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: buy any brand except DAP. The DAP brand does not work.
  • 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

Tools:

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.

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3,778 Comments

  • Thank you for all the wonderful information on your website – your work is amazing.
    Thank you also for the paper mache clay recipe. I’ve been doing papier mache for some years using pulped toilet paper, but was getting a bit frustrated when adding detail, only to find when it dries, due to shrinkage, it’s all gone. This paper mache clay recipe is brilliant as you can get detail straight away without having to add more layers later (lots of layers sometimes) – I won’t be going back to using the old recipe again.
    Here’s an elephant that I made with it.
    I live in the UK and the products that I use for your recipe are normal PVA glue and All Purpose Ready Mixed Filler from a hardware store here called Wickes. It works really well and give the cookie dough texture that you mention.
    Thanks again.

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying the site and the recipes, Nicky. Your elephant is beautiful. Thanks for showing him to us – and for the info about the products in the UK that work for you. (And you have a great site, too, by the way).

  • Is glycerine an okay substitute for mineral or linseed oil? I thought I read that here… But now I’m not sure. Thank you!

    • Yes, you read that here. Or if you want, you could just leave out the oil or glycerine – the recipe still works without them, but it feels a little different when you’re working with it.

      • Thanks very much! I think I’ll stick with the recipe – including glycerine, as I’ve never done any sort of paper mache before. I’m going to gather the ingredients and give it a go! Very exciting! You are so generous and kind with your knowledge and your time. Much appreciated!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. I changed it a bit so that it works with my projects and i wanted to share them with you. You inspired me to be creative in a way i did not realize i was good at. Thank you so much!

  • Hi.mthis is my first time with paper clay. I wanted to make jewelry, so I tried your recipe (actually it was on another page, whose link I can’t find now, the one with grams and exact measurements.
    I made a mess with the mixer, but it turned out quite smooth and exactly what I was looking for.
    I coloured some plain disks with pigments.
    As I don’t know anything about papier mache, I was wondering what sealant do I need now. I just used some fixative for charcoal, but would that be enough? I lime it matt.

  • I am making this with my 4th-grade classes to make Mother’s Day ornaments. I want to make it fairly stiff so that it can be rolled out and cut with cookie cutters, like play dough.

    I don’t know if I have enough white glue to follow your recipe. Would this still work without the glue or with less glue?

    • Wendy, I don’t know what would happen if you leave out the glue. The flour and water might hold it together, or it may just crumble when it dries. Do a small test first, and stick a few cookies in the oven at 200F to see if they’ll be strong enough when they’re dry. And be sure to use mineral oil instead of linseed oil – or just leave out the oil completely, since you’ll be doing this with kids.

      • Wendy, someone posted a comment for you, but I had to delete it for its unfriendly language. She (he?) wanted to remind you that the dust from joint compound is not good for the lungs, (it contains silica and kaolin), so be sure to mix up your pm clay ahead of time (away from the kids and while wearing a mask, as directed on the package) and don’t sand the dried pm clay. I have never been able to find any other safety concerns with the product, but the dust can be an issue. I also recall another teacher mentioning that joint compound isn’t on the approved list for crafts for their school, so you might want to check with whoever is in charge of that at your school.

        • I have worked with children for 17 years, so I feel confident that I can make this safe for my students. I have checked with my principal, and we feel the joint compound is fine as long as students know not to put their fingers on their faces. And there will be no sanding involved, so the dust is not an issue.

          I have made a small test batch without the glue but used all the other ingredients. It isn’t dry yet, but it seems to be holding together okay. I did manage to scrape together several partially used bottles of white school glue from fellow teachers, so I may be able to follow the recipe exactly. I’ll let you know what happens and I’ll post pictures of our finished project. Thanks for your help and your recipe!

          • I can’t wait to see how your projects turn out. And if your no-glue recipe works, that would make it much less expensive for others doing large projects, so I do hope you’ll keep us posted.

        • Jonni, the ornament I tried without the glue held up fine; it isn’t as smooth as the others, though. To keep the project safe and cleaner, we put all the ingredients (we used less glue, 1/2 cup, and a bit more flour to make the clay stiffer) into a gallon zipper bag and kneaded. We then separated the batch into 4 smaller baggies, added food coloring, and kneaded again. After using cookie cutters to make our shapes, I baked the ornaments at 300*F for 30 minutes on each side. They came out perfectly and the kids were able to decorate with markers. They had a great time with this activity and are so excited to give their gifts to their mothers!

          • I’m glad it worked, Wendy. The ornaments look great – the kids must be very proud of them.

          • Awww. that’s so sweet. Wish I were a mom on the receiving end. What a treasure to keep always. Very clever idea, Wendy.

          • Wendy: Very cute stars and hearts, but heating joint compound could result in dangerous gases being released. The MSDS for Sheetrock premixed joint compound says, “Keep away from heat.” It’s probably a good idea to do follow the manufacturer’s advice.

          • Bambi, I think you misread the MSDS. The document is saying that you should store the product away from heat in order to keep it from drying out. The specific wording is: “Store in a cool, dry, ventilated area away from sources of heat, moisture and incompatibilities.” The one hazard mentioned on the document is to be careful around the dust (from sanding) because the product contains crystalline silica. (Small dust particles of any kind are not good for the lungs). For anyone interested in reading the document, you can find a link to it here.

            So Wendy, I wouldn’t worry too much about this – I put pm clay in the oven all the time, and my only concern is keeping the temperature low because the baking Elmer’s Glue-All doesn’t smell very nice.

          • Hi Jonni and Wendy-Which school is dis? Which City and State? I live in Sweden, we have strict rules here.we no use plaster. Paper Mâché looks fun. I use glue, flour, little bit of water and shredded paper, very strong long time last. I use to live in USA.

          • It does sound like the rules are different, from one place to the next. I’m a little uncomfortable about listing locations online when kids are involved, though.

        • Hi Jonni, Please excuse my ignorance! I am planning to use this with my 7 yo, if the joint compound is already in paste form how can it be harmful to the lungs?

          • The dust is only harmful if you allow the pm clay to dry, and then sand it without wearing a mask. The linseed oil should not be used if kids are helping, of course, but mineral oil (baby oil) works just as well.

          • Hi Lauren. As Jonni pointed out, crystalline silica can cause lung cancer. A representative of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment said,”…[Joint compound] in its dry form may still pose a hazard due to contaminants in the dust. The end products could release crumbs and contaminated dust over time. … Depending on the brand of the joint compound, the dusts may cause respiratory health problems and some may contain carcinogens. …If it has an acute or chronic hazard label then it should not be used in the classroom.”

            Where older children are concerned (7th grade and up), California law is not as restrictive. Keep in mind, however, that some joint compound products release formaldehyde when water is applied to them, and chemicals known as “biocides” are almost always present in the mixtures (example: Mergal 174 and Mergal 364). Acetaldehyde can be found in some mixtures, and chronic exposure to this substance has been found to cause reproductive harm in lab animals.

            Joint compound is intended for industrial purposes, even though it is possible to use it for sculptures. In my opinion, it would be a better option to use something like casein glue that can be made with all-natural ingredients, but one’s exposure to toxicity is a personal choice. Unfortunately, children are not always capable of making wise choices for themselves. That’s where adults must step in, do the research, and do the right thing.

          • Thanks Jonni and Mindy, I will definitely consider s carefully now before we go ahead! We wont be doing any sanding and the pieces will be painted so I think that may eliminate any dust but I am not a big fan of unnecessary chemicals so we may need to do some experimenting. What is the function of the joint compound? Could something similar be achieved with plaster of paris or regular air dry clay?

          • I know there are a few people who are really concerned about joint compound, so I’ve researched the issue extensively. Other than the problem with the dust, I have never been able to find any reference to anyone ever getting sick from using this product, even though millions of people use it every year in their own homes. However, any product made for the construction industry is going to have chemicals in it. There is a “green” alternative, which you can see here. Since plaster of Paris also contains silica, and it only comes in dry form, there would be a greater chance of inhaling the dust than you would with the joint compound. Some people have used calcium carbonate (powdered marble, chalk) mixed with water, and they say it works, although it’s kind of expensive. Commercial brands of air dry clay can certainly be used in place of the pm clay. You can also use traditional paper mache – plain newspaper with a flour and water paste. It’s a bit more messy, and takes more time, but it does work and you can make beautiful things with it.

          • And I should also mention that the few comments we’ve received about the safety issues with joint compound always come from the same IP address, even though “they” use different names and email addresses in the comment form. I suspect there is really just one person writing all of the comments (some of which I delete before you get to read them because the writer uses rude or inflammatory language). This makes me question the intentions of the writer, and it’s also another reason why I’ve tried so hard to find evidence from valid sources that would agree with his or her claims.

            Here’s an article from a “green” builder that says joint compound is safe for a baby’s room. There are other articles online claiming the opposite, but without any links to research articles that would support their opinions.

            None of this means that you shouldn’t be careful and research any product that you use with kids, and you should definitely not use the boiled linseed oil if kids are helping with a project. (Flaxseed oil from the health store would be fine, or use mineral oil instead). Elmer’s Glue-All is listed as non-toxic, but I wouldn’t want a kid to eat the stuff, since it’s a liquid form of plastic. Not really food, you know. 😉 And here’s a way to tell if your tube of acrylic paint is considered non-toxic.

            Another product often used by paper mache artists is wallpaper paste, which usually contains a product to prevent mold. I’m sure it says it’s non-edible on the package, but children should probably wear gloves when using this product, and they should be old enough to not try to not eat their art supplies. But that’s pretty much true with any art supplies, isn’t it?

  • I’ve been stalking this site for nearly a year now, and am finally in a position where I can spend some money (and room) on the ingredients and forthcoming sculptures (and your books!). I do have one question though, is this stuff safe to use for an item (like a mask) that might be worn against the skin for extended amounts of time? I see the mineral oil recommendation, and I know that every individuals skin has different sensitivities….but is it something you would recommend at all, or should this recipe be kept to sculpture and display pieces?

    I’m the “art bitch” for a group of cosplayers and we’re always looking for a lightweight mold-able material to emulate crazy anime, comic book, and video game designs. We’ve used traditional paper mache before, and plaster strips, which can both get clunky and heavy, but this sounds like a great alternative to those materials. Do you think paper mache clay has a place in costuming? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts!

    • I think that it would be safe to use if you use the mineral oil instead of linseed oil, but it may not be comfortable. The problem is that the pm clay dries really hard – and I find that it’s really hard to get a smooth surface on the inside of a mask. The tiniest bump or ridge will feel really uncomfortable against the face unless you can sand it off (not easy) or apply some felt. Or use one layer on the back using the blue shop towels.

      I like making masks entirely with the blue shot towels, or with a few layers of the towels and then details added with the paper mache clay or the newer air dry clay recipe. I used the shop towels with a fast-setting paste made with plaster and glue for my mask book, but recently found that it’s also possible to make the paste using glue and joint compound, with basically the same effect – lightweight, slightly flexible, and strong. The Commedia del Arte Mask videos on this page, and show you how I do it.

      You might also want to check out a series of comments recently left by another reader, beginning here. The recipe that Jennifer mentions is used for mold that create very elaborate costume pieces, so be sure to also click on her name above her comment so you can see her website. She’s currently doing some experiments with paper mache in the molds, too. I haven’t heard yet if the experiments were successful.

  • I used your re I’ve to make ‘Henrietta’, the chicken on this trophy for our local chicken wing festival. Today she gets awarded to a winning restaurant. I didn’t expect the mix to have a feathery texture, but it did, and was perfect for her!

  • Hi Jonni

    I’m a (very) mature art student, who is having to swap over from photography due to dodgy knees (among other things). My latest project is making a sculpture based on some part of the human form.

    Whilst researching different materials, I happened on your site and OH MY GOODNESS!! it was like being hit with lightening. I have tried your paper mache clay and it was just such a joy to work with, so easy to use and sculpt with. I also was bowled over by your use of paper armatures and have used just such a method to sculpt a basic fist, which I then covered with the clay. My tutor was astounded with your recipe and the results. (I hope the picture made it through).

    I’m also doing a piece, based on the dark side of the human psyche. I can’t begin to tell you the fun I’m having making all the little pieces to go into the large (and a little disturbing) sculpture. I’ve sent you through a couple of shots of some of the elements I’ve made out of the clay. Tomorrow, I’m going to try the air dry clay, so fingers crossed I get it right.

    I’ve been so inspired by your site, and all the fantastic and amazing pieces you and the other world wide paper mache sculptures are making, that once I’m on summer break I will be joining in the daily sculptors page. I just can’t wait for summer to come.

    Thanks again Jonni, and keep on mache-ing!

    Wendy

    • She looks really nice! Will you be hanging her from the ceiling so she can fly? I do hope you’ll let us see her again when she’s finished.

  • Dear friend, I have not done papier mache since I was in the fourth grade. (50some years ago) Stumbling upon your glorious website, I got up the courage to try a project: a life-size, in-flight snowy owl. Here she is, almost ready for your special clay, and then painting.
    Woo hoo!

  • Hi I am making a model of a hand and i was wondering if this with multiple layers will hold up to being handled by multiple people? I need a tough substance to use for the skeleton but light enough to be handled by patients on occasion.

    thank you!

    • The paper mache clay is very hard when it dries. It needs to be applied to some sort of armature, because it’s too wet to hold up on it’s own. And I apply it very thinly, less than 1/4″, so it will be able to dry all the way through. If patients will be handling the finished model, be sure to leave out the linseed oil (it has chemicals in it). Mineral oil works just as well, and baby oil smells good, too.

  • Hi Jonni! I am just beginning to paper mache, and my friend and I decided to make giant head masks using gym balls as the base. We mix equal parts flour and water and we add some glue to strengthen. We cut our strips in 1.5 inch strips and overlap about a little more than a quarter of an inch. When our first layer dried, however, our paper mache ripped! How can we fix this problem?? Thank you!

    • This can be a problem any time you use a form that won’t shrink with the paper. The paper shrinks as it dries, and this causes the cracks. I would suggest using at least four layers at a time, rather than just one layer and allowing it to dry. A thicker layer of paper mache will be stronger, and may resist cracking. If you do still get cracks, just repair them with more paper mache.

  • Hello, I’ve been considering using Paper Mache Clay for cosplay(creating costumes of characters) How does Paper Mache Clay deal with heat and being exposed to open air? If I make a helmet or prop out of it I wouldn’t want it to become exceptionally hot or break apart, especially since I live in Arizona. Also, what kind of things can work as Armatures to support Paper Mache Clay besides the Pepakura in the tutorial videos?, I was thinking of aluminum foil for easy manipulation, but I wondered if there were other things. Thank you very much for your time!

  • I am making a wearable Power Puff Girl head, but am finding it quite difficult to get the rigidity I desire. I have used an inflated beachball as my ‘mold’, and have tried using thick wallpaper paste and newspaper – as I have heard that this contains anti fungal properties. As I intend to wear this head/mask, I want to make sure that anything I use will be safe, so certain chemicals might be best avoided.
    Can you recommend a paper mâché recipe that will be strong enough to allow me to cut into the head to allow access, yet flexible enough for it to be worn as part of an active costume?

    • I like raw flour and water paste, but you could also try methyl cellulose (Elmer’s Art Paste) which doesn’t attract mold. (If you dry the head quickly, mold won’t be a problem anyway). More layers will make your paper mache stronger, as would a very thin layer of the paper mache clay recipe on this page (use mineral oil instead of linseed oil for costumes) but it’s probably not going to be very flexible, no matter what type of paper mache you choose. Although – I could be wrong, and if anyone has some suggestions, please add your ideas below.

  • Thank you for your well-informed website Jonni. I have a question. I would like to know if I can mix acrylic paint into my clay (paper, glue, flour, water mix) to color it before it dries. I am making a “carpet” as a base for my sculpture which will be very textured and hard to paint once it dries. There will be many pieces of the finished sculpture sitting on the carpet, so quite fiddly. It seems to me that adding pigment would be the ideal solution?

    • Yes, you can add acrylic paint to the mixture, but the color will probably come out pastel because the clay itself is white. If you want browns or greys, you could also use the colorants they sell for concrete, which are very concentrated and create darker colors. I don’t think either way to color the clay would affect it’s strength at all, but I haven’t done any experiments on it to find out.

      Will we get to see the finished sculpture?

  • Hello! I’m very interested in trying your paper mache clay for a project I’m doing, I’m making some vases. My thought was to use a real vase as something to mold on to, then cut the clay in half after drying and rejoining the two halves. Do you think that is something that’s possible? Would the original recipe or the air-dry recipe work better? Would it be better to mold 1/2 at a time? I’m planning on painting them afterwards. Lastly, if that doesn’t sound like a feasible option, do you have mold ideas for a vase?
    Thanks in advance,
    Connie

    • sorry for the numerous questions. I’m not terribly crafty and I’m just not familiar with all the options, short cuts. Working with this looks like fun though.

      • Don’t worry about asking questions! We love questions! I don’t always have the answer, but when I don’t someone else usually chimes in and offers some advice.

    • Hi Connie. I haven’t tried using the clay over a solid form, but I suspect it will crack when it dries. Doing one side at a time would probably work better. The recipe on this page does dry really, really hard. and isn’t easy to cut. The air dry clay recipe isn’t quite as strong, but I still think that cutting it and getting a good straight edge would be a real challenge.

      Christine makes vessels out of paper mache (see her article here) Debbie made some beautiful vases using a slightly different recipe for the pm clay (see her comment here) but she hasn’t commented for a while so I don’t know if she’s still watching for replies. You can make a vase shape using crumpled paper or aluminum foil – which has the advantage of shrinking along with the pm clay so it doesn’t crack, and you can pull the paper out when the clay is dry. The foil is really hard to get out, though, so if you used it you would need to cut the piece open and put it back together again.

      One way you could use your real vase – this is sort of “cheating” for die-hard paper mache people, but I do it all the time :) -is to us two or three layers of plaster cloth over your vase. It will harden in a few minutes, and you can then use a sharp craft knife to cut it open. Make sure the plaster cloth is completely hard before cutting it, so it won’t change it’s shape. When you have the two pieces away from the form, put it back together with a few more strips of plaster cloth, and then cover the gauze with a thin layer of the air-dry clay. This is how I make doll heads with the clay, and the result is really strong and smooth. It won’t be water-proof, of course.

      I hope this has been helpful instead of confusing. Be sure to show us how your vases turn out!

  • fab page so glad i found you , reading and watching everything i jumped to trying it out , the results were amazing . thank you so much for being here, i live in England,i produced a 1/12 scale dollhouse cottage , i needed the clay to be bumpy its a dream and i used cardboard boxes as the shell. its strong and will out live me xx

  • Are any of these materials you’ve developed tintable and sandable? I would be tinting with acrylic tints. Also, do these materials allow one to apply in layers without bonding or fracturing issues? Very informative and very interesting! Thank you.

    • I think the paper mache clay and the air dry clay can be tinted with acrylics, but the whiteness of the clays may give you a diluted pastel. And yes, you can apply both of the recipes in layers. The paper mache clay on this page will bond tight, but the air dry clay isn’t as sticky. You can add new layers to old layers by brushing the dried clay with a mixture of white glue and water.

  • Hello, i made the paper mache clay recipe, but it came out like papery, and not like a dough? It seem that i have too much toilet paper, can i add more joint compound, or glue?

    • Yes, if you didn’t measure the paper and ended up with too much in the mix, just add more of the other ingredients. I would try to add some of both the joint compound and the glue, so the proportions stay pretty much the same.

  • Hi! I’m just so glad I found your website. I have been into paper Mache but never figured out how to make my work smooth and glossy. I have been using plastic bottles for the body of the animal ( I have been making pigs) and then cover it with old newspaper so that I could draw and paint the animal. I actually don’t know what paint to use because when I use acrylic it cracks up when it dries up. Even if I do several layers. I hope to hear from you Ma’am. I would like to know the proper process in making an animal paper Mache with the use of recycled materials. Thanks!

    • Hello. I don’t have much experience with extra-smooth, glossy surfaces, but Pearl uses that look on her small dog sculptures. I’ll bet she would give you some advice if you copied your comment and put it as a reply to her most recent comment here.

      I have never had acrylic paint crack when it dries, unless I do it deliberately by painting over a layer of Elmer’s glue. Are you using a flour and water paste? If not, the glue might be causing the cracking. Let us know a few more details, and I’m sure we’ll figure it out. And do ask Pearl for some advice, as well.

  • Can I make a form with your air dry clay recipe over a aluminum two part rabbit, and somehow get them together?

    • Do you mean will the air dry clay stick to aluminum? The answer would be no – I don’t think anything sticks to aluminum. But I use aluminum foil all the time for my armatures, and then cover it with masking tape. It works really well.

  • Hello there I’m a teacher from Mexico and I want to make a paper mache dragon for my preschool students, Is it okay to use Glycerin or Mineral Oil instead of boiled Linseed oil?
    I really appreciate your work you are a very talented lady, God Bless.

    • Yes, you can use Glycerin or Mineral oil instead. In fact, I never use linseed oil any more – the mineral oil (baby oil) smells better.

      This sounds like a wonderful project, by the way. I do hope you’ll let us see it when it’s done.

      • Thank you for the reply, I really appreciate it, I hope I can manage to do it, I believe is my biggest project so far, to tell you the truth I’m a little nervous, but my little students are worth it. As soon as I finish it I’ll share my progress. Thank you very much for the information. :)

  • Hello! I must say, this recipe looks ingenious! But I must ask, is the clay lightweight once dried? I would like to use it for a mask, possibly, that I would wear for a while, and maybe some other embellishments on a costume.

    • The clay weighs about as much as an equal thickness of paper mache. It’s plenty strong enough for a mask, but don’t use the linseed oil if you’ll be wearing it close to your face. I find that it’s difficult to get a smooth finish inside the mask when using the paper mache clay, and it dries so hard that any little bump can be very uncomfortable to wear. I prefer to make masks anther way. See the first three videos about the Commedia del Arte Mask here.

  • I used your Air-Dry Paper Mache Clay recipe for a mosaic sculpture substrate. Along with a bowling ball. I used Weldbond for the glue. It worked beautifully. Thank you!

    • Lauri, did you try to upload a photo so we could see how your mosaic sculpture turned out? If you did, the upload didn’t work. The image may have been too large. You can reduce the size using this free online tool. We’ve also had some problems when people try to upload a photo using their iPhone, but I don’t have an iPhone, so I can’t test it. In any case, I hope you try again, because we’d love to see your sculpture.

  • I recently used your Air Dry Paper Mache Clay to make the substrate for a mosaic sculpture called “Oscar”. I used Weldbond as the glue in the recipe. It worked beautifully. Thank you so much.

  • Maybe you’ve answered this already but I cannot read nearly 4,000 comments (wow!). I’m interested in Warren’s recipe but it shows like this on my computer:

    Warren says:
    Jonni, I have had some success with the cement paper clay mix which is:
    • 1.75 CUPS CEMENT
    • Â 1 CUP JOINT COMPOUND
    • ¾ CUP PVA
    • 1 TOILET ROLL

    I need to know how much joint compound and how much PVA. That wierd “A” is not helping me out/haha.

    Thank you Jonni if you know the answer.

    PS I buy the powdered joint compound as it’s super cheap and just add my own water. Much more economical !

    Thank you!!!!!

    • Hi Kathleen. It looks like Warren’s post got messed up when I changed templates a few months back. The  is an html code that’s used by the browser for a non-breaking space – just to add a bit more confusion to the issue. 😉

      I fixed it, removing the unnecessary whatsits, and you can now see that he uses:

      • 1.75 CUPS CEMENT
      • 1 CUP JOINT COMPOUND
      • ¾ CUP PVA
      • 1 TOILET ROLL

      Just curious – do you have any problem with your pm clay getting hard in the bowl when you use the powdered joint compound? People ask me if it works, and I always have to say I don’t know because I’ve never tried it.

      • I did not have that problem with the powdered joint compound. The worker at the hardware store talked me into it, and I thought it’s been just fine. It’s cheap, so give a try.

        Thank you for removing the “A”. I didn’t know if there was another number there/haha.

        • Thanks, Kathleen. You’ve encouraged me to go buy some of the powdered stuff and give it a try. Did your bag list a time when it’s supposed to set? 15 minutes, 30 minutes, that sort of thing?

  • Hi I tried to comment, but I can’t see it and in case it didn’t send I’ll repeat it.

    Do you think this would be good for cosplay props, such as bits of armor (that’s not supposed to look like metal for this character), a shield, a mask.
    What does it look like dry, but raw, unpainted? Also is it heavy?

    Thanks for sharing the recipe :)

    • No, you were right. Comments do disappear for a while, because I have to approve each one before it can be seen by other readers. Just in case somebody says something you wouldn’t want kids to read. It never happens, but, you know….

      A lot of people have used this recipe for cosplay props. The paper mache clay isn’t super-smooth, and it isn’t at all shiny. It weighs about the same as the same thickness of paper, I suppose – not terribly heavy if you use it in a thin application, as I always advise. The color is slightly off-white. It dries really hard, and it’s pretty darned strong. If you’ll be using it near your face, use mineral oil or no oil instead of the boiled linseed oil.

    • one more question, in the 2nd video you explain how to get a smoother surface while working on the project – is it too hard or brittle to sand?

  • Hi, I’m looking for something to sculpt props for cosplay – a mask, shield, a few pieces of armor. Do you think it would be good for this? Is it light or heavy when dry? and also I was wondering what does it look like dry and unpainted – is it shiny or matt?

  • Hi Jonni I’m watching in the UK. Instead of linseed oil can I use vegetable oil and is there something I can add to prevent moulding of the paper clay?

    • Hi Alison. You can use vegetable oil or mineral oil. Or you can just leave it out. If you think you’ll be making up more clay than you’ll be able to use in a few days, you can keep it in the freezer between sculpting sessions, or you can add a teaspoon of bleach, or a few drops of clove oil. Some people say salt works, too. After the clay has been applied to the sculpture, the best way to avoid mould is to dry the sculpture in front of a fan, as quickly as possible.

  • Do you know if this would be biodegradeable? I am looking to make some attractive biodegradeable urn/planters, similar to the BIOS Urn product. Those sell for over $100, and I am looking for something that I can make and give to family members at a funeral. Weird, I know. Thanks, for whatever information you can provide.

    • I don’t think the recipe is really biodegradable. It will eventually disintegrate, but the glue is really a liquid plastic, and I wouldn’t want worms to eat it. However, there’s a wonderful video on YouTube about how they make biodegradable Ganesh sculptures in India, using very inexpensive ingredients, and they look great. You can see the video here. If you try their recipe and techniques, please let us know how your urns turned out.

  • Oh my gosh!!! Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve acquired a paper mache dressform in desperate need of repair.

    Slowly I’ve been clearing out my mother’s over-stuffed house so that she can enjoy sewing once again. Last week, I brought home a 50s era paper mache dress form that had recently been left with my mother. Since she already has a nice dressform, I convinced her it should go home with me. The dressform had adorned the front of a boat cruising around Lake Michigan up until last summer so you can imagine the condition. She’s a little miss-shapely.

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I’ll upload a picture when she’s all fixed up.

    • Hi Teresa. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. And I look forward to seeing the dress form when it’s done. (It sounds like she’s led an interesting life!)

  • Another question. I have a paper mâché deer head (purchased) that is flat on the back side. I want to make a mold then use that mold to make more paper mâché deer heads. What is the best product to use for the mold, a latex rubber – and how do I keep that from sticking to the paper mâché mold. Will I then be able to use the paper mâché clay for casting inside that mold? Thanks.

    • I haven’t used paper mache in a latex mold – since both the paper mache and the latex are water-based, there may be a problem with the mold softening if you don’t use a release. The people who sell the latex should tell you which release is safe to use with their product. The paper mache clay doesn’t really work all that well in molds, in my opinion – the paper prevents the mix from entering fine details. The air dry clay has been used successfully in silicone molds by some people, although I haven’t tried that yet, either – and I don’t know how detailed their mold were.

    • This mixture dries really, really hard. It can be sanded, but it isn’t easy. If you need a smooth surface, you might want to try the air dry clay recipe instead. It uses the same ingredients, but with different amounts.

  • Hi, I have a ceramic elephant head and a resin or plastic rhino head that I would like to make a mold of, then pull that mold off and make paper mache. What do you suggest for an inexpensive mold compound. I have been on the smooth on and composimold websites but the products seems very expensive. measurements are

    elephant 14x9x5″D and
    rhino9x6x13″ D
    thanks for any imput and your tutorials are very good.

    • Diane, the only thing I can think of that would be less expensive is plaster of Paris, but with a sculpture that has lots of undercuts, like this elephant, you would need to make a mold with lots of pieces if you use plaster. The silicone molds can be made in one piece, because they’re flexible. Multi-piece molds are not easy to make. You might want to go to your local library and see if they have a book on the subject.

      If you do use plaster, you’ll need to use a release of some kind to make sure the paper mache clay doesn’t stick to the mold. You would actually get a much better copy of your elephant in a plaster mold if you used a product called Li-Qua-Che instead. It pours into an unsealed plaster mold, just like the ceramic clay slip that made your elephant, and it gives a perfect copy that’s hollow and light. But, unfortunately, it only comes in gallon sized containers.

  • I am very interested in your paper clay, would Pollyfiller Advanced work as I have been unable to find Joint compound in Turkey.

    Thank you

    • Hi Kathy. I don’t know what’s in Pollyfiller Advanced, so I don’t know if it would work or not. The drywall joint compound we use is made mostly of calcium carbonate. Is that’s what’s in the product you mentioned? If you can’t find drywall joint compound, you might be better off using a more traditional paper pulp recipe, like this one.

    • Hi Jonni,
      Thank you for your quick response. I meant to write Polyfilla, sorry for the mistake.
      Pollyfilla is made up of calcium carbonate, so probably won’t work. I will keep looking but in the meantime make the clay you suggested.
      regards Kathy

  • Hello Jonni,

    I`m watching from Germany and I like your stunning sculptures a lot .
    I bought a joint compound which strongly smells of solvent. I`m wondering if this is only in Germany, or does the american joint compound also stink chemically?
    thx

    • Are you using drywall joint compound? The kind used to fill the cracks between two sheets of plaster board on new walls? There’s no solvent in the drywall joint compound here in the US, at least the brands I’ve used. There’s also a product found in the plumbing department that is sometimes called joint compound – that’s not what we use, and I doubt it would work.

      Perhaps we have another German reader who could help us figure this out?

      • Thank you very much for your answer. Maybe you`re right with the plaster board. I will have to go on searching for the correct article and ask a shop assistant.
        Is the US Joint compound stuff only to fill sth.? Does it not to harden when it is exposed to air?
        Have a nice Weekend

        • The drywall joint compound is used to fill the cracks between drywall, and it hardens when it dries. It doesn’t harden immediatly, like plaster of Paris, but only as it’s exposed to air so it can dry.

  • I accidentally stumbled on your website…. you are a very talented lady…I watched your video on making paper mache clay & decided to give it a try…’it works great’…here’s is my first…. ’12” high Knights Templar’

  • I am making a large sign with a 3D sculpture on a 4’x6′ wood board. I have stapled wire cloth ( like fine chicken wire) onto the board and formed my shape. I then covered the wire with several layers of pm ( four & water) using newspaper strips. Can I cover this with the pm clay? That would save me some time from doing more layers of strips. I want it to be hard and strong. I am concerned that it may not dry on the inside since it is pm to the board.
    Thanks for your help!
    Susan

    • Yes, many people use the pm clay over paper mache. I always recommend using a very thin layer -1/16th of an inch is usually strong enough for most projects. If you use a very deep layer, it may dry out the “skin” and prevent deeper layers from drying.

      • I used the paper mâché clay over part of my sculpture tonight. It may have been a little dry but seemed to work. I dipped my fingers in a mixture of glue and water to smooth it . Tomorrow I am going to use the blue paper towels for another section of my piece. I have painted the board that it is on with a latex paint and I want part of the sculpture to be the same color. After I put on the gesso can I paint it with latex paint or does it have to be acrylic? Love your site. This has been so much fun!

        • Yes, Susan – you can use latex paint over the gesso. It sounds like you’re working on a very interesting project.

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