New Smoother Air-Dry Clay Recipe

Note: I recently uploaded a video showing a better way to measure your ingredients for the air-dry clay. You can see it here. And I recently published the book that I developed this recipe for – you can see it here. The orangutan didn’t make it into the book – but it shows you how to make lots of other very nice dolls, and it already has some great review on :)
I’ve been working hard this week, developing methods for making the baby animal dolls that will appear in my next book. One thing I worked on was making a new recipe for the dolls that could be made smoother than the original paper mache clay. I tried a number of different versions, and all but one ended up in the trash. This one, though, really does what I wanted it to do.In fact, if you first smooth it with your finger and the glue mix, like I show in the video, let it dry, and then very lightly sand it with a very fine sandpaper, it really is as smooth as porcelain. It’s still really hard, though, like the original paper mache clay, so sanding does take some effort. If you look real closely at the photo here of the muzzle on the baby ‘rang, you can see how smooth it is.

I’m really liking this stuff – but I’m not sure what we should call it. It works very much like Activa paperclay (but lots cheaper, if you need more than one small batch). Let me know what you think. (The recipe is posted below the video).

Recipe for the new Air-Dry Clay:

1/2 cup wet toilet paper
1/2 cup Elmer’s glue (or any white PVA glue)
1/2 cup drywall joint compound (any brand except Dap)
1/2 cup corn starch
3 tablespoons mineral oil (baby oil)
1 cup all-purpose white flour, or as needed

Mixing instructions are in the video.

On a completely different note, my chimp has a new home. When I moved, the chimp and a few other large sculptures stayed with Pete and Dianne Havekost, my dad and his wife, so I wouldn’t have to pay to ship them to my new home. They recently found a new favorite restaurant in Bellingham that has a stuffed warthog head that reminded them of my chimp, so they asked if he could live there too. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, and you’re in the mood for some good home-style cooking, go say “hi” to the chimp at the HomeSkillet restaurant, 521 Kentucky Street, in Bellingham, WA.


200 Responses

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  1. Tenshi
    Tenshi at |

    Hello! I had just a personal question and wanted some opinions on a project. Concerning paper mache clay, it’s not necessary to always fire the project after making it, right? I want to use rice flour instead of regular flour and I was wondering if you had any experience with rice flour. Would it be alright to just use rice instead of the regular all purpose flour? Also do you think that first layering a project with typical paper mache technique (glue and paper strips) first and then adding a clay top coating is alright or would it affect the quality? Would it be better to just use clay completely? In terms of time to dry, I’ve heard lots of opinions. However, does the clay dry faster than using traditional paper mache techniques?

    Thank you! Your blog is really helpful! Please reply soon if possible. I’m kinda tight on time.

    1. Tenshi
      Tenshi at |

      I found the answer to my last question- paper mache clay is faster? Well, I also had another question. Do you recommend taking regular used computer paper and boiling it in water in place of the Toliet paper? It doesn’t really make a different how or what you use for the paper part, right?

  2. Lisa Casler
    Lisa Casler at |

    Hello Jonni!

    I was wondering about not using Dap drywall joint compound? Seems all the stores near me only have Dap brands and I don’t want to waste money buying something that won’t work.

    Thank you so much for sharing and love your amazing work!

  3. Derek Smith
    Derek Smith at |

    Hey There!
    Love your site, and your youtube channel!
    I to try the air dry clay with this current project I have, and I wanted to know if I should do a coat of the classic newspaper strip mache first. Or with the air dry clay stick directly to the masking tape with the glue “slip” mix?

    I want the end result to be super smooth so I can do a shiny powder coat on them.

    Thank you for all the inspiration!

  4. Icy
    Icy at |

    Hello, Do you have a PDF of the Recipe?

  5. Tatiana
    Tatiana at |

    Hello, Johnny! Long has it been since you never dropped. Your recipe is made, but with other components. Push 1/2 cup wet toilet paper 1/2 cup Elmer”s glue (or any white PVA glue) 1/2 glue Bustilat (thick like pudding), 1/2 Cup of potato starch, 1 Cup of chalk (calcium carbonate). This mass is very small shrinkage, is not deformed and does not grow mouldy. Smooth out the bumps may water. If that is not clear, I can make a video. Pictures of glue and mass here

  6. DJ EvenflO
    DJ EvenflO at |

    Thank you for this recipe!! It worked perfectly to make cat skulls for our zombie cat costumes! I used foam for the base and built up the clay from there. I even used it to make bone tails.

  7. Lidwin Mascarenhas
    Lidwin Mascarenhas at |

    Hi Jonni,

    Your models are amazing and i love your site.
    I am from India and i consider myself lucky to have found your clay recipe online while doing my research on clay. Your air-dry clay recipe is an ultimate one. Easy to make, cheap and it hardens up rock solid. I loved the recipe so much that i started creating small models with them and am very soon going to sell them online. Thanks to you in a big way.
    I made a few models( small jewelry, fridge magnets ,paper weights,etc.) using your recipe. But i am facing a slight problem. Some of the models crack while they dry and loose the smooth finished look. Can you please suggest how to prevent that from happening. Also i want to know how to avoid the clay from smelling ( if it is kept for more than 2 days).
    I usually paint the dried project with acrylic colors. Is it fine if i apply varnish on these products to get a glossy look?
    Please suggest as to how i can make my finished product look more smoother and shiny.


  8. Angie
    Angie at |

    Hi Jonni,

    I want to make clay for a classroom of 26 students who range from 4th-9th grade. I want to teach them some simple sculpting. Possibly some small animal sculptures or maybe some small vessels (vases or bowls). I have some questions. First, how much clay per student would you suggest? I am trying to determine how many students could make something from one batch of your recipe. And also, could the quantity needed be kept for a few days? I realize it will take me a while to make this amount and I am wondering what my time investment for preparing the clay might be? Also, from what I have read on your site, I am thinking the silky smooth air dry clay would be good, but wondered if you had another suggestion for this application?

    From other posts, it looks like you are really good at responding, so thanks in advance for the help!

    1. Daryll
      Daryll at |

      try using foam insulation board, as thick as you can find, and using Elmer’s glue and tooth picks, to create animal bodies and legs. I have done this with kids many times. you can even use sticks forced into the foam for legs, and use plastic foam packing for bodies. this will serve as a strong and sturdy armature for paper mâché. I’ve found jonie’s blue shop paper towels with the plaster of Paris/ Elmer’s glue, makes a really great layer, which can be painted on. You don’t even need to make paper clay.

  9. Chawol
    Chawol at |

    I substituted white firing clay, no grog, for the flour called for in the air dry clay. After working with it, and it worked fine, I can tell you that it makes a strong finished project. It does however take a lot of glue/water mixture to help it bond onto itself. Once dry it is very tough to sand . I have to enlist the help of my Dremel to help me polish and sand down. I want to try marble dust next. If I can figure a way to lower the MB resolution I will post my finished little feet. Thank you again.

  10. ann
    ann at |

    this may be a silly question, but several years ago i made a paper mache “thing” and after it sat on my shelf for a while, it got infested with weevils! so, i’ve been hesitant to use flour in my “recipe.” have you ever experienced that and is there something i can put in the mix to keep the weevils away?

    thank you,

  11. Adding Sculpt Nouveau Iron Coating to the Raven Sculpture | Ultimate Paper Mache

    […] And if you’d like to play around with the new air dry clay recipe, you can find it here: […]

  12. susan
    susan at |

    Thanks for all your feed back and experience . Have you ever used this air
    dry clay over porcelain ( fired ) heads . I’m also concerned with the danger
    of mineral oils now…. How can the sell these products , especially baby oil ?
    Could there be a correlation between this and autisms , or other cancers ?
    It’s bad enough all our foods have added dangers …… help ! We need to start
    giant small development gardens , three to four lots , that have never been used
    for cotton , or other crops sprayed for years with poison , or next to herds of
    animal waste ….scarry

  13. Queenie Marie A. Maquilang
    Queenie Marie A. Maquilang at |

    Hello, Jonni. I have been follower of your videos on YouTube. My favorite was the cat paper mache you made. I plan to make a dragon paper mache. Thing is, our local hardware doesn’t sell joint compound. Would you suggest a replacement for that?

    Thank you.

  14. Sue
    Sue at |

    Hi Jonni, thanks so much for all that advice and help. I’m going to make a huge pumpkin (at least 24 inches wide) to make a Cinderella Coach for my dog to pull in parades.

    Frustratingly, the video on mixing Air Dry Clay seems to have gone AWOL again. Is it on Youtube? If you would like I will send you a picture of Cinderella’s Coach when it’s finished. Photo of the current dog cart with my grand-daughter and oldest dog is attached.

  15. Joy
    Joy at |

    You can find calcium carbonate at a ceramics supply store. A local one here carries 5 lb for $7.50.

  16. saji
    saji at |

    I Planning to make a new sculpture with more details in it. So I want the clay not drying for maximum time while working and I want smooth finishing also. Which clay recipe is best for this .Pls. advise.

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    […] a patch-stitched dress on it. The head:  I can take a Styrofoam head, add the modeling clay from The Ultimate Paper Mache recipe and paint it. Yet, I’m interested in hearing what others would […]

  18. Jim
    Jim at |

    Hi Jonni,
    I wanted to ask you a simple question about Paper Mache. I’ve been trying my hand in pepakura modeling and was wondering if paper mache would be a good coating to make EVA foam hard or sturdy? What do you think? Thanks.


  19. Carol
    Carol at |

    Thank you for the recipe. I was looking for a paper mache recipe to make gum drops for my granddaugher’s candyland party. This sounds like I can do so much more. I will post my pics when I complete them.

  20. Morgan
    Morgan at |

    Hi Jonni,
    I mentioned a few weeks back that I would try your new air dry clay recipe with calcium carbonate in place of the flour. The batch was very successful, and using wet fingers did result in a little slip, rather than a little glue which is what the flour gives you. Both batches behaved fairly similar but the most important difference in my mind, however, is how well it keeps. The batch with the flour went moldy within 4 days, and it’s been around 3 weeks and the batch with calcium carbonate has no mold growth.

  21. Caramel
    Caramel at |

    Does this recipe when dry , shrink ?

  22. Jlou
    Jlou at |

    Here’s a photo of our project! Thanks again!

  23. Jlou
    Jlou at |

    thank you for all the secrets to the magic, Jonni!

  24. Tigre
    Tigre at |

    Hi Jonni,
    thank you so much for this site, it is a wonderful resource!
    I’ve been using this recipe on a couple sculpture projects to wonderfully satisfying effect.

    i’m attaching a progress photo – the face has been cast over a positive mold plastilina sculpt, the hand was directly modeled over a wire/foil/tape armature. i’ve also had great success casting into a negative silicone mold (with very thin rolled out sheets of clay)
    i’ve been especially excited about the translucency that can be achieved when casting in very thin sheets, and the wrinkle texture that comes from playing with the surface after the initial “skin” layer has started to set. (it’s wonderful for this grandmother piece)

    i have a couple questions for you: have you tried this recipe with different paper? i would like to make a brown-colored version and was thinking of using recycled brown paper towels – do you think it would break down enough to be smooth?
    secondly, i am looking to use this clay in a live-sculpting performance and was wondering if a heat gun would work to rapidly expedite the drying process. have you tried that?

    thanks again, i’ll send more photos as the project progresses


  25. Jlou
    Jlou at |

    Hi there! My kids and I made some large costume heads with your (wonderful) new paper clay recipe. I went to Lowe’s for more joint compound, and the ONLY brand they had was Dap. So, in a pinch, I bought it. Wanted to tell you that it worked PERFECTLY! (I’ve used your recipe before, with the Sheetrock brand of joint compound, as suggested) This time, using Dap, I had no problem whatsoever. The Ox and the Fox heads are terrific fun, I’ll share photos soon, but thought I’d let you (& wary readers) know that the Dap brand doesn’t always fail. Thank you for everything you’ve given to us, Jonni!

  26. Carol
    Carol at |

    Am really inspired by your work, Jonni. Imade a batch of your paper mâché clay today and started on a small project. The clay came out a bit lumpy and dry and I’ve found the answer by reading your replies to others’ questions. I did soak the paper until it fell apart! But I think I’m using the wrong joint compound because it seems to be setting in the airtight container before I’ve had a chance to use it. I thought I’d read somewhere in the comments which brand to use in Australia but can’t find it now . Do you keep a note if that sort of thing? If you do please could you tell me? Thank you for sharing so much information. You are very generous. All the best, Carol McGill, Queensland, Australia.

  27. Liezyl Steyn
    Liezyl Steyn at |

    Hi Jonni,

    I’m looking to create costume armor out of Paper Mache, and came accross your wonderful site!

    I was thinking that the paper mache clay may be much more durable than standard paper mache. Do you think that it would be wearable and less prone to wear-damage?

    Thanks :)

    1. Angela
      Angela at |

      I recently found Jonni’s site and made a very durable (kid tested) Lego head and two Lego hands for a costume using her shop towel paste recipe. First, I used a styrofoam base, which I carved, glued together and sanded into the shape I wanted before pasting the shop towels on top. The shop towels act as a skin that can be stretched and smoothed over the entire styrofoam surface to make are hard outer shell. It worked great because it smoothed out the crater-like texture of the styrofoam. As Jonni said, apply thin layers (I only used two shop towel layers) or else it will get too heavy and it does not dry well with thick paste layers. I put on 1 layer of shop towel/paste, let it dry, then did the second layer of shop towel/paste because I wanted it perfectly smooth and dry in between the layers. I had a problem with feathering the shop towel pieces together, but that requires practice and patience. Take your time and it will turn out great. The towels did leave a texture from the absorbant print of the towels, so I finished it with her “Plaster Based Gesso” and wet sanded it, then applied her “Smooth Gesso” recipe, which dries like porcelain. Once dry, I spray painted it with Krylon gloss spraypaint and then a clearcoat spraypaint. Since this was my first time making anything like this, there were a few imperfections from my learning curve, but I was very pleased with how this turned out and so were others! The finished costume with styrofoam, and layers of shop towel skin, plaster based gesso, smooth gesso, gloss spraypaint and clearcoat spraypaint is very hard and durable, yet not too heavy. To my dismay, friends of my sons, amazed at how real the costume looked, tested its durability by literally “knocking” on the surface of the costume with their fists and “banging it on the table” to see how hard it was. NO damage occured! Jonni has several books for sale with great tips; and buying her books is a nice way to say “thank you” for her blog.

      From Jonni:
      “Plaster-Based Gesso Mix:
      1 tablespoon (15 ml) white glue
      2 teaspoons (10 ml) water
      2 tablespoon (30 ml) plaster of Paris
      ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) vinegar to slow down the hardening of the mix
      Small dab of white craft paint (optional)

      This mixture can be sanded when it’s dry, or you can use a slightly damp sponge to smooth it, which is much easier and less messy. The second recipe can go on over the first and leaves no brush marks, so you can get a porcelain finish if that’s what you’re after:

      Really Smooth Gesso Mix
      1 tablespoon (15 ml) white glue
      ½ teaspoon (2 ml) cold water
      ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) vinegar
      ½ tablespoon (7.5 ml) plaster of Paris”

      1. Liezyl Steyn
        Liezyl Steyn at |

        Wow Angela that looks amazing! I’m so excited to start my project this weekend!

        Thank you so much for all the advice <3

  28. Amalia Satizabal
    Amalia Satizabal at |

    Hello! I have known the paper clay recipe for a long time but wasn’t able to fing any Joint Compound in Italy, now that I moved back to Colombia I have found it here, yei! I was wondering if you could mix both the cornclay and the paperclay, as to do the rough general layer with paperclay and then adding the details with cornclay, do you think it would stick? Thank you so much for your generosity and sharing your recipes, I can’t wait to begin sculping with it!


  29. Mehu
    Mehu at |

    I made a mountable dog head with your old recipe. I am excited to try this new one.

    I love your videos!!!

  30. Susan
    Susan at |

    I was dismayed to see that your new recipe for the Air-Dry Clay contains mineral oil.

    The WHO classifies untreated or mildly treated mineral oil (from petroleum) as Group 1 carcinogens; highly refined oils are classified as Group 3, meaning they are not suspected to be carcinogenic but available information is not sufficient to classify them as harmless. There is food-grade mineral oil, but I doubt that is what baby oil is.

    Mineral oil is absorbed into the body through the skin, and is known to impede the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A (and precursors), D, E, K and essential fatty acids. The lower grades appear to contain neurotoxins which can damage the nervous system, and it mimics estrogen.

    The only similar (but safe) type of oil that are safe for for using with eggs is Jojoba oil. It is more expensive than mineral oil, but so is cancer.

    If people still want to continue using mineral oil (it’s easy to find, and cheap), please advise them to use latex or nitrile gloves so their skin doesn’t absorb the stuff.

    We are exposed to so many chemicals these days that we have to pay attention. The average newborn baby already has over 200 foreign chemicals in it’s body.

    Your work is WONDERFUL! Beautiful and innovative, creative, and thanks a big bunch for being so generous with your recipes.


    1. Carmen
      Carmen at |

      I guess the massage oil was a good choice for me to use, then, lol. I thought I had seen glycerin as an option. I like that you can adjust it to be able to use it as you want or need to. We are faced with many chemicals and hazards. I know the last time I went to home depot or lowe’s for some bolts and screws, I didn’t know until I bought them that on the package it said they were known to have something in them that is hazardous to your health? I needed them for my kitchen table to put the legs on, I had lost the originals while the table has been stored broken down. I would never have thought I would see such a label on a package of bolts and screws. But I didn’t put them in my mouth and only had contact with them for the time it took to put four legs on, and washed right after, so I hope I am ok.
      I hope within reason, these recipes can be worked with and enjoyed. I tried to find out more info on this subject and I do see of course pros and cons. If one is constantly using it, I would think you would need to take some precautions. I see that a lot of the concern is taking it in to your body in foods. It is good to be careful on things as I know our skin absorbs a lot. I will keep it in mind and try to be safe as I will when I use certain paints and varnishes and such for the finishes on these pieces.
      Thanks again for all you do and for this site where we can share information and those concerns along with such great creativity.

  31. Eva Livingstone Strand
    Eva Livingstone Strand at |

    I have not read all the comments, maybe you someone already gave you this suggestion, why not call this clay, “Corn clay” or maybe “PM corn clay”!

    I am about to try it now. And thanks alot for being so generous with your ideas!

  32. Traci
    Traci at |

    Hi Jonni,
    I’ve never sculpted anything before. My son has to built the sphinx for a school project. So far I built up the base with boxes. I was thinking about paper mâché ‘g it but the head of the sphinx is like an ‘A’ frame barn house. How do you suggest I attach the ‘wings’ of his head to the actual head??? (Does that make sense?)

    1. Hello
      Hello at |

      Jonni what kind of toilet paper do u use?

  33. Sukie Nemeth
    Sukie Nemeth at |

    Sorry it took me so long to post this. Your air dry clay was much easier to work with than the commercial variety. I left mine a little loose since I was going to use a clay tool to make ropes for “frosting” on the cakes. I was able to get a lot more detail with your clay than the commercial. I think I need a better mixer since I bought a cheap one and it could not get the smoothness that I was looking for with it. The only downside to having it so loose was it took longer to dry but I put it in a warm oven for a bit and that helped. The great thing about this clay is that it has very little shrinkage and the commercial kind tended to have the layers of the cakes lift away from each other as they dried and yours did not. In the photo the cake on the left is the commercial clay and the one on the right is your air dry clay. Thanks for the recipe!


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