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


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,
    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!

    • 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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