Paper Mache Recipes, Tips, Techniques, and Experiments

New Smoother Air-Dry Clay Recipe

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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 amazon.com. πŸ™‚
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.

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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

221 Comments

  • I love your videos please keep doing them .I am just a housewife retired c.n.a. I want to try to make a little foot dino from land before time my grandkids love the movie.do you have a video of one you made . Thank you.

  • Thank you so much for your wonderful blog. Have you ever experimented with paper clay leaving out the joint compound? Do you have a feeling for the benefits you get by add joint compound? Since I teach younger kids I would love to have a recipe without it…simple is always best when kids are around. Thanks again for your work and for sharing your skills, knowledge and experiments with us.

    • Hi Alexis. If you leave out the joint compound, you will have traditional paper pulp used by many paper mache artists. I like the smoothness and hardness I get with the addition of joint compound, but thousands of people use the more traditional recipe. Check out http://papiermache.co.uk/ for lots of great ideas.

      • Thank you for taking the time to respond. Now that you mention it, I have noticed that the dough without joint compound is a little lumpier than I would like. I appreciate your help. Thanks s again.

      • jonni- oh no! I watched the video only, ran out and got all the stuff and whipped up a batch- THEN I READ THE RECIPE! I used the DAP brand of joint compound! What’s going to happen now? Do I throw it out and start over? What’s wrong with DAP? Shucks πŸ™

          • Again, it depends. If your batch came out creamy, like it’s supposed to, you may have found the magic way of using DAP without issue – by changing the glue. If your batch worked out nicely, please let us know what brand of glue you used.

          • Sorry – I just went back and read your comment better. I just spent the day on a plane, and my brain is a little fuzzy. We have the brand – just let us know if it worked. πŸ™‚

        • If your recipe didn’t get rubbery, you’re fine. Sometimes, the Dap brand will turn into little rubber balls when it’s mixed with the glue. Sometimes it doesn’t. If it does, you can’t fix it, but if it doesn’t, you don’t have to worry about it. I think they may use different recipes in different factories, although I don’t really know if that’s true or not.

          I have noticed that it may stiffen up faster than usual, even if it doesn’t get rubbery. But it still seems to work. Let us know if your batch turned out OK, or not. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  • Hello
    I haven’t tried your clay yet, but it seems exactly what I need. I searched through like hundreds of pages to find it! πŸ™‚
    I’d really like to make some of your clay, but cornstarch is hard to find where I live. Can I use potato starch instead? If yes, do the measures stay the same?
    And I don’t know much about glues, but do you think I could use CR glue instead of PVA? I have a lot of CR, so I’d prefer to use it, not to buy another kind πŸ™‚

    • Hi Ania. I’m afraid I haven’t tried potato starch, but it would probably work. And I don’t know what CR glue is. The chemical reaction between the PVA glue and the calcium carbonate in the joint compound is what causes the home-made clay to get so hard when it dries. The only way to see if the same thing happens with your glue is to do some experiments, and see what happens.

  • Hi Jonni,

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. It has been very helpful.

    I’m just having issues with molds growing on some of my finish products. What could have caused it? Any tips on preventing it? I’m not sure if it was just a coincidence but this only happened when I switched to a different brand of joint compound.

    Thanks in advance and God bless!

    • Hi Winter. Your pieces shouldn’t get moldy if they were totally dry before you painted them, and if you sealed them with a good varnish. did those things happen? The change in joint compound brands shouldn’t make any difference – I think I’ve used them all (except the DAP brand, which doesn’t seem to work) and I haven’t seen any mold growing on anything.

      In the future, you can add some salt to the mixture, or add a few drops of oil of clove. Then be sure to dry the piece as fast as possible, in front of a fan, if possible. Use thin layers of clay so there won’t be any moisture hiding way inside the sculpture when the outside feels dry. And seal it really well so moisture can’t get in from the air.

      I hope this helps. If you’re already doing these things and still having problems, let us know and we’ll try to unravel the mystery.

      • Thanks for the quick reply Jonni!

        I actually don’t paint the pieces but only seal them with a Mod Podge waterbase sealer. Is this okay or should I use a different sealer?

        • Hi Winter. I’m not familiar with the Mod Podge products, but I know their regular product is a form of white glue, and is not waterproof. They do have an acrylic sealer, though, that probably would be waterproof.

          I think my suggestion would be to use something other than what you’re using now, since you’re having problems with mold. I don’t live in a particularly humid area (sort of, being in Minnesota, but not as bad as Louisiana…) and I have never had any problems with mold growing on pieces sealed with acrylic varnish. To be honest, I sometimes skip the varnish (I shouldn’t, I know…) but if the piece is painted with acrylic paint, and I don’t forget and leave it down in a musty old basement, it doesn’t get mold.

          The Krylon clear coat spray product is easy to use, and one can seems to go a long way. If you use several coats, it seams to seal a sculpture well enough for indoor display. You can find some at almost any hardware store. Or try using some matte acrylic varnish from the art store. Do one test, and see if it helps.

  • Can this be carved? I am wondering because I want to make a halloween jack-o-lantern that I can carve a face on after it dries. If it’s too hard when dry can holes be carved out while it’s drying?

    • You can drill holes in it, but to carve it you would need to use really thick layers. And I don’t know if it would dry fast enough if used that way – it could get moldy before it dries. It will dry hard, but may chip or crack when you go to make the holes. I think it would be a good idea to make a small batch and play around with it, to see if it will do what you want it to do. If you do that, please let us know the results of your tests!

      • Thanks so much for your response! I found some tutorials regarding paper mache pumpkins on youtube that recommend the paper strip method first, followed by the pm clay for surface texture and details. I’m still going to experiment with carving the clay, just not on this experiment (Halloween is fast approaching!) I’ll let you know what I discover. thanks again.

  • Can this be used for an Essential Oil Diffuser? As in can you add a drop or two of Essential oils to this after it dries! I am wanting to make an Essential Oil Diffuser necklace for myself. Do you think this will work and stay together well?

    Thank you.

  • Just wanted to say thank you for this AMAZING recipe! I saved so much money by using this clay versus buying a life size horse head model to display my horse tack for sale. Looks store bought and I loved how smooth it looked and the amount of detail you can render with it!
    Thank you!

  • 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.

    • 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?

  • 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!

    • Hi Lisa. My experience with the DAP brand has been uneven – it used to work just fine, then I bought a tub and it turned my pm clay into little rubber balls. I bought a tub recently for a remodeling job (it’s great for what it’s actually made for!) and I tried it with a new batch of pm clay. The clay did stiffen up much faster than usual, and wasn’t as much fun to work with, but the rubbery weirdness didn’t happen. So – I don’t recommend the brand for these recipes. I think they use boron to prevent mold, which is good when using it on a wall. But it reacts with something in the Elmer’s glue. Since it does sometimes work, though, you might be able to get a tiny container of the DAP joint compound and test it. A dab of joint compound that is mixed with a small amount of glue should become slightly more liquid, or softer. If it gets harder or even rubbery, it won’t work.

      Our Walmart has joint compound in their paint department. It’s an off-brand, but it isn’t DAP, and it works just fine.

      • I have a couple of boxes of leftover plaster of Paris. Could one use that instead of flour in the mΓ’chΓ©? I want to make platters worth the mix. Thank you. So enjoy your videos and art. Sherri

        • I don’t actually know that answer to your question, Sherri. It sounds like it might work, but I’ve never tried it. Your clay may harden sooner than you wanted it to – but maybe it won’t. Try a small test batch, to see what happens. And I’d really like to know what you learn, so keep us posted.

  • 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!
    Derek

    • Hi Derek. The air dry clay will probably stick to the masking tape – but for some reason I can’t remember ever trying it. Do a small test spot first, and see what happens. The air dry clay should keep OK in the refrigerator for several days while you experiment, if you keep it really well covered.

  • 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 http://fotki.yandex.ru/users/mimi91/album/153226/

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