Bobcat Sculpture

Paper Mache Clay

Several years ago I developed a new recipe for a sculptural material I call “paper mache clay.” This material is so easy to use and so easy to make that I now use it exclusively for all my paper mache sculptures. The recipe has now gone “viral” and is being used by artists all over the world.

It might be a bit more accurate to call this material “home-made air-dried cellulose-reinforced polymer clay,” but that’s way too hard to say (or type!), so for now, let’s just call it paper mache clay.

Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache ClayThe first video below shows how to make the paper mache clay, and the second video answers some common questions that I’ve received from readers since I first developed this recipe. Below the videos you’ll find the recipe written out, and a few comments about how it’s used. (This recipe is the basis for my book “Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.”)




I usually make mine fairly thin so it can be spread over an armature like frosting, by using less flour than the recipe calls for – but you can also make it thicker, with more flour, when you want more control over the modeling process. The clay dries extremely hard when applied in a very thin layer (1/8 to 1/4″ thick), and it seems to dry much faster than traditional paper mache pulp. (And it only takes about 5 minutes to make).

Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture

Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture

As you can see above, the clay can be modeled into fairly fine details. Using the clay for modeling feels much more intuitive than creating sculptures with paper strips and paste, and once the clay is dry it is a pleasure to paint.

The ingredients are inexpensive, and can be found at your local grocery store and hardware store. You will need:

  • Cheap toilet paper (measure the wet paper pulp, and use 1 1/4 cups – some rolls contain more paper than needed)
  • 1 cup Joint compound from the hardware store (get premixed “regular,” that comes in a plastic tub, not the dry powder form.) (Not sure what Joint compound is, or what it’s called in your country? click here.)
    Note:  The DAP brand does not work. All other brands will work just fine.
  • 3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue-all (PVA glue)
  • 1/2 cup White Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Linseed Oil or Mineral Oil (Linseed oil contains chemicals, so mineral oil is a better choice if you’re working with kids, or if you like to get your hands in the clay)

See the video below for details on making your clay. And if you try this recipe, please let us all know what you think of it–and also please share a photo of your finished work. We’d love to see how it comes out. (Can’t see the video? See the instructions printed below).

[Edit 2/12/2011 –  If you find that your clay seems “rubbery” instead of smooth and creamy, you may need to use a different brand of joint compound. They all make their products using different formulas. Most of them work, but if you find one that doesn’t, please let us know. ]

Making Your Paper Mache Clay


You’ll also need a large bowl, (use one with high sides so you don’t splatter clay on your cupboards), an electric mixer, a measuring cup and a tablespoon measure. To keep t he finished clay from drying out, you’ll need an air-tight container. The recipe makes approximately 1 quart of paper mache clay.

Note about Toilet Paper:

Unfortunately, the people who make toilet paper don’t expect us to turn their product into great works of art, so they see no reason to include the kind of information that would make things a lot easier for us.

I use a brand called “Angel Soft,” in the “regular” 2-ply rolls. I buy it at my local Wal-Mart. Each roll contains approximately 1 1/4 cup of paper, which I measured by wetting the paper, squeezing out the water, and then firmly squishing it into a measuring cup.

Since brands differ so much, the first time you make this recipe you should take a few minutes to find out how much paper is in the first roll. Then adjust the recipe if your brand don’t contain about 1 1/4 cup of paper. Fortunately, this is not a chemistry experiment or rocket science – if your mixture contains a little more paper than mine, or a little less, your sculptures will still be stunning.

Step 1. Fill a high-sided bowl with warm water. Remove the toilet paper from the roll and throw it into the water. Push down on the paper to make sure all of it gets wet.

Step 2. Then pick up the paper and squeeze out as much water as you can. Pour the water out of the bowl and put your paper mass back in.

Step 3. You will want to break the paper into chunks about 1″ across. This will allow your mixer to move around the pieces and break them apart.

Step 4. Add all the ingredients to the bowl and mix, using an electric mixer. The mixer will pull the fibers of the toilet paper apart and turn it into pulp. Continue to mix for at least 3 minutes to make sure all the paper has been mixed in with the other ingredients. If you still see some lumps, use a fork or your fingers (with the mixer turned off!) to break them apart, and then mix some more.

Your paper mache clay is now ready to use. It will look a bit like cookie dough – but don’t eat it!

If you don’t plan to use your clay right away, place it in an airtight container to keep it from drying out. The clay should stay usable for 5 days or more, if you keep it covered. The recipe makes about 1 quart.



  • Hi Jonni,

    I’m making a 3′ hot air balloon for my daughters 2nd birthday. Right now I’ve got in 3 layers of one of the traditional papier-mâché recipes (Elmers glue-all and water), but it still isn’t hard enough! I would love to try your clay – I’m afraid to mess it up as this is my 2nd shot (the first 3 footer popped) and her party is this coming weekend so I don’t have time!
    Any idea how much of this recipe I will need to completely cover the balloon? And do you think it will work?
    Thank you from Barbados!

    • Hi Ari. Yes, it should work. I would use a very thin layer, about 1/8 inch, which will keep the weight down. One batch of the material might be enough if you use a really thin layer. If you need more, you can always make another one. It’s easiest to smooth the clay over rounded forms like that if you can find a flexible piece of plastic, like a strip cut from the top of a yogurt container, and then dip it in a mixture of glue and water. That makes it really slick, so it slides right over the wet pm clay and helps you get a nice even, smooth surface.

      Good luck with your project. I hope it turns out exactly the way you want it to.

  • Hi Jonni,

    Thank you so much for sharing your recipes – I’m very excited to try this. I have a couple of questions for you, if you don’t mind. In your update video you mentioned that you shouldn’t use your fingers to smooth the surface of the clay – why is that? I’m a mask maker and my plan is to use the clay to press into a large negative silicone mold, so I won’t be able to use a knife to spread it. Is there any reason I shouldn’t use my fingers?

    Also, I’m debating between this and the new air dry clay recipe; would you recommend one over the other for strength and hardness?

    Lastly, how much shrinkage should I expect?

    Many huge thanks!

    • Hi Kate. The original paper mache clay recipe is supposed to be sticky so it will be easy to spread over an armature. But it also makes it stick to your fingers. If you use mineral oil instead of linseed oil (because of the chemicals) and you keep your fingers wet, it might work OK.

      I believe the original recipe is stronger, because it has more paper. But I’ve never tested it. I have several sculptures made with the air dry clay recipe, and there’s no sign of damage to them. They clay was put over an armature, though, so it’s supported. For a mask, I think you’d probably want to experiment. I make masks with pm clay details over the shop towel mache or plaster cloth, but haven’t tried it by itself.

      And I haven’t done a scientific study for shrinkage, either. There will be some, though, as the water evaporates from the material.

      • I’ve been reading through the mask book and I’ve been enjoying it! I’m super excited to get started. I was wondering about mixing pm clay with the shop towel mache to add more detail to a mask, and I was curious if there was any tips or tricks you had when doing so, such as whether you wait for the shop towels to dry or not or if you needed to use a different paste to get the clay to stick better.

  • I made a triple batch. To make it easier to process the toilet paper, I soaked, squeezed and tore it into my old food processor. I pulsed it in batches and stored it until I was ready. I makes it so easy to mix when you have a lot to whip up. I measured it by packing it evenly in the measuring cup when I made the clay.

  • hi Jonni, Finished the dragon for my first and I think it turned out wonderful ive gotten lots of comments on it threw my facebook page and have truly enjoyed doing it usually I just do pumkins but I think dragons will be added to my love of building with paper mache. hope you like it thatnks for the help.

  • Hi Jonni,

    I’m wondering what would be the best papermache recipe to use in old metal candy molds, I have some double-sided molds ranging in sizes from 3 inches high to 10 inches. I’ve watched both of your videos, the original and smoother recipes and since I’m new to papermache not sure which one to try. These are two-sided molds and ideally, I’d like to join together to make up the figures. The molds themselves are wonderfully detailed and I would like to capture most of the detail if possible. Would I be able to roll out a thin amount clay 1/8″ thickness and use sections to apply inside of molds, and also wondering how long I should let the clay dry in the molds before I remove, should I initially heat metal molds with the clay in the oven to speed up drying time for removal? Thank you for this wonderful website, so informative.

    • Hi Adrian. I have never used a metal mold with either recipe, but the air dry clay will give you a smoother finish when it comes out of the mold. You need to test it to make sure it doesn’t stick to the candy molds. Also, it will shrink – both recipes shrink – and this can affect how they look after they’re dry. You won’t want to remove the pm clay from the molds until the material is dry all the way through, or the surface next to the mold will be damaged. You can roll out the clay, as you suggested, and press it into the molds, but do test a small area first. And I would not suggest heating the molds. I thin you’ll get less shrinkage, and more even shrinkage, if you put the molds in front of a fan to dry, instead.

      Please let us know how this experiment turns out.

    • Since you want detail, why not first put a small amount mixed plaster in the mold, then squish the paper clay into it to make the plaster rise up the sides of the mold? Think of the paper clay as a “filler” for the plaster

  • eu nao achei na mh cidade o composto comun e nn sei oq é e oq significa no meu pais vc pode me ajudar obg

  • Hi!

    Thank you for this recipe. I am about to make Bottom’s head for Midsummer Night’s Dream. Could you please advise me of the following:

    1- Would it be possible to use all flour instead of the joint compound as I can’t seem to find in Malaysia? Would I get the same results? Would I use the same ratio? The reason for this also because the kids will be helping me with this and I am unsure of the toxicity should I find the said compound here.

    2 – In respect of the masks, because of our humidity in Malaysia, could you please advise if I should make the mask 2-3 layers perhaps?

    Thank you.

    • Hello. If you need a recipe that doesn’t contain joint compound, I recommend doing a search for ‘paper pulp.’ It’s a much more traditional way to make paper mache, using paper and some sort of paste. Also, check out this site, where most of the projects are made with traditional methods and recipes.

      As for humidity, I know that can be a real problem with paper mache. Make your pieces with as many layers as you need to be strong enough, dry them completely (you might need to put them in an oven set to low heat to force out all the moisture) and then seal them immediately with a good varnish. The key is to get them dry all the way through and keep them dry. In some areas, that can be a real challenge.

  • Hey :)
    Your tutorial is great, thanks for posting it! I’m making a replica sword for a cosplay, and the blade is a cardboard base reinforced with a wooden dowel and duct tape, covered in masking tape and paper mache. However, after painted, I can still see the lines where the strips of newspaper were torn. Anyway I could apply a thin layer of this over the sword simply so it looks smooth and you can no longer see the lines? I have no idea how to use paper mache so hopefully you can help. Thanks! :)

    • Hi, Olivia. Yes, you could put a very thin layer of the paper mache clay over your sword, and it would dry hard, without the lines. You may get more texture than you were expecting, though, because of the paper in the mixture. To avoid that, spread your pm clay over the sword with a knife, and then dip your knife (or a tool made with the soft plastic top of a yogurt container) into a mixture of water and white glue. This will make the knife or tool really slick. You can then draw the flat side of the knife or tool over your sword, smoothing it out nicely.

      Good luck with it. Remember that the sword will be really hard after the paper mache clay is dry, so don’t be hitting anyone in the head with it when you’re playing! 😉

  • Hello Jonni I made my first batch of your paper mache, I use a different one using R13,but was looking for something smoother when I came across yours and may I say I love it so far I’m working on a small scale dragon and your clay just glided on like butter I cant wait for it to dry I know ill have to do some sanding and a few other things but I plan on having a lot of fun making more of this its totally awesome cant wait to see how may dragon turns out. Question is do you keep it in a frig or just room temp when not in use would love to know that.

    • You can put it in the fridge, covered, if you want to extend the length of time when the paper mache will stay useful. It will eventually start to go off, because the organic materials in it will grow mold in the wet state. Keeping it cold will slow this down and allow you to use the clay over a longer period of time.

      I would love to see how your dragon turns out. I hope you’ll show it to us when it’s done.

  • Hi Jonni. I tried your paper mache clay recipe and I’m happy to tell you that I love it!
    I work with paper and ceramic, and your recipe of paper mache clay is the perfect combination of my two favorite materials.
    I made the first experiment with italian ingredients but I didn’t put the linseed oil because I didn’t know if I had to use the boiled or the row one (in italian is “cotto” o “crudo”, hope I’m making the right translation :-) Anyway even without linseed oil the pulp is super… much more moldable and smooth than my old recipe. For my work is perfect. I make jewelry, I think that for small pieces is really what I need. Very soon I will try to put inside linseed oil… do you think that the boiled one is ok? Thanks for sharing your art and your tips. I wish you a creative year!!!

    • Hi Paola. I’m glad you’re enjoying the recipe. I’d love to see some of your jewelry. I just took a look at your etsy page, and I can see that you make beautiful jewelry.

      I would not use the boiled linseed oil for jewelry, because it contains chemicals that help it dry faster. I would use raw linseed oil or mineral oil (baby oil) instead.

      • Thanks a lot Jonni for your nice words about my jewelry and for your tip. I will try with baby oil… it sounds good!! Paper mache is new for me,
        I started with clay, I tried paper, more with quilling technique and now I’m making experiments with paper mache clay. I have many things to learn… but until now I really like it because you don’t need the oven like in ceramic clay and is lightweight and robust, natural and not expensive. I have some more questions but I’m not sure that here is the right place of your blog for questions. Anyway I continuous to follow your blog with your super tutorials and try to find the answers to my questions here around trying to disturb you as little as possible. And sorry because I posted by mistake twice… My first post had disappeared and I wrote it again.

        I like your work, your super well done tutorials with your gentile way and your supporting actor: your nice cat :-)

        • Hi Paola. You can add your questions anywhere you want to. When the forum gets going well, the general paper mache questions section might be the best spot, but right now, you can add questions to any post, or put your questions in a new topic on the forum, or whatever. We like questions – and there’s bound to be other people who would like to know the answer to the same questions, but they’re too shy to ask!

          I can’t wait to see how your paper mache clay jewelry turns out.

          • Hi Jonni, Paola again! I started here and maybe better to finish here, in this place of your blog.

            I try to explain my impressions about the new recipe (your paper mache clay I mean) and compare to my old one:

            The beads of my black and red necklace, if I’ll be able to upload the photo in the blog :-), are made with my old recipe:
            just mixing paper from magazines and glue, the one we use for the posters in the street, the powder that with water became glue, transparent, I think the fish glue.

            Two of the beads of the necklace, the ones in the left side that finish the curve of the necklace, that are a bit bigger and with “the heads that kiss eachother”.

            I didn’t still reach exactly the results I need for the kind of work I make.

            What I like about the new recepy:
            Tha paste with your recepy is:
            1) Much more moldable (and that’s means more possibilities, very important!)
            2) It is more compact
            3) Prepearing the paste is much quicker

            What I prefer about the old recepy:
            1) The beads are more lightweight (very important if you make jewelry)
            2) When it’s dry you can smooth it by sanding it. The beads with your recipe are so strong and robust that when I tryed to smooth them nothing changed.
            3) When I painted the beads I had the impression that the color was better absorbed with the beads of “my” recipe and don’t need the second hand of color.

            Do you have any suggestion to go in the direction I need for my work?
            I’m afraid that the material that gives malleability is even the one that gives weight… the compound… I’m a beginner… very beginner, I try to think but I don’t know.

            Ps: in the recipe I didn’t put the baby oil because I didn’t have it yet. Now I have and I will put in one of the next recipes.

            ABOUT COLOR:
            I don’t like acrylic colors, they have a plastic something that I really don’t like. I can use only some colors acrylics, like black and white and some shade of blue.
            I tried with tempera colors and in the end I used a very strong fixative. I like tempera colors.
            Have you any tutorial or suggestions about colors.

            Hope I was enough clear with my basic English and hope that my experience and questions are not too boaring!!!

            Thank you so much, Jonni


          • Hello, Paola. Are you using the air dry clay recipe, or the paper mache clay recipe? They’re very much the same, except that the air dry clay is smoother, and has less paper. It’s a little softer than the original recipe, but it still isn’t’ easy to sand.

            I don’t have a real tutorial about colors. I’ve never thought of myself as an expert painter. I’ve thought about trying watercolors with the paper mache clay, but I don’t think I have ever done that. I enjoy using colored tissue paper as a last layer, instead of painting.

        • No, I think that mineral spirits is more like a paint thinner, and the mineral oil is just oil. You can find it as baby oil in almost any grocery store, so it’s even easier to find.

      • I think so, but the dried surface will probably have more texture. You’ll need to soak the cartons in warm water, probably overnight, so they disintegrate when they’re mixed with the other ingredients.

        • Thank you for your reply. Would one egg carton for a dozen approx equal a roll or do we just have to figure it out?
          I have a teeth question. I tried Fimo, followed instructions but the teeth are really brittle, is that normal?

          • I don’t know about the quantities. You’d have to measure. Get the paper really wet, squish out the water, and see how much you have. About 1 to 1 1/4 cup will work well in the recipe.

            I’ve never used Fimo, so I can’t tell if that’s normal or not.

      • Many thanks, Jonni, for all your tips. I will try also the air dry clay and make some experiments about colors following your valuable suggestions.

        I wish you a good creative job

  • Hi Jonni. Thanks a lot for your great recipe of paper mache clay.
    I tried it with italian ingredients and I’m very happy to tell you that I love it. I work with paper and ceramic, and your paper mache clay is the perfect combination of my two favorite materials!!
    I tried the recipe without linseed oil because I didn’t know if I had to use “olio di lino cotto” o “crudo”… maybe in english is raw or boiled linseed oil. Next I will try with the boiled one but already I’m very satisfied!
    Super thanksssssss.

  • Hi,
    I have a project to fill a mold with papier mache – set, remove, dry & paint. Would this recipe work for this kind of a “mold” project? Thanks, Susan

    • If you need a very smooth surface on the finished piece, you may not be satisfied with this recipe. The high paper content tends to create voids when used in a mold. They can be filled in and repaired after the piece comes out of the mold, but it’s a lot of work.

      The air dry clay recipe might work better, depending on how big your finished piece needs to be. It isn’t as strong, so I don’t know how well it will hold up without a backing armature. With either recipe, you need to make sure the mold has no undercuts, unless you’re using a flexible mold.

      If you try either one of these recipes, be sure to use a good release, because they will stick to anything except silicone. Also, be sure they’re dry all the way through before you remove the mold, or the damp spots next to the mold could become distorted. Expect either recipe to shrink.

      One product that I really like to use with molds is Li-Qua-Che. It’s a moldable paper mache product (I have no idea what’s in it, in addition to the paper.) Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find it in small sized containers. This video I made about a year ago shows how it’s done. You use plaster molds with no release, and the product works like clay slip. Many people use paper strips and paste in molds, too – if you try it, remember to use the release.

      • Hi Jonni,
        Thank you so much for the information and tips! I’m just trying this as a hobbyist. I want to do small 3 – 8 inch snowmen & santa (& seasonal holiday) pieces. I really appreciate all the information! My grandmother made ceramics for 60 years; I wish she were here so I could ask her some questions. Hopefully, she’s smiling at my feeble efforts! I will look into the Li-Qua-Che product. Again, thanks so much!
        Happy New Year,
        Susan L.

  • Hi Jonni,

    I was totally inspired by all your recipes and tried the paper maché paste and home made gesso.

    Even though it ís not completely done (the hoofs still need painting) and the paint job on one of the eyes was ruined by the sealer – (I will fix that as soon as it’s dry) I’m quite happy with the result. It’s a two foot high statue of a custom my little pony.

    I still have so many ideas for new projects, but this is my first ever paper paste project.

  • Hi Jonni!
    Thanks for all the excellent tips and your formula for paper mache clay.
    I love the mask on your walls. Nice work! I am a sculpture artist and mask maker from New Orleans, and I use to make my mask from an acrylic that no longer is available due to a not so popular demand. So I am turning to paper mache for many reasons. Mostly that it is relatively light and cost effective.
    I found a glass mannequin head that I plan to use for my form. What would you suggest using as a base to begin, before sculpting the details? Thanks for any tips you might be willing to share with me. Thanks again and Happy New Year!! Nick

    • Hi Nick. I like using blue shop towels with a paste made with Elmer’s glue and either plaster of Paris (if you don’t mind hurrying) or joint compound. That’s how I made all the masks in my book on the subject, and there are a number of videos on this site that show the process, as well. If you’re thinking about using the paper mache clay recipe for your masks, the shop towel mache will keep the pm clay away from the face. It dries really hard, so it isn’t comfortable directly against the face. You can see my first videos I made using the shop towel mache on this page (the pantalone mask), and I used the joint compound/glue paste for the first time with this mask.

      Good luck with it. I hope you’ll show us some of your masks when they’re done. And do you happen to have a website, by any chance, where we could see some of your previous work?

      • Thanks Jonni,
        I appreciate the “head start” and can’t wait to look at the videos and try your different methods, right after the New Year….
        I’ve never really worked with paper mache, but believe I’ll soon be addicted! I have always loved it growing up in New Orleans and as it was used a lot on the big Mardi Gras floats. Just about everything on them was mostly paper mache, but it was usually made in Italy and Spain. I had the privilege to paint it once upon a time working for Blaine Kern, but that was my only involvement with the medium. But I truly admire what you are doing, and the look of your work. It is simply beautiful and so very unique!
        I hope to share something I make with you soon.
        As far as a web, I have made mask and musician sculptures for over thirty years for a handful of galleries in New Orleans, and never had a website.
        I was so busy, I really never had the time or saw the benefit.
        Perhaps that will change as I am now semi retired and have more time to do some things a little differently.
        Thanks so much for the inspiration and generosity to help.
        Best regards!

  • hi Jonni,
    sorry for my english 😉 i’m spanish.
    I have some doubts if you can enlighten me.
    You can shape like common clay? I mean, if you can model in large quantities, as a normal sculpture or only serves to thin layers. And Do it have a similar texture to clay?
    I’ve done other paper mache recipe but crumble easily (I’m not sure if I do something wrong). I thought your clay (with join compound) will be more malleable and will have more consistency.
    I found joint compound in Spain but I see that you have to use with gloves and mask, I guess because it is toxic. I guess that will not serve any joint compound.
    Could you tell me the composition of joint compound you use? I found this site but do not put it:

    ¿By putting flour, it does not make it easier that the sculpture being damaged? I have seen comments on youtube about porcelain clay recipes, which makes catch moisture and break, because it is an organic compound that is prone to break down.
    Do you think you can replace with gypsum powder? So it would be harder, last longer (or other product or not put it).
    thank you

    • Hi Miquel. No, this recipe can’t be used like real clay. It works well as a replacement for the traditional method of using paper strips and paste to make paper mache sculptures. It goes on in very thin layers over an armature. I use about 1/8″ to 1/4″ layers, which dry quite hard. But the sculpture is almost completed in the armature stage, and, like normal paper mache, the pm clay just provides a hard skin for the sculpture.

      I don’t know if gypsum powder can be added to porcelain clay recipes or not. With any paper mache, either my pm clay recipe or paper strips and paste, I recommend making sure the sculpture dries quickly, and then seal it with a good acrylic varnish. That way, fungi cannot get in to damage the work.

  • Hi Jonni
    You said that mineral oil would be fine instead of Linseed oil? Will it be almost the same quality?


    • Hi Mary. I’m glad you’re enjoying paper mache. I usually use a thin coat, maybe about 1/8″ at first, and let it dry. If it doesn’t seem sturdy enough, I do another coat.

      Have fun!

  • Hi. I’m new to your site. Your videos are a pleasure to watch as you have a gentle magnet and you display a lot of skill.

    What is your favorite clay recipe? It seems that you have added each new recipe to the list as you find it. I am an artist and have done a bit of sculpting with paper mache. The knight is a combination of the paper strip method and craft foam and fabric, etc.

    I am fascinated by your version of paper mache but I’m a bit confused by your last of recipes and don’t know which ones are the old, not as good, recipes and which are your new and improved.

    Do you use them all or do you mainly use one (perhaps your newest discovery) and just have not deleted the old recipes in case someone else might like them?

    • Hi Gloria. Did you intend to show us your knight? If you did, the photo was too large, so the system didn’t take it. Could you give it another try?

      My first recipe for paper mache clay, the one on this page, is the one I use most often. The air dry clay is what I use to make my doll heads, because it’s a lot smoother. It is more difficult to use, though, because it’s thicker and less sticky, so for larger pieces I use the original recipe. I have played around with adding other things, like powdered clay, but I always go back to the original, because it works.

      • Hi Jonni.

        I’m interested in making paper mache river rocks using either standard paper mache or the clay. Do you have a suggestion for a medium I could use for the mold? Aluminum foil? I’m just starting out with this idea.

  • Hope you don’t mind my pesky questions –
    What is the function of the joint compound? The linseed oil?

  • Wow, you’re paper maché pieces look amazing!!! I’ve been using paper maché for years for a local holiday (we call it ‘surprises’ – it’s a fancy way of gift wrapping) and more recent to make halloween masks..

    I’ve always struggled to get the surface smooth, but for my next project I will try your clay on top of my newspaper method (if that works?)

    This week I plan to go to the hardware store and try to get all the ingredients :)

    • That sounds like a fun idea, Eveline. I you’re just looking for a smoother surface, you might want to try the DIY gesso mixture, with joint compound and white glue, no paper. It brushes on rather thick, and brush marks can be smoothed out, after it’s dry, with a damp sponge.

      I hpe you’ll show us some of your ‘surprises’ when they’re done.

      • I included a photo of our halloween masks.. (it was a huge success, and my first big paper maché project made with chicken wire instead of balloons)

        I will try the gesso recipe – will try to find joint compound tomorrow (it’s not voegmiddel in Dutch, don’t know what it is yet) – there is still so much to read on your website! The sculptures you make are stunning!!!

        • Evaline- I love your evil Betty Boops. It is hard to make Betty Boop evil and you somehow managed it! Very creative!

          • Thanks Jonni!

            It’s a start :) – I can’t take credit for both though. i made the one on the left (which looks a little small, because we couldn’t stand next to each other)

            I think I have all the ingredients for the clay, which I’ll try to make tonight… I think joint compound in Dutch is ‘ gipsplaatvuller’ – I’ll let you know if it works in the recipe. How many layers of the clay are necessary for a piece that doesn’t have a structure underneath? (I made the mold, but I want to make a light, so it needs to be hollow)

      • And my ‘surprise’

        She’s actually 6 ft tall.. But i only have a photo of the top part. Bear in mind, she was made to tear apart:)

  • Hi, again, Jonni! I’ve been working on the dollhouse a lot, and it’s come together really nicely. I used the paper mache clay, the gesso, and then acrylic paints, and lots of other things here and there to get it to where it is now. (I’m including some pictures for you). Thank you, again, for your answers earlier.

    I do have one final question, regarding what I should use to finish the project off, without adding too much more weight. Right now, the house weighs about 9.5lbs. I’d really like to keep it around there, but need to seal it down. I have a Mod Podge and Acrylic Sealer spray at home already, but am not are that will do anything, and am also concerned that it might crack or discolor things?

    Thank you, again. I really just have no experience with any of this at all.

    • Hi Maria. We didn’t get the picture. It was probably too big. Could you edit the photos to make the file size smaller, and try again?

      As for the sealer, I’d probably use one of the urethane varnishes from the hardware store, since a dollhouse gets a lot of use. Like Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish. I think it would hold up better than an acrylic varnish. Does anyone else have a suggestion for Maria?

    • Hopefully it will work this time. This is just one side of it, obviously. There are three floors on the other side. :)

      And thank you, again, for your answer. I’ll check for minwax this week, and try to get it covered.

  • Hi Jonni,
    Thank you for all your wonderful tutorials. Last year, we made a christmas cactus (instead of a tree) using your recipe. :)
    I measured the paper out at 185g wet (with the water squeezed out) and that worked pretty well; i haven’t tried any other measurements though…
    Im going to make some jewelery as presents this year. I hopeful they’ll turn out as i see them in my head!
    I love your work :) So playful and fun!!
    Thanks again – Ginger

  • Hi Jonni,

    In your recipe above for paper mache clay, have you ever tried replicating the Joint Compound ingredient with Plaster of Paris. They both seem to make your piece a lot harder so just wondering. Though one difference I see is that Plaster of Paris comes in powder form whereas joint compound is malleable to the touch. Should I try making my mask by replacing Joint Compound with Plaster of Paris (since it’s cheaper) and let you know how it turns out?



    • I have not tried that. I don’t know if it would work or not, but I encourage you to experiment with it, and let us know if it works. It might harden too quickly in the bowl. You will be experimenting, though, so I’d try it on a small project that doesn’t take too long. Then you won’t lose too much if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to.

      • I would like to make some papier mache clay, but as I live in the UK where we are “divided by our common language” I am unsure of what one of the ingredients might be in UK – namely joint compound aka filler of the pre-mixed “regular variety. I have found a few likely suspects on DIY shops. There is old fashioned putty used to glaze windows which contains linseed oil. There are joint compounds/fillers used to join pipes in plumbing, and fillers used to fill the gap between 2 panels of plasterboard. So I am a bit perplexed as to which might be suitable. Does your compound/ filler have any ingredients listed or say what it is usually expected to do. Your advice would be much appreciated. I would love to make this papier mache clay, because as a potter I am used to working with paper clay. Best wishes Pat

        • As the family ‘handyman” I’ve glazed windows, repaired plumbing, and put up drywall. I believe our drywall is similar to your plasterboard. That’s the joint compound you want. My tub of compound (I call it drywall mud) doesn’t list ingredients, but there’s an article on Wikipedia. Hope that helps!

        • The stuff you’re looking for is a very, very thick greek yogurt consistency, with a very slightly gritty feel, similar to a thick ceramic slip. It’s very common, not specialty. If you have walls, this stuff was used on them. It’s the thick stuff that they coat your drywall with, so basically the walls in your house are all coated with this stuff. Hope it’s clear now.

    • Plaster of paris will start to harden as soon as it touches liquid. You’ll end up with a block of rock-hard plaster about an hour after you mix it up.

  • Hello, thank you for this recipe!
    The joint compound i have is in dry form. I was wondering whether i could mix it by the instructions it has and then use it, or is the dry form completely unusable for some reason?
    Also, what is the volume of the cups you use?

    • The cups are 8 fl oz. The dry joint compound usually contains plaster, which might cause your paper mache clay to get solid right in the bowl. I have never tried it. If you make up a small batch, let us know if it works.

  • Hi Jonni,

    Another question: Is it ok to use the clay over a vaseline covered oil or water based clay mold of a face (made by pressing the clay into a plastic face mask?


  • Hello!
    Firstly, I wanted to say thank you so much for this recipe. I tried it over the weekend and it is very easy to work with. I had a few questions that I hope you might answer though:
    1. Could wood glue be used instead of Elmer’s? For my project I am probably going to need a bigger container of glue, and I am having a very hard time finding gallon jugs/containers of the Elmer variety.
    2. I had some trouble mixing the paper evenly as it was especially thick, and all I have access to right now is a handheld mixer. Do you have any recommendations for making the mixing process easier?
    Thank you so much for your time. I’m sorry if I’m asking repeated questions! Have a lovely day/night!
    -Ally B.

    • Hi Ally. We’ve just been told by another reader that Titebond Original Wood Glue will not work. It turns the mixture rubbery. And I tried the Elmer’s Wood Glue a long time ago, and it didn’t work, either. But another brand might work. I haven’t tried them all. I buy my gallon-size containers of Elmer’s Glue-All at the hardware store. I think it cost $12 last time.

      I think the best thing to do with the paper is to soak it longer, mix it with your mixer while the paper is still soaking in the water, to break up the paper really well, and then squeeze out the water. It’s also important to not use too much paper. If it isn’t easy to get a smooth mixture, you might need to add less paper next time.

  • Hi,
    Just got your Animal sculpture book, can’t wait to dive in! Could find Elmers glue here in Sweden, but ordered a pva one.
    Next issue is the ‘joint compound’; how do I best describe it to get the right product. What is us normally used for

    Thanks much for your fantastic books!

    • Hy Yvonne. Your PVA glue should work just fine. And someone from Sweden told us that joint compound is called Fogmassa there. it’s a pre-mixed product that is used to cover the cracks between tow sheets of plasterboard when builders make new walls. It comes in a plastic tub and looks like wet plaster, but it doesn’t harden until it’s exposed to air. I hope that helps. And have fun with your animals!

  • Hello,
    Question? I gave you my website address because I would like for you to take a look at my site. What you see are Styrofoam heads, I need to make them a bit sturdier and I was wondering if the paper mache would do the trick? Also, I had a sculptuter @ my Art show and he suggested clay or that I could have my pieces made into a sculpture. He teaches classes, but it doesn’t fit my schedule. What do you suggest? This would be all new to me. Could you please answer in an e-mail, because I don’t know when I will come back to this site, even if I did I wouldn’t know where to find my answer. Not that great on Internet.

  • Can I sculpt the nose with this? for example after making a bump where the nose is using a wire and paper mache with tissue paper, using the clay on it to form the nose making it actually look like a nose and not a rectangle that it looks like now. And saying that, I also am wondering how thick can I apply the paste? Like if I want the nose to stick out an inch above in one place and then have it be more flat in other places, can I layer the clay 1 inch or more? And will it be firm eneough if I add more flower to do so? Is there a limit to how much flour I can add before my mask cracks?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Marianna. The recipe was really designed to be used in thin layers, although you can use some thicker areas to form features. It would be best, though, to make an armature in the shape you want, either with crumpled paper or aluminum foil, and then add a thin layer of paper mache clay over it. If it gets too thick it will take forever to dry, because the outside surface will dry first, and could prevent the water on the inside from evaporating. However, if you have a layer of paper mache that is completely dry, you can add more on top of it to build up features.

      You can make the mixture thicker with flour, but it is really intended to be spread, kind of like frosting, but as thin as 8 or 10 layers of traditional paper strips and paste. If you want to make it thick enough to use the way you would use real clay, you’ll probably get some cracking. The formula really isn’t designed to be used that way.

      • Hi Jonni,

        So if you use the clay on a paper mach (flour and water and paper towels) mask, then on top of it you can use the clay to create a smooth painting surface? Is that the purpose of it then?

        If I don’t want to buy oil clay to sculpt with since it is expensive and so bought a water based clay-Plastelina. But I notice the non-oil clays are hard to mold whereas oil based seem easier to mold with correct? So then if I am only using the clay to press down into a mask to get the basic “face shape” but want to be able to sculpt it into a particular face, what could I use on top of my paper mach once it dries to sculpt my face into a particular persons if not the clay?



  • Hi! I have loved your tutorials and am making a trophy mount dinosaur for my boys. My question is this: now that I have already created the armature and covered it with a coat of the paper mache clay, I realize I need to add more detailed eyelids. Can I use masking tape to add more detail over the clay and apply another coat of clay over this? For that matter, can I put on a second layer of the clay over the whole piece? I am hoping to get paper towel and put it over the next layer of clay while it is still wet, and to press in ridges to create more of a reptilian skin texture. Will this stick? Or will I need to gesso this? Thanks for all your insights!

    • Hello, Heidi. You can add more paper mache clay, either in one place, or all over. I haven’t had much luck with getting masking tape to stick to it, though. And I’m not sure about your paper towel idea, although there’s a real good possibility that it will work, if the paper has good contact with the wet paper mache clay. If you try it, I hope you’ll show us how your dinosaur turns out, because I’m really interested in your texturing idea.

  • I have to make a HUGE turkey prop for a play… It has to be sturdy, although, once created, it will be wrapped in butcher paper, so no one will really see the turkey (I don’t have to paint it). Which of the recipes would you suggest would be the best to be sure the turkey can stand up to a little “wear and tear” (like it being dropped accidentally?

    • Hi Sandi. The paper mache clay recipe on this page will give you a really hard, durable surface. It might crack if dropped on concrete, but since you couldn’t see the cracks, it probably wouldn’t matter much.

      Since you can’t see the turkey inside the butcher paper, would it be easier to create your shapes with crumpled paper, and then give it several coats of duct tape instead of paper mache? It would hold the shape, and would probably stand up to fairly heavy abuse if you get a good brand of tape. Just thinking out loud, here … 😉

  • I’ve started a jack-o-lantern for Halloween 2016 (yes I give myself lots of time to fail:)) using the PM clay. As it it drying I’am noticing a few cracks/ fissures begining to form. should I patch these now in order to keep a handle on it, or should I wait for it to dry completely before doing any repair work. My concern is if I wait, the whole thing could be a waste. Any help would be great. Thanks.

    • Hi Marc. Was the clay applied over an armature that has no ‘give’ to it? That’s the only time I’ve ever seen any cracks form, because the armature doesn’t have enough elasticity to allow the shrinking clay to stay intact as it dries. Just wondering …

      As for the repair, if there is a release under the clay, like vaseline or something, pieces might fall off if they dry and aren’t connected properly to the rest of the clay. I’d go ahead and add more clay and press it into the cracks, and also feather it over the top of the adjacent pieces to make sure you get a good bond.

  • Hi! I just found this page, and I’m so excited about it. But, I do have a question. My son wants a dollhouse for Christmas so he can have a place for his cars (who’ve been named) and his Magic School Bus characters that I made for him, to live. I found a great tutorial online to make a house for him made from cardboard boxes, but I wanted to make it more durable than just pieces of cardboard corrugated together.

    My question is this; would you recommend using the paper mache clay or traditional paper mache to cover the walls and floors of the building once it’s put together? I’m thinking that the clay will be smoother, more like actual walls and floors, but being that I’m not 100% familiar with how it goes on, will it work to create better seals with all of the pieces? They’re really just put together with slits, and not glued or taped in the original design.

    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Maria. The one problem you might run into with any paper mache recipe on flat cardboard is the tendency to warp. The tabs might help keep the walls flat, but be sure to test something first before putting paper mache over the entire house. Just so you can see how the cardboard reacts when the paper mache starts to dry. Putting the wet material on both sides so they dry together might help.

      As far as getting a good seal, both paper strips and paste and the paper mache clay recipe should work. The clay is spread very thinly, about 1/8″ thick, with a knife. On something flat like this, you might want to make a spreader by cutting the top of a yogurt container into a half-circle with rounded corners, because the flexibility makes it easier to get the clay spread evenly. It would end up looking a little like a plaster or stucco building. Paper strips and paste would probably be just as strong, and might be easier to manipulate over the tabs.

      • I definitely was planning on doing both top and bottom, since I want to make it look as much like a house for him as I can. Do you think cheesecloth would work better than traditional paper mache? Or even doing a layer of cheesecloth underneath to harden it before applying the clay? I like the idea of it looking like a stucco/plaster house, and wonder if the cheesecloth might help keep it from warping?

        Thanks again! I clearly have no idea what I’m doing. :)

        • I’m not sure about cheesecloth, but plaster cloth would work really well. It hardens in just a few minutes, and you’d get that nice texture of the plaster mixed with the gauze.

          • I have another quick question. As its drying, it’s cracking in a few places, here and there. Not warping, thankfully. Anyway, would you recommend gesso to help with that? And to make it a bit more smooth?

          • If the cracks are structural, going all the way through, you can repair them easily with some more paper mache clay squished into the cracks and feathered out over the surrounding surface. If the cracks are just surface cracks, a few coats of gesso should smooth them out quite nicely.

  • Have you tried rolling this out with a rolling pin on a smooth surface? Would it become perfectly smooth? I have made paper and treated the formed but still wet sheets this way and it becomes very smooth.

    Does it shrink when it dries?
    If so, could you estimate how much it shrinks?

    Can the clay be cut or carved into after it dries?

    • Hi Paula. If you want to use something that’s really smooth, you will want to check out my other recipe for silky smooth air dry clay. I think several readers have used a rolling pin to make thin slabs. I don’t know if they would curl up on the edges as they dry or not. It would be an interesting experiment. The clay, either recipe, will shrink a little when the water evaporates. I haven’t measured the shrinkage, though. The original recipe for paper mache clay on this page dries extremely hard, and carving it would be very difficult without a Dremel tool or something similar. The air dry clay recipe is softer when it dries, so it might be possible to carve it. Since both recipes are intended to be used in very thin layers, like 1/8″ or so, I don’t know how well it would work. If you try it, please let us know how your experiments turn out.

      • Thank you Jonni
        The smooth surface of the plexi I roll paper on usually holds it until it is completely dry. That keeps the curling minimal.

        I will try the air dry type then, so it can be cut after, and try to remember to post the results here.

  • I am making dog heads to display what our work looks like grooming. Any tips on a good adhesive for applying faux fur to the clay when its done?

    • Gosh, that sounds like a great idea, but I’m not an adhesive expert. If you take a sample to the local hardware store, one of the people there might be able to help. They have so many different kinds, there has to be one that would work well.

    • If it’s just the paper and water, and if you use enough water, the blender or food processor would work just fine. For the total mixture it depends on whether or not it might burn out the motor. I’ve ruined several cheap hand mixers on the pm clay, so I’d hate to have you experiment with equipment that costs more money. Some people have said that you can successfully mix the pm clay by hand, without any electrical equipment at all, although I haven’t personally tried it.

  • Great info and site. I was hunting for a paste recipe and found this. I am making a relief in pm finished in encaustic. My wife wouldn’t let
    Me use the mixer so my batch seemed almost like real clay so that’s how I used it. If it seems to fragile after it dries I’ll add anouther layer of paste. Thank you for you time.

    • Hi Rick. I would love to see how your piece comes out with the encaustic finish. I’ve never tried that, but it sounds really interesting. I hope you’ll remember to post a photo when it’s done.

    • Hi Rick! I wouldn’t let myself use my mixer either! So instead, i used my partners electric drill (hes not as precious about his tools! Haha) and a paint mixer attachment in a bucket. It works really well; although it is a bit of overkill (and slightly awkward) for just one batch. ? I have written all the measurements i need for the ingredients on the packages they come in now too, so i dont get joint compound all over my phone!!

  • I just commented a few minutes ago. I have made things the old fashioned way of doing paper mache with newspaper. Takes a while to dry. I think your clay recipe will give me a smoother result, even though I’m glueing feathers onto it. I have high hopes for it. I occasionally check your site to see what you’re making. I’m an artist, and I’m good with my hands, so if this works well, I’m going to do more large sculptures. I wanted to do a full size sitting nude out of plaster, because I like the look of plaster. Can I get the same appearance as plaster? Or can I cover the dry paper mache with plaster?

    • Hi Susan. The paper mache clay has a slightly bumpier look than plaster because of the paper bits in it. But you can get a plaster look by adding one final thin layer of drywall joint compound. Once it’s dry you can’t tell the difference between the joint compound and plaster. And it will stick to paper mache.

  • I am making a 6 foot tall Heron/Crane “blend”. I had a metal armature professionally made for it out of rebar and metal because I want the base and legs to be heavy so my cats can’t knock it over. I am going to make the neck, head, and body using your aluminum foil instructions, and using Apoxie Sculpt for the beak, feet, and legs. Then I have to glue the feathers onto it. Wish me luck!!!

  • I have been reading your website for awhile. I do some paper mache as a small hobby. I just wanted to share a project I just did using your techniques for this years halloween. My son wanted to be a minion..but that wasn’t good enough..we had to make it a Zombie minion. Now keep in mind Im not a professional..but this is what we came up with. Thanks for your website!!

  • Hi, great site..i have some questions regarding paper mache clay..The recipe call for mineral oil..what oil is this?.. is it possible to use a replacement oil?..what is the purpose of the oil?…many thanks for all the info on this site..cycos

    • Hy Cycos. The oil gives the clay a slightly nicer feel, but you don’t need it. I don’t know another name for mineral oil, other than baby oil. If you don’t have any, just leave it out. The recipe will work just fine without it.

      • Hi, I’m in the UK and have been collecting the materials together for some projects. re Mineral Oil; I notice above Jonni that you also call it baby oil, without naming brands is that the regular stuff you get alongside baby bath and other baby products in the supermarket/pharmacy/chemist as I have been trying to find references to “mineral oil” in uk and some pharmacies call it liquid parafin?

        • Hi Nicky. I’m not a chemist either, so I just look on the label. Here in the states, almost all baby oil says on the front of the bottle that it’s made out of mineral oil. But according to Wikipedia, mineral oil and liquid paraffin are the same thing. So, if it’s in baby oil, I should think it should work just fine.

  • I just came across your recipe for pm clay. I’m looking to create a huge Jack-o-lantern and I really think this stuff will do the trick. I had a few questions about the substitutions in the recipe though. You mentioned that the linseed oil is not necessary to the mix but does ad a spreadability to that is convenient. You mentioned that glycerine can be a substitute but in what measurement, 2 tablespoons like the linseed oil? Question 2 is about the toilet paper. Can dry Celluclay be used in place of the toilet paper? Last question is whether the joint compound is measured as a dry or wet measure. Thanks in advance! Marc V.

    • Hi Marc. Yes, just use the same amount of glycerine as the oil it replaces. Or just leave it out. I have never used Celluclay in the recipe, but if you experiment with it, please let us know what happens. Since it’s dry, you may need adjust the other ingredients to make it work. And the joint compound is the kind that you get already mixed, in a plastic tub.

      Good luck with it! You’re getting a rather late start, so I hope it gets done in time.

    • Andrea, it’s hard to answer that question because there are so many variables. How thickly it’s applied, how much humidity is in the air, the air temperature, etc. I can say it will take approximately the same amount of time as an equally thick layer of traditional paper mache, made with paper strips and paste. But even then, the variables apply.

      It will dry fastest if you put the piece in front of a fan, and turn it every few hours so it will dry evenly. Give it at least two days to day, or more, and check to make sure it dries all the way through and not just on the outside.

    • Any “PVA” glue will work. I think your white glue should be OK, but you’ll have to experiment with it. Mod Podge might work too, but you’ll have to test it to see.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I’ve got a vintage bust display for jewellery and I want to make replicas of this so going to give your recipe a go. I’m crap at maths though and my toilet roll ended up being 2 cups full so I kind of guessed the increased amounts for the other ingredients and hoping it’ll be ok. If not I’ll try again and just follow the recipe properly.

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