Bobcat Sculpture

Paper Mache Clay

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

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

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




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

Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture

Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture

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

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

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

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

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

Making Your Paper Mache Clay


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

Note about Toilet Paper:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  • Hey Jonni,
    First of all i want to say you are a genius. I have 3 questions do you apply the clay in layers or can i put it on really thick? Do I wait for the layers to completely dry if i should layer? And what do you use to seal projects?
    Ps i am making a jack skellington head for Halloween

    • Hi Tim. You wouldn’t want to use really thick layers because it would take forever for the pm clay to dry. I try to keep each layer under 1/4″. Let each layer dry before adding another one. (A fan will speed up the drying time). The new clay will stick to the dry clay. If you’ll be putting your Jack Skellington head outside, you’ll want to use a marine-type varnish from the hardware store. Acrylic artist’s varnish won’t offer enough protection from the rain.

      By the way, did you see Rex’s article about making pumpkins with paper mache clay? You might find some more ideas you can use for your project.

      • Thank you so much. I Will be sure to post a picture when I am done. That was a super clever way to make a pumpkin.

  • Hi Jonni!

    I stumbled across your blog while searching for something to help make my daughters halloween costume. We tried out the PM clay and I am finding it hard to get all the clumps broken down from the toilet paper. We used the hand mixer and it just didn’t seem to do a very good job. Is there something else we could try to get it smoother? I am also using the mineral oil instead of linseed oil. It doesn’t look anything like what you have and it’s not smooth. It will work for what we are using it for as we are making horns, so the texture is good for that, but I am trying to figure out how to get it smooth for future projects.

    Thank you! Love your work!

    • Hi Crystal. Are you using DAP brand joint compound? It has a weird reaction when mixed with the glue, so it won’t work in this recipe. If not, the problem is probably too much paper. The fix, though, is easy – just add a little more of the wet ingredients, both joint compound and glue, and mix again. If the paper is clumped together, you might need to mix it for several minutes to break the fibers apart.

      Good luck with it.

      • I am not using DAP as far as I know! I am in Canada and am just using the basic Drywall compound by CGC. I am thinking it must be too much paper.. I will definitely try to add more of the wet and see what happens 🙂
        Thank you so much for the quick reply and all the help!

  • Hello. I’m so glad I found this site. Your artwork and tutorials are so easy, stress-free and interesting. Thank you for sharing them and thank you for being such an excellent communicator. My question: I have a project where I have covered a small plastic skull form with some oil based clay called monster clay. It is soft when warm and gets quite hard when it cools due to it’s wax content. I want to cover the clay portion with paper mache to create a lightweight “mask” for the skull. It seems like the wet shop rag method you used on the Peter Laurie mask would be great, but this is quite small and hard to work with. Would the Paper Mache Clay material work here? To dry and then lift off the clay so as to form a lightweight “mask”? Thank you so much for your time! (ps, lightweight is my goal, the clay is way to heavy, so that’s why I’m making a mask of it)

    • Hi. You can put the paper mache clay over your sculpt (he’s quite a character, by the way – ), or you can use the shop towels. If I did it, I’d probably use the shop towels, just two layers, perhaps an extra strip around the edges. And I’d probably use the joint compound and glue paste that you can find on this page (scroll down to find it). If you use tools to push the paper into the dips, it should come out quite nice. However, the pm clay would also work well, if you use the flat side of a knife to smooth it off, and a tool to push the clay into the dips. You’ll want at least 1/8″ of the pm clay to make sure it’s strong enough when it’s dry to handle the pressure while removing the skull and Monster clay.

      Good luck with it.

      • Jonni thanks for the quick response and comment. I’m going to take your advice as it sounds like the blue towel method will be lighter as well. I’ll let you know how it comes out! Best regards! – Ross (Now off to Walmart to get the glue and joint compound, maybe I’ll do some drywall repair next week while I’m at it.. )

        • Jonni, the gesso (Walmart joint compound/elmers glue all) / blue shop towel method worked great with the monster clay. I greased it up with some vaseline and the mask popped right off after it dried. My first try wasn’t too bad, but I think I can do better with the details, the best part is that with minimal repair the clay sculpt stood up to the mask being removed, so it’s reusable. Next step is to coat the blue mask with more gesso to smooth it out and then paint it. Thanks for the help, I’ll post again in the daily sculpt section when I have something a bit nicer. Have a great weekend!

          • I’m glad it worked so well for you. One trick I discovered is that you can smooth the paper a bit more when you add more gesso by running the flat side of a knife over the damp paper. It flattens down nicely, if that’s the look you want.

            I hope we see you again soon.

  • Hi Jonni
    I made the clay but it still looks more toilet paper like, is that due to there being a bit too much toilet paper?
    Also can I put the clay over paper mache? I am making an Olaf and started out with paper mache but it is not stiff enough.

    • Hi Jackie. Did you measure the toilet paper after squishing out the water? If you put in too much, just add more of the other ingredients and mix again. The exact measurements of the wet ingredients isn’t terribly important, as long as you get the proportions close.

      The other possibility would be DAP joint compound. It doesn’t play well with the Elmer’s glue – it tends to make the mixture too stiff, and lumpy. If that’s the problem, you’d need to start over with a different brand. Here in my town, Walmart is the only place where I can buy joint compound that isn’t made by DAP.

      And yes, the clay can go over paper mache. We do it all the time.

  • Hi Jonni – I am looking to create a costume (Mr. Potato Head) for Halloween. Do you have any idea if the paper mache clay is durable enough for a costume? Would I be better off with regular paper mache? To give an idea of the costume – I am planning on using an exercise ball and punching balloon taped together and cover that with either paper mache or paper mache clay… just not sure which. any advice would be great. Thanks!!

    • Hi Jennie. The paper mache clay is very strong, but it will be heavier than traditional paper mache. It usually doesn’t matter, but you’re going to be carrying a very big potato-shaped mask for a long time, so it could gt heavy. The paper mache clay will also be air-tight, and it will hold in moisture, and I’m not sure that would be a good thing.

      I know it sounds like heresy, since I’ve been jokingly called the Paper Mache Queen, but I’d probably use two layers of plaster cloth over your ball and balloon, and cover that with a few layers of either paper strips and paste or a very thin layer of the paper mache clay, just to make a nice smooth surface for painting. It would go a lot faster, and you wouldn’t need to worry about popping that balloon (it happened to another reader a few days ago). You would still need air holes, though.

  • Thank you so much for these insanely helpful tutorials!

    My thesis paper actually focuses on producing paper sculptures with paper made from wild grass and I wonder if this recipe might work just as good with the wild grass.

    Will have to do some experimenting 🙂

    Oh, and by the way, would you be open for a short little interview regarding paper mache clay? (Would really be awesome if you were!) and are your books available online?

    • Hi Nicole. I have no idea if the recipe will work with paper made with grass (I’ve never heard of such a thing!) but I would love to hear how your experiments come out.

      And yes, I’d be happy to do a short interview. An email interview would be easiest for me. You can contact me directly. And yes, my books are available online. You can follow that link, or just click on the images over on the right-hand sidebar of the book you’re interested in. Thanks for asking!

    • I haven’t done it, but many people do use recycled paper for this recipe. They just need to soak the newspaper longer, because it won’t fall apart naturally the way toilet paper does. Leave it in warm water at least overnight. And mix really well to break up any clumps.

        • One way is to put the soaked paper into a blender with plenty of water. The paper should be floating, and completely submerged in water. Blend, then pour the glop onto a sieve and let the water drain.

          • I’m currently attempting this method and will let you know how it goes.

            If you can, please, see if you can make clay similar to your toilet paper recipe from newspaper/shredded mail. We could then compare notes.

            Thank you for all your help and all the great instructional videos you have here on your sight. You are awesome. I’ll be in touch.

            • I might try the recipe using the newspaper, some time in the future, but I really like the original recipe so I don’t have a strong incentive for doing it right now. I can see good reasons for using newspaper instead, though, so I might try it when I get the time. Please let us know how your own experiments turn out.

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