paper mache paste recipes

Paper Mache Recipes

This page contains recipes for several kinds of home-made paper mache paste, and home-made gesso recipes for finishing your sculptures.

I have been messing around with paper mache for over 50 years and up until a few months ago I always came back to the easiest paper mache recipes, using plain old white flour and water paste with torn strips of newspaper.

Now, however, I have abandoned the traditional layered paper process and use my new paper mache clay recipe  and/or the even newer silky-smooth air-dry clay recipe for most my sculptures. However, for younger artists or for those who really don’t want to make the trip to the hardware store, these following recipes work just fine, and most of the tutorials on this site would work using these traditional paper mache recipes.

Paper Mache Paste Recipes:

Paper Mache Recipe #1

Paper Mache Recipe #1

White flour and water make a remarkably strong paste. In fact, some folks think paper mache is strong enough to build houses with. Your finished sculptures might not be strong enough to hold up a house, but you can sand them and drill them, just like wood.

Boiled Flour and Water Paste:

Many people use a paste that is made of white flour and water that has been brought to a boil. I did some experimenting and found that this paste is not as strong as raw paste, so you’ll need more layers of paper to make your finished sculpture stiff enough. However, it does dry clear, so many people prefer it. To make boiled paste, mix a heaping tablespoon of white flour with a cup of water in a small saucepan and stir until there are no lumps. Put the pan on the stove at medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. The paste will be very runny at this stage, but it will gell as it cools.

Raw Flour and Water Paste:

This is the paste I almost always use, because it’s stronger than boiled paste and you can complete a project with only a few layers of paper. To make up the paste, just pour some white flour in a bowl, and add water gradually until you have a consistency that will work well. (Use a small kitchen mixer so you don’t have any lumps).

How thick should you make your paste? It’s actually up to you. Experiment with thick pastes that resemble hotcake batter, and thin pastes that are runny and watery. You get to decide which ones you prefer.

Keep in mind that it is the flour, and not the water, that gives strength to your paper mache sculpture. And also remember that each layer of paste and paper that is added to your project must dry completely to keep it from developing mold.

Speaking of mold, why not use wallpaper pastes that contain fungicides? There are two reasons why I choose to use white flour pastes, instead of ingredients that prevent mold. First, white flour is ridiculously cheap when compared to any other type of art supply. And second, I hate the idea of dipping my hands in something that contains poison. If small children were helping me with my projects, this would be even more important.

To prevent the development of mold in your projects, you just need to remember that molds cannot grow without water. Therefore, take every effort to dry out your projects completely. I usually put my small sculptures in a warm oven (not over 200 F) or place them near a radiator. Next summer I intend to build a solar dryer that will be large enough for bigger items. The main trick is to make sure the sculpture is dry all the way through – if any dampness is left inside when you apply paint or other finish, the sculpture will eventually rot from the inside out – a truly disappointing development, I assure you.

Glue-Based paste:

If you don’t want to mess with flour and water, and you don’t mind spending the money for some Elmer’s glue, I found this video for a glue-based paper mache paste that you might want to use instead.

Paper Mache Recipe #2

Paper Mache Recipe #2

Papers to Use for Paper Mache:

The traditional paper to use for paper mache is newspaper, which is torn into short strips. (Cut edges should be avoided, because they don’t blend in.) Newspaper is cheap, and it is a soft paper that is easy to bend and mold around a sculpture.

However, you can also use brown kraft paper from paper bags, which will give your sculpture a naturally warm color if the piece is left unpainted.

You can also use softer papers, like paper towels and even tissue paper. The softer papers are used to fashion delicate details, and textured paper towels can be used to add an interesting final coat. The paper mache dragon on this site used the bumpiness of paper towels to represent the dragon’s leathery skin.

Gesso Recipes:

Gesso helps to seal the paper mache and provide a nice white ground that makes your paint brighter. You can use acrylic gesso from the art store, or make your own.

Easy Glue and Joint Compound recipe:

I make my gesso using about 3 parts joint compound, 1 part Elmer’s Glue-All, and some white acrylic paint if I want the gesso nice and white. The paint isn’t really needed. You can apply a coat of this gesso, sand it or use a lightly damp sponge to smooth it out, and then add another layer if the surface still isn’t smooth enough.

Powdered Marble Gesso recipe:

For a thicker home-made gesso, you can use calcium carbonate (powdered marble) and white glue. The traditional proportions are 2 parts PVA glue (Elmer’s or an archival book-binder’s PVA glue if you worry about pH), 4 parts water, and 8 parts calcium carbonate. To make it nice and white, add 1 part powdered titanium or zinc white pigment. If you want to thicken the gesso to cover bumps faster, you can use more powdered marble.

Finishing Your Paper Mache Sculpture:

You can use any type of paint on your sculpture. I usually use acrylic craft paints, and a final glaze made from water-based Verathane mixed with a bit of brown, or copper paint from the craft store. This final coat is put on with a brush and then immediately rubbed off with a paper towel, leaving the darker color in the dips and valleys of the sculpture. I happen to like the effect, but it is certainly not required.

 

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1,744 Comments

  • I seek your wisdom! I’ve read this whole page, but I need help deciding on a very strong recipe to use over the top of a spray-foam sculpture. I hope to make the final product resistant to dents and damage, since it will be a costume piece. (A very large and realistic pair of antlers, to be precise.) While I don’t plan on butting heads with anything with horns, I need them to hold up well enough that doorways and tree branches won’t create a problem.

    I’m considering a wood glue paste, but I want to get your input before I do anything drastic. Of all the recipes you’ve tried, which one would you say is the strongest?

    • Hi Heather. The hardest recipe to go over paper mache is the paper mache clay. If you use a very thin layer and let it dry completely, it will be very strong and hard. But if you want to use paper strips, the wood glue is an excellent choice.

    • Yes, many people do that. I try to dry my paper mache as fast as possible, and that prevents mold, too – but I don’t live in a really humid climate, either.

      Another option is oil of clove. Many people say it works really well.

  • I was trying to figure out how to make a prop cake that would be very heavy when dropped (from just slightly above the table). I have an old bundt cake pan that is very heavy, but I don’t want to paint the surface, and I thought maybe a few layers of paper mache would give a more natural look to the surface that I would then be able to paint. I plan to leave the pan in the sculpture for weight, but when done with the show, will I be able to pop the paper mache “skin” off of the pan, or is there something it should apply to act as a barrier so as not to permanently mar the surface?

    • Hi Licia. You’ll probably want to put some plastic wrap between the “cake” and the pan. Some petroleum jelly might work instead. If the paper mache does stick, you can always soak it in water to get the paste loose, but it will make it difficult to wash your pan – paper mache paste does dry really hard. I’d definitely go with the plastic wrap, if you can.

    • There are almost 400 projects on this site. I’m sure you’ll find something that you’ll enjoy making.

  • HI,
    I’M MAKING FIRE LOGS BY ROLLING NEWS PAPERS REALLY TIGHTLY, & THEN SOAKING IN WARM SOAPY WATER, THEY EXPAND & GO ROCK SOLD, THEY STAY TOGETHER FINE, BUT I WOULD LIKE TO KEEP IT TIGHT AS IT BURNS, SO MY QUESTION IS THIS – HOW DO I MAKE A WATERY PASTE THAT SOAKS INTO THE PAPER & BONDS THE SHEETS TOGETHER PERMINANTLY.
    THE LOGS ARE 3″ X 7″.
    LOVE YOUR PAGE & ALL YOUR COMMENTS.

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME SIR, KIND REGARDS ANTHONY.

    • Hi Anthony. I haven’t ever made fire logs with paper, but you might try using an idea I just found in a book about making furniture. The author said that flour and water paste will grab the paper and be stickier if you add a tablespoon of sugar to the mixture. He uses a mixture of 6 parts water and one part flour, and brings it to a boil on the stove, stirring constantly. As soon as it thickens, take it off the stove quickly and add the sugar. Of course it may take a while for the logs to dry, and the paste could start to mold before then.

  • Hi,

    Thank you for sharing all your tricks.
    I have a small theatre company and I need to make many props, one of which is an egg for Humpty Dumpty. I’d like to make the egg out of papier maché. What do you suggest? I was thinking wire to make form….any other ideas please?
    thank you.

    • How big is your Humpty Dumpty going to be? I made one last year that was about 18 inches tall, and used a balloon. I tried the balloon with paper mache, and it didn’t work, so I switched to plaster cloth. If your sculpture needs to be bigger, you could make the form with crumpled paper and tape, or with chicken wire – but it won’t be as easy to make it smooth as an egg. That’s why I used the balloon for mine.

    • Simple. Go to amazon.com. Do search under my full name: “calmar austin mccune” and you will see about 8 books I have written dealing mosting with papier mache and one of those books explains how to make an egg of any size, the one in book being 28 inches wide.

  • I am making a 6 foot volcano for a luau im having at my school, I have a 6 foot pole-ish object to use for the top of the volcano. Should i use tape to make the triangular shape? Or is there anything you suggest?

    • Tape will work. Duct tape would probably be strongest. I think it would be better, though, if you could cut some large pieces of cardboard into triangles or strips, so there would be just a little more support for your paper mache. Then tape up the cardboard and the empty spaces in between with whatever tape you’re using and add your paper mache.

      I do hope you’ll show us your volcano when it’s done. I’ve been wanting to make one myself, for no good reason except that it would be fun – but mine wouldn’t be anywhere near that big! I’d love to see how yours comes out.

      • I am currently trying to figure out a 10ish (may be 12) foot volcano for my daughter’s grade 8 graduation… Hawaiian theme. I have taped down newspaper for rock-like texture, and was planning on covering that with paper Mache before painting it. Do you think I could simply cover my taped down newspaper texture with gesso and fore go the paper Mache all together? Or would it be better to do both paper Mache and then the gesso before painting?

        • The paper and tape may not be stiff enough to hold up as you paint on the gesso. Gesso doesn’t have any structural strength at all, so it will probably crack whenever the volcano is moved or bumped. If you have time, a few layers of paper mache would be the best way to go.

          If you do try it without the paper mache, and it actually happens to work, please let us know. If you try it, though, I’d suggest doing it in a small section and allow the gesso to dry. Then check to see if it’s working the way you want it to. If not, you won’t loose much time or materials with your experiment. If it does work, you’ll be more confident as you complete the rest of a rather large sculpture.

          In either case, I would love to see this volcano when it’s done. Please post a photo – this sounds like a really fun project.

  • Hi Jonni. I’ve got some good tips from your site. Thank you!

    I’m making an oversized teapot for an Alice in Wonderland show, using a mixing bowl which I intend to shape half a teapot and then repeat and join together.

    Do you think that would work? How do you suggest I join them together? Any tips for shaping and attaching the handle and spout?

    • Hi Jacqui. If you’re using paper strips and paste, it will be easy to join the two halves together. Allow the first one to dry completely before removing it from the form, to keep the shape from changing as it dries. Then make your second half, allow it to dry, and join the two halves together with more paper strips and paste. If you can reach inside, it is best if you can have new strips of paper mache on the inside of the seam, too.

      I hope you’ll let us see the teapot when it’s done. This sounds like a fun project.

  • Hi, I’m a performer and would like to do something unique with my costumes by creating embellishments using paper mache, but don’t know how to create a mold for the paper to stick to while drying. One accessory I’d like would be paper mache spikes to put on a wristband

    • It you keep the flour and water paste tightly covered and in the refrigerator, it should keep until the next day. However, wild yeast will begin to grow in the paste as soon as you mix it up. That doesn’t really hurt anything, except that the paste becomes less sticky the longer it’s kept, because the yeast eats the starch and tries to turn it into sourdough starter. It’s always best if you can just mix up as much as you’ll need for the day.

      • Hi Jonni,
        I found this paper and thought it would make a really cool hanging lamp shade. I would like for it to be round, approximately 24″ in diameter. I haven’t done paper mâché’ since I was in grade school so I really need your help! First of all, I’m not sure what to use to get my round shape. I have a glass lamp shade that is the right size that is half of a circle. Could I make two halves and then attach them together? Would I spray oil on the glass to keep it from sticking? And then how should I cut the paper? And would an elmers glue and water solution be my best medium? I am so excited to get started. I really look forward to hearing from you. P.S. I have a round plastic ring for the top that a light bulb will fit through as well as a wire holder to secure the cord. Thank you, Kelly

  • I used a recipe for homemade wallpaper paste that you had to cook and boil. I won’t ever use that recipe again as it bubbled up like lava and some of the paste it spit out of the pot landed on my hand and arm. Had lovely blisters and scars. Be careful if you make cooked paste.
    I think I’m going to use the Elmer’s glue recipe. I’m making mini dressforms and want to use paper mache to make them permanent and better to decorate.

    • Ouch! That sounds really painful! Lately, I’ve been cooking my paste by putting the water and flour over medium heat, stirring constantly. The second I feel it starting the thicken up, I take it off the heat and whisk to get it really smooth. No lava!

      Your mini dressform project sounds really intriguing. Can you tell us more about it? Is they for a sculpture, or will they be used to make miniature dresses?

  • Hello Jonni,

    I primarily use the glue/water paste mixture for my paper mache projects, but I was thinking about going back to a flour/ water mixture. I was wondering, have you ever tried adding glue to your raw flour/water mixture? Do you think adding glue would provide more strength to the project?

    Thanks!

    • I haven’t tried it, but it certainly shouldn’t hurt anything. If you do a test, I hope you’ll let us know the results.

      • Jonni,
        I’m making a pair of wings for a costume, the frames are made of green Airtex Heavy Duty Foam. I want to paper mache over the foam. Do you think a flour/ water mixture will work? I’m new to using foam and I don’t know if a mache with work because the foam is so porous. Do you have any suggestions? Any info is much appreciated, thank you!

        • You could try to see if the paste will stick to the foam. If it doesn’t, wrap the foam with masking tape, and the paper mache will stick to the tape.

  • Oh Boy! I see such elaborate projects here on the site and advanced questions but mine is very basic :) Obviously I have no idea what I’m doing.
    After covering two large balloons with 2 layer of newspaper and paste I left them hanging on a string drying outside overnight. This morning I was going to add a few more layers but I found a large crack in each project. The balloons are in tact but the paper has split. I tried to patch one and then pop the balloon to see if it would be able to stand on it’s own. On the other I popped the balloon first to see what would happen. In each, as the balloon deflated, the sides of the paper mache were stuck to the balloon and collapsed. I’m wondering how to prevent this next time. Thanks :)

    • Hi Beth. I think you’ve run into the problems that are pretty typical when using balloons. (I have terrible luck with balloons, myself, as you can see from this post). You actually have two things happening, I think. First, the paper mache is sticking to the balloon. You can spray the balloon with cooking spray, or give it a thin coat of petroleum jelly. This will only prevent completely dry paper mache from sticking, though. Wet paper will stick to just about anything, even oil. If the balloon is popped too soon, the wet paper will try to follow the rubber, and collapse. Since the paper mache is only open to air on the outside, the inside layers can still be damp when the outside is dry. And if paper mache is totally dry, it probably won’t stick to rubber even without the release, although it wouldn’t hurt to add a bit of oil, just to be sure. So, don’t pop the balloon until the paper mache is totally dry.

      The cracking could be caused by the balloon getting bigger (the air inside got warmer and expanded) or it simply changed its shape because it felt like it. Or maybe it’s just because paper mache shrinks slightly as it dries, and the balloon doesn’t shrink, resulting in cracks. That’s actually fairly easy to fix. First, use more layers of paper mache, so it’s stronger. Since dry paper mache will soak up water from any wet paper mache added to it, there’s no need to let layers dry before adding more. When the paper mache dries it may crack again, but the cracks will be easy to fix if you add a few more strips of paper mache over the cracks. Then let those strips dry, too. Putting the paper mache in front of a fan or anywhere that air is moving will help it dry quicker. And again, make sure it’s totally dry, all the way through, so there isn’t any damp paper on the inside sticking to the balloon.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with it!

      • Tip: Oil degrades latex balloons, possibly causing it to collapse before your papier mache is dry. Instead, use a silicone spray.

  • I am so glad I am on your website. I am wondering how to make a Peteradon , a flying dinosaur. I love dinosaurs so much- I want to show how much I love them.

    • Hi Maryella. I don’t have any tutorials showing how to do a Peteradon, but my very first post on this blog was a dragon with wings. The shapes are all different, but if you change the shapes you could use the same techniques. You can find the dragon here.

  • Do you think it is possible to use mod podge in the place of Elmer glue when making the paper clay with toilet paper and joint compound?

    • If ModPodge is a PVA glue, it should work, because just about any PVA glue will work. But I don’t know what’s in it, and I’ve never experimented with it. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful – but if you try it, please let us know what happens.

    • I work with modge podge a lot more than any other glue because it’s so versatile and strong! (Even if it does smell like it’s extremely toxic, while continually assuring you that it isn’t). My worries about using it to make paper clay would be its drying power? It dries so quickly that it might be harder to keep the clay workable. Perhaps if you watered it down slightly? But then you’re losing a bit of its “potency”. My advise–and take it with a grain of salt–would be to add it rather than use it on its own (perhaps use mostly Elmer’s but a bit of modge podge). I’m probably going to add it to the raw flour paste when I make it for my project, but that’s a different story, I suppose. Best of luck and happy crafting!

  • Thank you so much for all the wonderful recipes and ideas. I was wondering, have you ever tried using paper mache paste with fabric? Have you had any luck and if so, do you have any recommendations. I was thinking of trying this but thought I’d find out if you (or anyone) has any advice.

    Thanks!

    • I haven’t tried it, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. The flour and water paste is really sticky. The only question would be if the fabric reduced the air flow to the paste and makes it take too long to dry. I know that Dan Reeder regularly used fabric as the last layer on his amazing dragons, but he dips the fabric in a mixture of glue and water.

  • Hello Jonni,
    I’ve enjoyed your recipes and tutorials very much. I’m thinking of trying a more runny version of your paper mache clay to use with newspaper strips and I wondered if you had ever done this and have any insight?
    I like applying newspaper strips better than spreading clay but then I end up adding a layer of clay later because I like the meat and strength of it better than just flour and water, and I like how it takes paint. So, I thought I’d try combining the two. Have you ever tried this?

    • Hi Donna. This is quite a coincidence! I just now finished my baby elephant head, which has a thin layer of the regular recipe of the pm clay. Then I made another batch with 1 cup of glue instead of 3/4 cup, and used it as “paste” to hold paper towels onto the sculpture as the final skin. The towels add some elephant-like skin texture and it bunched up nicely for heavy wrinkles with the clay underneath. The paper stuck very well, and I suspect that the additional layer of paper will also add some reinforcement for areas that might be prone to cracking, like ear attachments. I haven’t tried it with newspaper, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work just as well.

      • I like the idea of adding more glue to the original clay recipe. I love how you created elephant wrinkles! After my earlier post I ended up trying my own mixture. I used 4 cups warm water with 1/4 cup TP broken up in it, then added 1/2 cup joint compound, 1/2 cup glue, 2 tblsp glycerine, then I added 3 cups flour and sprinkled a little more until I got a thick pancake-like mixture. I used it with newspaper and it dried rock hard but has the nice gritty bite to it that the clay has. I already had some dried bowls made with paper mache and newspaper strips so I brushed two layers of this new mix on (letting it dry between layers) and it really strengthened the bowls.

        • Interesting! Are you finding that you can use fewer layers of paper to get the same thickness and strength? With the addition of water instead of more glue, your recipe is a lot less expensive, but it sounds like it’s working just as well. In fact, with the lighter paper that you’re using, it’s probably better.

          I really like your website, by the way. The design really shows off your photos and paintings and knitting – is there anything you don’t do? When do you find the time?

          • I do apply fewer layers of newspaper, then add a few layers of painted on paper mache.
            I do like to do a lot of art and crafts. I’m lucky enough to live where there is a lot of tourist walking traffic, we have a summer craft cooperative, so in winter I have a lot of free time to work on crafts. I admire the long hours you put into your individual projects. I would probably never finish something like that, so I stick to things I can finish in a day or two.

    • Hi Ojas. If you’re using paper strips and paste, just make up a recipe of the raw flour and water paste and paint some on your sculpture. Then put the paper over the paste and press it down so there’s no air underneath. Keep doing that, covering your sculpture with three or four layers of paper, and allow it do dry completely, all the way through, before painting.

  • Would mod podge work to keep the paper mache together. I’m trying to make a dog sculpture out of paper mâché and I was wondering if mod podgy would keep the whole thing together for a while.

  • Hi dear

    I am really excited to get strated.
    I am trying to make a shape like matryoshka the russian doll, but have no idea how to start?
    could you please suggest ideas for me to initial the frame by reused materials? what can I use?

    • Hi Safia. I like to use crumpled paper held together with masking tape. If you want your doll to be hollow, you could use clear plastic tape instead, and use a thin film of petroleum jelly or wax to keep the paper mache from sticking.

  • Jonni,

    This is such great information, thank you.

    I am trying to develop a paper mache project that can be done by volunteers and later be donated to children. Do you have any advice to get the quickest drying product (preferably dry within an hour)?

    • Hi Leah. The only “paste” I know of that would dry that fast is acrylic gel medium. I just ordered some myself to use as paste with tissue paper, because it doesn’t make the tissue paper tear as much as flour and water paste. I found a less expensive brand online, but it won’t be here until tomorrow so I can’t tell you if it works or not. I have used the Golden gel medium, and it works really well for paste. But 8 oz. of the Golden brand costs almost the same as 32 oz. of the other one, so I really hope the cheaper version works as well. Since it does dry quickly, like any acrylic product, you would paint it onto the armature, immediately put on the paper strip, brush more medium over the top of the strip, and move on to the next spot. You can see me using the gel medium as paste with tissue paper in this video, beginning around the 2:45 mark. I haven’t used the gel medium with newpaper, but I’ve been told it will work. Do test it before you begin your project, just to make sure.

      If the armature is quite sturdy and stiff, you only need a few layers of paper to cover it. A hollow sculpture would need more paper.

      I hope this helps. Be sure to show us your sculpture when it’s done.

  • Hi Jonni, wonderful site thank so much for sharing. I have student project Im starting and was interested incorporating news paper articles as a background texture. So do you have any suggestions of what would be a good finish/sealer for the paper mache that would still allow the articles to be identified clearly? Even better would be colored finishes.

    Once again thanks!

    • Hi Rocco. Any acrylic varnish should work. For a colored finish, you might want to use a gel medium with a bit of acrylic color added. I have added acrylic paint to acrylic varnish, but the pigment tends to float into depressions and cracks in the sculpture. That’s usually what I’m after, but for a more even color, the medium might work better. I haven’t tried that, but I think it’s supposed to be used that way. I just ordered some gel medium, in fact, because I like using it instead of paste when working with tissue paper, because it doesn’t make the paper tear as badly as water-based paste, and it dries clear.

    • It worked! And wow! Very nicely done. Do you create the body, clothes, rigging, etc., too? I would love to see this fellow on stage.

      • I have made some with the bodies and controls, I am learning to make the clothes and that is the hardest part for me. I don’t know if I’m going to make this one or not , I was just practicing to see what I could do with it. I am making another head in clay and I’m going to try to make a plaster mold and see if I can press Celluclay into it to make a head. I don’t know if it will work but I’m enjoying the learning process.

        • So, if you’re “just practicing,” what do you do with the heads? Do you have a way to display them?

          • No, I am overloaded with art projects of all types, I pack them in a cabinet. I enjoy the process of creating but once I am through with it I move to the next one. That’s why I’m only making the heads, I don’t need any more complete puppets.

    • Sorry, Mike – the image still didn’t come through. Are you leaving the browser open until your comment shows up at the top of the page? Maybe that’s why it isn’t working. I really want to see that head, so please try again.

  • Jonni, I am experimenting with CelluClay, after looking at your site I had to try and see what I could do with paper mâché or paper clay. I like the way this marionette head turned out. I will have to keep experimenting with some of your recipies to see which one I like best. Thanks for your videos, you have giving me a lot of ideas to play with.

  • Hi Jonni, really love your site.
    I’ve just started up some paper mache with a brush and the flour/water mix. Do you have any recommendations for cleaning the brush? I seem to be getting a lot of gunk on them.
    Kind regards,
    Stuart

    • Hi Stuart. Yes, the paste will stick to just about anything, and your brushes will get all gunked up. Soaking the brush after using it will help, and I think there are little combs that can be used to clean brushes. You may never get the brush totally clean again, though, unless you put a lot of work into it. You might try using one of those cheap foam brushes they sell at the hardware store, or a chip brush that’s intended to be used just a few times and then thrown away. They’re usually found in the same spot at the store.

      • Try using a wire brush to clean the gunk out of your other brush, it’s a trick I learned from a professional painter. Hope this helps.

    • That’s an interesting problem, since the sealant would need to be both waterproof (so you can wash the bowl) and food safe. I don’t know of any sealant that is guaranteed to seal paper so well that no water can get in, but you might try the wax that’s sold to seal wooden salad bowls. You still won’t be able to immerse the bowl in water, but you could use a lightly damp sponge – maybe. I have never tried it, so I’m not sure it will work. You might want to put another comment on Natalie’s guest post – she makes lots of bowls, and might have a better answer for you.

  • I have been doing paper mache for quite a few years using the glue and water mixture. I was wondering do I still have to worry about mold developing since I’m not using flour? As of yet, none of my projects have any molding and my oldest piece is from 10 years ago.

    I live in a dry climate and use Aleene’s Tacky Glue. I like it much better than Elmer’s, because is dries faster and it seems like my project is more sturdy.

    Other than that, I love your video on paper mache clay. I definitely have to try that! Thank you.

    • Hi Adrienne. It sounds like you’re doing everything right. I don’t think you have to worry about a thing.

      I had to go check out the Aleene’s Tacky Glue when I saw you mention it in your comment. I’d never heard of it, but it looks interesting. Do you happen to know if it’s a PVA glue?

      • Hello Jonni,

        Thank you for responding to my post.

        Yes, Aleene’s Tacky Glue is a PVA glue. It’s thicker than Elmer’s so I water it down a bit to make I easier to apply to my piece.

  • Hi Jonni,

    Thank you for your great tips! My 3 year old little boy loves watching kids open up a Surprise Big Egg filled with toys and treats. He then looked at me with those puppy yes and said ‘I want one’ so I said ‘ok I will order one’ I dont know what I was thinking as there is no where to purchase these surprise eggs!
    I was thinking maybe we can make one! Do you have any tips for my husband and I before we start this crazy project? i.e. how to stuff these toys are what not inside, how to make it ‘store bought’?

    I anticipate your reply!!!
    Angela

    • Hi Angela. How big does the egg need to be? If you could use a balloon for the shape, you could make it like I made Humpty Dumpty, using a few layers of plaster cloth first (balloons change shape under cold paper mache, and make the paper wrinkle). Then add a layer or two of paper mache to make it nice and smooth. If you don’t want the egg to look like it was hand-painted, you could use pictures cut from magazines and decoupage it, like Natalie does when she makes her beautiful bowls.

      You would need a seam somewhere so the egg can come apart, and you can use folded paper taped to the balloon all the way around, to make a fence. Use petroleum jelly on both sides of the paper fence, and then apply the plaster gauze and paper mache only up to the fence on both sides. Once you take the egg off the balloon, you might be able to glue a strip of cardboard around the inside of one half of the egg, so the two pieces would stay together.

      If you need it to be bigger, you could get the shape using crumpled newspaper and masking tape. If you then cover the masking tape with plastic tape you should be able to pull the paper out of the egg once the paper mache was dry.

      I’ve never made a Surprise Big Egg, as you may have guessed, so these are just suggestions to get you started. Good luck with it.

  • I want to make a large cloud and put a string of lights inside of it, Then hang it from the ceiling as part of a dance I am sponsoring at the high school. So I need a few things. I need a shape that will hold up to being suspended. I need to be able to see the lights from inside. And I need it to look like a large cloud (4 feet across 3 feet wide, and 2-3 feet tall. I wonder if I could soak a sheet in paper mache paste, wrap the sheet around some balloons, wait for it to dry, and then glue batting to the outside and put my string lights inside and hang it all up. Is this possible with paper mache or should I use chicken wire and hope it looks “cloudy” enough?

    • Hi Ryan. It sounds like you should be talking to Dan Reeder, who uses sheets dipped in diluted glue for the skin on his dragons. I don’t think the flour and water paste would make your sheet stiff enough, but the white glue might work, and it shouldn’t make the sheet opaque, like the flour and water paste might do. I think you’ll also need at least one piece of heavy wire under the sheet, all the way around, to support the top. It would also give you something to hang it from. Since I’ve never had a need to make anything like this, I can’t do anything other than throw out ideas, of course. It’s probably one of those projects that you just have to try a few things and see if they work! Be sure to show us how your cloud turns out.

    • Hi Alyss. I’ve never made a map, but if I did I would start with a piece of cardboard the size of the finished map. Then I’d get a carton of cheap aluminum foil and make the mountains and hill, valleys, etc., with crumpled foil. I’d use masking tape to attach the foil to the cardboard (or you could use a hot glue gun, if you’re really careful to not get burned). When all of the shapes are on the cardboard, make sure all of the foil is covered with masking tape, because paper mache won’t stick to aluminum. Then tear some newspaper into strips and make some paste with flour and water. Put on at least two layers of paper mache, and allow it to dry. The map may try to warp because the paper mache is drying only on one side. To keep that from happening, weigh down the edges or tack the edges to a piece of heavy wood. When the paper mache is completely dry you can paint it.

      I hope this helps. Let us know if you have any questions as you get started.

  • Hi,
    I’m making a paper mache horse for a school project I turn 15 next month and I was wondering what all I could do I bought some paper glue from the brand MOD PODGE. So I was wondering what all I need for it.

    • Hi Megan. You’ll need an armature that looks like a horse, to start with. For ideas about how to make one, see my video series about the appaloosa colt, on this page. (The first video is at the bottom of the page.) Use cardboard for the inner pattern. The stuff I used didn’t work at all for a pattern – it was an experiment, and it didn’t work. Cardboard is much better and stronger, (and usually free!). Then fill in your forms with crumpled paper and tape. For the thin legs, I would use crumpled aluminum foil now instead of paper, because it will add a lot of strength to the leg if it’s squished and crumpled tight enough. Then cover the foil and paper with masking tape, and cover it with paper mache. I used flour and water paste, but Mod Podge will work, too.

      Good luck with your project! And be sure to let us see how it turns out.

      • Hi jonni
        I was wondering what to use for the tail and mane I have thin yarn but I don’t know what to attach it to.

        • That’s always a challenge. I used hot glue to add yarn to my Highland cow, but I should have done it differently – I made kind of a mess, to be honest. It turned out OK, but it wasn’t as easy as it should have been. I think it would have been easier if I’d sewn the yarn to a ribbon first, or just crocheted them together. Then the hot glue would have worked much better.

          Doll makers add hair to their dolls all the time. This article shows how one doll maker does it, and her method would work really well for a mane.

      • Hi! I actually visited your site looking for suggestions on how to decoupage strips of fabric over a wax base . . . but your question about creating a base for a horse caught my eye.

        (Your comment about adding vaseline to prevent sticking made me re-think my plans, because I want to be sure the fabric (or paper strips, if I decide to use them instead) will adhere permanently.)

        You didn’t mention the size of horse you are shooting for, but years ago when I needed a camel for a tabletop display, I used a plastic bleach bottle for the basic body — (probably removed the handle) . . . an oval styro egg to start the head . . . and probably paper towel rolls for legs; then taped them together with masking tape before covering them with brown paper bag papier mache. Think I might have added yarn fringe for lashes.

        It turned out so well , we ended up using a digital photo of the same camel in brochures . . . and after that made a similar one sitting on his haunches . . . .cut an opening in his back and used it to hold flowers as a centerpiece for a Middle Eastern dinner in our home.

        I had almost forgotten about it until I read your post, but now that you have refreshed my memory, I might add it to my “To-Try” List for the future.

  • Hi Jonni,

    I paper mâchéd around a balloon, left it to dry and then popped the balloon. Now I have seen week spots throughout the layers of my project, can I paper mâché over them without the balloon and the project not loosing its shape?

    Thank you

    • Yes, you can continue adding as many layers as you want, but the new layers will soften the dried layers, which could cause the hollow shape to collapse. You could add small spots of paper mache just over the thin spots, a little at a time. Or you could try covering the entire piece with masking tape to keep the water in the new paste from softening the paper mache underneath. I have never tried doing that, so do a small test first to make sure it works.

  • Hi! I am planning my little girl’s 4th birthday party.. which is in 3 days. She likes “supprise eggs” which is just toys hidden in egg type containers. Im making supprise egg ma?he, i had planned to find eggs large enough for the toys, but im out of time, and could not find any local.
    My question is, can i use the raw flour/water mix to make the eggs. Then cut them open like a cracked egg.. without using gesso & paint?
    i want them “crackable” when she opens. And rough looking (but not tacky)
    Thanks!
    Brandi

    • Brandi, if you use maybe two layers, tops, she might be able to crack open the eggs. Paper mache is surprisingly strong, so test a few first.

  • Hi Jonni, I hope today finds you well.
    I am so thankful for people like you who can freely share their knowledge and work with the world. Thanks so much!

    I am in the process of making a paper mache tree for my son’s wedding. My plan is to finish the tree off with cherry blossom flowers, a birds nest with “love birds”, and carving of “initials” in the knot of the tree. and add green moss to the base for a grass like look.

    My tree is about 4 1/2 feet tall. right now it’s covered with masking tape and the bottom has old (like a year old) paper mache clay which helped to seal the chipboard base and the exposed roots of the tree. I should have mixed the old paper mache clay thoroughly before applying because it created minor cracks while drying. Incidentally, just now read on your blog, to discard weeks old paper mache. My tree frame is made out of wood, which includes the trunk and the main branches joined at the trunk. Extending from the 5 or 6 main branches are smaller branches made with wire. All parts are covered in newspaper and masking tape, except for the chipboard base.

    My questions are:
    1. What do you suggest I use on tree branches such as these to cover the masking tape, to give it a finished look and so that they could bend and make transportation easier and more compact?

    2. Which of these two do you think would most suit my needs in doing that: Flour & water or Elmer’s glue & water using strips of kraft paper for the branches or neither?

    3. Do you have other thoughts that might help me?
    Thanks so much Jonni!
    -Natalie A

    • Hi Natalie. Your paper mache clay may have cracked simply because it was applied over a base that wouldn’t shrink along with the drying pm clay. The cracks are usually easy to fix with a slurry of new clay over the cracks. But for your questions:

      1. Paper strips and paste will be the easiest thing to use for your branches.
      2. Flour and water seems to work better for me than the Elmer’s mixture. The glue tends to be really slick before it dries, and it doesn’t hold onto the paper very well. Once it dries it’s very strong, but I don’t think it’s much fun to work with.
      3. If I made a tree (and I’m currently thinking about using some branches to make “antlers” for a mask) I think I’d use thin long strips of blue Scott’s shop towels with a paste made with Elmer’s Glue and drywall joint compound. I use the shop towels when I make masks, with a paste made with glue and plaster of Paris. Since you wouldn’t be in a hurry to pull the paper mache off a mold, like I always am when I make masks, I’d use the joint compound instead of the plaster so I don’t have to worry about the paste getting hard in the bowl. If the strips and pasted on one side by dragging them over the bowl of paste, and then wound around the branches – overlapping by about 50% do each wind gives two layers of paper – you would have a nice smooth and strong “skin” for your branches. The glue and joint compound mix could then be used on top of the paper mache as a home-made gesso to give a white, sand-able surface to paint. But newspaper and flour and water paste would work quite well, too.

      I hope this helps. Be sure and post a photo of your tree when it’s done!

      • Oh thank you and bless you! You actually answered more questions I had at the moment. I had recently wondered how you create masks, I want to try my hand at them this year. I’ll be running out to get a roll of those shop towels in just a bit. I have everything else I need and now because of your reply, more motivation to finish it up!
        If you were here with me in person I would give you a huge hug!!!
        I look forward to seeing what you do with with your mask and antlers.
        I will come back and post a photo of my progress soon. -Natalie

        • Jonni, I Finally finish the tree! It’s just about 4 1/2 feet tall. It will display and hold photos of the bride and groom on the 21st of this month. It really looks better in person. Thanks for being so gracious in sharing your talent and knowledge with all of us. -Natalie

          • It looks great in a photo, so it must be fabulous in person! It’s going to look so nice at the wedding. Did you happen to take photos as you were building it?

          • Hi Jonni, Hope you are doing well.
            Unfortunately I did not take many photos while building it.
            I’ll be sure to take more photos on my next project 😉
            Here’s one from last Saturday in the entry of the church where the wedding reception was held.

    • And, by the way, your tree already looks really nice! You’re doing a great job with it, and it will be a great addition to your son’s wedding decor.

      • Jonni,
        Thanks for the suggestions for my tree. In the past couple of days I used the shop towels and glue/joint compound paste. It works amazingly! I love how easy it is to use the shop towels and how durable they are. Together they act like miracle tape. Thanks again! -N

        • I’m glad you’re enjoying the shop towels. Their stretchiness makes them easy to fit around odd shapes, don’t you think? I can’t wait to see how the tree turns out.

          • Yes, I agree. I just finished covering my tree with the glue/joint compound paste. This evening I began sanding small portions on the branches where the paste clumped up due to clumpiness in the mix which formed in the process of applying it.
            I have a question. After I paint the tree with craft paint, what do you suggest I apply to seal it? Do you suggest a spray on sealer or a brush on sealer? If either, is there a brand you prefer? I’m thinking a matte finish will be best for a more realistic look. Would you agree?
            Thanks again! 😀

  • Hi!
    Thanks so much for all the helpful info!
    In your gesso recipe, when you say 3 parts joint compound, are you referring to Drywall joint compound?
    Thanks!

    • Yes – premixed drywall joint compound. And the amount of glue can be varied to get the consistency you want.

  • Hi,
    This video is so helpful. I will be starting this project soon and I look forward up-dating you with my results.
    My you tube video is Hattie Duncan. The local PBS television station featured my work in 2014. I would love for you to view a portion of what my artwork.
    Country/Region of Manufacture: Mexico Peasant /Workers Dolls: Vintage Items
    Mexican Folk Art Dolls: Paper Mache Dolls
    To use this style of clothing on my sculptures will make them POP!..
    Thanks

  • Hi, I have a question. I am making a large scale paper mache project and I feel a bit lost. How were the vintage outfits made in Mexico for their dolls also, sculptures?
    Thanks for your site.

  • I have to make paper mache sculptures for my 2015 Spring show. Can you help me on how to make the Mexican vintage method used for their paper mache dolls using paper?
    Thanks for your wonderful effort on this website which has open my eyes to things I will try.

    • Hi Hattie. There’s a great video on YouTube showing how large paper mache animal sculptures are made in Mexico. You can see it here. Of course, they’re reproducing the sculptures in quantity, so the elaborate molds and processes would make things go easier once the molds are made. To make just one item like that, though, would be a lot of extra work. There’s also another video showing a man making very large Day of the Dead sculptures – do a search on YouTube, and you should be able to find it. He uses a very similar process.

      • Do you think you could use colored construction paper instead of the plain old newspaper to brighten it up without having to paint?

        • Yes, I think certainly should work. I use brown paper all the time, just because I like working with the color. But most paper is stiffer than newspaper, so it isn’t quite as easy to get it to go around curves and odd shapes.

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