Paper Mache Animals

Paper Mache Recipes

Paper Mache Paste Recipes


On this page you’ll find recipes for two different home-made paper mache pastes made with white flour and water, plus several alternative paper mache paste recipes and products – including some that are gluten-free.

My favorite recipe is the easiest one, which you can see in the text and video below. If you were looking for the recipe for my famous paper mache clay recipe – click here.

Easy paper mache paste:

This is the best paste to use if you’re working with a classroom of kids, because it’s both fast and inexpensive – and it’s plenty strong, too.

paper mache paste recipe

Mixing paper mache paste with an immersion blender.

To make the paste, just pour some white flour in a bowl, and add water gradually until you have a consistency that will work well. (If you want, you can use a small kitchen mixer so you don’t have any lumps. An immersion blender works great).

How thick should you make your paste?  You want it thin enough so it more closely resembles white glue than pancake batter – although thicker paste will work OK, too, if that’s the way you like it.

What kind of flour will work? You’ll need to use all-purpose white flour. Whole-wheat flour makes healthier bread, but it isn’t sticky enough to make good paste.

Make up just enough for one sculpting session. This is good advice for any paste made with wheat flour. Wild yeast is attracted to flour (that’s how sourdough bread is made.) If the paste is kept over from one session to the next, the yeast will break down the flour and make the paste less sticky (and slightly stinky). It’s best to whip up as much as you need today, throw out any paste that’s left over, and make a new batch tomorrow – or whenever you need some more. (If you need a paste that can be kept for longer periods of time, see the Elmer’s Art Paste, below.)

Be sure to clean the bowl and utensils before the paste has time to dry – it will dry very hard. That’s good for paper mache, but not so good for the person washing the dishes.



Are you concerned about mold growing on your paper mache, either before or after the sculpture is finished? Watch this video for some ways to avoid the problem of mold on paper mache.

Boiled Flour and Water Paste:

Boiled paper mache paste takes a little longer to make, and it doesn’t seem to be any stronger than the raw flour and water paste shown above. However, it will dry almost clear, unlike the raw paste, and the surface of your paper mache sculpture will be slightly smoother. If you aren’t sure which recipe you’ll like better, mix up a batch of both of them and try them out.

To make boiled paste, mix two tablespoons of white flour with a cup of water in a small saucepan and stir until there are no lumps. A whisk works really well for this. Put the pan on the stove at medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When it begins to thicken, be sure to watch carefully and keep stirring, to make sure it doesn’t burn. As soon as it starts to bubble, remove from heat and allow to cool. The paste will be runny when it’s hot, but it will gel slightly as it cools.

Gluten-Free Paper Mache Paste Ideas:

Elmer’s Art Paste:

Gluten-free paper mache pasteIf you mix Elmer’s Art Paste with the amount of water specified on the package you’ll have up to four quarts of gluten-free paste that doesn’t attract mold. It feels different than the more traditional wheat paste, but it works just as well. Mix it way ahead of time, because it takes longer to absorb the water than the maker claims.

Elmer’s Art Paste is made with methyl-cellulose, the product often considered the ‘gold standard’ for professional paper mache artists. It’s non-toxic, safe for kids, and a great paste for people who live in hot, humid climates.

You can mix up the entire 2 oz package and keep it in a covered jar. It won’t spoil.

Glue-Based Paste:

If you need a paste that dries perfectly clear, you can use Elmer’s Glue-All (or any white PVA glue) mixed with just enough water to make the glue thinner and easier to spread. Many people use the glue and water to avoid the gluten in wheat-based paste. I don’t personally like using it because it’s slick, which makes the pieces of paper slide around on the armature until the glue finally ‘grabs on.’ However, some people really like it, and never use anything else.

Acrylic Gel:

This isn’t really a paste, but acrylic gel medium does a fine job of sticking paper onto an armature. This is the product that I use when I add colored tissue paper as a final layer over a paper mache sculpture. If you do this, make sure the paper mache underneath is completely dry, because the acrylic medium could dry on top, sealing moisture inside. This would lead to problems later on.

I use the gel medium with tissue paper for two reasons: It dries perfectly clear, and it doesn’t cause the fragile tissue paper to fall apart, the way a water-based paste will do.

You can use any acrylic gel medium, but the one I now use exclusively is the Acrylic Gel Medium by Rock Paint. It isn’t ‘better’ than other gels on the market, but it seems to be the least expensive product of it’s type, and it works just fine.

You can see how the gel medium worked with tissue paper on a bullfrog sculpture here: (If you follow the links on that page, you’ll find a free 3D pattern for the bullfrog.)

Drywall Joint Compound and Glue Paste:

I use this recipe, or the plaster and glue recipe below, whenever I make a mask or sculpture with blue shop towels. Just just two or three layers of the heavy shop towel paper, held together with one of these paste, will make a strong, hard skin for a sculpture or mask. I also use this recipe as gesso, to create a nice white ground for the final paint on my sculptures.

To make the paste with glue and joint compound, you’ll need a mixture of about 1/3 Elmer’s Glue-All or any white PVA glue, and 2/3 joint compound. After you’ve mixed it thoroughly, add just a small amount of water to make it thin enough to brush over your armature.

Use any joint compound except Dap brand, which doesn’t work. Walmart sells non-Dap joint compound in their paint department. You can find gallon-sized bottles of Elmer’s Glue-All at most hardware stores and DIY stores. It’s much less expensive when purchased in the larger size.

This paste is too heavy to use with newspaper, but it works great with the blue shop towels. The towels need to be completely saturated with the paste, so they’ll dry hard and strong.

You can find a video showing how I make the home-made paste (called gesso in the video) here.

Glue and Plaster of Paris Paste:

This is the paste that I used for all the masks in my book How to Make Masks. It works great with the blue shop towels, but is too heavy to use with lighter papers. Unfortunately, the towels are not available in all countries, but in the US you can find them at hardware stores, DIY stores, and Walmart. You can see a three-video series of a Commedia del Arte Mask  mask made with the blue shop towels and the glue and plaster paste here.

The recipe for this fast-setting paper mache paste:

Mix together:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) white glue (Elmer’s Glue-All® or any PVA glue)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) cold water
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vinegar (it slows down the plaster to give you more time to work)

Then mix in:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) plaster of Paris

This paste will harden quickly, and may even begin to harden right in the bowl. If you will be working with children, or if you’re working on a large project, use the previous recipe for paste made with drywall joint compound and glue instead. Both recipes dry very hard when used with the blue shop towels.

Finishing Your Paper Mache Sculpture:

You can use any type of paint on your sculpture. I like to use acrylic craft paints, and I seal my sculptures with a matte acrylic varnish. If the sculpture is very dry when you paint it, and if you seal it with varnish, it should last a lifetime.

You may also like:

How I painted the Unicorn.Unicorn Pattern
Hyena Mask PatternHyena Mask Pattern
Life Sized Paper Mache Baby ElephantLife-Sized Baby Elephant

2,194 Comments

  • Hi Jonni:

    What glue recipe would you recommend if I am planning on using a latex mould for my sculpture, but I’m not sure if any of these recipes will cause the paper to stick to the mould.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Dany. I have not used a latex mold with paper mache, so I can’t offer any suggestions. If you have a scrap mold, or if you’re making molds and you can just pour some latex out on a piece of paper to get a test piece, you’d be able to try a few of the recipes to see if they work.

  • Hi Jonni,
    I have been tasked with making humongous eggs (not whole but 2/3 full so the kids can sit under them) for my kids High School production of HONK the musical (the story of the ugly duckling. I found 36″ balloons that I will be using as the form. I will need them to be a little very sturdy but I will also need to cut a jagged edge out of the bottom. Which recipe would you suggest being best for such a project. Thanks for your videos they have been very helpful.

    • Hi Beth. I’d probably cheat and use plaster cloth for the base, like I did for my Humpty Dumpty. The fabric inside the plaster cloth will reinforce your shell, so three layers of the plaster cloth plus several layers of paper strips and paste might be enough to make the shells strong enough. If you used just paper strips and paste, you’d need ten layers or more to hold up to the kind of handling the egg shells will get during rehearsal and the actual performance. For extra strength you could add a thin layer of the original paper mache clay recipe on top of the plaster cloth. It dries very hard, and it’s really strong – but without an armature underneath it will still be somewhat fragile without the support of the plaster cloth. It isn’t entirely smooth, though, and could be uncomfortable against the players’ heads, so I’d use newspaper strips and the raw flour and water paste for the inside of the shells. You can test the strength of your materials with a small test piece first, before making up all the eggs. Good luck with it!

  • Hi there! First, you do amazing work! It gives us all something to aspire to! Second,I am having a problem. I can’t get my second layer to lay down! I am using flour, water, pva glue, starch and salt. My first layer went great. Now it won’t lay down to adhere and it is completely dry. I used an asterisk pattern on the first layer to get good coverage. Do I even need a second layer? Should I make my paster “wetter”? Very frustrating. Please help! 🙂

    • Hi Sean. Are you saying that your first layer curled up when it dried? What are you using for your form? Is it something that the paper mache can actually stick to, or is it plastic or ceramic? I have never used the formula you’re using, so I’m not sure how to fix your problem. You seem to be using a bit of everything to make your paste. If you’re using a form that the paper mache can stick to, but it isn’t sticking, maybe you could use a more traditional recipe, and do two or three layers at one time. That way, even if the first layer isn’t stuck to the armature, the layers on top would hold it all together.

      • The armature was a beach ball. The first layer seems to be fine. It was done with a shredded phone book. I wanted to make it more substantial and tried to add a layer of news paper to it and the new layer won’t lay down on the first. I forget where I got that recipe, but apparently it wasn’t from you! Haha. Simpler may be better.

  • Would any of these make synthetic lace rock hard without changing the look of the pattern? I know it will add thickness and I’m not concerned with that just need it to be rock hard. Thank you.

    • I don’t think so. What you probably need is either a fabric stiffener, like Paverpol, or a two-part resin. The folks at Smooth-on would let you know if they have a resin that would work the way you want it to. Or do a Google search for Paverpol to see how people are using that product.

      • Hi I don’t know if you saw this but I’d really love to get your opinion!:

        Hi Jonni:

        What would you recommend if I’m planning to cover a pre made sculpture with one layer of printed images on regular printer paper? This is a major university level art project that I’m hoping to keep around and exhibit in the future, so I want it to be as durable and long lasting as possible. I also want it to be completely clear. I don’t have a lot of experience with paper mache. Does adding wheat make it less clear, but stronger than just water and glue? Does cooking the mixture make a difference?

        Any advice would be appreciated.

        So far I’m planning on using a combination of

        salt (to avoid mold)
        water
        simple white glue, possibly Weldbond.
        small amount of wheat and cornstarch (?)

        I’m not sure what the amount of each ingredient should be for a batch.

        Thanks

        • Hi April. I don’t know if wheat flour will make a glue mixture stronger. The flour is normally mixed with water and used that way, without the glue. The raw flour and water paste is not clear. I’ve been using acrylic medium when I want the last layer of paper’s printed images to show up clearly. An alternative would be Elmer’s Art Paste, a product made with Ethyl Cellulose (I think I got that right). That’s the material that’s used by librarians when they need to repair old manuscripts. Mold and bugs don’t seem to like it, and it dries clear. You mix it with water, so a little goes a long way. (Read the directions – it isn’t as easy to mix as you would expect.)

          If you prefer to use Weldbond, which is the strongest option, be sure to test it with a piece of your printed paper. I believe it may dry yellow. You could use it for all the paper layers except the top one, though, and you’d have a very strong sculpture. Don’t mix flour with the Weldbond. I don’t think you need any salt if you use Weldbond (or with acrylic medium or Elmer’s Art Paste. I believe the Weldbond is made with mold inhibitors, and mold doesn’t like the other two options.)

          Have fun!

  • Hi Jonni:

    What would you recommend if I’m planning to cover a pre made sculpture with one layer of printed images on regular printer paper? This is a major university level art project that I’m hoping to keep around and exhibit in the future, so I want it to be as durable and long lasting as possible. I also want it to be completely clear. I don’t have a lot of experience with paper mache. Does adding wheat make it less clear, but stronger than just water and glue? Does cooking the mixture make a difference?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    So far I’m planning on using a combination of

    salt (to avoid mold)
    water
    simple white glue, possibly Weldbond.
    small amount of wheat and cornstarch (?)

    I’m not sure what the amount of each ingredient should be for a batch.

    Thanks

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