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.

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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 amazon.com

102 Comments

    • Paper mache needs to be treated like traditional paper mache, so you can’t let it get wet. It won’t melt, the way wet paper mache does, but it gets soft and will probably collect mold. I haven’t tried burning it, so I can’t answer that question at all. I doubt that it will burn very well, but I could be wrong. Do you have some unusual use for the clay? An interesting project that you have in mind?

    • It depends on how thickly it’s applied, the temperature of the room, the humidity, etc. Give it at least two days, in front of a fan, but it may need more in some environments.

  • I made an Olaf and on drying its cracking specially on the neck and joints. I put putty [joint compound directly to the cracked areas ,but it cracked again. …plz hlp

    • I’m not sure why that’s happening. Was the material especially wet or dry when it was applied? Was the armature at all flexible, or was it hard, like ceramics? And how thickly was the pm clay applied?

  • 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 http://ultimatepapermache.com/easy-paper-mache-clay-recipe 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.
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/partycat-1.jpg[/img]
    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.
    Sincerely,
    Sheryl
    Here’s some of what I do. He is a gourd Santa
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/jinglebellsanta.jpg[/img]

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