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.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

3,534 Responses

← Previous Page 27 of 27
  1. Mike
    Mike at |

    is mineral spirits the same thing as mineral oil

    Reply
  2. Circuit Calavera and Calacas | chibitronics

    […] basic paper clay, this air-drying papier-mâché clay recipe was used found online at this website:http://www.ultimatepapermache.com/paper-mache-clay, with some slight alterations to have higher paper pulp content for a more handmade, papery […]

  3. Princess
    Princess at |

    Hello, Jonni!

    I just wanted to say thanks for creating this recipe. I’ve used it a few times, but also just put together an Instructable using it. You can check it out here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Monster-Claws-with-Homemade-Paper-Clay/

    I made sure to redirect people here if they want more information and I hope you think it’s a good use of your wonderful medium. :)

    Reply
  4. Amanda
    Amanda at |

    Thank you Jonnie,
    You are extremely helpful and so timely with your replies!
    I am ecstatic to see the finished product… will post pictures here when it’s all done!
    Then I can venture on to the rest of your website and see what kind of sculptures I can make ;D

    Reply
  5. Nate
    Nate at |

    Jonni,
    I am working on a project for my wife. It is a sewing mannequin made from a plaster mold, but rather than fill the mold with foam I am looking at using a paper mache clay to create more of a shell. I am hoping it will give a smoother, more durable exterior. Do you have any advice on the thickness I should apply, any adjustments to the recipe, and about how much clay I should mix up to cover the hip, torso, and shoulder area?

    Reply
  6. Delphine
    Delphine at |

    Hi!
    Can we replace Linseed Oil or Mineral Oil with something else?

    Reply
  7. Amanda
    Amanda at |

    Jonnie,
    Thank you for your advice! These masks are actually not going to be directly on our faces…. mine will be attached to my face with wire hangers and the other will be worn as a helmet. http://www.instructables.com/id/Adam-and-Barbara-Maitland-Costumes-from-BeetleJuic/?ALLSTEPS As you’ll see, I need more of a workable material to add wrinkles and detail to our masks that the kind you suggested.
    I returned the DAP and got Proform Lite (Ultralite)(its all the had besides DAP)) Joint Compound….. I hope it will work! I currently can’t seem to find the previous stream of comments to see if it was mentioned.
    I also got some baby oil. The frames I am putting the mache clay on is very durable made from a lot of newspaper, cardboard and lots and lots of tape. I plan to make the clay as thin as I can but I am also relying on it to be like a strong glue to hold it all together for good!
    Is hot glue a bad idea (to attach the tongue, teeth and eyes) on this paper clay? I’m afraid it will melt. Will my joint compound work as far as you know?

    Reply
  8. The Making of a Monster | Shelf Talk

    […] Is it a dragon? A dinosaur? A sea monster? We’re not sure, and that’s okay. He’s made using both a standard paper ma?che?  recipe and paper ma?che?  clay, which we found out about through YouTube videos on the website Ultimate Paper Ma?che? . […]

Leave a Reply

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.

Heads up! You are attempting to upload a file that's too large. Please try a smaller file smaller than 250KB.

Note that images greater than 250KB will not be uploaded.