Paper Mache Recipes, Tips, Techniques, and Experiments

Easy Paper Mache Clay Recipe

12/10/09 – I’m editing this post and putting up a new video, because I’ve now had a few months to play with my paper mache clay recipe. The new video will give you instructions that you’ll  need to make sure your toilet paper rolls contain the same amount of paper as mine. The new mixing instructions are also easier to use.

This recipe was inspired by Ronnie Burkett’s Papier Mache Rediscovered (recipe #2) and some comments by readers, especially Bob’s comments on the paper mache pumkin post. Thanks, everyone.

Note: This material does use items from the hardware store that are not rated for use by children, and the resulting clay is not edible. Small children should not use this clay.

I used this clay to make all the big cats you can see on my gallery page.

If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think.

Edit – 11/3/09. While you can speed up drying by putting your sculpture in a warm oven, I don’t recommend using a temperature higher than 150. The heating clay puts out some fumes if you go higher than that. I’m not a chemist or a doctor, but it doesn’t seem like something you’d want to breath for very long. Also, any masking tape that is still exposed will unstick itself in the oven, even at a low temperature. I recommend that you be patient and allow your clay to air-dry naturally.


About the author

Jonni Good

I'm a sculptor, author, gardener, and grandma. When I'm not catering to the needs of my obnoxious cat, I make videos, create stuff, and play around with paper mache. I'm also the author of several highly-rated books on paper mache. You'll find them in the sidebar, and on


  • Hi Jonni,

    I’m trying to make Minions. Any ideas on making a cylindar? I’ve made the clay and put it over a baloon so that part works… but not sure how to do the rest…….

      • Jonni, Here is a picture of the start of the Minions. I tried doign them with the strips and it took forever and wasnt strong so I did all of these three in one day. Also pictured is Olaf which I made last year. Thanks to your tutorials and recipes! Thanks so much!

    • I did try poster board.. didnt’ work. will try to find a big sheet of cardboard. In the mean time…. wow…. 4th try on the “head” and I ended up using the paper machey clay instead of strips… wow!

      2nd picture is an Olaf I did last year… thanks to you.

  • hi jonni….I love your blog…? have a question to you…? can’t find joint commpound in my country…what can ? use substitue for it….and what is the joint compound….what is it’ real work…thankyou and sorry my terrible english…

    • Hi Sevin. I don’t know of any product that is a good substitute for joint compound. This is drywall joint compound, which is used to fill in cracks between two sheets of drywall (plasterboard, sheet rock) when new walls are built. This is how walls are built in many countries, but in some areas they use different building methods, so in those places you won’t find drywall joint compound in stores.

      If you can’t find it, you may want to use the traditional paper pulp method (many tutorials here).

    • I don’t know. I have never tried it, and I don’t know what the difference is between the two formulas. If you try it, please let us know if it worked or not.

    • Yes, I’ve tried both mineral oil and tung oil, and they worked just fine. The tung oil is a drying oil, so it seems like the best substitute for the linseed oil. I don’t know what safflower oil would do in the mix, but it might work OK. And you can even just leave out the oil, and the pm clay will still work.

  • Can the clay be used on top of something I have already covered with Gesso? If wanted to add wings or the facial details as an after thought?

    • I think it will work just fine over the home-made glue and joint compound gesso. If you used acrylic gesso, I’m not sure. Test a small hidden spot to see if it stays on after it dries.

  • I am bit confused- does the glay go on the outside of the actual paper mache?

    I have forms made of filled paper bags, cardboard, and standard paper mache- newspaper strips and paste made from water and flower with some glue. It’s not as smooth as I want it, though. Would I put the clay on the outside of the structure? Or would it shrink too much and crack?

    As for the oven- if I have regular paper mache- the same water, flour, glue mixture as noted above- used around the base of an old glass bottle. Can this go in the oven to dry without causing any issues?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Palmer. Whenever you put the paper mache clay over a solid object that can’t shrink with the clay as it dries, you could get cracks. But you might still be able to use the clay, if you don’t mind going back over it a second time to fill in the cracks with a bit more of the paper mache clay.

      • Is there a different type of covering you recommend using over the newspaper to help smooth it out, or is this just a matter of more and more newspaper layers until all jagged edged and cracks have been covered over? I have the form of a sitting cat at the moment, and I think he will look great when hes finished if I can help smooth over certain areas like his nose/ cheeks. Your sources have been a GREAT help, by the way. I have not touched paper mache since I was a kid and I am having a last with it! Had no idea grown ups could do more with it.

        • Hi Palmer. I usually use either the paper mache clay or the air dry clay recipes for smoothing, but you can get a nice finish with paper strips and paste, too. If you have enough layers on, use some fine sandpaper to take off the high points. You can then brush on the home-made gesso recipe (Elmer’s Glue-All and joint compound), smooth it down when it’s dry with a lightly damp sponge, and then brush on some more if you still have some spots that aren’t quite smooth enough. It’s easier than adding more paper.

    • I don’t know of anything that works the same way. Is there a reason why you don’t want to use the drywall joint compound?

  • I mixed up a batch of this. The result is close. I think I added too much paper, or else not enough flour. But I also overestimated how sterile my ingredients were. I left it out at room temperature in a cheap tupperware container. After about a week, it has developed a nasty smell and a slight orange/brown color on the exposed surfaces. It’s mildewy.

    My question is, can I still use this batch? Once it dries the mildew should stop growing. But it will probably stink and would probably be more susceptible to mold in future. I guess I answered my own question.

    • You might be able to save your batch if you add a teaspoon of household bleach, and mix it in really well. The flour had yeast and other fungi spores attached to it, so you’ll end up with some sort of growth, no matter what sort of container you put it in. You can keep the fungi from growing by adding oil of clove–some people say mint oil works, too, and keeping it well covered in the ‘fridge also helps.

  • Hola Jonni soy una nueva seguidora de tu página, me gustan todos los trabajos manuales estudié diseño de moda y educación infantil y no tengo ni la más mínima idea de escultura y me gustaría aprender mucho de ti y aprender aunque sea un poco de tu talento, como decidí hacer una escultura de elefante di con tu página, tienes un talento increíble, y tus trabajos son excelentes, el trabajo que me enamoró es el del elefante, pero el rinoceronte es igualmente increíble, gracias por compartir tus conocimientos con los demás, seguiremos en contacto, me he suscrito! Gracias!

  • Hi,
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! I love this recipe but am having a few small difficulties with the mix when it dries. One batch is lumpy and pulpy and one was smooth with beautiful detail retention. Trouble is, I don’t know what I did differently with the second! Could it be that the paper is too wet? I squeezed out a lot but maybe not enough?
    Thank you, Jaynie.

    • Jaynie, I suspect that your lumpy batch had more paper. You can find out, if it’s still around, by adding more of all the other ingredients and mixing again. It’s really hard to get the same measurement of paper every time.

  • Hi,
    I just want to share my experience with making the paper mache dragon.
    I think the cardbord dragon needs wire running through the whole thing. The feet weren’t strong enough so I reinforced them both. The armature looked very awsome! Took me all day.
    I made the clay. I put all the ingredients in a blender(used, cheap, garage sale) and the blender broke. so I tried hand mixing it.
    Ingredients: toilet paper, home glue(flour, sugar, water, liquid starch), joint compound, and 1/4 c flour, 1/4 c self hardening clay
    the problem: toilet paper globs, and
    The dragon’s arm fell off. The cardbord became too wet. I should have wrapped it in tape.

    I’ve learned that if I use a blender I need to put the toilet paper in 3x more water, a little at a time, into the blender. after blending I use a fine strainer and push the water out.

    Making the glue I had a problem with it clumping, but I am going to re-read the directions. Maybe I forgot something…a step, or steps in the wrong order.

    Thank you for the inspiration and the website! I will continue with the experiments. When the dragon turns out I will post it.

  • I found a recipe here Jonni Good is the owner of ultimate paper mache, she has wonderful tips and tutorial that made working the clay recipe super easy. I really like the way the clay sets up it’s super strong and durable.
    So I would like to give a special Thanks to Jonni Good for all her help.
    This is part of the post I have on my blog I tried to post this before but some how it didn’t post so this is me trying it again.

  • Hi Jonni, I work with Creative paperclay for my pieces, but have been looking for something I can make at home so I’m thrilled to find this recipe. I already keep joint compound on hand for abstract art, so this will be perfect! Thank you for sharing this.
    Here’s some of what I do. He is a gourd Santa

    • I don’t think I’ve ever tried it, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. If the balls are really hard, the clay may crack as it dries – it does shrink just a little, and it needs an armature that has just a bit of give. Please let us know if you try it.

  • Hello all! I like this forum, i set up tons gripping people on this forum.!!!

    Great Community, regard all!

  • I have been looking for a good air-dry paper clay recipe forever! I will have to try this. My last project I used fiberglass and auto body filler for. It still lives in my parents garage because I can’t finish it in my apartment (think dorm). I don’t have a porch/outside door and the windows don’t open so…..yeah…

    But my friend wants me to help him with his cosplay and I can do some pieces for my old project here with paper mache. I just needed a good paperclay recipe because, while you can buy it at the store, its expensive. But I have a recipe now. I think a trip to the dollar store is now in order, for some cheap dishes to mix stuff in and container to keep unused clay in. Do you think its possible to make it without a mixer? or do I need to get one?

    • It might be possible to get away with mixing by hand, but it will make it a lot harder to get the paper evenly mixed in. You can often find used small hand mixers, like the one I use, for just a few bucks at the junk store. Goodwill almost always has some that work just fine. But go ahead and try it without the mixer – and then let us know if it works.

  • Hi there,

    ok, so I live in Spain and wasn’t sure if I found the right joint compound… the translated equivalent said Yeso, which to me is plaster, so I bought both, however, both are powdered.. is the joint compound in powder or paste?

    Also, and probably bc of the previously mentioned, my first try at the mixture came out curdly, sort of like cottage cheese.



    Tuli in Madrid

    • The joint compound I buy is already mixed, and although it looks like plaster, it doesn’t set up the way plaster does. According to Google Translate, the word Yeso is plaster in Spanish. I don’t think plaster will work very well, because it will set up before you’re finished using it. I suggest you keep looking. The clerk at the hardware store should be able to help you find the right product. According to one reader, in Mexico joint compound is called “Compuesto Ready Mix” and it’s made by Panel Rey. I don’t know if they export to Spain, but it might be worth asking.

      • The marvels of technology never stop amazing me. I awake to find your reply, very neat and tremendous thanks Jonni …I will definitely look for the “Compuesto Ready Mix.”

        As a side note, last night before going to bed, I added more water to the mix to see if it would dissolve the curdles a bit, this morning it seems ok, still curdly looking, but stiff enough to cover cracks, so I am trying it out, like spackle on the tea pot that I am creating… it seems ok, although not smooth… we’ll see how it dries, will keep you posted.

        Again MUCHAS GRACIAS (this site is wonderful and the creations brilliant).

        • You might also try adding a bit more glue and a little more flour, to see if you can make the mix smoother. Try it on just a small batch, though, as an experiment. It might work….

    • Thanks, Lee. URLs are now automatically live when they’re added to a comment. But if you put the traditional code around them, the system deletes them. Who knows why? Thanks for being patient – I’m really impressed with how the costume and the routine looked on ice. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing.

  • I am attaching a video of a number we did this past Sunday for a Halloween show at Kendall Ice Arena in Miami. I wrote the script for this number and made the cow’s head using your recipe. We were all very pleased how it worked out. I am the farmer’s wife in this video and the junior cowgirl is my grandaughter Alyssa Archer. I am contemplating donating the cow costume to Miami Children’s hospital. Thank you so much for your help. It was a big success.

    • Hi Lee. Videos can’t be uploaded to the comment section. Could you give us a link to a web page where the video is located? Did you put it up on YouTube?

  • Hello, Jonni
    I finally got some free time to make a some paper mache clay, and here is a photo of some of what I have done with it. Thank you sooooo much for sharing your wonderful recipe.
    Thank you,

    Paper Mache Mask

  • Hello! Excellent recipe. Just a question about the linseed oil. What does it do in the recipe? Is it necessary?

    • Hi Ryan. I like the way the clay feels when the oil is added, compared when it’s left out. But you don’t need it. In fact, you might want to check out the lively discussion at the bottom of the comment area on the paper mache clay page – lots of suggestions about other products that can be used instead of the oil.

  • Hello Jonni!

    I have finally finished that deer (but now it is a elongated pig, hey, they material tells you want it wants to be sometimes!) But I cannot find the post where I said I would show everyone the wire base. So if the picture loads, here it is!

    • The clay dries in a day or two if you put on a thin layer (1/8″ or so) and you put the sculpture in a warm place with good air circulation. Since conditions vary so much, even the amount of humidity in the air, it isn’t possible to say definitively how long it will take a sculpture to dry. But do be sure to let your clay dry all the way through before adding a finish coat of paint and sealer.

  • Hi!

    I’m from South Africa, and am wanting to make papier mache decorative items with zebra stripes and make a mixture that includes – real zebra manure! I also have access in impala droppings! Just not sure about the kitchen blender!

  • Please help problem with consistency of paper clay made with toilet tissue , ,joint compound, glue,and flour. WHAT did I do wrong. It is very soft not clay like as expected. How can I dry it out or improve consistency of clay already made ..Thanks for any help .

    • Hi Francine. Did you measure the amount of paper that your roll contained? That’s the only thing I can think of that would cause the problem – unless you forgot to press the water out of the paper before you made your clay.

      One issue might be your expectations that you would have a clay that you could shape by hand, like Sculpey. This clay is meant to be spread onto the form with a knife, and details can be molded with modeling tools. But it isn’t stiff, like real clay.

      I hope this helps.

    • I don’t know of anything you can use instead of joint compound. It is the chemical combination of white glue and the calcium carbonate in the compound that creates a material that air-dries extremely strong, even when applied in a very thin layer. Just curious – why don’t you want to use joint compound? It’s really cheap.

  • Hi
    I’m new to this medium, but love sculpting in all other forms of clay. I just tried making the recipes here…the one with cellulose insulation….can you tell me what the consistency is supposed to be like after it’s mixed? It seems a little stretchy. Now that seemed kind of weird to me…is that right?

    • Are you using the recipe in the video on this page with cellulose insulation instead of toilet paper? One thing I discovered when trying to mix joint compound, Elmer’s glue and cellulose insulation is that any two of these ingredients can be mixed together, but when you mix all three together you get rubber. I did get it to work correctly once, months ago, but there must be a chemical in the insulation that causes this odd reaction.

      So – I use joint compound mixed with the insulation for filler, when I want to build up an area fast – but I always cover it with at least one layer of paper strips and paste. You might not need to, but I always do. For a sculpture made just with paper clay I use the recipe in the video, with toilet paper. It dries extremely hard and does not need a protective layer of paper mache.

      I hope this helps. And if anyone can tell me why those three ingredients turn into rubber, please do. It’s a real mystery.

      • I made a batch over the weekend using glue, joint compound, and insullation and it was as close to perfect as I’ve gotten so far. Then I made a batch last night that was basically silly putty. I had to keep adding water just to get it soft enough to spread. I think i used too much glue. When I get the project I am working on complete I am going to experiment with ratios of ingredients to see what combination works best.

        • I have my suspicion that the chemicals used to fireproof and bug-proof the insulation are not evenly distributed in the insulation. That may be why I got the glue-joint compound-insulation recipe to work once, too. After that it all turned immediately to rubber. Don’t know why. The toilet paper recipe in the video is by far the best, but it is more expensive.

      • I suspect the ingredient that is producing the silly putty in this recipe is Borax.

        Many, many years ago I had “shredded” paper insulation blown into the walls of our first home that no insulation of any kind except for a sheet of aluminum foil as a radiation shield I guess, it was built in the fifties. I was concerned about mice and fire so I asked the installer about it and was told the finely shredded paper was treated with Borax as a fire retardant and insect repellent. Not sure what’s in the current batch of cellulose insulation but is sure sounds like Borax to me.

        A search for “Flubber recipe” on Google produces some fun and informative pages to look at.

    • Jonni-i have every flat surface in my house coverd with paper mache STUFF. I’d love to try the cold porcelain clay recipe;’done a bunch with polymer and need to compare. Please list the ingredients one more time.

      • Carol, I have never used a cold porcelain recipe. A reader may have left one in a comment somewhere here on the blog, but a fast search didn’t find one. Perhaps a Google search would turn up the recipe you need. Please let us know the results of your experiments.

  • jonni,
    that recipe for the clay looks fantastic. i am going to use if for my skeleton skull. thanks so much for sharing it!

  • Wow, Jonni, I can’t wait to see your finished sculptures! I’m very excited about these clay recipes.

    I’m reminded of “cold porcelain”, which is an air-dry clay based on corn starch. It’s used to make very fine little detailed sculptures, like flowers in particular. Here’s a good link with several recipes and notes on the differences:
    There is about 30% shrinkage, so I can imagine there might be some cracking if laid over a dry paper mache form, but I’ve never tried it.

    • Hi Xan,
      Thanks for that Porcelain recipe page, such interesting mixes. It also led to Fiona Guagliano’s site with figurines made with it.. That recipe has the translucent characteristic of “real” porcelain too. I was after a recipe that would give a hard smooth finish not the translucent quality her works shows. Impressive stuff indeed!

      • It looks like the porcelain recipe could be used to make nice eyeballs. And Bob’s porcelain finish recipe could be used to get a really smooth finish on paper mache eyeballs. My brain is going to explode with all these ideas to explore!

        • After reading a bit more, it really sounds like the shrinkage would be a problem with the cold porcelain. It would work well for eyeballs, if you did them first, don’t you think? That way, you’d know how big an opening, all shrinkage would be accounted for, etc.. It could be a really neat effect.

          Of course, I suppose you could also use taxidermy eyes …

          • I think you can also get eye stamps at pottery supply stores. If I remember correctly, they’re just little stamps that have a concave eye-shaped depression. You push them into the clay and you get perfectly round eyes. Now that I think of it, I’m going to go see if I made that up or if I really saw a thing like that….

            Well, I just did a search and got sidetracked when I found this tutorial that shows how to make “glass” eyes out of Sculpey. Now I have to go see if I can get the same effect from my new paper mache clay. I’ll keep a look out for those clay press molds, too.

  • Hello Jonni,

    I have included the same picture of my egg shaped PM piece used for coating, paste and clay recipe experiments shown near the bottom of this post : Hear it is closer to actual size so it is cropped to the area of interest.

    This picture happened to also include my 1st and only “Porcelain” coating attempt to cover the rough texture of my PM clay made with the paste below seen here.
    (note no flour, Liquid Starch or Wallboard compound).

    4 Parts PVA ( Elmer’s Glue)
    1 Part water
    1 part Acrylic paint

    If you are going to try this (or some variation) I wanted to give you as much info as I have about it because it is very close to what I was looking for. I’m eager to see if your experienced touch and observation can make it happen. I add acrylic paint because it seems to add body and smoothness to the resulting mix but that has not been proven it is just my “gut’” impression. [img][/img]

    • Bob, can you sand this coating after it dries to get a completely smooth surface? And will it hold brush marks if you want a texture?

      • Hi Jonni,
        In my single attempt to make and use it I notice it dries extremely hard considering the ingredients. So hard it can not be dented with a fingernail and because of this hardness it sands beautifully. I was surprised at how smooth it became after sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper. I have a set of very fine files and using one of them the surface actually took on a slight sheen after filing. I was amazed.

        It leaves no brush marks and seems to “flow” a little, smoothing out fine surface features but larger features can show through as seen on the “egg” shaped test piece above. I suspect a 2nd coat or a wet brush applied over it before it dries might help with that.

        I just tried making and “improved” batch of this “porcelain” recipe by adding 1 part of Liquid Starch to it but that failed miserably. It seems I made my own variation of Silly Putty! Perhaps less Liquid Starch or replace it entirely with glycerine or the mineral oil you mentioned? My thought is to make it less hard upon drying and thus reduce cracking when applied in greater thicknesses but that may effect the sanding properties. What fun.. so much to try so little time!

        • Hi Jonni, Below are two of my modified “Porcelain” recipes using Karo Syrup for the first test and Glycerin for the second test. The Glycerin was more expensive with little difference.

          These were small batched measured carefully with “level” spoon fulls. In the Karo recipe 1 Part was equal to ¼ teaspoon and for the Glycerin recipe ½ teaspoon equaled 1 Part.

          The modified Porcelain recipes
          4 Parts PVA
          1 Part Karo Light Corn Syrup OR 1 part Glycerin
          (In the second Recipe test Karo Syrup was replaced with 1 part Glycerin)
          8 Parts Wallboard compound
          2 Parts Acrylic paint
          7 Parts General Purpose Flour

          I mixed the PVA and Karo first to see if I got the Silly Putty effect obtained by mixing Liquid Starch and PVA in the previous test, I did not. The two ingredients mixed well as hoped for.

          The differences:
          Karo cost less, dried hard, could not be dented by pressing my thumbnail into it, sanded well, left brush marks but seemed to crack less in thicker applications than the original recipe.

          Glycerin is more costly ($5 for 6 oz), dried faster, dried hard, but CAN be dented by pressing my thumbnail into it, sanded well, left brush marks but seemed to crack less in thicker applications than the original but about the same as the Karo recipe.

  • I can’t wait to see your finished leopard and bobcat!!!I am missing my paper mache projects SO much, but alas *sigh* I have dozens and dozens of painting commissions to do now.

    I wrote somewhere about the use of baby wipes…I can’t find it anywhere, when I rewrote it, it said ‘ already said that!’ lol.

    • Hi Laurie. Do you have a website so we could see your paintings, too? We can tell from your sculptures that your paintings must be very creative, and we’d love to see them.

        • Thanks for sharing, Laurie.

          You bring up an interesting point – lots of artists “need” a website but haven’t found the time to build one, or don’t quite know how. I wonder how many people would be interested if I wrote out some instructions? Most people would be quite surprised by how quickly they can be online.

          • Yes please, I would love instructions on building a website. I have a blog but it is not attracting attention…
            I have tried before to leave a reply but it doesn’t seem to go through. Hopefully this will…

  • Hi Jonni,

    Wonderful tutorial video, thanks for sharing your knowledge and technique …. again! I’m learning so much from this site!

    I had recently seen a kind of expanded metal used for smaller armatures but had no information about what it was or where to get it until you provided it in this video, an unexpected bonus. Wonderful! I have a project where chicken wire will be required and saw how coarse the 1” openings in chicken wire are.

    I’m eager to try this “Jonni Variation” of clay too it sounds delightful because of the fine finish you describe and the ease to concoct it. I got a funny look from my wife when I asked her to collect all the dryer lint and I can hardly wait to see the expression on her face when I tell her I want to get some cheap toilet paper!

    I made an attempt at a fine finish too. I wanted a homemade PM “Porcelain” finish to act as a smoothing and finishing layer. It dried smooth and VERY hard but cracked if applied above a certain thickness. I’m thinking about adding some Liquid Starch or Glyerine (aka glycerol or glycerine) to the “Porcelain” recipe listed below. I have very limited knowledge of the properties of Liquid Starch, however. Maybe even the Linseed oil you mentioned?

    My Porcelain attempt
    2 Parts PVA
    4 Parts Wallboard compound
    1 Part Acrylic paint
    3-4 Parts Flour

    It got very thick but could be painted on vertical surfaces but was not clay like.

    • Hi Bob.I’ll try your recipe for a porcelain finish. It would be less expensive than the one I’ve been using. I’ve been using glue-based gesso to get a really smooth finish:

      2 parts white glue
      4 parts water
      8 parts calcium carbonate
      plus titanium oxide to make it white, if you want

      It also cracks sometimes, but a second coat, made with more water to thin it, will smooth out any irregularities. And I sometimes leave the cracks because they’re interesting.

      I have tried using joint compound in place of the water and calcium carbonate, but I hadn’t thought about using flour, too. Joint compound is made from calcium carbonate plus a binder, so it’s basically the same thing as glue-based gesso – but without the flour it doesn’t get as thick as I like to make mine, and you don’t get the same “feel” or absorbency that you do with the original recipe. The flour might help. I’ll try it soon. And the paint would help make it opaque.

      The calcium is sold under a wide variety of names, and the cost depends on what it’s sold for. I get mine from Blick’s. They also have wider expanded metal made especially for sculpting, which would be handy in place of the gutter grid that I use, but of course it does cost more. You can find it here. My hardware store says garden lime is the same thing (and much cheaper) as calcium carbonate, so I’ll try that, too. The powder floats into the air (and into your lungs) so a mask is a must when working with it.

      Thanks again for the tips.

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