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

2,157 Comments

  • Hi…I made paper mache clay using joint compound but the finished texture is not smooth…it has lumps and visible in painting…wat may be the reason??

    • Hi Amani. The lumps are probably caused by the paper not being fully broken apart and mixed in well enough. You can find out if that’s the case by mixing it again. It takes a long time before it’s mixed well enough. If the lumps feel rubbery, it would be caused by using DAP joint compound, because something in their formula reacts to the glue and turns it into Flubber. There may be other brands in other countries that use the same formula. So if your lumps are rubbery, use a different brand. If there’s just a visible texture on the surface of you finished piece, you can mix the clay more, or use slightly less paper next time. (The original paper mache clay will never give a porcelain-like finish. For that, you’d need the smoother recipe, here.)

  • Our church is going to try and make the tumb of Christ. We are planning on using chicken wire as the form. Should we put anything over the mesh before we apply the strips of paper mache? On average, how many layers should be applied?
    Thank you,
    Jiffy

    • Hi Jiffy. The paper mache won’t stick to the wire, so if the mesh is vertical, it will fall off. If there are two walls of wire so you can put crumpled paper in between, that would help support the paper mache. Or you can cover the wire with masking tape. I’m not an expert on using chicken wire, since I don’t enjoy working with it. The little cut ends poke me, and I don’t like to bleed. I’d probably construct the tomb with large cardboard, instead. You can find really big cartons at a furniture or appliance store, and they’re usually happy to give them to you. The cardboard would probably warp, though, since you’d have such big expanses of flat cardboard, and flat cardboard warps when you use it for paper mache.

      You might want to ask for some suggestions over on the Daily Sculptors page. It’s possible that one of the people who visit that page every day will have a better idea for you.

  • I’m making a set of ribs for my medical terminology class ,how would I make paper mache for the ribs and what would be good to use?

    • Any form of paper mache needs to go over something, as the final skin. You can make the ribs with aluminum foil crumpled over a stiff wire. Flatten the foil so there aren’t any bumps, and then cover them with paper mache. You can use the wire to firmly attache the ribs to the backbone, too. I would probably use the paper mache clay recipe on this site, because it dries really hard and it’s a lot faster than paper strips and paste. However, you certainly can use newspaper strips with the raw flour and water paste, and if you use three or four layers, it should be plenty strong enough.

  • Jonni,
    I make globes, actual real ones similar to the ones you see in museums. The problem is that my usual fiber glass supplier is closing down and I’m looking at paper mache as an alternative compound.
    How strong a sphere can I make with paper? I read somewhere that hessian fibers (or similar) can be used to strengthen the structure.
    Once the sphere has been made, it will be covered in thin layers of plaster of Paris.
    Can you please use your experience to recommend a technique that might suit my needs ?
    Thank you and best regards,
    Daniel

    • Hi Dani. I’ve only made one globe, and I used plaster cloth first, and then covered it with paper mache made with strips of brown paper. This is obviously not the level of sophistication that you use, although the plaster cloth does add that reinforcing that you would need for your globes, too. You might want to use acid-free paper held together with a glue made with methyl cellulose, like the type used by librarians, for archival purposes. My paper mache clay recipe uses the paper as reinforcement, and it does dry very hard and strong, but it hasn’t been tested for ‘archival quality.’

      Have you seen the Aqua Resin product? It’s supposed to be a less toxic form of fiber glass. If your supplier is closing, perhaps that would be a good alternative, instead of paper mache.

  • Hi Jonni, I am making two 3.5′-4′ giant balloon as a surprise egg to put toys in side (if you haven’t seen on youtube a big hit with the 4 year old girls). Santas presents are going inside. This means we have to cut a cross on the back to get the toys in side. We have 3 coats of newspaper with a flour paste and wanted to paint next. I am concerned as the balloon must of expanded and after the first 2 nights would find huge tears in the paper exposing a crack in the balloon. So would patch the area. The 3rd coat there were no tears. The balloons are still inflated. My fear is that we don’t have enough layers and will collapse when we cut the cross in the back to put toys in side. Having a hard time finding anything online from a knowledgeable source. Any ideas??

    • Hi Elizabeth. The tearing is a common problem when using balloons with paper mache, but you seem to have solved that problem with an extra layer of paper mache. Three layers won’t be very strong, but the paper mache should hold it’s shape as long as the bottom layer is entirely dry. The dried layers next to the balloon will have soaked up water from the new layer you put on top, so make sure it had time to dry again.

      If you let the air out slowly, and if the paper mache is dry, the egg should hold it’s shape. A few more layers of paper mache would make it stronger, though. If there’s any moisture left at all, the wet paper will hold on to the balloon, and collapse as the balloon get smaller. Can you reach the air intake? If so, you can check by opening it up just a tiny bit and let out a little bit of air. If the egg stays egg-shaped, you should be fine.

      Have a great Christmas!

  • Hi! I papermached a balloon and started using paper towels when I ran out of the gauze stuff from the craft store. It seems like it’s having a hard time drying. Any advice?

    • Hi Tyler. The fastest way to dry paper mache is to put it in front of a fan. If you have a furnace that blows warm air, you can put it next the vent. The moving air helps to move the dampness away from the sculpt, so it dries faster.

      Good luck with it.

  • I have a hollow paper mache angle that is stored I’m my attic until Christmas. I just took it out and it appears to have been crushed but it was not under anything – it sorta shrunk. It may be because of the summer heat. Funny thing – I have had it more than 20 years and always stored the same way. How can I stretch it back?

    • That is odd – did you have an especially humid summer, like we did here in Minnesota this year? That could soften the paper enough for it to fall in on itself. Or maybe you had a squirrel visiting your attic?

      The reason it happened probably isn’t as important as getting it fixed, but my curiosity was piqued. Can you put your hand inside the hollow angel? If so, does the paper crackle and break when you try to move it, or would it be possible to stretch it back out to it’s usual shape without causing too much damage? If there’s damage, how difficult would it be to repaint it the original colors, if you had to?

      If it really won’t move at all without snapping apart, you might be able to soften the paper by holding it over a humidifier, or by using a hand-held steam cleaner (carefully, so you don’t get burned). Once the paper can be moved back into position, it will need to be placed over something so it will dry again in the right shape. Maybe a water bottle would work? If you’re really lucky, that would fix her up without too much damage. If not, you may need to give her a new coat or two of paper mache, using torn newspaper strips and the flour and water paste, to make her smooth again and make her stronger, too. Then she would need to be painted, and sealed with a good acrylic varnish.

      Good luck with it – please let me know how it turns out.

  • I am using paper mâché for a project in school. I needed a good website to follow for instructions to make an easy paste that works. Does this flour and water based paste work? Or should I do the glue on? What is your preference?

    • Hanna, I almost always use the easiest paste, which is shown in the video and below it. The raw flour and water paste works very well with paper strips. You can use glue if you prefer, but I never do.

  • Right now i wish to cover a child’s bouncing horse without any of the framing. if that is successful and i like it, i’d like to make a small horse but lifesize (about 14.2 hands). On my site, I sell horse blankets etc. and I want it to be a model. Would I go about making it like your elephant, using wood as the base with spacers, etc.? I have worked with paper mache before and worry about getting it nice and smooth and mold worries me most. It would be so great to hear any advice, cautions or even a just don’t do it if you think it’s too over the top.

    • Hello, Heidi. If your horse will be in a public place after it’s done. you would want to use plywood, at least 3/8″ thick, for the frame. You might even want to use some hardware to bolt it to the floor, just in case a rambunctious kid (or adult) tries to climb on it. I would not use the paper strips and paste for a project that large, because it takes so much time. For the first layer, I’d use a thin layer of the paper mache clay recipe, which will smooth over any bumps in your armature. If the paper mache clay layer isn’t as smooth as you want it after it dries, you can add another very thin layer of the smoother air dry clay recipe, which is the same as the other recipe but with less paper and some corn starch added to make it smoother. Watch this video to see how the smoother clay is applied to an armature.

      You shouldn’t get any mold if you make sure the wet layers dry as fast as possible (a fan really helps) and if you use a good varnish to seal out moisture after the horse is painted. Mold can’t grow without water – but it doesn’t need very much, so make sure the paper mache clay is bone dry all the way through before painting.

      And no, I don’t think it’s ‘too over the top.’ It will take you some time, but you’ll be so proud of it when it’s done!

  • I was cleaning and found a bottle of blue liquid starch. I think I remember mixing it with white glue for a papier mache project my Camp Fire Girls did for Christmas one year. Are you familiar with this? What proportions should I use? Thank you!

    • I’ve never seen a paste recipe that included both liquid starch and glue, so I din’t know the proportions. O assume they’re using the starch to make the glue more runny and easier to use, so you could just mix the two together and see if you like it. If you try it, I hope you’ll let us know how it turned out.

      • It looks like Stolloween has a recipe that’s similar to mine but with the addition of the liquid starch. I still don’t know what it’s for, but it would be fun to play with. If anyone’s used it, please let me know what you think of it.

    • Don’t mix the two.you get bouncy rubber. Just use the plain liquid starch. Works better than flour or glue. I teach middle school art.

  • Jonni,

    I am making a BB-8 costume for my 2 year old but I made the hole too big is there anyway I can fix this

    • What a cute idea! Yes, you should be able to fix it, but you’ll need to hurry. I would cut a piece of cardboard that is larger than the current hole, so it overlaps the edges of the costume. Then make the smaller hole in the cardboard. Glue the new cardboard onto the costume with plenty of glue so you’ll know it’s going to stay where it belongs. Since that will create am edge where the costume meets the cardboard, you can strengthen it and fix the edge by cutting another piece of cardboard exactly as big as the current hole, and glue it over the new piece, to bring the surfaces level with each other. (Both pieces need the new hole, but I know that’s obvious).

      As soon as the glue dries, and if you’re using the paper strips and paste, put just one layer of your paper mache over the new cardboard, overlapping onto the original costume area so it all matches. Put it in front of a fan so it will dry quickly.

      Good luck!

      • I just had a thought – the cardboard insert will create a ridge on the inside of the costume that could chafe. You might want to cover it with a piece of foam.

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