Business booming as Indian print shop brings face masks to life

Binesh G Paul from Kerala can't keep up with orders for his masks with custom high definition images of the customer's face

With masks becoming mandatory in India’s public spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus infection, many people are complaining about losing their identity behind the piece of cloth that can help shield them against the contagion.

But a digital artist has come up with a novel solution to protect people while letting them keep their physical appearance and business is booming.

Binesh G Paul from Etumanoor in the southern state of Kerala is now digitally printing a photograph of people’s face onto a mask so they can still look like themselves.

"People are losing their identity because of the masks. I am giving them a chance to stay safe and also get easily recognised," Mr Paul told The National.

Mr Paul, who has been running a digital photo studio for 10 years, came up with the idea on a visit to buy groceries when the owner didn’t recognise him behind his mask.

“I am a regular customer at this particular grocery store, but the shopkeeper failed to recognise me. I thought of printing my face on the mask as a solution,” he said.

His face printed mask became a huge hit among friends who suggested he sell them. Soon, orders for customised masks started pouring in.

Mr Paul has sold 4,000 masks across the country and is receiving bulk orders every day. He sells two varieties of mask for $0.79 (Dh 2.64) and $1.32 (Dh 4.85).

The Indian government has made wearing of masks mandatory in public places as it struggles to stop the spread of infection that has crossed 150,000 cases.

The 38-year-old digital artist uses dye-sublimation printing, a computer reproduction technique which uses heat to transfer dyes onto materials such as card, paper, fabric or plastic.

He uses high-resolution pictures of the customer to carry out the sublimation printing and transfer the image to the white cloth mask by heating at 360 degrees Celsius for 40 seconds.

The whole process takes 20 minutes but with orders increasing every day, he has bought three machines worth $330 (Dh 1,101) each.

“I was distressed with the lockdown as our studio was closed. I suffered losses and was worried about the future of the studio, but now I am ecstatic that my business is reviving,” he said.