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.

Note: This clay is intended to be used as a thin layer over an armature, like regular paper mache. It won’t dry all the way through if you use it as a solid mass, like ‘real’ clay. Also, there are some tricks to using it. Be sure to watch this video to see how it’s done.

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 (baby 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.

You may also like:

How I painted the Unicorn.Unicorn Pattern
Hyena Mask PatternHyena Mask Pattern
Life Sized Paper Mache Baby ElephantLife-Sized Baby Elephant

907 Comments

    • No, I don’t think so. If you live in a country where drywall joint compound is not sold, you will probably need to use the traditional paper pulp for your sculptures. There are lots of tutorials about that recipe at http://www.papiermache.co.uk/ . Or, you could do some experiments like I did, and come up with a better formula that works without the joint compound. If you find one, please let us know. πŸ™‚

      • i think maybe wall filler is much the same as joint compound so i think i will try that when i try this recipe.

  • Thank you for the recipe and mixing instruction video. I was very excited that I had almost all the ingredients on hand. I didn’t have nearly enough of what I think was joint compound (it was a 6oz tub from the dollar store called lightweight spackling) to follow the recipe exactly, so I added some extra glue, flour, and starch. I also had to mix it by hand. Fortunately, I have experience in regular clay mixing, so I just had to spend some extra time wedging on the counter.

    It came out well enough for the project I wanted it for. I’m trying to create a low relief sculpture on a piece of plywood. Looking forward to see how much it cracks. The plywood had already been treated with a thin layer of plaster of paris, and I’d already applied some leftover baking soda clay to it. I wanted to try this recipe because I wasn’t crazy about how the baking soda made my hands feel. Due to the obstacles the batch of clay I made is already facing, it seemed sticky and the texture is odd – but the work I make is kind of odd anyway.

    I can’t wait to get to the hardware store to get some more joint compound and attempt to make a proper batch.

    • Hi Rose. I hope you’ll keep us updated on the way your mixture works. Spackling is not the same as drywall joint compound, although I’m not sure how the formulas differ. And I’ve never heard of anyone adding baking soda to the mix. It will be interesting to see how your project turns out, so keep us posted.

      • I just picked up some real joint compound yesterday, and there’s a tremendous difference in weight. The spackling paste was light and airy like whipped cream, and the joint compound is dense and feels more like room temperature butter. I’m tempted to believe that spackling paste IS just whipped joint compound, and if I’d had enough of it in weight to match that of the recipe – my batch may have been comparable to the true recipe. Since there wasn’t enough of the smoothest and stickiest material, my clay mixture did not respond well to joining and blending. When I tried to smooth the surface, little wet clumps of paper lint started to separate from the clay.

        It still stuck remarkably well to the plywood, even with the layer of plaster of paris and some baking soda clay already on it. It did not crack when it dried! It did pull away from the wood slightly on some edges, but that happened only in places where there was baking soda clay already underneath. The plaster wasn’t sealed, so it disintegrated when water got on it. (The surface I’m working on is a whole ‘nother story, lol!)

        Here’s a side by side of the project in progress. The image on the left shows mostly just the last bit of old soda clay I’d applied on the crown, chin and cheekbones – and it cracked where the application was thin. I’d also started to apply some of the new (odd) batch of paper clay around the eye sockets and bridge of the nose.

        The image on the right is after I’d used up all the new batch of (not true to your recipe) paper clay. It stuck and covered the old soda clay very well, but it is lumpy, some of the joins where I added coils or pancakes are visible, and you may be able to see the wet lint balls on the chin where I tried to smooth it out. Since this is a sculpture of skull bones, I find the lumpiness of the odd clay as rather beneficial. I quit trying to smooth it, figuring I’ll see what happens when I try to sand it a little.

        I am really looking forward to mixing up a true batch of your clay recipe today, so I can finish up the sculpting phase of this project. The top row of tooth sockets needs some adjustment, and teeth need to be added.

        • Hi Rose. Your project is coming along quite well, even though you’ve done a lot of experimenting. I hope we get to see it after you have a chance to try the official recipe, too. πŸ™‚

  • Jonni,
    I tried with the glue and it seems to keep. What if I go over the whole mask with the mixture of glue and joint compound you gave a recipe for? Maybe keeping thin enough to avoid covering the details that I already put on the mask?
    Also, I went and bought some invisible line to attach to the back of the mask so that it can be hung. I am thinking off gluing it to the back and then put some air dry clay over to hide the attachment. What do you think? The mask is not heavy at all so hopefully it will hold.
    Finally, what about the back of the mask? Did you paint it the same as the front or should I maybe put some plaster of paris to make the back smoother (it’s quite rough right now) and then paint it in a light color?
    Thanks again!

    • Hi Monica. I’m not sure how Eileen finished the back of her masks, but I can say that the gesso recipe can be used on the front if you’d like a smoother finish. It won’t strengthen the mask, but if you don’t think the mask is strong enough, the air dry clay recipe added in a thin layer will help make it stronger. If you just need to make the inside smoother, either plaster of joint compound would work, if it’s going to be a wall mask like Eileen’s.

  • Hopefully this time it uploaded. Thanks to both of you Jonni and Eileen for all the suggestions and help. I’ll post the finished product. I still have to make other two by October 13!!! Aaarrrghh!

    • Monica, these turned out great! Just beautiful! For your earlier question, I put a thin layer of the clay on the inside and also painted it. That is a pure preference thing though. I just get a bit anal about those kind of details, especially if they are up for sale.
      Good luck getting all those masks done by your deadline. You can do it! Deadlines only increase our productivity!

  • Hi Eileen, I have been trying to write a comment3 times now and upload photo of my 2 masks. Hopefully it works now. Said 3 times: your masks are gorgeous! I have a problem with one of mine though: one of the horns broke when I was taking it off the mold. How to fix it? Tried more air clay with water but does not work. Wanna try joint compound but don’t know. Saw someone talking abut Elmer’s glue: ideas? Suggestions? HELP! Also, would Rustoleoum metallic Spray Paint give the metal effect? What paint did you use Eileen? Thanks everyone! Love the website!!!

    • Hi Monica. I’m not sure if Eileen will see your comment, so I’ll try to help. Your photo still didn’t come through, probably because the file size is too big. You can use this image resizer tool to make it smaller if you’d like to try again. I hope you will, although I know it can be frustrating.

      Joint compound alone doesn’t work to stick things permanently together. Elmer’s should work if both pieces are dry and you can keep it in the same position long enough for the glue to set. I’d also suggest covering the break with a thin layer of your air dry clay after the glue is completely dry, so there isn’t a noticeable line.
      I haven’t tried the Rustoleum spray paint. I’ll leave a direct reply to Eileen’s comment and ask her – hopefully she’ll see it and respond.

  • Eileen,
    your masks are gorgeous! I don’t doubt they sold quickly and for a good price. With my project I sir of panicked because the time of our charity event is getting near and I promised 4 masks for it. I made two following your advice ( I made a plaster mold over the plastic one with some plaster strips of the kind they use to make casts in hospitals, a friend of mine gave me a bunch of them for free, and then I used air clay because I am running out of time and had no time to make Jonni amazing air clay) but one of them broke off one of its horns when I tried to take it off its mold too early because it was still a bit wet. Now I don’t know how to fix it. I tried applying more air clay but it dries off and cracks away. I was thinking joint compound but then saw some comment here that suggested Elmer Glue as a solution because the joint compound cracks as well. Do you have any suggestions? Also, after seeing Eileen I wanted to paint them to make them look like metal ones. I bought Rusteoleum Metallic Spray Bronze color paint to be fast (expensive though!) plus some small bottles of metallic green and gold for the patina but now am afraid of trying because I don’t want to ruin them. Any help/suggestion is greatly appreciated! I am going to try to post the image of the two masks while still on the mold. Thanks for any help! I love this website, great stuff and community!

    • Monica, Jonni answered your question about the repair so I will answer about the paints. I used Sculpt Nouveau metallic bronze with a purple patina for the ones I showed you. I ordered it online so that will not solve your time problem. Try 2 coats of your metallic spray paint and when that is dry, use a dry brush technique for your green and gold. I am fairly certain they should be acrylic so if you don’t like the drybrushing effect, you can always repaint with the bronze again. When you are less busy, it is worth it to go on the Sculpt Nouveau website. They have a lot of cool products and tons of tutorials. They are also great if you have a problem-they talk you through your issues. They are pricey products but you only use a small amount so you can do a ton of sculptures. Hope this helped.
      In case you don’t know about dry brushing, you use a small amount of paint on your brush then pounce it on cardboard or something so that only a smattering of paint is on the brush. Then paint using a pouncing motion. There are some YouTube videos showing you just how to do it. Good luck and show us your results on the daily sculpture page of Joni’s blog

  • Hi Jonni,

    I am so excited to have found your website. Thank you so much for sharing what you know! I have a few questions in regards to structure and what would be the best way to go about doing things. I am doing a project on monumentalism and have constructed a large scale onion (with the leaves) using chicken wire. I was planning on laying paper mache strips all around the armature (is that the word you would use?). And once it dries I would put on a layer of the air-dry clay recipe.

    But I know that you have the other PM clay recipe, the one that is not as smooth and I think is heavier. Would you recommend that I use that or the lighter air-dry clay? I ask this because my chicken wire armature is not solid; it is just the chicken wire and so it is not as stiff as it would be a bunch of crumpled up packed new paper.

    Would you suggest that I stuff my chicken wire armature with newspaper or is the PM clay strong enough when it dries?

    Also, I just read up in the other comments that someone’s clay was cracking. Just to clarify, do I use the glue and water PM recipe and paint that on top of the paper strips that I already laid out on my chicken wire armature and dried, and then the thin layer of PM clay, and then paint another layer of the glue and water PM recipe on top of that when it dries?

    And once it dries, can i just start painting on top of the dry clay? Is the clay able to be carved when it dries?

    I would greatly appreciate you expertise. Thank you!

    • Hi Angela. If your onion is as big as I imagine it is, you should use the original paper mache clay recipe. It’s stronger than the air dry clay recipe, and it goes on a lot faster. You don’t need the glue and water mixture if you use the original recipe. You will need to cover all the holes in your chicken wire, but you can do that with wide masking tape, which would be faster, but more expensive. Getting paper strips and paste to stick to chicken wire is challenging – I don’t normally use chicken wire (the cut ends poke holes in me, and I don’t like that), but many people do. You can paint the paper mache clay, and you can carve it. You can also add a thin layer of the air dry clay over the dried paper mache clay, if you need a smoother finish. To do that, you would need the glue and water mixture over the pm clay. You can also use it to help you smooth the surface of the wet air dry clay.

      I don’t think the air dry clay is lighter than the original paper mache clay. It uses the same ingredients, with the addition of corn starch, and with less paper. It can’t be spread over an armature with a knife, and it takes longer to make sure each individual piece is well attached to all the other pieces, so you don’t get any cracks as it dries.

      The paper mache clay is strong enough to hold up on its own without a solid armature underneath, but you won’t want to handle it roughly. If the onion is dropped or someone leans on it, it could crack or get squashed. Because you have a fairly large project and you’d probably like to know how to handle the material before you start, you really should do a test piece with a spare piece of chicken wire and some PM clay, let it dry, and see if you think it will be strong enough for your needs. Don’t use more than 1/4″ thick layer at a time – if you need it to be stronger, wait for the first layer to dry and then add more.

      I haven’t had any problem with the clay cracking. I think that was just one individual who had problems with it. They may have been using a very solid base that didn’t allow the clay to shrink when it dried.

  • It actually helps a lot Eileen! As to what “gesso” is, I am sorry it’s plaster, I was just using the Italian name for it because I couldn’t remember how to saynitnin english at the time (English is not my first language πŸ™‚

  • I have been using this and the other papermache clay recipe you have listed in costume making for sometime now. Absolutely love it’s practical use for indoors verses the typically used fiberglass and resin. I have found that after sanding if this is coated in a waterproof wood glue like titebond3 or fiberglass resin it can endure weather quite well. Thanks for the recipes.

    • Thanks, Jamie. And you’re more than welcome. How long have you left sculptures coated with Titebond 3 out in the weather? It does say “waterproof” on the label. Do you think it’s a permanent way to waterproof a sculpture? I worry, even with fiberglass, that a tiny pinhole could be all that water needs to get in an ruin a sculpture. Does that not seem to be a problem with your system?

  • Hello everyone i wanted to know if these recipes are waterproof or will i need to do that once im done with some kind of spray ? I have some garden ideas i hope to create. Thank you. ?

    • No, they’re not waterproof. I don’t know of any way to make a paper-based material waterproof, except to completely encase it with plastic. Even then you’d need to reapply the plastic on a regular basis because the sun will degrade the plastic and it will start to crack. Marine varnish will keep a temporary paper mache holiday display usable for a week or two, but I don’t recommend using any of my recipes outside for permanent display. Why put hours of your creative time into making your masterpiece out of a paper-based recipe, only to watch the weather destroy it?

      But I don’t want to discourage you from making some garden sculptures. I just hope you’ll use a product that’s intended for outdoor use. I recommend epoxy clay for small sculptures, and concrete for larger sculptures. I have made a few concrete sculptures, but I’m not an expert by any means. I recommend any of the books by Sherri Warner Hunter to learn more. And be sure to see Eileen’s guest post about making outdoor sculptures with Pal Tiya here.

  • I have just made a batch actually 3 and I added Tea Tree essential oil to it also to hopefully cut down on mold…

  • Hi I was wondering if you could use Linseed oil instead of mineral oil, and if perhaps adding a small amount of bleach might help prevent the mold issue if the clay is stored for more than a few days?

    • Yes, you can use linseed oil. And the bleach could help prevent mold. You can also keep the air dry clay workable longer by keeping it in the freezer. Or so I’ve been told – I tend to use mine up quickly, because my projects are fairly large.

    • You should NEVER use lineseed oil for projects like this. Lineseed oil gets rancid faster than any other oil, most time it is already rancid when you buy it. If you use it for paperclay or anything else, your project will start to smell bad very soon. Bleach won’t help you at all, because oil doesn’t get moldy, it gets rancid, and there is nothing bleach can do against it. Using bleach is overall a nonsensical idea. Ever left a bottle of bleach open…?
      You should definitely just use a stable oil like rapeseed oil and not make curious chemical experiments with your paperclay.

      • Hi Karla. My experience has been different from yours, but perhaps because I used the linseed oil you get at the hardware store, not the grocery store. In fact, my original paper mache clay recipe uses linseed oil, although I don’t recommend using it if kids are helping because they probably don’t want to use gloves. I now use mineral oil exclusively (baby oil) because it’s easier to find. You can actually leave out the oil entirely, and it won’t make much difference in the final product.

        I sometimes add a teaspoon of bleach when I’m making the recipe because it kills the mold spores that are already present on the flour and other ingredients. It does evaporate, as I think you were suggesting, so it isn’t a permanent solution. The best way to prevent mold is to make up only as much of the recipe as you can use in one day, use thin layers on your sculpture so it can dry quickly, and use a fan to speed up the drying time. If you do have some air dry clay left over, make sure you put it in an air-tight container and put the container in the fridge for a few days, or put it in the freezer for longer storage.

      • Karla, then how on earth would you explain artists who use linseed oil in oil paintings? Your issue with linseed oil isn’t really all that much of a concern. Linseed oil has been used in oil paintings and wood finishes for years.

        That said, I would be careful with using linseed oil. Not for the reason that Karla gave, but it is actually flammable. As it dries, it generates heat and can get so hot that, yep, it can burst into flames. If you are familiar with linseed and know how to use it, you’ll probably be aware of all this. Definitely be careful with it and use in an area with good airflow if you choose to use it. I’d suggest another oil if at all possible if you haven’t been working with it for awhile and know of the pitfalls.

        Here’s an ABC News article about the flammability of linseed oil: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/ConsumerNews/summer-safety-diy-dangers-linseed-oil/story?id=11328546

        Just don’t want anyone to get hurt. <3

  • Hello! I have been struggling with cracking air dry clay that I used over my previously paper mache armature using strips. Do you possibly know why it is crackying or if I use this clay recipe would it crack as well? Thank you so much!

    • Hi Charlene. The cracking is almost always caused by the clay shrinking as it dries, and this recipe will also shrink. However, I haven’t had a problem with cracking unless I forget to use the glue and water mixture to moisten the edges of the pieces of wet clay so they stick together really well. Without the glue and water the pieces can separate when they’re drying.

      You might also want to brush the mixture over your paper strips and paste so the air-dry clay will stick to the paper mache. That might help even with a commercial product. If you have some in the house and you’re in the mood to experiment, you can give it a try.

  • I going to try this with small silicon-moulds. The bought paper clay is so expensive, making a lot of mixed-media pictures and using it on cards and other things. Like your new recipe with weight instead of cups, we have another here in Sweden (deciliter) and that makes it harder to get right… ThankΒ΄s for your easy to understand-videos that you share with us!!

  • Hi Jonni, I just discovered your website, it’s awesome. πŸ™‚
    I have a questione : if the clay can be used only as a thin layer over an armature, how about subject that requires “no armature” (as flower petals for example?)

    Thank you so much

    • Here in the USA the drywall joint compound is a gypsum product that comes in a plastic tub, and it’s used to seal up the seam between two sheets of plaster board (drywall) that cover the wood studs on a wall. This product is not available everywhere, because houses are built with other materials in different countries. You can usually find a gallon container in a paint store or DIY center, if it’s available.

  • Hi! Has it got to be cornstarch? Does potato starch function as well? I haven’t found any corn starch in my local shop, but potato starch I have at home…

    • I can’t buy potato starch at my local store so I can’t test it. However, I can’t see why it wouldn’t work, as long as the potato starch is really fine and powdery, not flakes. It may not be as absorbent, but it could even work better. Since you already have some on hand, give it a try.

      • Hi, thank you for your quick reply! I will try, and if it works I’ll post it here. I love your works and your sharing of expertise.

    • Not sure how far from civilization you live, but corn starch is a super common ingredient for cooking, and there’s not a lot of competition brand-wise, so it might be hard to spot. Argo is the only brand I’ve ever seen. You should find it in the baking aisle of your grocery store, and is usually found on the top shelf near the yeast over all the flour selections.

      • Thanks Rose, I did find it, We call it maizena. But before I found it I used potatostarch, and that worked very well too. A bit different in how much of the wheat flour that was needed.( But I never use all the flour in the recipie anyway, always end up with some left.) Thanks!

  • Hi Jonni,
    first of all you really do amazing stuff, congratulations! I just bought your book on masks because I will need to do several masks inspired to the Greek tragedy. The masks will be used as decoration for a benefit event inspired to Greece and my idea would be to do two masks (tragedy and comedy) and one others inspired to satires, gods and the like. I am planning on using some plastic molds as an armature for the mask. I wanted to ask you if you believe your paper mache recipe or the air clay one would be best for this project. I saw that in your book you seem to never use the air clay for the masks but I am afraid the paper mach would not be easy to use in order to make details like curls for the hair and/or grapes on their head like I am planning to. What do you advise to do? Thanks and, again, amazing job!

    • Hi Monica. I don’t normally use the pm clay for the main body of a mask that’s intended to be worn, because it dries so hard and isn’t very comfortable. But for a display mask, it would work just fine. The air dry clay recipe on this page is smoother than the original recipe, but it has less paper so it’s not quite as strong. Some people use this recipe as a second layer, over the original recipe, so they can have the best qualities of both versions. Others like to make the main shapes with paper strips and paste, just so they have a base, and then they add the air dry clay for details.

      Just to complicate things by giving you another option, you can use a few layers of plaster cloth for that basic shape, (in place of the paper strips and paste), and use your pm clay on top of that. The plaster cloth hardens really fast, and you can start applying your details even before the plaster cloth is fully dry. This would make a heavier mask, and it wouldn’t be a great idea for one you wear, but it does speed up the making of a display mask.

      I hope you’ll let us see your masks when they’re done. This sounds like a really fun project.

    • Hi Monica, if I could step in for a second, I made similar masks that you are describing, not to be worn but to be displayed. I used the plastic form twice with regular paper mache first (the newspaper strips and flour and water combo.) Then I could cut the masks so that one would smile and the other would frown. After that was done, I used Jonni’s smooth air dry clay over the initial layer, added detail, etc. It worked really well.
      By the way, I entered it into an art show and it did sell for $375. I had finished it with a metallic coating- iron coating with a patina. It looked kind of rusty iron when finished. a fun project. I wish you much luck with yours. When you are done, please make sure you post a picture on the daily sculptors page. We love seeing other’s work.

      • Eileen,
        Do you have any picture of your finished product by any chance? I just made a first attempt using only a plastic mask as a base, before reading both Jonni’s and your expert advice to have a papier mache mold underneath, and learned quickly why I should have followed that step. Oh well! I attach a picture of my first try; trial and error!

        • oops – I’ll jump in here, Monica, because the image you tried to upload didn’t come through. I hope you’ll edit the image to make it smaller, and try again. I know Eileen (and the rest of the crowd) would love to see your mask.

            • As you can see from the image above I still have a lot to learn and wanted to thank you for all the input and advice; it’s such a fun project that I would spend all day long working at it and making it better if such an annoying detail like having to work for a living did not get in the way of it!

            • It does work. The character in your mask’s face is quite compelling – it almost begs me to start telling a story that would explain how he feels.

        • I am sorry, I did not get an email that you had responded and just saw your response. I do have a pic and I think I did post it a while back but I will post it again. I like your mask, you can be as critical as you like but I think it is fun and definitely worth finishing…he needs his partner done as well!

          • Actually, I just noticed that this is not the one I sold at the art show but it was very similar, though I placed it on a wood background to hang on the wall. You get the idea though.

          • One more question Eileen: you said you used paper mache and then cut it. How did you do it? I got some gesso strips from a friend of those they use to make casts and it seems to me that it will dry so hard that I won’t be able to cut it really. And If I tried to cut it while wet it would probably be a mess. Any advice? Thanks!

            • When I cut the paper mache, it was the paper strips and flour method that dried like it was several layers of newspaper thick and easy to cut with just scissors. I do not know what gesso strips are but if they were used as casts and it has plaster in it, you are right about it drying too hard. Though a few layers might be ok if you used an
              exacto knife. I don’t know if that helps.

          • Hi Eileen. Monica asked some great questions about your masks, and I tried to answer them as well as I could. However, I couldn’t tell her what paint you used for these masks. Her comment (two of them, actually) are at the top of the comment list here. I hope you see this so you can help her out.

Leave a Comment

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.

Heads up! You are attempting to upload a file that's too large. Please try a smaller file smaller than 250KB.

Note that images greater than 250KB will not be uploaded.

5K Shares
Tweet
Share278
Pin4K
+112