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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1,962 Comments

  • Hello Jonni,
    Thank you so much for your tutorials, recipes and insights. After researching and referencing your information this is a candy or trinket box I

  • I want to make a boat ‘Sail’ for my project. The most important point of consideration is that it must have very high strength to withstand high speed blower thrust. And as it is a boat sail, it has a curved shape but it must be rigid for my application. What paper/cloth and content (with proportion) of Mache paste would you suggest.

    • Hi Ashwin. It depends on the size of your boat, but if it’s reasonably small, I’d cut a square or triangular piece out of a curved cardboard carton, like an oatmeal carton, and then add a few layers of the newspapers and either recipe of the flour and water paste. That would give you the rigidity you need.

      • Actually the shape of the sail is not a conventional one. Its in shape of a Pelton Wheel ( An engineering design of turbine). I have attached an image with this comment. There are two shapes which I have made. I used newspaper+glue (fevicol) mixture in 1:1 proportion. But I was searching for some technique to make it more strong without compromising it’s shape. The total dimension of that mache must be about 45cm x 45cm. It would be great if you can suggest something.

        • Interesting! I think I’d use Dan Reeder’s cloth mache as the final layer. It wouldn’t add much weight or thickness, but it would add a lot of strength and stiffness. He uses a mixture of PVA glue and water, I think, and soaks a piece of an old bed sheet in the mixture. You’d lay it across the sail, smooth it down, and let it dry. You might be able to ask him a question about it on his facebook page.

  • Hi Jonni,
    I have never done paper mache projects before because I am a painter but I feel this is the best way to create a tiger for my school project. Because I have no knowledge of using paper mache, I have no idea how long it would take to do this project. I would stay up all night if I have to but this assignment is due Monday morning! Because you know all about sculptures, which kind of clay do you use and from comparing the clay and paper mache, which one is better to use for a model of a tiger? Also, if you can explain how I could make this? Thank you so much, I hope you reply soon because I’d like to begin this project soon today.

    • Hi Catherine. It would be almost impossible to get a project done by Monday, unless it’s small enough that you can put it in the oven to dry. Even then, at 250F it could take several hours to dry all the way through. I like using the original paper mache clay recipe for most things, because it goes on quickly and a very thin layer is quite strong. But paper strips and paste work well, too, if you don’t need real fine detail. The air dry clay recipe is smoother, but takes longer to apply and is a little more difficult to work with. You can find the recipes under the Paper Mache Clay and Recipes tab at the top of the page.

      If I did a project like this, I would start with a pattern on the inside. I make patterns by looking at photos that are taken of he animal directly from the side. If you start with a cardboard pattern and then add the roundness of the body and legs with crumpled paper and foil, it goes faster than working without a pattern.

      There are a number of extended tutorials on the site that will help you see how we make the sculptures – but to get one done by Monday will be a major achievement, and you’ll have to work all night. Paper mache takes time to dry, and is not a good medium for someone in a hurry.

  • I would like to make a large rock prop for part of my “Empty Tomb” Sunday School play. Would it be wise to use punching balloons, cover them with the plaster cloth let it dry over night and then, pop the balloons and start to put on the paper mache layers. The children are going to help with the last bit. I guess I could use rolled up paper to make the rock seem more realistic.
    Do you think this method us sound, with not any cracks?

    • Hi Doreen. Yes, that’s a great plan. Will the kids need to sit on the rocks, or are they just for display? The plaster cloth will give the paper mache something solid to hang on to, and the plaster hardens fast enough to avoid the cracking or wrinkling that you often get when you put paper mache directly over a balloon.

        • If you’d rather not buy the plaster cloth, you could make your armatures using crumpled paper and masking tape, and cover the armatures with large strips of paper and paste. It would take longer, though.

  • Hey Jonni,
    I finished my dragon for my son and I’m proud of how it turned out its not the best looking dragon bit for my first one I think it turned out very well. Thank you for your recipes I’ll be using them allot in the next few months while working on my pumpkins.

  • Hi Jonni, I tried to make a giant pumpkin (48″ diam) for Halloween indoor decorating. The form was a huge garbage bag stuffed with crumpled paper, tape was wound around to make the “spines” or ridges of the pumpkin. I rolled paper to make the raised spines. Things were going well but then mold developed and then the top of the pumpkin caved in from the weight of the spines. Any suggestions on support and mold resistance…the recipe called for mint oil or bleach. I used both but still got mold.

    • Hi Debbiecz. It sounds like you have two separate problems. The weight of the paper mache was just too much for the armature to support, so next time, stuff more paper inside the garbage bag. You might even put something stiff inside the bag first, like a plastic bucket, to add support. If you still don’t think there’s enough support to hold up all the layers of wet paper at once, add just a few layers of paper and paste at one time, allow them to dry so they stiffen up, and then add a few more.

      Mold will eventually grow in anything that stays wet long enough, and bleach will eventually evaporate. Oil of cloves is a stronger anti-fungal agent than mint, I think. Try to reduce the amount of moisture that’s on the pumpkin at any one time, and set it in front of a fan to dry quickly.

      I hope this helps. You’re certainly getting a big head start on Halloween this year!

  • Hi Jonni – I’m working on a paper mache project for a parade float. I’ve done several projects for previous floats but they have all had smooth finishes and this project I need a finish to resemble animal fur. I’ve been checking out several of your pages and I’m wondering if the joint compound, Elmer’s glue mix is what I would want to use. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Marilyn. Yes, you can use the edge of a knife to make nice fur marks in the paper mache clay. Or, if you want to stick with paper strips and paste, you can use one-ply paper towels and wrinkle them up to make nice fur marks.

  • What do you recommended for the paste and paper to cover a cardboard box to turn into a small toy bin, we want to paper mache, but not sure which method and how many layers? Thank you!!! -Alisha

  • I intend to make a paper mache pinata from my pregnant belly. Is there anything that I can put on my belly so that the paper mache will come off easy. Have made paper mache it before but never on a body.

    • Marie, you could put vaseline on your belly to keep the paper mache from sticking. But I highly recommend that you use something other than paper mache. It takes at least 24 hours to dry. How are you going to hold still for that long? And if you decide to abandon the project before the paper mache is dry, you’ll have a nasty, pasty mess to clean off.

      There are a lot of youtube videos showing how people make belly casts with plaster cloth. If you’re careful to not use too many layers (the plaster heats up as it solidifies) that should work just fine. You still want to use the vaseline, though, so it will come off easily and not dry out your skin.

    • I use plaster cloth for body and face casts. The same stuff used for making casts for broken bones. I have used Vaseline and Crisco to keep it from sticking. Coconut oil would work week and be great for your skin. Use warm water to soak the plaster strips. It dries my ch faster than paper mache.

  • hello, thank you for this blog, it has helped a lot… I have a ton , almost of wall paper samples given to me to use for projects, do you think this paper is too thick to use for paper mache? I thought I could use some for decoupage after but I wanted to use up some of the samples I did not want in paper mache.. thank you.. :)

    • Hi Ellen. I believe that the Victorian-age paper mache furniture and other items were mostly made with wall paper scraps. You might need to soak the paper in order to get it to conform to rounded shapes, but if it’s soft enough to take on the shape you want, it should work just fine. I often use brown kraft paper, like the kind grocery bags are made out of, and it works really well.

  • I want my paper mache to dry max. by 4 hours. It’s for a school project. Is it possible?? If so how?

    • Not likely. The fastest way to dry it is to set it in front of a heater that blows hot air, or over a furnace heating vent. Paper Mache is flammable, so be careful. One should usually give a project two or three days to dry, just to stay on the safe side.

      • I just tried drying a pig, using balloons for armature, in front of my wood stove (which has a blower). Dried really well except….balloons increased in size because of the heat and split the pig down his back. (It was the first layers of newspaper and paste so was not too thick) I was able to cool it off and decrease balloon size and patch it. Just be careful if you’re using balloons.

        • I agree, Barbara! Balloons can be really tricky. They expand when they’re warm, and the paper mache will crack. When they get cold they shrink, and the paper mache will wrinkle. Fortunately, cracks can be repaired. This is why I like making armatures with crumpled paper, instead, but balloons have that smooth roundness that is hard to create with crumpled paper and masking tape.

  • Do I let each couple of layers dry and then mache over it again for thickness and for making detials .Can it be done when the first layers are dry?

    Veneta

  • I am a teacher and have a powerful blender that I bought as part of a grant that I received for making paper. Could I use that instead of a mixer to make paper mache clay or paste?
    Thanks for your help,
    Helen

  • Hey this was really helpful thankyou! I’m currently making a nail polish organiser from old light bulb boxes and i’ve completed the stairs now i want to apply paper mache to strengthen it and even it out. Which type of paper mache will be best for my project? and can you also use all-purpose flour instead of white flour? I’ve watched a few videos of paper mache and they put salt in the paste but some didn’t so what’s the difference? I’ll be grateful for you answers.

  • I saw someone that made a guitar out of paper mache on you tube. I was wandering what recipe would be best for strength and durability?

    • I think you should go with the basic recipe of flour and water. The trick is make the paste thick because a watery paste weakens the bond on the paper. If you use newspaper, it tend to do it more flexible. For the guitar project I think it is better the brown bag paper, because you come up with a very strong bond, although you can use any kind of paper. You can’t not do it all at once, you should apply several coats of paper (like three or four) and let it dry completely, and then apply another round and so for. When you reach the strength you want, you can sand it and add the last coat of paper. I notice that the printer paper makes a good finish coat, and you can apply a coat of gesso, and then sand it again and paint it. You can’t do this in one day.
      I made a chair a few years ago out of paper mache and it took me about two weeks, because the drying process was very slow. I use to add boric acid to the paste to avoid bugs .

      • Hi there
        Saw your comment about making a chair and sanding. I had no idea you could sand paper mache so thank you for that lots of time saved on my current project. However I am intrigued by the chair… Did you make all separate pieces and screw together or use cardboard base shapes to start?
        I have been wanting a foot stool but couldn’t find anything like I wanted and thought of making one and would love to use the paper machetes technique.

  • Hello,

    I have to make a paper mache skull for a Dia De Los Muertos skull. Do you have any advice on which type of paste would work the best? The project is due in about 5 days so do you know which way is the quickest? If you could get back to me, thank you!

    Elyssa

    • My four year old and I just made the basis for our mask. We used a balloon for the shape. All purpose flour, warm water and newspaper strips to cover it. We used about 5 layers. We made sure each application was smooth and we let each layer dry for an hour. After the last layer we hung the balloon outside. After a few hours it was completely dry and very sturdy. We’re about to seal it and paint it this weekend. It was a very messy process. The more “glop” we put on it the smoother and more sturdy it became. Glop meaning the water and flour. Ours had the consistency of a thinner pancake batter.

  • Hi Jonni!

    Can you please tell me the difference between using paper mache strips, and the paper mache with the texture that resembles oatmeal (not sure what it is called). I am trying to make near life size paper mache figures of people, and am not sure if I should use the paper mache strips with paper clay on top or find out about the paper mache oatmeal-looking stuff. I found a recipe for it, but they just called it paper mache. I’m just a little confused. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Cara. The paper pulp mache is used by a lot of paper mache artists. Whether you use that method or the paper strips and paste is really a matter of preference. And then the third alternative would be to use a thin layer of the paper mache clay recipe on this blog to replace paper strips and paste. It is somewhat similar to the oatmeal-textured pulp mache, but smoother.

      For some great tutorials on using the traditional paper mache (that’s the mushed-up oatmeal-textured stuff. Papier Mache is French for mashed paper), see this site: http://www.papiermache.co.uk/

    • I’m making a PM costume of Spongebob’s pal Patrick Star and have run into a major snag. I made a form out of foam packing material and duct tape ( like a giant gourd) and have now covered it with about two good layers of paper bag strips soaked in flour/water PM material. Unfortunately, the surface is extremely uneven and occasionally bumpy. Do you think if I applied your PM clay mix to this it could make the final shape more even and finished looking? Would it increase the weight a lot, since this needs to be worn by an 11-year-old?

      Also, I’m on a deadline, so do you have any suggestions for speeding the drying time? I’ve tried using a blow dryer, and that seems to help, but I would be interested to learn of anything else that may work faster.

      Thanks!

      Ted

  • Hello,
    I’m thinking about decorating a bedside table with old maps and / or book pages. Do you think the paper mache flour paste will work on wood?
    thanks!

    Sandra

  • My son wants to be the Angel of Death this year but wants bone wings to go with it. I’m thinking of using gift wrap tubes to make the basic bone shapes with wire inside to make them rigid. But I do want them to look as close to real as possible cause he’s very picky. Can you please give me a few suggestions?

    • Hi Krissi. You could crumple some aluminum foil to make the bumpy ends of the bones, and then cover them with masking tape and cover the tape, and the rest of the tubes, with a few layers of paper mache. That should make some pretty awesome bones.

    • Ha, we have the same name!

      plus I have a question for Jonni:
      Do you know how long paper mache takes to dry, I’m probably going to try it before you respond though, because I need it tomorrow! :()

      • Hi Charlie. If you need paper mache to dry that fast, then use as few layers as you can get away with, use only the barest amount of paste that will keep the paper stuck together, and then dry the piece in front of a fan, turning it occasionally so it dries evenly all the way around. There are too many variables to say exactly how long it will take, unfortunately. Good luck with it!

  • Hi Jonnie,
    I want to do a earth model for my daughter using paper mache on a 36inch beach ball.should I apply oil or Vaseline to prevent paper mache getting stuck with the ball while removing the ball.
    Awaiting your help
    Hepzy

  • Looking to create an adult sized halloween costume of this bird this coming week (family is dressing As characters from the movie Up) and plan on doing the water/flour paste method. Any tips for how you would go about creating/supporting the long thin neck and head? Or tips for making the feather like appearance? (I am considering creating the body, then cutting away the top layer to make feather like angles.)

    • Hi Britt. Could you roll some cardboard into the shape of the neck and beak, and then cover it would paper mache? You can do the same thing with the feathers, cutting out lots of them, taping them onto the costume in a natural pattern, and then covering them with a few layers of paper mache.

      However, your idea for carving the feathers should work, too, and it would be lighter than adding feathers one at a time. I sure hope you’ll let us see your costume when it’s done!

  • Hi Johnni! I found your site through your amazing YouTube channel.

    I have a question. I am a little confused. I am starting to get into a sculpture project – I am going to dolls/human figures that range from 2 feet high to life size. This is a brand new thing for me. Ive seen people use the paper strips of course, and then I saw an artist use what looked like finely ground up, soggy paper that resembled the texture of oatmeal. It wasn’t paper clay. I couldn’t figure out what it was, as the video was in French. Anyway – do you know what the ground up variety is called? And I’m assuming its for finer/smoother works. Can you advise me at all on what would be best for the type of work I want to do? And do you have any tutorials for the ground up version and how to use it? Thank so much for your time. :)

  • Hi! I have had so much fun reading about all of theses projects and recipes. I’m not really sure where to ask this question, so I’ll try here. Can any of these recipes be used to make beads or other jewelry components? Would really like to try it but want to make sure this is an appropriate application. Thanks!

    • Bee, I haven’t made any jewelry of any kind, so I can’t tell you with recipe would work best. You might try doing a search on YouTube – there might be a tutorial on there that would help.

  • Love this post, thank you so much for sharing!

    This halloween I want to be a disco ball inspired by the costume below (where only my bottom half would be the disco ball):
    http://files.g4tv.com/ImageDb3/287981_S/The-10-Most-Ridiculous-Victoria-Secret-Fashion-Show-Costumes.jpg
    http://www2.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/2011+Victoria+Secret+Fashion+Show+Runway+4gTEZ3dIbTbl.jpg

    Once I have my proper measurements I wanted to paper mache a balloon with the strongest type of glue or material possible. It would need to be strong enough to hold mirrored tiles.
    http://kitkraft.com/search_a.php#q=mirror&page=1

    Do you think that if I use several layers of paper mache it would be strong enough to hold? Which is the strongest method/supplies for this? How many layers do you think I should make?

    Would love any feedback on this.

    Many thanks!
    Ally

    • Hi Ally. For paper strips and paste you would need eight layers of paper, at least. You may need quite a few more. You would want to do a few experimental pieces, small squares, perhaps, and see how strong they are when they dry. For the glue, you might need to ask at a hardware store for a product that will hold on to glass. Plain old Elmer’s wouldn’t work, I’m sure. They should have some suggestions for you, though, since they stick tile to walls all the time, and the same products should work for your costume.

      The easiest way to get a strong base would probably be to cover your balloon with a couple of layers of plaster cloth, which would harden in just a few minutes. Wait for it to dry, probably overnight, and then add a very thin layer of the paper mache clay recipe over it. Leave the oil out of the recipe, though, because it could keep the glue from sticking to it. If you don’t have all the ingredients for the clay, you can use the flour and water paste and some brown paper to stiffen the plaster cloth. Because the plaster cloth is fairly strong by itself, a few additional layers of brown paper should be enough for the project – but do an experimental piece first, just to make sure.

      • Hi Jonni

        Thanks so much for replying. I see that you just have comments consistently coming in so I’m sure you are busy. Congrats on the success of your paper mache clay invention!

        I have decided to use your clay recipe on a 20″ balloon (rather then paper mache strips, that would have taken too long).

        And instead of actual mirror tiles I bought the fabric below, which would be much lighter:
        http://www.thefabricsfactory.com/product/rhinestone-rolls/831409-60020/dashing-mirror-foil-fabric-bolt-35-x-10yards-silver.html

        I’m still waiting for the fabric to come in so I have yet to actually make it yet but is the clay going to be heavy? I plan on holding it up with suspenders.

        Also, will it be uncomfortable around my body. I will be wearing clothes of course but worried about it scratching me.

        Please let me know what you think.

        Thanks!

          • Thanks Jonni.

            From using your paper mache clay, do you think it will be heavy? I plan on holding it up with suspenders. Do you think that will hold?

            Also, will it be uncomfortable around my body. I will be wearing clothes of course but worried about it scratching me. What do you recommend?

            Please let me know what you think.

          • The paper mache clay is probably heavier than paper strips and paste, mostly because it’s hard to put it on an armature as thin as paper. It also dries really hard, almost like wood or plastic, so if there are any sharp edges or ridges, it would not be comfortable. Since you’re using the fabric, you might want to consider using brown paper and paste instead of the paper mache clay. It would be lighter, and more comfortable. But the pm clay will work, too – maybe you could make little test swatches of both materials and let them dry, then see what you think would be best.

          • Also…I’m planning on using a hot glue gun to glue on the fabric to the paper mache clay – do you think that will stick well?

          • I think it should stick very well. Try a small piece just to make sure the glue doesn’t soak through the fabric or melt it or something. I doubt that would happen, but it’s best to be sure.

          • Hi Jonni,

            I apologize for being a bother. Thank you so much for all the advice I really appreciate it. You are so helpful and sweet!

            I am going to make my Disco Ball Costume this weekend – I just have a few more questions before I do so! (a little nervous as this is my first clay project!)

            – Below is your first recommendation when I originally thought I was going to do mirrored tiles instead of just fabric:
            The easiest way to get a strong base would probably be to cover your balloon with a couple of layers of plaster cloth, which would harden in just a few minutes. Wait for it to dry, probably overnight, and then add a very thin layer of the paper mache clay recipe over it. Leave the oil out of the recipe, though, because it could keep the glue from sticking to it. If you don’t have all the ingredients for the clay, you can use the flour and water paste and some brown paper to stiffen the plaster cloth. Because the plaster cloth is fairly strong by itself, a few additional layers of brown paper should be enough for the project – but do an experimental piece first, just to make sure.

            – Below is your 2nd recommendation for once discovered I am using fabric:
            The paper mache clay is probably heavier than paper strips and paste, mostly because it’s hard to put it on an armature as thin as paper. It also dries really hard, almost like wood or plastic, so if there are any sharp edges or ridges, it would not be comfortable. Since you’re using the fabric, you might want to consider using brown paper and paste instead of the paper mache clay. It would be lighter, and more comfortable. But the pm clay will work, too – maybe you could make little test swatches of both materials and let them dry, then see what you think would be best.

            Here are my questions:
            1. Do you still recommend that I cover the balloon with a couple of layers of plaster cloth then add a very thin layer of the paper mache clay recipe over it?
            Rather then just straight paper mache directly on the balloon?

            2. I’ve never used plaster cloth before. I will buy it at the hardware store this weekend. From the video below it looks like you just add water and then I would just wrap it around the balloon’s shape, let it dry over night, then pop the balloon?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD5rtAqCl8U

            3. I did already buy all the necessary ingredients for your pm clay – however I will try your recommendation of the brown paper as well! I will do both just in case.

            5. Do you recommend leaving the mineral oil out of both recipes (brown paper & pm)?

            6. For the brown paper clay is it the same exact recipe as the original PM recipe except I would be switching out Angel toilet paper for brown paper like the one below (and not using mineral oil):
            https://www.michaels.com/recollections-kaft-paper-roll/10366136.html
            I would still use the premixed Joint compound, elmer glue, white flour, and water?
            How much brown paper should I use? The original 1 1/4 cups?

            I will make sure to send you my finished costume when it is done! Thanks in advance.

            Best,
            Ally

          • Hi. There are so many different ways to do it. I’ve never had much luck with using balloons with paper mache directly over the balloon, because you can get cracks or wrinkles if the balloon changes shape. That’s why I recommended the plaster cloth. I used that method when I made the Humpty Dumpty, and it is quite strong with just one layer of paper mache over the top to give me a nice smooth surface to paint. That’s how I would probably make your costume, too. You can try using paper mache over the balloon, and a lot of people say it will work. It just doesn’t work for me.

            The plaster cloth is easy to use. Just dip it in warm water and quickly lay it over your balloon. It will harden within 10 minutes, but it will take overnight to dry. You can add a layer or two of paper strips and paste, or a thin layer of the paper mache clay, right over the damp plaster cloth if you want. However, since air can’t get to the inside of the plaster cloth because of the balloon, you’d probably be better off waiting until the plaster cloth dries overnight, and then add enough paper mache to strengthen your costume. If you’re using the clay, a very thin layer will be plenty.

            The brown paper would be applied with a paste made with all-purpose flour and water, without any oil. Since you’ll be using the hot glue, the oil might not interfere even if you leave it in the paper mache clay recipe – but since the recipe works just fine without it, you might as well leave it out.

            And no, when I mentioned the brown paper, I didn’t mean that you would use it instead of toilet paper in the paper mache clay recipe. I meant you could use it instead of the paper mache clay, just by tearing off strips and laying it over the plaster cloth using the flour and water paste. It would be really hard to use in the paper mache clay recipe, because the paper is so stiff. It might actually be possible, though, to replace the flour and water recipe for a mixture of joint compound and glue (the home-made gesso recipe). It works well with blue shop towels, and might also work with brown paper. I just haven’t tried it that way.

            I hope this helps. I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you – I seem to be getting a little behind on my blog stuff lately.

          • Hi Jonni,

            I apologize for being a bother. Thank you so much for all the advice I really appreciate it. You are so helpful and sweet!

            I am going to make my Disco Ball Costume this weekend – I just have a few more questions before I do so! (a little nervous as this is my first clay project!)

            1. Do you still recommend that I cover the balloon with a couple of layers of plaster cloth then add a very thin layer of the paper mache clay recipe over it?
            Rather then just straight paper mache directly on the balloon?

            2. I’ve never used plaster cloth before. I will buy it at the hardware store this weekend. From the video below it looks like you just add water and then I would just wrap it around the balloon’s shape, let it dry over night, then pop the balloon?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD5rtAqCl8U

            3. I did already buy all the necessary ingredients for your pm clay – however I will try your recommendation of the brown paper as well! I will do both just in case.

            5. Do you recommend leaving the mineral oil out of both recipes (brown paper & pm)?

            6. For the brown paper clay is it the same exact recipe as the original PM recipe except I would be switching out Angel toilet paper for brown paper like the one below (and not using mineral oil):
            https://www.michaels.com/recollections-kaft-paper-roll/10366136.html
            I would still use the premixed Joint compound, elmer glue, white flour, and water?
            How much brown paper should I use? The original 1 1/4 cups?

            I will make sure to send you my finished costume when it is done! Thanks in advance.

            Best,
            Ally

  • I’m trying to make a custom bull/Taurus costume to match my zodiac sign and I believe I want to go with paper mache for the tail.

    Here’s what I have planned:

    Wire hanger to act as the “skeleton” of the tail
    Wrap in dry newspaper and fasten with masking tape.
    Build on top of the original tail-shape with paper mache (flour and water)
    Use a final layer of glue & water mixture to smoothe out the tail (as recommended by my friend)
    Sand it a bit to smooth it out and paint.

    Before I get started (because I’d really like to only do this once) is there anything I should revise about my plan?

    Also, should I do all of the wet paper mache-ing all at once and then let it sit to dry? Or should I do a few layers and let that dry before I continue?

    • Hi Parker. This sounds like a reasonable plan to me, with caveats. You can do all the paper mache at once. That’s how I do it, although some people prefer to let each layer dry. Either way will work. Just make sure the paper mache has time to dry all the way through before painting it.

      And don’t sit down or back into a wall when you’re wearing your costume, ‘cuz that might hurt. I get really nervous when people talk about using wire, especially strong wire like this, in a costume, but if you bend the ends so there aren’t any sharp points, it might be OK. On the other hand, if you found an old sisal rope and wound all but the last six inches with masking tape, using plenty of tape so the rope stiffened up, and then add two tp four layers of brown paper with flour and water paste over the tape, you could unravel the last six inches into a nice fly switch, and it wouldn’t hurt if you forgot and sit down on it. 😉

  • Hi Jonni,
    I’ve been really enjoying perusing through you website and posts.
    I’m just wondering what you think is your strongest and most durable recipe. I am about to do several different projects for different reasons but they all need to be very strong.
    Thanks!

    • Hi Miela. I haven’t tested the recipes in any scientific way, but even the raw flour and water paste is quite strong if used with enough layers of paper. If you give us an idea about what your projects will be used for, it would be easier to make a suggestion.

      • Thanks Jonni.
        Most of the projects will be musical instruments of various types and shapes, so they will be hollow, moved around a lot, used by children, used outdoors, etc. For internal waterproofing I was thinking of using epoxy resin.

        • Miela. I am very interested in your questions. I’m building an outdoor interactive children’s musical playground. So far all my instruments have been made out of pvc but,.. wow can I possibly make some out of paper machae and have them stand up to the elements. I would love to make a guitar and bass.

          • Hi John. So far, I haven’t found any way to make paper mache waterproof, but a lot of people use Monster Mud for outdoor displays. It’s a mixture of drywall joint compound and latex paint. Fabric is dipped in the solution, which appears to dry hard and waterproof. You might want to do a Google Search for Monster Mud.

            Or, as Miela seems to be suggesting, you can create your outdoor sculptures with epoxy resin or fiberglass. The resin is waterproof.

  • Hi, this is my first time making something out of paper mache. I’m trying to make my kids a Halloween costume which is a baseball. Im using a 48inch inflatable beach ball. I mixed 1/2 cup flour with 1 cup liquid starch. When my layers dry, the keep cracking/splitting. Does anyone know of a strong paste that I can use? My 9 year old daughter is extremely disappointed that it’s not working. She really wants to win the costume contest this year. Please help!!! Thanks.

  • Hello!
    And thanks for all the wonderful comments you make to all these posts! I’ve read so many – learned a lot and trying NOT to make (many) mistakes on my first project.

    It’s a very large animal head – about 30″ wide. I used plaster cloth (various brands as I could get, and found not all plaster cloth is alike!)…right now I have a good 3 layers – maybe in some spots 4 layers. And it’s getting heavy.

    I planned on the head being hollow, but will it be strong enough? I wanted to try the brown paper bag mache as a layer but didn’t feel confident enough in experimenting as this is an experiment of its own!

    I planned on a larger opening on the base to sit on the shoulder area. I’m wondering if there is a way to attach it somehow to the body so it won’t wobble or fall? Should I put something inside? I plan on gluing a small pile fur fabric over it – you said before that should strengthen it. Any particular type of glue to use?

    What started out as a joke turned quickly into a challenge (which I love) – but wonder if it will work out in the end???

    Thanks so much!
    Skye

    • Hello, Skye. With three or four layers of plaster cloth your animal head should be strong enough to stand up on it’s own – although the weight of the large piece might be a problem. Some people have suggested strengthening the inside of a hollow item by using spray foam, not completely filling the piece but just using it to support the walls. I don’t particularly like using spray foam (it gets on stuff and doesn’t come off!) but it might be worth a try if you’re worried about the sculpture not being strong enough. It won’t add much weight.

      I like the plaster cloth that is called “medical grade,” but it’s expensive. I get mine from Brick in the Yard. It’s great stuff, but expensive.

      If you can reach inside the shoulder piece and into the head piece, you can use more plaster cloth to cover the connecting seam, or even use your brown paper and paste. And if you want to have a smoother surface on top of your plaster cloth, one layer of brown paper, using the raw flour and water paste, should stick tight and give you a smoother finish. But if you intend to completely cover the sculpture with the faux fur, the additional layer of paper mache over the plaster cloth might not be needed.

      I really hope you’ll show us this sculpture when it’s done. It certainly sounds rather impressive, and I would love to see how it turns out.

  • What paper mache recipe do you suggest for a wearable children’s mask? I’m hoping to make a mask for my daugher for Halloween of one of her favorite characters. Please let me know what is safe to use for a mask. It will not be a full face mask, but down to the tip of the nose. Thank you!

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