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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1,995 Comments

  • Hey, thanks so much for all this great info. Now I can make a lamp shade for my lamp. Any suggestions on what to use as a base? I was thinking of using a balloon…

    • Balloons are tricky. They tend to change shape after the paper mache is applied, so you get cracks or wrinkles. If your lamp shade will be round, try a kid’s rubber ball instead.

      • I need and art scruplture for topping on birthday cake I have no clue all I know is doing it paper mache is the best way out but I’m not crafty do you send them through the mail for a price

    • you could just shape a piece of cardboard for it but a balloon sounds like it would make a really cool shape!

  • Hi there, I do have a question. I know mostly you’re supposed to keep the finished product dry, but I’m trying to make Halloween decorations for outside is there a way to weatherproof the finished product without losing the integrity of the sculpture?

    • Hi Melissa. It is possible to made a 3D mural with paper mache. However, I’ve experimented with several different methods, and I haven’t found any product that will waterproof paper mache. Some people use marine varnish for Halloween decorations, and say it works well enough for temporary use. However, yesterday I posted a video that a reader sent me, that shows a method that I think could work really well. It’s not traditional paper mache, but it’s close. You can see the video here: http://www.ultimatepapermache.com/waterproof-paper-mache-technique

      Another thing that’s popular for Halloween decorations is Monster Mud. It’s a mixture of joint compound and latex paint, and they dip old sheets into the mixture. I haven’t used it myself. Do a Google search for “Monster Mud” and you’ll see plenty of tutorials.

      • Thank you so much for that!
        I’ve used monster mud before, I mix it with latex paint and it’s worked great for my sturofoam tombstones. I’ve used it to beef up some of the store bought ones I had kicking around too. I had thought about using it on my finished Papermache sculpture but thought it might be too heavy and may collapse it. I’m leaving them solid with no holes cut into them. But is there a possibility i may run into mould because the inside won’t dry properly?
        Thank you again! This is a totally new medium to me!

        • I think that any paper that’s wet will mold. You would need to let it dry out completely before sealing it. I don’t think Monster Mud would make the paper mache damp, since the latex paint is a liquid plastic–but I’m not an expert. I’ve never used Monster Mud, so you would know more about it than I do. For all things Halloween, Rich (the GoulishCop) would be the one to ask.

          • Rick, I just found a recipe for homemade modge podge.
            The recipe could be made 2 ways, with or without 1/4 tsp of white vinegar.
            The vinegar was optional only because it was added to keep the product from getting moldy. It’s a thought. I haven’t tried it yet, but it may be a solution for you too.

  • Hi.. Your handwork is really great.. M not an great artist but I try the projects I really love.. This paper mache clay projects, I really enjoyed watching.. I want to make a 3D mural of the interior of a temple with the pillars and such other details to project forwards. (Don’t know if I could convey what’s really in my mind?) can I use paper mache for this? How can I make it waterproof since it would stay outdoor?
    If not this material can u please suggest a material that I could use. Please help me with this.. Thank you..

    • Hi Neetu. It is possible to made a 3D mural with paper mache. However, I’ve experimented with several different methods, and I haven’t found any product that will waterproof paper mache. Some people use marine varnish for Halloween decorations, and say it works well enough for temporary use. However, yesterday I posted a video that a reader sent me, that shows a method that I think could work really well. It’s not traditional paper mache, but it’s close. You can see the video here: http://www.ultimatepapermache.com/waterproof-paper-mache-technique

      • Try automotive 2 pack. Not terribly cheap, but seals hard and permanent. Applied by hand in small amounts instead of spraying, for obvious reasons.

  • Hi I am making a paper mache Easter Egg Bonnet for my 6 yo daughter and was wondering what mixture is best to make the hat?

  • Hi! I am a highschool student working on a art project and was wondering what is stronger? Raw flour and water or white glue and water? My projecct is of medium size – 30cm x 20cm x 20cm kind of oval/egg shape for a base. (head & tail not included) (11.8 inches x 7.8 inches x 7.8 inches)
    Thanks,
    -Sophie

  • Hey, thanks for leaving the recipes, they are super helpful. I’m currently making a mask for my robotics team’s mascot, and I needed to know the amount of flour to water. Thanks to you, I now have the required info to continue being creative. I’ll definitely be returning here for future inspiration. Much gratitude on the behalf of the team, and again, thanks so much!

      • Hello, Im making a paper mache shoe for decoration. I made the shape of the shoe with a thin layer of newspaper. I put it in the oven to dry for thirty minutes, when i took it out it felt dry. So i let it sit for about thirty more minutes to be safe. Do you think its ready to put another layer on?

        • Hi Sarah. Yes, you can add more layers. I often add more than one at a time, since the new wet paste will soak into the dry layers underneath, anyway. The important thing is to not paint your piece until every layer is dry all the way through.

  • I’m about to attempt to make 4 trees that are 11 feet tall with interlocking limbs for the children’s area of my library. I have 2 concrete forms that are 4 feet tall for each trunk which will then be covered in chicken wire–to allow for roots to appear to swell out from the base and for a smooth transition from trunk to limbs with 1×2’s to provide strength for the limbs. I’m using equal parts of wood glue and water with newspaper strips. My question is How many layers would you recommend for the strength to stand up to children in a public setting? and Would (oatmeal/lumpy) paper pulp applied in rows give the appearance of bark?
    Thank you for any advice on any aspect of this project!

  • good day!
    I am a college student who is looking for ideas about our project in making pencil lead cover made of dried leaves. Dried leaves as the main component in the replacement of making cover of lead in pencil. Instead of wood were using dried leaves as replacement. however ,this will be make manually and the procedure of product preparation is same as making paper mache. pls help me in my gathering of ideas. would it be possible?

    thank you

    • I’m stumped. You’d need a binder of some kind, and I have no idea what kind of binder would work. Your project reminds me more of the composition dolls that were made out of sawdust and a binder.

  • Hi Jonni! its me again i would like to ask you if i can finish my sculpture with porcelain clay instead of flour clay or paste. What is it better and stronger to use?

    • Elen, I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean you would like to make a paste with porcelain clay and water, and use it instead of normal paste? I’m pretty sure it would just crumble when it dries. Did I misunderstand what you were asking?

  • 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 didn’t know I have to let the layers dry before I put another layer on. What’s gonna happen since I didn’t let it dry

  • 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.

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