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How to Make a Life-Sized Baby Elephant with Paper Mache


painting paper mache elephantThis life-sized baby elephant pattern continues to be the most popular project on this site, and it’s been seen by over a million people on YouTube!.

Even though this sculpture is big and I used a power saw to make the armature, Elsie was not difficult to make. It isn’t a complicated sculpture, just a big one. She was one of the first sculptures I ever made with an internal pattern, and now I almost never make a sculpture without one.

In fact, she was part of the inspiration that eventually led to the creation of my book – How to Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.


Download the pattern now for just $7.00:

Check out safely with PayPal. Use the pattern along with the video on this site to make your own baby elephant. The pattern also includes notes about the changes I might make if I made this sculpture again.


If you make a paper mache elephant of your own, I hope you’ll come back to the blog and show it off in the comments below. I would love to see how it turns out. To see just a few of the baby elephants that have been made by people with my pattern, click here. There are now baby elephants (and a few life-sized adult elephants, too!) keeping people company all over the world. I hope you’ll let me post your new baby elephant on that page, too. And to see how much fun a mother and son had when making their own baby elephant, click here.

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241 Comments

  • Hi Jonni
    I never tried to work with paper mache before but you are truly an inspiration. I’m very courageous and I absolutely loved the baby elephant. So I said why not…so far so good but
    I’m having trouble with it’s mouth. The wooden pattern had only a small cut so it was really difficult to cover it with paper mache. Also your elephant seems to be smiling so how did you do that ?
    Another thing that you did not mentioned was how many times do I have to cover the ears. I’m at my fourth layer and I just attached them.I was going to send a photo but I have trouble uploading it. Help my elephant has no mouth!

    • Hi Jessie. The mouth can be tricky. If the trunk wasn’t there, the mouth would look like a triangle when seen from the front, and some extra crumpled paper creates the cheek area behind the mouth. Right where the cheek and mouth meet, you can create a dip, to make the elephant smile. I hope that helps. Upload a photo if you can, so we can see your progress – that might make it easier to help.

      • Thank you Jonni , I get what you mean but right now I’m too advanced. I was thinking about just cutting into the dried paper but than I didn’t dare. Tomorrow I will cover him with the clay and try to indicate a closed mouth Let’s see. One more thing. …can I make my skin right onto the dried clay or do I have to cover the dried clay with another layer of paper mache first?

        • I do ‘surgery’ on my sculptures at all stages of a project – I even lop off heads! But it can be a little unnerving.

          You can add the paper towel skin right on top of the dried clay. I hope you’ll let us see your elephant when it’s done.

    • Hi Jonni, I just have to say what Beautiful work you do! My question to you is.. Is there a way to use your project for making a mold or will this ruin the paper mache?

      • Hi Shan. You’d have to put on some kind of release to keep the mold material from sticking to the paper mache, and that could cause some staining. If you’re asking if I would be interested in making a mold using one of my sculptures, the answer would be ‘no.’ My pieces tend to be rather large, and creating a multi-part mold using silicone would be really expensive. I suppose, if someone wanted to go into the paper mache elephant business, it might be worth the expense, but I wouldn’t want to do it.

        If you happen to try making a mold of a paper mache sculpture, be sure and let us know what you learn about the process. I’m sure there are others who would like to know if it’s possible.

  • For those of you who want to display your sculptures outside you may want to try “Powertex”. It is a liquid fabric hardener that, if a sculpture is completely covered with it, makes it weather proof. It can be used to coat natural fabric (like strips of old teeshirts) or paper. It comes in several colours, including elephant grey. You can put it over any kind of armature except plastic. (You can cover the plastic with masking tape and it will stick to that just fine). It is sold by dealers in several countries, including myself in BC, Canada.

  • My very first attempt with paper mache clay. Just needs varnish and Jessy will be all done. Made her for my daughter for her birthday. Her three year old son asked me if it was Jessy the elephant so I said yep it’s Jessy. lol Thank you Jonni for the inspiration!

      • Thank you. I have done paper mache before but never the clay, I am hoping to do some more using the clay and learning how to do more detailing. I stumbled across your site and have been in awe since. Your videos are so fun to watch and inspiring. You do amazing work!!!!

  • Hi jonni, I was just wondering how thick the piece of particle board was that you used for the body of the baby elephant ? Thanks Ash 🙂

    • I just used a scrap, so I’m not sure how thick it was. 3/8 inch should be plenty strong enough. If here won’t be children sitting on the elephant you might even get away with using cardboard.

    • It took a couple of weeks. It was basically a full-time job for a while, in-between drying time. It was a lot of fun, and well worth the time. She’s still one of my favorites.

  • Hello. I live in Blountville, TN, the upper-east corner. I am going to be making the asian elephant for our church. Of course, life-sized (about 6ft 8in is close enough) is the desired result. We will be using it several times- Vacation Bible School (Cross Trek-Thailand) and for at least two parade floats (Noah’s Ark theme), so the weight of it is my concern. I have designed many pinatas when my children were young, so I am familiar with paper mache and balloon bases. But it sounds like due to the desired size, I will be needing to use something more than balloons for a base. Do you think I could get by with cardboard or foam for this? If it needs more strength, I would probably use PDF board. And I was thinking of using bubble wrap as much as possible for any added bulk. Any ideas to help shave weight off of my elephant would be most appreciated. I do have until June, but I feel like I’m already behind schedule. -Renee Shook

    • Hi Renee. You’re right 0 balloons wont work, but your idea of using bubble wrap, cardboard and foam should work just fine. If I did this project again I’d use a cardboard pattern and as much bubble wrap as I could find. Furniture stores probably throw away a lot of it, and would be happy to share. The other thing I’d change is the paper mache. The strips and paste work just fine, and it’s plenty strong enough, but it does take more time. I’d make a big elephant using my paper mache clay recipe, like I did for the elephant wall sculpture I made a few weeks ago. The finished elephant would look just the same as if it were made with paper strips and paste, but you’d save a lot of time. But, of course, it would be more expensive.

      The one thing to consider when building something this big without a wooden frame, though, is how it will be handled. A very light armature works well if you know for sure nobody will ever climb on the elephant, and if it will be attache to a firm plywood base so it’s easy to move without stressing the joints. If it is going to be played on, or if it will be handled roughly, you might want to use the plywood pattern inside, and then use lighter materials, like foam and bubble wrap, in place of the crumpled paper.

      I do hope you’ll show us your elephant when it’s done!

      • Thank you for such a quick response. I’m a self-taught toy/doll maker, so i couldn’t get my head around all the hardware. My mind is running now. I will try to remember to take pictures as it progresses. Thanks so much. -Renee Shook

  • Jonni ,Gracias por toda la informacion, asi logré hacer estos animales;eres mi mentora.Lamento no hablar tu idioma,pero entiendo bien el idioma del ARTE.
    Deseo para ti muchas Bendiciones!

  • Hi Jonni! Your work is truly amazing and inspirational! I wanted to know how long the baby elephant took you to make. Thanks again for you posting your art and know how to share with the world!

    • Hi El. It’s been a while since I made her, but I think it took about two weeks. I was living on the dry side of Oregon that year, so the paper mache dried quickly. Are you going to make an elephant?

      • Thank you so much Jonni! Yes, I am thinking of making this one and/or your horse for my daughter’s birthday party and then as a keepsake.

  • Jonni, I want to thank you very much for your video and instructions on how to create this paper mache elephant. I am a senior at the Henry Ford Academy for Art + Design l and am graduating with a distinguished degree in the Fine Arts. In one of my Mixed Media classes we needed to create a sculpture out of 90% recycled materials and this inspired me tremendously. The particle board you see in the picture is what I found in the trash, the newspaper from the recycling bins of my fellow neighbors. It is supposed to be a life sized baby elephant but I found that I made it a tad larger then a baby, so a sub-adult.

    After it is finished it will be displayed at the Central Library in Downtown San Antonio. 🙂

    Warm wishes to you and your hobby/career in the arts and for all your extremely helpful videos.

    – Ash

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