Art  website/ masks


This is a hands-on, introductory class that can be delivered either in the classroom or online. Students were intrigued by the Asian Pacific masks shared by the anthropology department and were enthusiastic about conducting research. I consistently emphasize the importance of sketching thumbnails in idea development and did not allow students to begin digital work until they had a viable concept. Masks proved to be an excellent subject to learn Photoshop layers, filters, masking, and Wacom drawing tablets and pressure-sensitive pens. In Illustrator, students developed entry-level proficiency in building and modifying shapes, using pen, blend, and gradient tools. They used Effects to distort, transform, and style shapes in image construction. In designing the first two masks, they were recreating existing/historical masks. I set them free to design the hybrid mask, encouraging them to experiment with different ideas and software tools. Most students created bold designs for their hybrid masks. This project engaged and challenged students.



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