Paper Mache Recipes, Tips, Techniques, and Experiments

New Air Dry Clay Recipe, with Better Measurements

I wanted to standardize the new air-dry clay recipe, so it will come out exactly the same every time. To do that, I measured the ingredients, and took special care to weigh the toilet paper after the water was squeezed out.

The toilet paper can be squeezed too dry, and if that happens you end up with lumps in your clay. The only way to know for sure that you’re squeezing it exactly the same amount every single time is to use a scale. I know that most people in Europe use a scale in their kitchen, but you may not have one if you live in the States – unless you’re into baking great bread. If you don’t have a scale, you might still want to watch the video to see how the paper looks before it’s mixed in with the other ingredients.

The air-dry clay recipe, with both cups and gram measurements:

First, mix together –
1/2 cup toilet paper (24 grams dry, 110 grams wet)
1/2 cup Joint Compound (200 grams)
1/2 cup Elmer’s glue (130 grams)
1/2 cup corn starch (70 grams)
3 tablespoons mineral oil (or use linseed oil or any vegetable oil)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (70 grams) to start

Then, add up to 3/4 cup (100 grams) all-purpose flour and mix.

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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

758 Comments

  • Hi Jonni! I’m new to your site but as of earlier today I’ve already bookmarked it haha. What i wanted to know was if I could use this over a thin cardboard base armature for a prop crown. Do i have to coat even the inner portion of the crown with the clay or can i leave it as is, with the cardboard exposed, however I’m afraid it will be flimsy.

    Will the clay adhere firmly to my armature or will it come off clean? Also, will I need to add anything to the clay again when i build off of it, for example, when I add small details?

    Thanks a lot! I love your site and I love how interactive you are with your readers! I definitely learned a lot and I think I have a bit of an edge at art school now thanks to your recipes.

    P.S., The joint compound was a little difficult to find but in Manila where I’m from I think they refer to it as “drywall putty” or the like.

    • Hi Michel. If you want the air dry clay recipe to stick to the cardboard, you might want to brush on some of the glue and water mixture, just to make sure you get good adhesive. I have not tried using this recipe without a support of some kind (the original paper mache clay can be used that way, but I believe it’s stronger).

      On the other hand, if you want to remove the cardboard, you would need to cover it with plastic, and maybe add a thin film of petroleum jelly or other release. Just to make sure it’s easy to pull the cardboard out without damaging the dried clay. I have not tried using this recipe without a support of some kind – the original paper mache clay can be used that way, but I believe it’s stronger. I would leave the cardboard in, but you might want to experiment. You don’t have to cover the inside of the cardboard if you don’t want to. There is a possibility that the damp clay will cause the cardboard to warp, so keep an eye on it.

      If you add details after the first layer of air dry clay is dry, you’ll want to use that glue and water solution, to make sure it sticks together. And be sure, when you’re first covering the piece, that you squish all the edges together really well, to keep them from pulling apart as the clay dries and shrinks. To see the clay in use, watch the rhino video.

      Good luck – and thanks to letting us know what drywall joint compound is called where you live.

  • Hi Jonni,
    I have two questions. I am completely new to paper mache but for this project I think this clay will be much easier than polymer clay. (I’m attempting to make a mosquito with clay and armature wire.)

    Has anyone had luck mixing with a traditional kitchenAid style mixer? I don’t have a hand blender.

    I don’t need my project for long term, just for a photoshoot in a week. Do you think I can sculpt to 1/2″ thickness in one go, let the outside dry and then paint it? Will it dry strangely, or collapse?
    thank you!

    • Hi Stacia. I would not want to suggest using an expensive piece of equipment to mix the clay. It’s really heavy, and could burn out the motor. It probably wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t want to risk it for a temporary project. And the clay really isn’t intended to be used as a substitute for polymer clay. I never use it without a supporting armature underneath. You could add your shapes with crumpled aluminum foil around your armature wire, and then press on a thin layer of the air dry clay, 1/4″ or so, and then it should dry quickly enough if you put it in front of a fan. It was intended as a smoother version of the paper mache clay, which is also used in very thin layers.

      As for painting over wet clay, I’ve never tried it, but if you did it right before the photo shoot, it might work. Within days it will start to mold, so it wouldn’t last very long. And I don’t know how long the paint would stick, either.

      To be honest, I would use the polymer clay, or epoxy clay, instead. Then you wouldn’t be totally experimenting with a new way of sculpting right before your photo shoot.

      • Hi Jonni,
        Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I built a wire base and then used polymer clay. I think paper mache clay would have worked as well (the clay was never very thick) but I will save it for the next project.
        Stacia

        • It turned out really nice, Stacia. If you decide to try the air dry clay recipe next time, it would work well for the body. The legs would probably need to be wrapped with paper strips and paste instead of the clay, just because it’s easier. But the polymer clay worked beautifully.

  • Does this recipe have any mould issues? I plan to use vegetable oil instead of mineral oil.

    Many thanks,

    Donna

    • It will mold if it isn’t dried quickly. The vegetable oil will work, and you could add a few drops of oil of clove if you think it will take too long to dry. The recipe is intended to be used as a thin layer over an armature, not the way real clay is use, as a solid mass.

  • Hi 🙂 great recipe! Why is it important to use the ready-mixed drywall, and not the powdered stuff? I only have access to the powder :/

    • Hi Stella. The dry product might work, but it has plaster of Paris in it, so it could harden faster than you would like. Or, maybe not – I haven’t tried it. Give it a try, and see what happens.

  • Is there a way to make this (or any paper mache clay recipe) gluten free? I’ve been itching to try this for a while but I cannot come in contact with gluten. There are many gluten free flour substitutes use to bake with and some blends are better for pizza vs pancakes (for example). Do you know what qualities in the wheat flour are necessary to make this recipe work?

  • I see that it is suggested to apply a thin layer over an armature. What is the thickest amount you would suggest? I am making some ornaments where the thickness would vary from 1/4″ to 1/2″ over the surface of the ornament. Is 1/2″ too thick?

    • You wouldn’t want to apply the entire 1/2 inch at once. Three layers would probably be best, and allow each layer to dry before adding more. Thick layers take way too long to dry.

    • I haven’t tested the air dry clay before and after baking, so I don’t have an answer for you. If you do some tests, please let us know what you find out.

  • Can the air dry clay be added to traditional paper mache (newspaper, flour & water) creations? My son has to create a life-size black marlin for a school project. We have created the base of the fish out of paper mache. I think some detail needs to be added for the eye and gills. Was hoping this could be achieved with your clay recipe. The fish is already mached with several layers of newspaper and is dry.

    • Hi Nicole. The air dry clay can be added to dry paper mache, but it isn’t as sticky as the original paper mache clay recipe. Because of that, you’ll need to use a solution of glue and water (half and half) over the dried paper strips and paste, then add the air dry clay. And be sure to keep the clay mixture covered in the bowl as much as possible, because it dries out pretty fast.

      • Thanks so much for your quick reply. We actually need to add one more layer of traditional mache. Does that need to be completely dry before I add the clay or can it be added when the newspaper & flour glue is still wet? Again – thanks so much. Your website was invaluable in doing this project.

  • Hi Jonni,
    Amazing site by the way, I really love your stuff! I tried making some of your clay and it wont seem to dry. I made a small flat disc as a test and the edges have dried but the centre is still very malleable after nearly 24hrs. How long should it take to dry? How thick should a layer be for it to dry? The only things I can think of that may be different is that I used Gyprock all purpose joint compound and potato starch as that is what I had lying around. love to hear your thoughts. Thanks

    • I haven’t used potato starch, so I don’t know if it holds onto water more than flour or corn starch, or not. I try to keep my layers under 1/4″, to make sure they can dry all the way through quickly. I would give a thin layer at least 24 hours, preferably two or three days, just to make sure it dries completely.

  • Very nice site you have here, i’m glad i’ve found you! I use a simple clay- just toillet paper and pva wood glue -for my projects, isn’t so smooth after drying because pva glue shrinks, but finishing with acrylic paints and water base varnish will give a nice surface. I just love this clay, it’s almost indestructible, well sealed with varnish become water proof also. Next time i’ll try your recipe for a smoother clay (i guess the starch and the flour do that), i hope “knife putty for walls” will do the trick (i couldn’t find joint compound in my country), it seems to be the same, at list it is used for the same purpose and in the same way. I would like to show you one of my what i like to call recycling art- a glass jar turned into a vase-i’ve changed the shape of the jar and made it unbreakable. Thank you for sharing all this details! (…and please excuse my english)

  • I must be doing something wrong. I tried adding flour and corn starch but it just becomes sticky as soon as i go to knead the clay. I had to use the oil just do de-stick it from the table. I do not know what else to do.

  • Would it work if all mixed in gallon bag by hand? Want to use for large 9th grade classes. Please post any projects made with this clay.

      • I am going to experiment tonight – will let you know how it turns out. Trying to get this straight. If building small animals or pots, then should I use original or new recipe? I don’t want them to break. We’ll be using high quality tempera paint.

        • Darla, the original paper mache clay is easier to apply, and I think it’s a little bit stronger. I haven’t tested it scientifically, but I believe that’s true. If you’re making a number of items, it will go much faster if you use the original recipe, because you can apply it to your armatures with a knife, almost like frosting a cake. You’ll want to put it on in a very thin layer, of course, so the paper mache can dry quickly.

  • Hi Jonni. I saw once, but now can’t find your recipe that suggested dried clay ( grout?.) instead of flour. Am I making this up?

    • You didn’t make it up. You can find the post here. It was an experiment, and I eventually gave it up, but only because the original recipe seemed to be working just as well as the one with the clay, and it was so much easier to find the ingredients. If you try it, be sure to let us know what you think of it.

  • Hi Jonni. I’m Hanne from Norway. I made a small change to your recipe and it looks fine. I have’nt tryed the clay yet, because it is almost night in Norway, but first thing tomorrow… Insted of let the toiletpaper soak in water and risk lumps when I squeeze out the water, I just poor the right amount of hot water over the paper and let it rest for some minutes. The clay feels fine, like a soft version of sugerpaste and no lumps at all. Just a tip..

  • Love this clay, took a bit of getting used to but now I’m really enjoying working with it 🙂 I’ve used it to put details on top of a paper mache mask and it the mask is starting to get heavy and I have more details to add. What should I seal the inside of the mask with as the some of the paper strips are peeling as the first layer was water only strips. I was going to use your homemade gesso recipe but thought it might add to much weight. The mask will be worn. Thanks 🙂

  • Do you use a food processor to process you toilet paper into fine bits? if so, do you process it wet or dry?

    • I just soak the toilet paper in a bowl of hot water, and it falls apart by itself. After I squeeze out the water, I use a cheap hand-held mixer to blend all the ingredients together. You want to keep mixing long enough so the tiny bits of paper are distributed, and not clumped together.

  • Hi Jonni.

    How much does your new recipe make? I’m excited to make it for my 10 Jr. High art students.

    Thank you!
    Bobbie

    • It makes about 3 cups. If you use a thin layer over an armature, it goes farther than you would expect, but do experiment with it at home before your class.

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