Paper Mache Recipes, Tips, Techniques, and Experiments

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.

Puppy doll head, in progressI’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.

I dries really hard, though, like the original paper mache clay, so sanding does take some effort. If you look real closely at the photo of the puppy head I made for my doll book, you can see how smooth it is.  It works very much like air dry clay you can buy at the hobby store, (but lots cheaper, if you need more than one small batch). Let me know what you think.

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 at the top of the page.

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


  • Hi Jonni
    Would I be able to store this in the fridge…I need to make a lot for an art week…

    • Yes, you can do that. Make sure you cover it securely. A piece of plastic wrap pressed down against the clay in the container, and then a tight lid. You can even put it in the freezer, if you would have time to thaw it out again before working.

  • Hi Jonni:

    Can you apply the “New smoother Air Dry Clay” directly to the form without first using the paer strip and glue method?


    • I have used it directly over plaster cloth and over masking tape. I have not tried it over a foil armature, but I think it would work because the clay would be pushed down into the crevices in the crumpled foil, which would hold it in place. But I’m just guessing, since I haven’t tried it. What kind of form are you intending to use?

  • Hi Jonni. Can i use this new air dry recipe to finish off my paper mache project. Can i apply it over the paper mache made with newspaper strips and the usual flour ,water and glue mixture?

    • Hi Ester. Yes, you can add the air dry clay to dried paper mache. It isn’t very sticky, so you might need to brush some glue onto the paper mache before pressing the clay onto it. It’s great for adding the details.

      • Hi Jonni,
        When i add the air dry clay to the dry paper mache how thick should it be. How much time is needed for the clay to dry completely (approximately)

        • I usually add no more than 1/8″ to 1/4″ at a time. This keeps the drying time at a minimum. You should be able to get a thin layer dry in 24 to 48 hours, if you put the item in front of a fan. It can feel dry on the surface, but still be damp underneath, so give it plenty of time.

  • Found this recipe the other day when I went back to look for the old one. It was perfect for my small sculpture I had started! Thank you so much, it’s a lot faster to use than plaster 🙂

  • 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 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 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 🙁

          • 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. 🙂

        • 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! 🙂
    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 🙂

    • 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!

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