Decorative and Practical Paper Mache

How to Make a Paper Mache Piggy Bank

Paper Mache Piggy Bank

Project Difficulty Level: Easy to Challenging

Piggy banks can be made with as much detail, or as little, as you like. For that reason, a piggy bank can be a good project for the beginning paper mache sculptor, and just as challenging for the advanced student. To see what I mean, take a look at the piggy banks over at wikipedia.org.

I decided to use a mini pig photo as the starting place for my piggy bank, but I simplified it a lot. And I did very little painting on the final bank, so the project was fairly easy. I was working towards a  fake antique look, so the paper and paste show through the final coat.

Total cost: less than $1, since I already had some paint and verathane on hand. Photos of the project after the jump.

Paper Mache Piggy Bank Step 1

Paper Mache Piggy Bank Step 1

Step 1:

I start the project with an empty salt container for the body, and four equal-sized scrunched-up paper legs. Some people try to make piggy banks and other simple paper mache projects using balloons for the inner form, but I think balloons are much too difficult to handle. The salt container in this project adds strength to the finished bank, so only a few layers of newsprint and paste are needed. (If you want your bank to be bigger so you can save more coins, you could use an oatmeal box, instead).

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 2

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 2

Step 2:

The legs are taped to the bottom of the salt container with plenty of masking tape.

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 3

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 3

Step 3:

I make sure the pig can stand up straight without wobbling too much, and then I start to add the padding. Here you can see I added more paper to piggy’s tail end, and I added small bits of paper to the back of her legs so they will have more piggy shape. No animal has absolutely straight legs.

Real pigs actually have very thin and dainty legs, but I don’t think thin paper  legs would hold up several pounds of quarters, so I’ve fattened up my piggy’s legs, and simplified their shape. I do, however, keep looking at the photo of the mini pig that I found online, even though I know the final piggy bank will not look exactly like a real pig.

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 4

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 4

Step 4:

I add more padding to round out the legs and give piggy some elbows and hips. I also add the head. A baby pig’s head is as tall and wide as her body, with a very short neck. I’ll be doing a lot of pushing and prodding and taping to make the inner form the way I want it, before I add the first piece of newsprint and paste.

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 5

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 5

Step 5:

I added the snout, ears, and tail. I also taped the feet to a piece of cardboard, which will be removed as soon as the first layer of paper mache has dried and hardened. This step was taken to help make sure the bank will sit level when it’s completed.

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 6

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 6

Step 6:

The first layer of newsprint strips have been attached with a simple flour and water paste. Any low spots have been leveled out with extra paper, and piggy is then left to dry out completely before the second layer of paper is added.

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 7

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 7

Step 7:

For the second layer I used brown paper, like the type used for brown paper bags. The paper is stiffer than newsprint, so I take care to make sure to use smaller pieces of torn paper, and smooth it down carefully. In this photo most of the second layer has dried, and I’m finishing up around the ears and feet.I also cut a piece of light cardboard to add to the snout to give it more definition. The cardboard will be completely covered with a layer of brown paper.

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 8

Paper Mache Piggy Bank, Step 8

Step 8:

After the brown paper layer is completely dry, I sand it to smooth off all the rough edges, and use black paint for the random spots and piggy’s eyes. When the paint is dry, I use a wash of white paint, diluted with some latex glaze, to lighten the black spots a bit. I add the glaze a small bit at a time, and then rub most of it off with a paper towel. When the glaze is dry, I add a final coat of water-based verathane. Both the glaze and verathane were left over from other projects, so I didn’t buy anything for this project. (Whenever possible, I buy my “art supplies” at a hardware store. A tiny bottle of varnish from an art store would probably cost more than my quart of verathane. Since I have a limited income, I wouldn’t be able to play around much with art projects if I didn’t count my pennies.)

Completed Paper Mache Piggy Bank

Completed Paper Mache Piggy Bank

The finished piggy bank:

Piggy is now ready to start collecting pennies and quarters. This bank will eventually be given to my grandson, but he’s only 18 months old now, so he can’t have the bank yet (he would eat the quarters).

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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 amazon.com

56 Comments

  • I have a problem with your instructions you didn’t even give the proper instructions because you just went doing your own thing like we knew how to do it but honestly we don’t because we are learning so next time could you please be more specific.

    • Vannesa,
      The person was nice enough to post a free tutorial. I think it is wrong of you to assume that you are entitled to more of an explanation. The person who wrote the instructions for this pig doesn’t owe you anything.

      • Actually, we highly encourage people to ask questions about any post on the site. Unfortunately, Vannesa’s question wasn’t really clear enough for an answer, but if she wants to try again, we’d be happy to help her out.

  • Hi Jonni- I wonder if you might have an idea to help me out… I want to make an elephant as a card box for my wedding reception, so instead of having a small slot for coins it will have a larger one for cards (with a larger box as it’s hollow belly), but I’m at a loss as to how we will get the cards out after the wedding… Any ideas? Do we just shake them out? Do I make some larger removable panel in some hidden way?
    Thanks! Laura

    • Hi Laura. I think you’d need to make a door of some kind. Otherwise, you’ll have one card that absolutely refuses to be shaken out, and you’ll have to take the hatchet to your elephant. Is there a hidden spot, maybe where it sits on the table, where you could leave it open without it being obvious?

  • I love your paper-mache projects! I’m a newspaper deliverer and haven’t known what to do with all of my extra papers. I have more than a hundred left over every week. I definitely think I’m going to try some of your projects. Thanks for posting this. I love your pigs and your elephants. I’m emptying out a salt container as I type!

  • This Piggy Bank is extremely cute! If anyone were to want to do one with a body shape that is harder to find (I have done a snake) i have a great and fairly cheap suggestion. All i did was get a ballon ( you can get the round kind for bigger projects, but i used one of the skinny ones clowns make shapes out of) and squeezed it into the shape that i liked. I then covered it in 7 to8 layers of paper mache (althogh how many layers is up to you. i like to go thick). When it was dry, all i did was cut a slit where the coins would go in. in when you do this, it pops the ballon and it shrivls up and peels away from the paper mache, and you can then pull it out the cut you have made. from there, you just use the directions Jonni gave you for adding limbs and paint it, and then your done! good luck and have fun!
    ~Leah~

    • sorry if this has been mentioned somewhere else in the blog… i still haven’t completely explored it yet!

  • This is so cute !
    My aunt loves pigs, and I love making things so I want to give it a try. I just have a question, how did you get the color like that?
    You probably said in the tutorial, I just did not pick it up.

  • Hi! Love ur site!
    Quick Question: Can I use whole wheat flour? What are the disadvantages if I do?
    Thanks
    I’m making a Elephant piggy bank!

    • Hi Heather. No, you can’t make paper mache paste out of whole wheat flour, because it doesn’t stick the way white flour does. White flour is pure starch – all the other stuff, like the germ and bran and nutrients, are removed to make white flour. That isn’t good news from a healthy diet point of view, but white flour does make great paste. Whole wheat flour just doesn’t have the same properties, and your wonderful elephant bank won’t be strong enough. Sorry – you need to make a trip to your local store, I guess.

  • Your work is amazing! My family has an antique chalk piggy bank that belonged to one of my great-grandmothers, and it reminds me a lot of your bank. I would like to replicate my heirloom pig, but am wondering, just how do you attach the ears? Would also like to know how you securely attached the ears to Elsie, your wonderful elephant? That is a project I would also like to do when I am experienced enough. I think that would be the perfect face to peak out from among the elephant ears in my garden next summer! Thanks for your wonderful inspirations!

  • I love it! And I want to try! I’ve been making the grandchildren pinatas for several years now….but it’s always so heart breaking to see them busted and thrown away! Now maybe I can try something they can keep!

  • How cute!!! I love it! Smart idea! :)

    Just a thought – I don’t think 18 months is too young for a piggy bank and this is why: If you teach them young to put coins in the piggy bank and you make a big deal out of it, when they find them, they want to put them in the bank instead of their mouths. This is how it worked out with my daughter and she has quite a bit of money in her bank and hasn’t put a coin in her mouth. :)

  • Hello, I am getting ready to make my first ever paper mache project. I did a lot of reading and I am not sure what recipe to use. I hear that flour paper mache projects will not last and may mold unless they are varnished. Should I use a glue and water recipe instead? Please help before I begin…thanks

    • Paper mache made with flour and water will last for many years if you keep it dry. That’s the trick for keeping the mold out. One very good way to keep it dry is by adding varnish, although acrylic paint also provides some protection. I like to use a matte acrylic varnish on my sculptures, and I have also used water-based Verathane.

      Have fun with your new project.

    • I mix in 1 tablespoon of salt with the water (warm) before I mix in the flour to act as a preservative . When I run out of / or can’t afford Mod Podge, I use Elmer’s glue and water, it dries clear and acts as a sealer as soon as your project is dry, I like the glossy look on many of my pig’s dolls. etc. etc. so I spray it with premium clear gloss enamel. I hope some or all of this was helpful. Happy Crafting and thank you Jonni.

  • hahaha good job i’ll make ds one for my project at science XD first year high school sucks but (there is a but*) u do not suck you rule men i love you hahaha

  • WOW- I love the piggy! I lead a Brownie troop and was just looking for ideas for our “Building Art” badge – I think this idea may be just perfect! With a little help the 8-9 y/o girls could build something beautiful and recycled too! In between our weekly meetings should give it plenty of time to dry between layers. Thanks!!!

  • Wow, I like this variation on the balloon piggy bank. And the piggy looks very real! I wish I had more time so I could make my own! :)

  • Hi,
    I am so impressed with this bank and have some ideas to make one for my son…but you didn’t mention in the directions where you put the coin slot or the ‘plug’ (if there is one)…Thanks for the amazing work.
    L

    • I did cut a slot into the back of my pig. I didn’t add a hole for a plug just because I remember how much fun it was trying to jiggle and shake my own piggy bank, way back in the day, when I wanted to retrieve a quarter. However, cutting a hole in the tummy and plugging it with something slightly larger than the largest coin would make sense. Let us know how you decide to do it.

      • Last year i made a lady bug bank for my sister and i made a little thing in mine (can’t think of the name) but i cut a hole in the bank but left just a little bit of paper mache that wasn’t cut on either end. the one end i left attatched to the bank, the other end i turned into a tab. since it would be pulled in and stuff, i reinforced that particular area with duct tape and affew more paper mache layers. i’m not sure how it would work using Jonni’s method, though. i used my balloon method (mentioned way down the list)

  • Hi Jonni,
    What a cute little piggy this is.I tried it myself it turned out pretty well. But the legs of my piggy (scrunched up paper) dont seem to be solid enough though i taped it tight enough .It seemed quite soild when i made it but after layering it ,if i press it i anm able to do so ….is this normal or do you think i’ve missing on something?

    thanks.

    • Hi Payal. Your piggy’s legs may be less solid than you want for one of two reasons:

      1. The paper mache on the legs may not be completely dry.
      2. You may need to put on one or two more layers of paper mache.

      I hope this helps. Can we see the piggy when it’s done?

      • Hi Jonni,

        thanks for your suggestions,I think the second reason maybe true in my case.Can i ask you how many layers should any put on projects with with such features have.I’ve done 4 layers as far as i remember.
        Thanks

        • Hi Payal. The number of layers you need seems to depend on how solid the crumpled paper and masking tape is under the paper mache. On some of my project I used only two layers, but on others, like the baby whale, I had to add up to 7 or 8 to get the skin hard. My rule of thumb is that if you feel any give after the last layer of paper mache is fully dry, it needs another layer.

  • Great tip about shopping for art supplies at hardware stores! I’ve always shopped at the local Ace for essentials like, linseed oil, turps, brushes, and even masking tape is cheaper there than the local AC Moore. I have also gotten real lucky finding really cheap paint, when they have not mixed colors correctly, of course you have to pay attention to what kind of paint it is for, but most times, can be used for my art projects.

  • I absolutely love your sculptures! I’ve been planning on making a piggy bank for my son, but hadn’t thought of paper mache. Thanks for the inspiration. I think I’ll give it shot.

  • years ago I made my brother a paper mache piggy bank that he still has (40 years later) — I used the financial pages (stock report) of the newspaper for the final layers to keep the $ theme.

  • I love your piggy!! So cute and practical. I think I will have me 10 junior high art students try this out in a week or so. Can you give me an idea how long a project this would be (in hours)? I will make one myself first but would like to know before if possible. Thank your for all of the lovely ideas Jonni!

    • Hi Joanie. If you use uncooked flour and water paste (which my personal experiments tell me is the strongest), and only put on two layers of paper mache over a well-taped form, it should go pretty fast. Also, if you use the joint compound for smoothing things out instead of adding more layers of paper, that makes things go faster, too. The first hour should give you the paper and tape underlying form, two more separate hours for two layers and the ears and nose details, and the last hour to sand and paint. But I’m just guessing – I’ve never timed myself on that particular project.

  • What a wonderful bank! I can’t wait to try it myself, but one thing seems to be missing – I can’t find anywhere in the instructions where you mention how you get the coins in and out of the bank. Just saw a slot out of the top at the end? Does the bank have to be destroyed to get the money back out, or did you make the slot big enough to (with patience) shake the coins through?

    • Hi Michi. I did leave out a hole (and cork) for getting the money out easily. I remember the best part of my own piggy bank, lots of years ago, was the fun of sneaking the pennies out by shaking the bank upside down. Now I’m sure people don’t even bother to save pennies, so you can see how long ago that was!

      If you want to be able to remove your quarters easily, just find a nice-sized cork and then cut a hole in the piggy’s belly so the cork will fit. But remember that the quarters probably won’t be saved for very long if it’s easy to get them out.

      Enjoy!

  • Hi Sharon,

    I would love to see your finished project. Thanks for suggesting it. To make that possible, I just now added an “add images” function to the comment area.

    To use it, you will need to have your photo hosted somewhere, like Flickr.com, photobucket.com, etc. I think the accounts are free. Then you will just copy the photo’s URL into the text box that pops up when you hit the add images link below the comment box. It will add a short line of code that includes your image URL, and you’ll see the image after the comment has been approved.

  • Hi Jonni,
    I think i’ll try using the white acrylic paint over the black spots.
    Thanks for your sugggestion is there a way of uploading a photo on this website, then i could show my finished piggy bank.

  • Hi Sharon,

    I just happened to have a quart of glaze left over from a project I did last year. You get it at a regular paint store. It’s used by people who do rag-rolling and other fancy painting styles on their walls.

    But I wouldn’t have bought some special for my piggy –

    I think you could get the same effect by diluting some white acrylic paint with a whole lot of water, brush it on a very small spot (to test it) and then wipe most of it off again. You’d have to work fast because the acrylic paint dries so quickly.

    You might want to paint a few black spots on a scrap piece of cardboard and test it there.

    I hope this helps. If anyone else has any ideas, please let us know.

  • Hi Jonni,
    I have put the brown paper on my piggy bank, but i’m not sure were to buy the latex glaze from. Is there any thing else i could use to lighten the black spots on piggy, i want it to look like yours.

  • Hi Sharon,

    I’m glad your having fun with your piggy bank project.

    I don’t think I used the joint compound on this guy, just because it happened to come out fairly smooth without it. I do use the joint compound after the first layer of paper mache whenever I want an area to be smoother, but this time I didn’t need to.

    I really like using crumpled paper and masking tape for my forms because it helps make the final sculpture stronger. But sometimes the bumps in the crumpled paper show through if I don’t use enough masking tape. Some people like the bumps, but I like my sculptures smoother than that – and the joint compound has been a real help.

    I hope your project turns out well. Enjoy.

  • I’d like to say thank’s for making this piggy bank instructions really easy I’m in the middle of making my first ever paper mache piggy bank. I wanted to ask if you used the joint compound or not?.

  • Sarah, I love your piggy banks! You found a true “piggy pink” to paint them, and they look lovely. I’m glad you found my tutorial useful – and congratulations for the great results. I’m sure your nephews love them.

  • I found your tutorial very very helpful when I made piggy banks for my 2 and 4 year-old nephews this Christmas! I thought I might share the results with you. It’s been ten years since I attempted paper mache, and I definitely enjoyed the process! Thanks for your help.

  • Connie, you are so right – you can make a “piggy” bank look like anything you want. I’ve been thinking about making an English bulldog bank, myself – a bulldog would do a good job of guarding my quarters.

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