Jonni Good, Ultimate Paper Mache
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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.



  • I was just curious how you would prefer to apply the paper mache clay? If you didn’t necessarily need details but just needed to cover something would you use your hands or a rubber spatula or knife?? Also, how thick do you suggest putting it on?

    • I use a knife, usually a slightly damp knife, because it lets you get a nice smooth surface on your clay. Also, the clay is kind of wet and sticky, and I don’t like getting it all over my hands. The knife definitely works best for me, but you might want to experiment a bit. I put on a very thin layer for small sculptures, as thin as 1/8 inch. If the armature is fairly tight and strong, you don’t need more than that. If the sculpture will be hollow, with no armature supporting it, you’d want at least 1/4 inch and probably more. Play around with it and see what you think.

    • Hi Marija!
      For me, the best way to spread pm clay is to take a relatively small amount of clay, make a sort of pizza paste with my hand, plug it on the surface and make sure that all the clay is in contact with the underneath surface. Then you take a wet butter knife and smooth it untill it looks good. You don’t have to put much clay to get an hard coating (about 1/8 – 3/16 of an inche). The tricky part is keep the thickness event.

  • Yes indeed, it was mine; and it’s twenty years this fall since I started collecting the data. Now I hear that one of the people I interviewed just had her own Ph.D. student defend a thesis and graduate!

    The lenses are held in with sculpted epoxy, but all I had to hand was the 5 minute kind, which didn’t allow for a lot of shaping. Next time I’ll get the stuff actually meant for creative projects, as opposed to stopping up leaks.

    My paper mache mix used a heaping spoon of methylcellulose powder, in half a cup of water, then a quarter cup of joint compound, a handful of Sculpta-Mold, a tablespoon of flour, and some PVA glue. It had a nice gloppiness to it, and didn’t obscure the words of the shredded document too much. To prop the “book” lid open, I used the joint compound over some bookbinding mesh, then put a layer of paper mache over that to hide the joins.

    Inside the “box” section of the “book”, I put sample of all the formats the text has ever inhabited, along with finer shreds of material, then put a fresnel lens over the top.

  • Update on project: The dissertation I shredded [very therapeutically, I might add] and turned into a paper mache form with embedded lenses in the lid turned out very nicely and got into a juried show, The Text and Its Discontexts, to be held in September in Towson, MD, USA.

    Thank you again for this incredibly helpful site and the community of people here all sharing their experiments!

    • I assume the dissertation was yours? I love that! I bet it was therapeutic!

      How did you so neatly set the lenses into your pm?
      Good luck with the show!

    • I use the pre-mixed kind that comes in a plastic tub or box. I haven’t tried the lightweight joint compound, but my dad used it in the recipe and it worked just fine. However, you definitely do not want to use the fast-setting joint compound, which contains plaster. It will get hard right in your bowl.

  • HI
    love the website
    just a few questions if I may. I live in the UK and need to look for equivalent UK materials, “white glue (Elmer’s glue-All)” is this a PVA based glue?
    ” cup of joint compound” not quite sure what this is, is it a white powder filler such as Polycell Polyfilla ?
    thank you in advance


    • Hi Karen. According to some of our UK readers, you can find joint compound under the term “joint filler.” (For a full list of terms for joint compound sent in by readers, click here and scroll down the page). I use the pre-mixed joint compound, but it does come in powdered form, too. If you use the powdered version, you’ll need to experiment with the recipe, so you don’t add too much water.

      I don’t know what brand of glue will work if Elmer’s is not available, but any PVA glue should work just fine. Buy the smallest bottle you can find, and try it. (and if you find a brand that works well, please let us know!)

  • My son has a school project due in 3 days. He/we are making a swordfish. Do we have enough time to let it dry completely. Should we use the paper mache clay or just plain p/m? Any suggestions on how to do it?
    Any help is much appreciated!!!
    Geri Forkum

    • Hi Geri. In my experience, the clay dries a bit faster because you only need one layer instead of five to eight of the paper strips and paste. You didn’t mention your son’s age, but I do like to remind people that the clay recipe isn’t edible, and you’ll probably want to leave out the linseed oil if a young child is using the clay. (Read the comments about using glycerin instead, or try Bob’s idea of using Karo syrup. Or just leave out the oil and don’t bother to substitute anything for it – the clay will still work fine.

      I’d suggest you mix up a batch of clay in the morning, if that’s what you decide to use. Or use paper and the least amount of paste that will keep the paper stuck on. I assume the armature is already done. Put on a thin layer of clay or three layers of paper and paste, and then sit the piece in front of a fan. Turn it around occasionally so you get all the parts dry. You may be able to paint it the next morning.

      Good luck! And please let us see the swordfish when your son gets it finished – we have a new page now just for showing off artwork.

    • You would probably want to leave out the linseed oil (maybe use glycerin instead, since people do ingest the stuff for medicinal purposes.) You can see our discussion of this substitution in the comments above. Also, you’ll want to avoid sanding your sculpture, or use a good face mask if you do sand. That’s the advice I give everyone, since fine dust particles aren’t good for the lungs.

      And lastly – if you’re concerned about the safety of any art material, home-made or not, you should ask your doctor. You’ll find health info listed on almost every product sold, so be sure to read them carefully, and take the labels with you when you go back for your next checkup.

      Of course, the traditional paper strips and paste can be used by anyone, as long as you use flour paste instead of wallpaper paste, which contains a fungicide.

      • Linseed oil is flaxseed oil. It is non-toxic. In fact, flaxseed oil is recommended as a supplement for pregnant women (but I wouldn’t drink the non-food-grade stuff). It is different from castor oil.

        • But the boiled linseed oil from the hardware store does have additives that are not edible. I use it all the time, but I’d be careful about using it with a project with young kids. And you don’t need to – the clay recipe works just fine without it.

  • Bonjour amoureux du papier mâché!
    Here’s some pics of my work in progress. It’s a Pepakura model (which I modelized myself) partly coated (only the botton for now) with Jonni’s magical paste (!). Like I said on another post, I want a straight and smooth finish for this one. So I have a good amount of sanding to do afterward (it’s very pleasant to sand I must say) and the wet knife technique works well to prepare the surface.


    Pepakura/Paper Mache Helmet

    • Hello,
      I am going to be making life size puppets with 100 students. I have been looking up different methods for paper mache. I want to try the clay/pulp. I will be making Day of the dead skulls. I was planning on having them make a temporary clay armature, cover it with plastic so it doesn’t stick, and then add paper mache strips. But it sounds like you could get a lot of detail with your pulp/mix. Would you suggest that I start out with a different armature? Any suggestions are helpful.

      • Your idea will work just fine. That’s how I made the chimpanzee bust, in fact. (You can see the step-by-step photos here.)

        If you’re working with kids, I’d recommend substituting glycerin for the linseed oil in the recipe. Most people consider it a safer alternative, and it seems to dry faster (although that may be my imagination).

        We’d love to see your day of the dead sculls when they’re done.

  • Hi! Just wanted to mention that glycerine is used in some icing recipies or is used to thin out food coloring paste, so you can find it at places like Michael’s that sell cake decorating supplies.

    Love the clay recipe, hope to give it a try!


    • I get my glycerin next to the band aids at Walmart. It is WAY cheaper there than at the bakery supply stores. I get 5 times as much for $3 less.

  • I am going to be trying this soon with some young people I teach. I work with teens and adults with autism so it should be interesting.

  • Hello,I am interestd in learning the art of paper mache.I stumbled on your sight and was amazed by how great your sculptures are.I am interested in trying your recipe and want to know if it would be good for minitures and sculpting on its own. I’m interested in adding figures to an HO scale model train. Any ideas or help in this aea is appreciated. Is it possible to use your recipe for such small sculptures?. I prefer mking my own cheap clay and recyclables. Thank you so muh for your time and sharing your talent. Patty

    • Hi Patty. The paper mache clay is spreadable, and it’s possible that it could be modified enough to stand up on it’s own — perhaps by using more paper in the recipe. However, this is something I’ve never tried myself. I’ve seen some wonderful little houses made with the clay, but I think the artist used a cardboard armature. This is something that needs some experimentation – if you try it and discover that it works (or that it doesn’t, even) please let us know.

  • I wanted a very quiet and well behaved dog for my new writing room. Unfortunately, mine are neither quiet or well behaved, so out of respect for my carpets, I decided to make my own dog. Thanks so much for the recipe Jonni!

    Paper Mache Dog

    • S/He’s adorable!! I think you’ve got something there. 😉 I have a little tiny dog, carved from dalmation jasper, that I call Jasper, my GOOD dog! lol!

      What did you do with the surface? Is it painted?

      • Thank you guys.

        I did paint the surface, Xan. I must confess though, I didn’t fully read Jonni’s wonderful directions before I started , so I missed the part about smoothing the clay out once it was applied. My surface was NOT smooth. I sanded it as best I could, then applied a layer of spackle to help smooth it. That worked great.

        The paint is a layer of yellow acrylic which nearly blinded me with its brightness, then a layer of white acrylic wash to help calm that down, then a layer of brown acrylic wash pulled up in places with a dry rag.

        • Spackle! Introducing a whole new household product to the mix! LOL!

          I like the way the finish is mottled and irregular. It’s very organic. I really love this piece! 🙂

        • Hi everyone!
          Just want to confirm the importance of spreading the clay with a wet knife. It makes clay very smooth and allow to be sure that the clay is on contact with the surface underneath plus it takes less clay than just pressign it on the surface.

          I’m working on a new Pepakura based futuristic helmet (which I modelised myself) and I need very smooth and angular surface (since it’s not an organic model).

          I will post a picture as soon as I can.

  • Hi Jonni!
    Thank you for the wonderfull «papier mâché» clay recipe. I fond it very usefull in my Pepakura sculpting works. Here’s a picture of the shell of my unfinished Shrek head. I have some detail to add and some sanding to do but I’m happy of the result I get.

    Great work of your’s!

    Pepakura/Paper Mache Head

  • I am an airbrush artist, and I airbrushed the egg first and decided I wanted a dragon or dinosaur in it. I looked at sever diffrent media, then someone suggested paper mache, looking on the internet I found your web page and paper mache clay. I loved working with it and I think my first try was pretty good. I have since made more creations I will post later. thank you for your great website.

  • Hi Jonni, Yes you’re right I added salt to your TP clay recipe to retard any mold that may want to start because I mixed up a fairly large batch and store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It turns out I was interrupted for about 2 months and did not touch any of my PM projects but I’m happy to say, having just checked the batch in the fridge, it is still viable and mold free.

    I did get to use it before I was interrupted and can report it dries hard and firm with NO friability evident anywhere. I mentioned in post number 36 above the two experiments I did with my “Porcelain” recipe exchanging Karo Light Corn Syrup and Glycerin with little difference, both dried hard and sanded well. In fact with a fine jewelers metal file I was able to get a kind of “polished finish” on both. I was surprised.

    I now have experimental and practical evidence (not just speculation) that the less expensive and easier to find Karo Syrup works well to replace linseed oil in your TP clay recipe, at least for me.

    A few thoughts on the potential confusion about wire gage “standards”, there are many of them.

    Listed below are different standards for wire gauges and using your 16 gauge wire as an example the actual diameter follows the various standards. This is a bit “in the weeds” but may be helpful to some people and reduce confusion.

    For 16 gauge wire:
    1. American Or Brown & Sharp = 0.0508“
    2. Birmingham or Stubbs Iron Wire = 0.065“
    3. U.S. Standard = 0.0625“
    4. American Steel & Wire Co. = 0.0625“

    Bob C.

    • Thanks, Bob. As always, your help is much appreciated. I’m quite excited about the ability to “polish” the clay, although I might not have the patience to actually do it myself. Do you have any recent photos of your work?

      • Hi Jonni, I have two works in progress (WIP) using a variation of your TP clay and have attached a picture as requested. One is the head of a serpent and the other is an abstraction of the human form. My 1st attempt at sculpting the human form.

        Paper Mache Figure and Serpent Head

        • Bob, it looks like you’ve made a great start on your human – and I’m quite intrigued by your serpent. I haven’t built up the courage to tackle an open-mouthed beast, myself. Do you have any pointers for us?

          • Hi Jonni, Not being particularly familiar with the shape of a serpents head and its opened or closed mouth I went online to find as many relevant images I could find. The main observation I made was the closed mouth, when seen from the top, had the basic shape of a somewhat shortened arrowhead, a very muscular arrow head at that.

            The open mouth was remarkably open and almost unhinged if opened enough, very much slimmer and no longer looking like an arrowhead at all. So the idea was to decide how open and slimmer I wanted and how to capture the transition from the shorter triangle shape to a longer, slimmer and more open position. This says nothing about finding out and then modeling what is seen inside this gaping mouth. The attached picture above show the lower jaw just pushed in place to give me an idea of the proportions…. Still a WIP.

  • Good point , but no worries as they are beyond the eating everything stage (thankfully). They are really creative and always looking for things to try. Into dragons at this time and want to make one like they one we saw on your site. I’m just trying to stay 1 step ahead of them!

  • Question: If the linseed oil or the glycerin in to help with the manipulation, could baby oil be used in lieu of either of the above products (to eliminate concerns of availability or safety or cost)?

    A possible idea: I have done a lot of sculpting in cement and found that if I mixed the dry pigments into the wet cement mixture (to get the color throughout the mix, it tended to dry out really quicky and made it more difficult to sculpt. I started to vary this by getting the main sculpting completed and then in the final process/layering of a thin cement paste mixture, I would dip my fingers into the pigment and then quickly “paint” it over the surface. Then I might lightly sand off a bit, add a light layer, etc. This gave a really interesting effect, kind of like layers of rock of varying types/colors look. And with the animals it did the same thing, looked like the natural variations in fur/hair coloring. Just thought I’d throw this out there in case anyone wants to try this.

    • Hi Nikki. I don’t know what oil they put in baby oil. It might work, but I haven’t tried it. Linseed oil is a drying oil. That’s why it’s been used for centuries in oil paints. Will baby oil dry? Don’t know. If you try it, please let us know how it turns out.

      The painting idea sounds interesting. I do know that pigments added to concrete will affect it’s strength and set-up time, which you mention. I use a similar technique to “stain” my sculptures, when I want a natural-looking, uneven coat of color. I mention it in my video about the African elephant I made with paper mache clay. The process can’t be completely controlled, and I think that’s why I like it. I haven’t tried using powdered pigment over wet paper mache clay, but I imagine you could get some very interesting results. Do you have a website where we can see your concrete sculptures? I’d love to see them.

      • No web site (yet!) but I’ll let you know if/when that ever happens. If you’d like, I can try to send you a couple of photos.

        I’ll try the baby oil and see what happens. Since the linseed oil is also for drying purposes, it might not work, but then, again, glycerin isn’t for drying, either. Who knows the possibilites out there! I just need to make sure that this is safe for my grandkids to be using.

        • You can add a photo from your desktop here in the comment section – then everyone can see your work.

          Before giving the paper mache clay to your grandkids, read the label on the joint compound. It isn’t edible, so I don’t recommend the clay for very young kids, with or without linseed oil.

  • hi I was wondering how you make the gesso alot of other sites say to boil and do other stuff how do you make it….just mix it all together or what ? just need some help on that one……

    • I just mix it up, myself. However, I haven’t tried any of those other recipes you mention – I haven’t even seen them. So I don’t know if my way of doing it is better or not. If you do try one of those other recipes, please let me know how it turns out.

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