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 – but you can also vary the consistency, and make it thicker, like this, 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 the clay dries 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,” not “fast set” or “light”.) (Not sure what Joint compound is, or what it’s called in your country? click here.)
  • 3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue-all (PVA glue)
  • 1/2 cup White Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Linseed Oil or Mineral Oil (vegetable oil can be used, too, if you want)

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. ]

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

3,315 Responses

← Previous Page 25 of 25
  1. Rahul
    Rahul at |

    Hi Jonni,

    My good luck that I found your website while searching for art and craft ideas for helping my son ,who is studying in fourth-grade. Believe me, I dont recall having done such stuff before back in my school days or anytime later till now.

    After going through your paper mache clay recipe tutorial and the follow up tutorials on pitfalls to be avoided in making the clay , I got the confidence that it can be done.Really appreciate the details in your tutorials that helped me in making the clay in India. You and guest members gave many tips on what to look for if we have to make the clay in countries other that the US.That really helped .

    For users in India , I used the following for making the clay :

    As a replacement for ‘joint compound’ , I used ‘Birla White Wall Care White Cement Based Putty’. This is in the form of power and has to be mixed with water as per the instructions mentioned on it. Thanks again to Jonni’s comments and tips in videos that helped me in selecting the right product otherwise I could have got confused with plaster . For PVA glue , I used ‘Fevicol MR Easy Flow White Adhesive’, though not 100 % sure if it is a PVA glue.
    As a replacement for Linseed oil , I used Glycerin as suggested by Jonni .

    For paper I used one 2 Ply paper roll .

    Interestingly , I forgot to add the white flour before mixing with hand blender . The white flour was added well after half the mixing was already done .However I feel that the clay made was reasonably OK to begin with , though it has some small lumps here and there .

    Using the clay , I am trying to make the Humming bird , though it is looking more like sparrow .My son is trying to make a whale. The face is not very much like the whale though :)But on the whole , till now , we are very much happy with our first attempt.What is satisfying is all the materials were already lying in my house except for the glycerin .

    I have left them for dryng and my immediate concern now is the mold.
    We dont have the conventional oven here at many places , we just have the microwave oven .

    I left them drying under the fan overnight.
    I would revisit the videos now to see how much time to wait for it to dry before proceeding with home made gesso followed by acrylic paint followed by varnish.

    Thanks
    Rahul

    Reply
    1. Rahul
      Rahul at |

      Hi Jonni,

      I just read one of your replies to find out that I should not have used the Power based Joint compound ( called wall putty in India) for the clay :(

      I would take the pain to go out to the hardware store to get the pre-mixed one next time I set out to make something.

      thanks
      Rahul

      Reply
  2. Tania
    Tania at |

    Hello. I’m working on a Frankenstein project for school and am on a extremely tight budget so I can’t get that much toilet paper to cover an 8 foot tall human body and wanted to know if I could use newspaper instead because I was able to get a giant box for free from the animal shelter I volunteer at. Would that suffice or would the newspaper not work?

    Reply
  3. Edden
    Edden at |

    I have 2 questions:
    1) is PVA glue basically White glue?
    2) is it ok to buy a powder for making the joint compound and make it myself (if I’d buy it ready made it is really heavy to carry).
    Thanks again
    Edden

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth at |

    Hi, Jonni!

    I’ve just been looking through your list of countries and the alternative suggestions for ‘Dry Wall Joint Compound’… and here’s yet another one from the UK!

    ‘Dry Wall’ is commonly referred to as ‘Plasterboard’ in the UK. Wickes’ own brand is called ‘Plasterboard Jointing Compound’… see the listing I took from their website, below:

    “PLASTERBOARD JOINTING COMPOUND 10KG
    Product Code: 220995

    Life-span: 12 month
    Coverage: 22 m²
    Capacity: 10 kg
    Type: Jointing Compound
    Weight: 10 kg
    Setting Time: 24 h
    Pre-mixed jointing compound for bedding tapes and finishing plasterboard joints.”
    Reviews give it a 5 star rating

    It costs £17•67 for the ready mixed 10kg bucket, which works out at £1•77 per kilogram (sounds better when broken down like that, doesn’t it!). It is also available in dry powdered form, in 10 kg bags.

    I managed (at last!) to overcome my propensity to dither and have just invested in a bucket! I’m glad to see it has a 12 month life span and hope to justify the outlay within that time! (if not for paper mâché clay, then for filling cracks!). A broken leg and a number of other trivial trifles put me out of action last year, but am determined to produce ‘something’ this year!… and I do like the look of your Humpty Dumpty as a starting point!

    I hope this info helps!
    Kind regards,
    Elizabeth
    PS. This is the second e-mail on this subject! The first disappeared when I looked up the information on the Wickes’ website and, if it didn’t reach you, may still be hovering somewhere in cyberspace! So sorry if this turns out to be a duplicate.

    Reply
  5. Camille
    Camille at |

    here is my paper mache styracosaurus skull. I spray painted it black because my walls are white and the detail would have been lost. im going to hang it on my wall after i make a few more ceratopsian skulls :) thanks Jonni.

    Reply
  6. Ali Elliot
    Ali Elliot at |

    Hi, I’ m working on a large model. Of a horses head, I have built it up and on a wire armature and will definitely use your recipe for the clay, I’ve made my own lots of times with varying results but want a nice smooth finish so this sounds ideal. My question is – is there any way of waterproofing ??? I had thought of covering it with a layer of fibreglass but it all sounds too technical !

    Reply
  7. Jenn
    Jenn at |

    I am so excited to try this out! I’ve dabbled in paper mache since I was about 3 1/2 years old, and I LOVE doing it. I’m going to try making homemade xmas bobbles first and see how that turns out. (Using small balloons as a form and then when dry, popping the balloons.) But my big plan is to cover my computer desk in this stuff to make it look like it’s made of stone. I am squee-ing right now, so excited!

    Reply
  8. Gaz
    Gaz at |

    still can’t find the joint compound (Joint Filler as it’s called in the UK) I did find one but it’s £7.00 for 330g but comes in a tube.
    Has anyone in the UK made this and could give a brand for the filler?

    also, I don’t have a mixer, only a hand blender so could you mix by hand?
    I know it would take longer but I can’t see why it would not work, unless it dries out before you mixed it all, of course

    Reply
  9. foxelle
    foxelle at |

    My 12 year old daughter is making a “Jesus Lizard” for a science assignment – due tomorrow! We did it with coat hangers then newspaper with masking tape, then covered with the clay – finished about midnight last night. Great so far, but it’s due tomorrow and needs to be painted. It was mostly dry this morning then we did a few touchups. Any advice on how we can speed this up and have it ready by tomorrow morning? Should we put it in the sun or the oven? Is it a problem to paint it before it’s completely dry? (We are planning on using acrylic paint.) We’ll post a pic when it’s done – looking amazing so far.

    Reply
  10. Breanna Hempel
    Breanna Hempel at |

    Love your art! I am brand new to this media and I am working with this medium to make a mask for cosplay (I’m sure you know what that is). I create my own characters and go to conventions and such. Anyway, this mask I’m making isn’t smooth by any stretch of the imagination. I’m thinking of sanding it (by hand) and I have no idea what coarseness to use. Thoughts?

    Reply
  11. Lina
    Lina at |

    Hi Jonni,
    I had been a long time since I was working on the hands (in October 2013). Sorry that I didn’t post any pictures of the final project. Here it is. It still need to be finished underneath and paint (I am waiting for warmer weather :)). But that how they looked during the Thanksgiving Service in our church. They did make big statement. Thank you for your help and encouragement.
    Lina :)

    Reply
  12. emily
    emily at |

    I just bought a 25 pound bag of POWDERED joint compound.

    Reply
  13. Cindy Mendus
    Cindy Mendus at |

    I’m excited to try your clay…I’m at the home depot and don’t know if I need dry or remixed joint compound?? I honestly didn’t know it came both ways and want to be sure I get the right kind…thoughts?

    Reply
    1. Becky
      Becky at |

      I am trying to make a big stone to roll away from the entrance of Jesus tomb with chicken wire for a Easter presentation at church. I have the wire-formed around two large hola hoop’s and this gives the the size but what do I do next. Can I use paper bags.

      Reply
  14. sondrad
    sondrad at |

    Hey! I just found this and I had a quick question. I am making a dragon sculpture that needs to be strong enough for kids to sit on. I was hoping to use this as the final several layers of the dragon for both strength and detail. Will this recipe be able to withstand/hold up a child? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  15. sondrad
    sondrad at |

    Hey, I just wanted to say this looks awesome! I am doing a dragon for a promotional at my work and was looking at using the paper mache clay for the final layers. Do you think it is strong enough for kids to sit on once dry? The dragon needs to be strong enough for kids to sit on and I have been having trouble figuring out a fairly simple and low cost way to pull it off. Thanks!

    Reply
  16. Tina
    Tina at |

    I have a project on building a sculpture of A Disney character out of recycled objects. News paper and toilet paper are both recyclable so I thought I would give this a shot. I decided to do Mickey Mouse as my character. I will probably need to sand it after. Will the paper Mache clay work for building this? Or do I need to use normal paper Mache? I should tell you that this is for my class and the kids are quite rough.

    Reply
  17. Nancy Young
    Nancy Young at |

    Hi Jonni!
    Great site! I am making a giant brain coral. I used a dogloo as the base form. I will be spray painting that and once it is dry, piping on the paper mache clay to make all the squiggles all over the coral. I really need the depth that piping on the detail will add to it. Do you have any idea if the clay will stick to the painted base? I am afraid it might pop off when it dries. My other option would be to pipe on the detail then paint the whole thing. Any advise is appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Judith MacNeil
      Judith MacNeil at |

      Would your paper mâché clay be suitable for a marionette? I am thinking about the limbs as well as the head over a wire armature. I have used newspaper pulp for the torso and hips but I am looking for another material for the remainder. I love it’s molding capabilities. Thanks!

      Reply
  18. Susan
    Susan at |

    I used this recipe for my college sculpture class. I used a plaster mold of my hand which I lined with plastic wrap. (I only had one mold, so I would pack down the paper mache, and then pop it out upside down to dry. Using this method I was able to get about 30 in under an hour.) They took about a day to dry completely, but once they did they were solid and very light weight. Easy to string to get her and hang for my campus installation piece. The rest of my class was using a (very snelly) newspaper and flour recipe that was raking a very long time to dry and didn’t capture the level of detail I wanted my hands to have. This recipe seemed perfect for my needs, and it worked out great! Here it a picture of the finished product. Keep up the good work here on the site!

    Reply
  19. Camille
    Camille at |

    Hi Jonni and everyone else. Im from Melbourne Australia and I just used the recipe using Australian brands and it worked perfectly for me. I used Parfix – multipurpose “filler” (joint compound american). PVA glue (Boyle), and normal vegetable oil instead of linseed oil. worked perfectly and you can get all those things from Bunnings warehouse.

    Reply
  20. Rajeshkumar.N
    Rajeshkumar.N at |

    Hi Jonni,
    Iam Rajesh from india,I am styrofoam and food carving artist,Iam very impressed with ur work.An excellent ideas and work.
    I have doubt with ur Paper mache clay reciepe that is can i use any oil instead of linseed oil or what is the alternative..Pls let me know that..
    Thank you

    Reply
  21. colin
    colin at |

    Hi Jonni!

    This recipe sounds great, I was wondering if you have experience airbrushing the material once hardened? I’m assuming it will work alright. Also do have experience sanding it? the final question.. does it stick to foam? I’m working on a carved dragon head and have found the finishing of the carved sculpture very difficult, i think a skim coat over it would probably yield a nicer finish, but I don’t want to ruin the sculpture!

    Thanks so much, I have high hopes this is a great solution to a frustrating problem.

    Reply
  22. Jazz
    Jazz at |

    Thanks! I’m now starting my clay, but I wonder can I use office paper or newspaper, boil them, and tear them to small pieces, and then shred them in a blender instead of toilet paper?By the way, I really enjoying watching your epic channels ! :)

    Reply
  23. Jazz
    Jazz at |

    Love your brilliant invention.
    But about the joint compound,can I use skim coat compound ?
    How long do I have to bake it in the oven? Will it expand, rise, curl up or turn smaller ?
    If I want to keep it for a longer time, can I put it in the fridge ?

    Reply
  24. Laura
    Laura at |

    Hi Jonni. I’m just getting into the paper clay artistry and found your site through pinterest. You’ve got some lovely pieces! I have a question though. I have all of the ingredients except one. Can unsanded grout be used as a substitute for the joint compound. It isn’t as flexible but can be mixed for various levels of viscosity. I currently use it to pour over foam pieces to make the resemble rock (then painted of course). I’m just wondering if anyone might have used it. I have a whole box. Would like to use instead of buying additional joint compound (One more can/box in my craft room).

    Reply
  25. Susan
    Susan at |

    p.s You mention making it thinner to spread on an armature. I imagine that I would like a buttercream texture as well. Do you leave something out or add more of something to get a softer texture.

    Reply
  26. Susan
    Susan at |

    Would it “stick” to fibreglass window screen material? I am wanting to pipe a lace effect for a large theatre hanging. Also, when dry, how does it compare to artist light modelling paste for weight?

    Thanks.

    Reply
  27. Kelley
    Kelley at |

    Hi Jonni,
    Do you know if your formula of paper mâché is strong enough when dry to hold up mosaics with tile or glass.
    I’ve been looking for a way to make sculptures to mosaic without using wire.

    Reply
  28. stacey
    stacey at |

    is it safe to use the mixer for food afterwards? any tips for cleaning?

    Reply
  29. Brianna Winters
    Brianna Winters at |

    I love your art do you mind if i ask you if you can email your paper mache ingredients.

    Reply
  30. kevin
    kevin at |

    I am wondering where you get the eyes for your animals. I have checked various marble outlets but have not seen anything that would work. Can you recommend a place to purchase these?

    Reply
    1. Tamara evans
      Tamara evans at |

      I have purchased eyes from Van Dyke’s Taxidermy Supplies for years and love them. They mailed a catalog to my house years ago and I’ve never been more grateful for junk mail! Nice people to work with.

      Reply
  31. Jean
    Jean at |

    I used your recipe last spring to make a 5′ high faux ship’s anchor for my son’s high school Grad Nite (nautical theme). It worked very well, just as you described (photo attached). Now I’m coming back to your recipe to make faux logs to use with a painted backdrop for a photo op at a western-themed benefit (other son). The logs are supposed to create a rustic ranch gate look. Like the anchor, they’ll be pretty large – about 7′ long. All this info is just to share with your readers that your methods and recipes work well on a large scale, too – and to say thank you for your kindness and generosity!

    Reply
  32. Catherine
    Catherine at |

    Hi! I’m working on my first paper mache project since grade school and I’m using an anatomical skull as a form to make lots of paper mache skulls for Halloween (I’m giving myself a lot of time to make them). I was planning to use the paper strips and paste method with the glue-based paste but I ran across this method and it sounds really interesting to me.

    My question is, as you might suspect, I’ll be needing to cut the model skull out of the paper mache after it dries so that I can reuse it. Would this paper mache clay work for that? Would I be able to cut a seam through it with a knife to unmold it? I’d then have to reassemble the skull using another layer of paper mache, either strips or clay.

    Also, do you have recommendations for preventing the paper mache from sticking to the skull? I’ve read recommendations to use WD40, saran wrap, tin foil, a bottom layer of strips with water only or with a lower glue content (1-4 instead of 3-1) paste.

    I appreciate your help!

    Reply
  33. Tina
    Tina at |

    Hi Everyone,
    This is for all my fellow Canadians looking for an inexpensive PVA glue and a good joint compound. I purchased 3L of Natura Glue for $17.95 and 7KG tub of Home Hardware brand joint compound for $6.50. They both work very well. Joint compound elsewhere (Home Depot & Lowes) is almost $20.00 for a smaller tub. Hope this helpful.

    Reply
  34. Ezme Green
    Ezme Green at |

    I think I love you. I already use PVA clay made with cornstarch which is great for small things and have tried trad papier mache to no avail. This looks great and Im going to try it tomorrow!!

    Reply
  35. frank lambert
    frank lambert at |

    I am in queens land Australia and I am a sculpture teacher and I mainly have been working with Bronze.
    Due to health problems that’s no longer possible so I am very interested in your paper mache clay.
    my question is what is white glue?
    what is joint compound?
    I hope you can clarify it for me
    Frank Lambert.

    Reply
    1. Chris
      Chris at |

      Hi Frank, I am down in Victoria, White glue, any PVA glue, I buy 4 ltr containers from Bunnings or any of cheapie hardwear places. Joint compound the stuff you use when doing plaster sheets on walls. The stuff to fill the gaps.

      Reply
      1. franklambert
        franklambert at |

        Frank lambert
        Thanks Chris I will let you know how I get on.

        Reply
  36. Roxy
    Roxy at |

    Sending you sincere thanks with much appreciation for sharing your recipes ,tips and techniques on videos and more . I’ve spent so much time consumed into searching and researching web sites for mastering smooth pieces and always come back to your site for recipes and tutorials for successful results. I’m certain you’ve been told before you have a gifted talent . Your sculptures and mask are beautiful yet the time you give to share it with others is more the blessing. It has been therapeutic to my disabling condition of chronic pain with multiple spinal problems as the result of an accident. When I’m in the thought process of paper mache’ projects it takes much of my discomfort to a better level to cope with. Its like turning everything else more toward mute as I fine tune my concentration on working with my paper mache’ pieces. I enjoy your books for copies of information but the video tutorials are entertaining and informative at its best. To think back of all the multiple facilities for physical therapy I’ve dragged myself to by physicians advice. Many tiring hours with expensive treatments and the agony to drive home after a session. It would wipe me out for the next day or two of exertion. Each time finding myself at complete bed rest for the following 24 to 48 hrs. to overcome it all. I find your unique methods the best relaxation, motivating and stimulating mind over matter with my time spent being more pleasant and in the comfort of my own home. Its been proven to me to lower pain and discomfort for a better day. Best of all at a far more reasonable price to pay financially, physically and mentally. For that I can’t thank you enough. I challenge others that may have a loved one with a medical condition that causes pain and discomfort to introduce them to this art with DR. GOOD. Your gifted talent may truly be a gift to help others as it has for me. Sincerely, Roxy

    Reply

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.