Paper Mache Animals

Paper Mache Horse, Day 2…

Paper Mache Appaloosa Foal
Important Note: I used drywall (plaster board) for the pattern on this project, just to see if it would work. It didn’t! Use cardboard, instead. I also used Super Sculpey as the form for the head and I forgot to remove it after the paper mache was dry, like I should have. The oil in the modeling clay seeped through the paint and ruined part of his face. It took about a year for the spot to show, but then it just kept getting bigger. I also used Super Sculpey for my giraffe head -but I did it right that time, and cut the head open to remove the clay. Live and learn. 😉
Yesterday I started to make a paper mache horse. (See the first post here). To be slightly more accurate, it will, I hope, look like an appaloosa colt when it’s finished.

Yesterday I made a full-sized sketch and cut legs from plasterboard, using the sketch as a pattern. Today I used the same pattern to cut out the torso, neck and head of the colt out of cardboard.

Torso, Neck and Head Cut From Cardboard

Torso, Neck and Head Cut From Cardboard

You can see that I began to build up the volume of the chest and abdomen areas. I then used masking tape to attach the legs that I cut out yesterday.

Legs Attached

Legs Attached

Legs Attached, Shown from Behind

Legs Attached, Shown from Behind

I made sure the piece would stand up on it’s own, and it feels fairly stable.

Then I began to build up the muscles of the legs, shoulders and hips using newspaper and masking tape, and put more crumpled paper on the abdomen to round it out. I have not even started thinking about the neck and head at this point, although I am starting to get a bit worried about what I’ll make the mane and tail out of. But that’s a problem for tomorrow.

Then I put one layer of paper mache on the torso area, using newspaper strips and paste made from flour and water. The modeling isn’t even close to being finished, but I put on the paper mache because it holds much more securely than the masking tape. Once the paper and paste has dried hard I won’t have to worry about the legs moving. It also covers up the sloppy masking tape, so I can more easily see the true shape of the form.

Torso with First Layer of Paper Mache

Torso with First Layer of Paper Mache

Tomorrow I’ll round off the lower part of the legs a little, and use joint compound to finish the modeling of the muscles on the legs. I’ll use the compound instead of the paper because it’s heavier, and I think it will help make the sculpture a bit more steady on its feet. I also hope to get started on the neck and head, and figure out what to do about the main and tail – any suggestions are welcome.


About the author

Jonni Good

I'm a sculptor, author, gardener, and grandma. When I'm not catering to the needs of my obnoxious cat, I make videos, create stuff, and play around with paper mache. I'm also the author of several highly-rated books on paper mache. You'll find them in the sidebar, and on


  • Hi Jonni, it’s Sarah… (photo attached this time)
    I have finally finished my year 6 project! I used the template from your book for the horse’s structure, and built out the body with foam and clay.
    This is how it looks. I am also projecting words onto it so that is why I kept it plan white.
    Thank you for all your help, and I appreciate your emails.


    • HI Sarah. I can’t wait to see your horse. Did you happen to take photos of the way you used the foam in the armature? I’d really like to see that. The photo upload plugin is temporarily out of service, but I’m leaving it ‘live’ so the developer can see what it’s doing, and, hopefully, fix it. Please check back towards the end of the week, and try again to show us the photo.

  • Hi Jonni, it’s Sarah.
    I have finally finished my year 6 project! I used the template from your book for the horse’s structure, and built out the body with foam and clay.
    This is how it looks. I am also projecting words onto it so that is why I kept it plan white.
    Thank you for all your help, and I appreciate your emails.


  • Hello Jonni
    My name is Harmony and i have considered doing this for a year 6 project fo a while, as it looks fantastic but there are some questions, first off would it be okay for the foal to have cardboard ‘base’ legs? As i am not familiar with the stuff that you used, Secondly, would using newspaper and pase for the lumps & bumps of the body be okay? And finally if i do manage to do this what colours/markings would you reccomend?

    P.S Sorry for any spelling mistakes as i just got a new keyboard.

    • Yes, cardboard would be much better than the plasterboard I used. I happened to have some lying around, and tried it – it was a mistake. Cardboard is lighter and stronger.

      Yes, you can use newspaper and paste for the bumps. That will work just fine. As for colors, I’d do a Google image search for horses, and choose your colors from your favorite images. Horses come with so many different colors and color patterns that it would be really hard to chose one for you.

  • Hello Jonni,
    My name is Sarah and I was thinking of doing a paper mâshé horse for my personal project. If the cardboard and plaster board don’t work, I was thinking of using chicken wire instead.
    Are there any important notes I should consider before starting?

    P.S I absolutely LOVED your horse.

      • Thanks for the help! I am in grade 6 and doing this for a Personal Project.
        First I think that I will make a mini model and then a larger size (probably not as big as yours though)
        But instead of painting the horse, I think I am going to print out words like ‘Family’ and ‘Friends’ because they are important to me.
        What material do you think is best for the legs for the larger one? I read that you didn’t like the Plaster board?
        P.S I bought your book, but it will take 2 weeks to arrive 🙁

        • Yes, the plaster board was a mistake. I had some lying around so I decided to try it – but it “melts” when you add damp paper mache. I suppose it would work just fine if you use the paper mache clay recipe instead of paper strips and paste. However, plain old cardboard works much better. It’s stronger, and it’s lighter. Go with cardboard.

          I hope you have fun building your horse. Be sure and let us see it when it’s done.

          • Thanks a million!!!
            I (luckily) have an entire year to finish it (just as well because I am really ‘fussy’)
            I was wondering, when I have finished the mini model and I’m starting on the bigger version, if there are any concerns I should consider? Or are there any easier short cuts I could use? (I have watch almost ALL your videos and they looked pretty complicated)
            Thanks again! You are such an inspiration 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

            • I’m always looking for faster ways to do things, too. Lately, I’ve been using a layer of plaster cloth over my armatures, just to speed things up. It gives you a hard surface that you can then add some paper mache clay to, to get final details and textures. The new air-dry clay works really well over the plaster cloth. And you can do part of your armature with clay, if you don’t mind cutting the plaster cloth apart and putting it back together (since you can’t leave the clay inside). Did you see how I did the rhino? I don’t honestly know if that’s faster than using crumpled paper and masking tape, but it feels more intuitive. However, once you have your first smaller model done, the process probably won’t seem quite so complicated. It just takes a lot of words and pictures to explain, is all.

            • i wonder where is the 3rd day as continuation for the paper-mache-horse?

  • I’ve been considering a “rideable” paper mache horse for my living room so I can put a saddle on him and get it out of the basement to keep it in good condition. I think a bamboo interior frame should do it. First, I need to figure out where in my living room one might stable a horse.

    Currently, I’m working on a couple of big rocks and steam vents for an upcoming theatrical performance. I got lucky and got some very nice big paper bags for the vents. I just slide the bags over a cardboard tube – instant ocean steam vents. They’re not complete yet.

    • Wow – I’ve certainly never seen anyone make anything like that before! Very realistic. The play, I assume, takes place under water?

  • com sigue el caballo por favor poner todos los pasos por que lo quiero hacer y no se como se continua por favor decirme o poner como se continua vale

  • Hello, Im in my early teen years and ive been wanting to make a life like horse. Im glad i found this but how would i go about making it? Do I need wood to make the’bones’? Ive readthis tuturioal but im lost

    • Hi Kristen. When I made this horse, I was actually making things up as I went along. I would do a lot of things differently if I did it over. The biggest change would be using a cardboard pattern instead of the plasterboard. The plasterboard was a really dumb idea.

      You might want to ask you library to get a copy of my book “Make Animal Sculptures With Paper Mache Clay.” It gives you very detailed instructions, and another pattern, for making a horse. Or you could watch the recent video series I did about the paper mache cat. The features are different, but you could use the colt’s pattern from this page with the techniques in the video, and make a very nice horse.

  • hi i have home work at school i need to do i would love to make a ww1 cavelry horse what type of paint should i use

  • I saw where you said to attach the horse head to the stick before beginning to add the paper mache. What is the best way to attach the cardboard head to the stick?

    • To answer that, I think I’d need to see exactly how your cardboard head is built. You’ll use tape somehow, but I don’t know exactly where the tape would go because I can’t see it.

  • Hiya im Olivia and i do alot of paper Mache at school but i really want to know
    how to make a human size person out of paper mache. The reason i need you help is because i don’t know what to use as the inner structure of my human i need your help. I know thats a hard job but i think i can do it. I was think a balloon for the head but i’m stuck for the body and the arms and legs and all the rest.

    yours Sinceirly, Olivia

    • Hi Olivia. I tend to avoid balloons, because they’re rather hard to handle, and because you’re kind of stuck with their shape. I’d much rather build my entire sculpture’s armature with crumpled paper and masking tape. You can use a pattern inside a human form, just like I did with the horse, and that helps make sure your final sculpture is the right size and shape. Keep padding the form with more scrunched up paper, tape it on really well, and build up the form until it looks the way you want your final sculpture to look. Then add your layers of paper mache or paper mache clay.

    • You certainly could. In fact, I recommend it. I spent weeks developing the easiest way to create the horse that’s shown in my paper mache clay book. The first horse I made, which is on this page, was a “warm-up” in many ways. In contrast, I built 5 different horses while developing the methods used in the book, and my experimentation “behind the scenes” allowed me to find the easiest way to do it. The new instructions, along with the new paper mache clay recipe, removes most of the frustration and gives you the best chance of success.

      However, many people have also used the original ideas on this and related posts to make their own horse. If you decide to follow along with these older methods, I definitely recommend using the wire leg armatures that I show in this video instead of the plaster board that I used in my first horse, shown on this page – the plaster board was a big mistake, because it weakens when it absorbs water from the paste.

    i just looked at the post and now know what im going to do, im going to use a large water tank bottle for the coin holder, and make a very larg dog shape pretty much the same as the piggy bank!

    Thank you heaps
    P.S when we give the money in it to charity i will be sure to mention you.

    Sinceirly Caite

      • of course i will send a picture, i may even put a picture of some of the kids of the staff around it im sure they’d appretiate it!

        thank you for your help and i will put a picture up as soon as possible!

  • Thank you,
    i have now started making the horse but the legs will not stand is there anything
    particular i should use? i have started by using plasterboard it will not stand i
    am thinking of taking the legs of and using wood. Would this work? i also have a
    request for an animal you could make, you see at the school i am working at we are having a pet show and tell day, and need to bring in a gold coin donation i was thinking that you could make like a large dog will a spot in the mouth with a coin hole and a box on the inside and, the box part at the back could have a flap cut out and a lock so that the staff can take the money out at the end of the day, i would love to hear a reply and will soon send the possible diagrams i have made of the dog statue if you would like to help me, and do a tutorial on it i have started with the box part but cannot figure out how to get the right shape. thank you

    Sinceirly Caite.

    • Hi Caite. Yes, I agree that the plasterboard is not as useful as I thought it would be. I experimented with the material for this horse, but I never used it again for the reason you mention. Depending on the size of horse you’re making, you can use cardboard reinforced with wire, as I did for the horse I made for my book, or if the horse is really large you can use plywood.

      The doggy coin box sounds rather complicated. The hard part for me would be attaching the hinges, but it sounds like you have that figured out already. Did you see the piggy bank post? That might give you some ideas for shaping the dog, (although the features and proportions will be different, of course).

  • Thank you for reading,
    i looked on a site and found one explaining how to do this i have started making a vase (first because it looked easy lol) i will send pictures when i have completed it if you like. btw i made the horse and it looked great but then it went mouldy before i could paint it, any suggestions?

    • Any paper mache project needs to be dried as fast as possible to prevent mold from growing. Next time you might try adding a bit of salt or clove oil to your paste, which will slow down the mold long enough to dry the sculpture. I put my pieces in front of a fan or over a heating vent to dry them fast, and I’m now working on an idea for making a solar oven outside. But drying is definitely a big challenge.

  • hi
    great horse, i was just meaning to ask you a question but i dont know where so ill just ask it here, i have been redesigning my room and i would like to find a easier way so i was wondering if you could do a tutorial on how to make paper mache furniture, not like beds and stuff just simple things like…
    * tables (maybe)
    *photo frames
    maybe just one of them or a few i would love to hear a reply and i look forward to your many tutorials thank you
    Sinceirly Caite

    • Hi Caite. I tend to specialize in animal sculptures. I’m sure that you could make beautiful paper mache furniture, and there are several sites that talk about it. However, it’s not something I’ve ever done. Sorry I couldn’t be much help.

  • I hand drew the horse you made and came out pretty close, then I cut it out of card board and I am going to paper mâché it now.
    Thanks for posting, it really helpede alot!

  • I have been the horse mascot for a horse rescue project. The head of the costume they bought is made of urethane foam & is very hot. I’ve modified it for better ventilation, but decided to make a papier mache’ head for my own use. Having seen your project, I know what I’m going to do for some yard sculpture.. It won’t be finished until 2010, cuz it’s in the 40s up here in Dakota Territory, but I’ll send pictures when it is. Lots of fun.

  • oh ok thnks il try and find it here. Albeit i still one more query. You have used plaster board for the horse’s legs but over here plaster board isnt available so instead ive used foam board to cut out the legs. The foam board is approx 0.4cm thick, but ive doubled it makin it about 1cm thick, is that sufficient enough to hold the body?
    Another substiute available is high density thermocol and its about 2 inch thick.

    What will be the best solution?

    • I did use plaster board for my horse, but it turned out to be a big mistake. If I made another horse this size I’d use 1/4 inch plywood, or glue together three or four layers of corrugated cardboard. The foam board may work, too, but I haven’t tried it. The high density thermocol you mentioned might work, but I think the cardboard or plywood (or even particle board) would be better.

    • You find joint compound at the hardware store. It is used to smooth out the connection between pieces of plaster board on a new wall. It goes on like plaster, and dries hard, but it always remains water soluble so it can be smoothed with a wet sponge. When you use it with paper mache projects, it must go on over the first layer of paper mache so it has a firm foundation, and then after it is completely dry it should be covered with another layer of paper mache to protect it. A gallon container will last a very long time for your art projects, and only costs a few dollars.

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