Paper Mache Recipes, Tips, Techniques, and Experiments

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 the recipe has now gone “viral” and is being used by artists all over the world. The video above is an update, just to give you a better idea about how to actually use the clay. The original video is below, and if you scroll down you’ll find the recipe in written form, as well.

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.”)

Since the book came out, I’ve received many questions about the materials used in the paper mache clay, and I answered many of them on this page.

How to Use Your Paper Mache Clay

I usually make mine fairly thin by using less flour than the recipe calls for, so it can be spread over an armature like frosting,  – but you can also add more flour to make it thicker 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. Even with a thin layer, you’ll need to give it plenty of time to dry, just like regular paper strips and paste.

Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture

Paper Mache Clay Made Thick Enough for Modeling Details

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.

If you need an even smoother material, try my Silky-Smooth Air Dry Clay. You still need an armature for the air dry clay, but there’s less paper, so it dries smoother, and it’s easier to sand.

The Recipe for Paper Mache Clay

Drywall Joint CompoundThe 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 as instructed in the video, and use 1 1/4 cups – some rolls contain more paper than needed)
  • 1 cup Drywall Joint compound from the hardware store or Walmart. (Get premixed “regular,” that comes in a plastic tub, not the dry powder form.)
    Note:  The DAP brand does not work. It will turn your pm clay into a rubbery mess. All other brands will work just fine.
  • 1/2 cup White Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Mineral Oil or Linseed Oil. I now recommend Mineral Oil (Baby Oil) because it’s easier to find, and it’s safer to use if kids are helping with your project. Can’t find either one? Just leave it out. The recipe works just fine without it.

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).

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. They change things sometimes, so you’ll still want to measure the wet paper. And if you find a brand that’s cheaper, go ahead and buy it – the brand doesn’t matter at all.

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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4,434 Comments

    • H Tammy. Your image didn’t come through – it was probably too big. Could you make it smaller and try again? I really would love to see how your Angel Wings turned out.

  • Hi Jonni, can i ask if I can sand it? i will be using this as a mold for my Motorcycles Fairings 😀 this is the cheapest i can think of to pull out the mold i want. 🙂

    • Hi Mcneil. You can sand it, but it isn’t easy. I had to look up “motorcycles fairing” because I had no idea what that was. It looks like part of the function of a fairing is to protect the rider. This recipe was not created by an engineer, and there’s no way for me to know if it would be safe to use it for that purpose.

  • Thank you for all of the info. I have made a paper mache snowman & would like for the texture to be more even. I was wondering if I could spread the TP clay over it to get the texture I want & also hide the lines from the strips of paper? Thank you Jonni!

    • Hi Lisa. Yes, this recipe will help you smooth out your snowman. Since you already have a strong base, I suggest that you use slightly less paper than the recipe calls for – one cup instead of one and a quarter cups. When you add the flour, stop adding it when you have the consistency of thick frosting. Spread it really thin. Since your snowman is probably round, you can cut a kidney-shaped piece from the lid of a yogurt container to help you smooth it on over the dried paper mache. After it has been applied, go back over it with a lightly dampened tool to make it nice and smooth. You can see me doing that with the little Swedish Tomte/Snowman I made last week.

      Have fun!

      • Thank you Jonni. I adore the Tomte & would love to make him next. I am so glad that I came across your web site & you even sent me a reply! I can ‘t wait to try the recipe you used for the Tomte. The texture looks wonderful! Many Thanks:)

  • Hello! Thank you for sharing your recipe! Here is my Halloween mask I made with your instructions:

    I also used olive oil and water to smooth the clay and keep it from sticking to my tools.

    • Frightening! And nicely done – thanks for sharing it with us. That’s a good tip about the olive oil to help smooth the clay. Did it cause any problems when you were adding the paint?

      • Not at all. The oil absorbs into the clay while it is drying. I did a base coat of black acrylic, but added too much water and it started to re-soften the clay. Next time, I will spray it with a primer first to make it more water resistant.

        • Hi Jonni,

          I could really use some guidance if you have the time! I’m currently thinking about making a beserker mask and I would like to try out your instructions with it. I’ll attach an image of the mask I’m trying to copy. I’m trying to make one for me and my boyfriend so we can both have one. How do you think I should go about this? Is there any other material I should use instead of paper mache? I definitely prefer something very light weight and easy to manipulate as the mask has lots of detail within it. I would like to try and get the closest I can texture wise as well.

          • Hi Emma. The photo you tried to attach to your comment didn’t come through. I just moved my site to a new server, and maybe it got lost in cyberspace during the move. Or maybe the image was too big. I hope you’ll try again. I like to make my masks with blue shop towels and a paste made with drywall joint compound and white glue. You can see a video here that shows you how much detail you can get with this method. The paste in that video is slightly different – I think I used plaster of Paris and glue for that one – but the joint compound/glue paste is better for larger masks because it won’t dry out in the bowl.

            For the smooth surface of your masks, you can cover the shop towel mache with a very thin layer of the silky-smooth air dry clay. It isn’t very sticky, but it should work if you brush a mixture of white glue and water over the dried paper mache. Keep the layer of air dry clay very thin – just enough to give it a smooth surface – and you’ll end up with a lightweight mask.

          • I suggest Google papercraft beserker mask. Print build and make water resistant. Use this as your mold/base. I do this with a lot of the mask I build now. For extra support I fill the mask with a spray foam. Works great if you take your time.

  • Hi Jonni,

    I’m planning on building a life size ant but was wondering about the measurement size of the mixture. I am building the sculpture out of Styrofoam and planning on spray painting it afterwards. The ant is going to be about 3 feet by 5 feet. Will the clay stick to the foam? How much supplies will I need to complete the sculpture? I’m thinking 3 layers should be good? How long does one layer take to dry?
    Thanks for the recipe and the helpful tips.

    • Matt, I can see your dilemma. But I didn’t do all that well in geometry class, so I don’t know how much pm clay it will take to cover your ant. I just make some, put it on, and if I run out I make some more. Not very clever, but it seems to work.

      You’ll be surprised by how hard and strong this stuff is when it dries. It’s like plastic almost. Not quite as hard as epoxy clay, but it’s close. I often used just one layer, less than 1/4″. My latest project had a fairly soft armature and I spread the pm clay on almost paper thin. When it was dry I dropped it on the floor (not on purpose, of course) and there wasn’t a crack or scratch. So you might not need quite as much as you think you will. However, if you allow each layer to dry, you can keep adding more as often as you need to get the shapes and textures right. I can’t say exactly how long it will take to dry, but if you put it in front of a fan each layer should dry within two days. Less with thinner layers, more with thicker layers.

      I would really like to see that ant when it’s done. I hope you’ll come back and show it to us.

      • Hi Jonni, first off, thanks for sharing your work. It’s so beautiful. It’s been inspiring on so many different levels. I found myself watching several of your how to videos. They are mesmerizing. I made my first paper mâché project, ever, after stumbling across your clay recipe online. I have decided to attemp making a dragon, for my next project. The large red dragon that you made is beautiful. I would like to make one similar to that, but on a much smaller scale. Do you have any ideas, or recommendations on how I can go about doing this. I plan to only use your paper mâché recipe. I would prefer not having to do the head separately, since it will be much smaller. Therefore, I’m hoping to bypass the need for other types of clay. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

        Thanks so much!
        Jackie

        • Hi Jackie – I do have some ideas that I would use if I ever made another dragon. First, I’d use crumpled aluminum foil to create the armature for the face, instead of clay. That would make the project much easier. (Getting the head and body to match, size-wise, was not easy!). You can use masking tape to keep the foil on the armature, or you can use hot glue. If you ball up the foil rather loosely at first, you can shape it by pressing on the foil, kind of like clay. For the first layer of paper mache clay I’d probably reduce the paper just a little, to make it easy to spread. You want the first layer to be thin, and dry fast, so you can have a solid base for adding textures. If you’re making scales or other details, the hard first layer makes that a lot easier.

          I can’t think of any other suggestions off the top of my head, but I hope you’ll keep us up to date on your progress – and I’d love to see how he comes out!

          • Hi Jonni, thanks you so much! I’ll definitely be using your suggestions. They will make creating my dragon less daunting. I must admit, I felt trying to create a dragon was a little ambiguous for a beginner such as myself, but with the encouragement of my best friend, and your amazing tips, I think I can actually pull it off. I’ll definitely keep you posted? Here’s a photo of the mask I created using your clay recipe. There are a few things I would do differently. For instance, I would not use heavy duty aluminum. It was to hard to shape because of its stiffness. Also, I would use an airtight container, as suggested. I wasn’t able to use the clay when I first made it, so I put it in a container, and stored it in the fridge. However, when I went to use it the next day, it’s consistency had changed a lot. It had become much thicker, and that made it harder to smooth out, and it started to dry up faster in the bowl. I found myself rushing to just get the mask covered. Overall, I really like it though. I used a combination of cardboard, sheet music, metallic paints, purple metallic material, and small Christmas bulbs. I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff, but those are the main materials I used. It was super fun.

            Thanks again!
            Jackie

            • Hi Jackie. The photo of your mask didn’t come through. Perhaps the image is too big. Did you get any kind of error message when you tried to upload it? Your description really makes me want to see that mask, so I hope you’ll try again.

              Also, is there any possibility that you used DAP brand joint compound? That might account for the stiffening of the pm clay.

            • Hi Jonni, yes I got an error message. The file is to large, and I have no idea how to make it smaller. As soon as I figure it out, I’ll send it. Also, I didn’t use DAP compound because you suggested that we not do so. I think my clay was drying up due to poor storage because it was almost perfect when I first made it the day before.

              Thanks for such a timely response,
              Jackie?

  • Hi Jonni,

    Thank you so much for all the information you provide! It’s so greatly appreciated.

    Question is, I’ve seen when you provide information on the joint compound, to avoid the DAP brand, but I can’t seem to find the reason. Can you explain the differences and why the DAP brand won’t work?

    • Something in the DAP formula causes it to get lumpy or rubbery when mixed with glue. Unfortunately, their brand seems to be taking over the DIY stores. The only place I can find non-DAP joint compound in my town is Walmart.

  • Hello Jonni I’m thrilled I found your site!! I made a turkey out of traditional paper mache. I did see the pictures of your beautiful Turkeys ! I’m always hosting a family Christmas Eve party and I love making props. Last year I actually did A Christmas Story so your turkey and the headed duck would have been awesome. I am not happy with my turkey because I had to cut it open and cut the sides to resemble the blowing up, too dry, burnt turkey from this years party theme, Griswolds Christmas Vacation. It just started to crumble and it looks terrible. Do you have any advice on how to make the turkey look as if it blew up while cutting into it? Can this be done using the clay and some paint? I have been working on this turkey for months and I’m ready to give up. Thank you!!!

    • Hi Jessica. I’ll bet you’re referring to Betsy’s turkeys. She wrote a guest post for us – and she works in a theater, so she knows about this sort of thing. Frankly, I have no idea how to make a turkey look like it’s blowing up. Maybe one of our other readers have a suggestion for you.

  • Hi! First off, thank you for sharing these recipes, videos, and offering hints and help! I was hoping you might have a couple suggestions for finishing he inside of an costume using the paper mache paste and then clay as finish. It’s for my 5 year old and the inside finish is pretty rough… thank you!

    • Ashley, I agree that the paper mache clay can be rough, and it’s so hard that tiny little bits sticking out can be uncomfortable. You can glue felt onto the inside (the best solution) or you can add several layers of traditional paper mache and paste to the inside to cover the dried paper mache clay. The felt helps a lot because it brings the mask or costume away from the skin, and allows more air circulation. You can do the same thing with strips of thin foam, although it’s harder to find.

  • jonni..love your work. Can I use baby oil instead if mineral oil? Also, I need to make fur for wooden sheep for our cantata. Can pm be applied to plywood? How to get that fur look? Thanks

    • Hi Billie. Yes, most baby oil is mineral oil. It usually has a nice fragrance added, which makes the clay nice, too. The furry wool is going to be challenging, but you can apply the pm clay in clumps (not too thick, or it will take too long to dry) and then make it bumpy with a knife or sculpting tool. Play with it on a board, so you find a texture you like, before working on your real project.

  • Great video. I’m happy you measured it up in g as i an from Sweden. Out of curiosity, why do you need joint compound in it? 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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.

        • Hi Jennie,

          Just wondering how your costume came out! I’m looking into covering an exercise ball as well to make a sun costume for my son.

          Thanks!

          Danika

  • 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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