Paper Mache Animals

Paper Mache 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 recipe:

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.


How to Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay

Learn the secret techniques that have already helped thousands of people create beautiful, original animal sculptures … even if they’ve never sculpted anything before.

All you need is a little time, a few dollars for “art materials” that you’ll find at your local grocery and hardware store, and the clear step-by-step instructions in How to Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay. Now available on Amazon.com


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:

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.

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2,238 Comments

    • You could use any of the tutorials on this site and just change the shape. Then wrap him up with strips of cotton, which you could make “old” looking by soaking in diluted coffee. But I’ve never made a mummy, myself. Let us know how your project turns out.

  • your site is great! im thinking about starting a project and untill now all the information i needed was on 10 different sites! anyway I have used paper mache a few times when I was a kid but not in years, I am thinking of adding a floor to celing tree in my babys nursery (jungle theme) and was wondering if that was somthing you think would be reasonable for someone with not much experience? and if so do you think I should use the paper or the clay? Thanks for every thing!

  • I have a den of Cub Scouts (4th grade) and will be doing papier mache over a simple balloon today — they’ll love getting messy! Wondering if, after some painting — can we cut out small holes and hang for use as a birdhouse? Wondering if they’d like to live in there … seems like it would make a nice cozy home! Many thanks and love your site!

    • Hi Karen. I’ve wondered about that myself – the only concern I have is that the paper mache will tend to collect dampness from the birds inside the birdhouse, and will get rained on the outside. If you completely seal the paper mache both inside and out with marine varnish, it might hold up. It would be a shame to have a bird family living inside and then have dampness weaken the walls so much the house breaks apart.

      Good luck with your projects.

  • Great tutorial! I have a question. Is it necessary to use these pastes with paper, or can other materials be substituted? I am working on a costume for a condom fashion show, and I would love to make a latex top hat, fashioned in this style. Is it possible?
    Thanks!!

    • Hi Paige. I don’t know of any transparent material that you could use to create something that looked like latex, other than latex itself. I would suggest that you check out the tutorials at http://www.smooth-on.com/ and make your hat using one of their latex products. I’ve used the Smooth-on latex rubber material for making molds (for cat faces, not condoms…) and the material is actually quite easy to work with.

      Have fun.

      • Thanks for the reply, Jonni!
        I actually have a load of latex, in the form of multi-colored condoms, and I was more curious if I could use the paste recipes on them, by substituting strips of condoms for strips of paper?

        • Oh, I get it. Sort of like a condom flower thingy? The answer then, is “no.” The flour and water will not stick to latex. I’m not sure if anything will stick to latex. Maybe you could try one of the inexpensive hot glue guns – that might work.

  • Hi there,

    I just stumbled upon your website, and I was glad to find so much information on paper mache. My 10 year old just informed me (last minute of course) he has to make a paper mache sculpture of a human heart. The best part is that it’s due on Tuesday. After thinking about this little task for a few seconds I realized all the detail this must require.I have no clue as to how to begin. Do you have any suggestions or advice? Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Your son can make an inner form, using crumpled newspapers and masking tape, to create the basic shapes. Rolls of paper might come out at the right places for veins and arteries, while the heart itself could be made from one or two balls of crumpled paper, squashed into the correct shape. Then he would just cover the form with paper strips and paste, three layers should probably be enough. It would be even easier to use the new paper mache clay recipe – there’s a link to the recipe at the top of this page. He can be making the paper and masking tape form while you run to the hardware store for the ingredients. The clay should be added in a very thin layer, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep, and smoothed with the flat side of a knife. Do one side, sit the heart on top of a radiator or furnace register to let it harden, then turn it over and cover the other side. When it’s dry it can be painted.

      If he uses the paper strips and paste instead, it can be dried in the oven at about 250F.

      I wish him luck. With this kind of deadline, he’s going to need it.

  • Thanks so much for all of your information. I have a couple of questions that I’m hoping you have time to answer. I usually used art paste for my Papier Mache which is a clear gel-like glue, but after visting your site I decided to use the traditional flour and water paste. It was great, except for the cracking that occurred. Is there a way to prevent the cracks from happening, and an easy solution for fixing them? Also, I wanted to try making the “skin” for the last layer, but wasn’t sure how much glue to add or how to apply it. Do you brush it on? Thanks so much for your help.

    • Hi Courtney. You’re right–flour and water paste will crack if you put it on the outside of your sculpture. You can reduce or eliminate the cracking by adding white glue, but you will need to experiment to see how much is needed.

      I no longer use the “skin” formula that is on this page–I keep experimenting with different recipes to make the process easier, and I’ve found that I prefer a home-made gesso, which can be colored with acrylic paint or powdered pigments. To make the gesso mix up one tablespoon joint compound (called joint filler in the UK) with one teaspoon white glue and a dab of white acrylic paint. This gesso will smooth out the surface of your sculpture, and I have never seen it crack. It becomes quite hard when dry, but should be protected with acrylic paint or a final varnish.

      When I used the paste mixed with glue for skin, I brushed it on and then smoothed it out with my fingers. It would depend on what texture you want. More glue will make it thinner and stronger, without the cracks – experiment with different amounts until you get the look you want.

  • For a large sculpture – say 4-5 feet in length and 2-3 ft wide, would you use some sort of framework? If so what would you build the frame with to keep it light weight? I thought of cardboard and possibly some light weight fiberglass screening. Any thoughts?

    Rob

    • Hi Rob. There are several ways you could go. For the Baby Elephant sculpture, I used particleboard, which is very heavy. I’m now convinced that gluing up two or three layers of corrugated cardboard would have been just as strong, and much lighter.

      You could also use Dan Reeder’s wire armature method, which would also be lighter than my particleboard armature, and probably just as strong. (You can use that method for things other than monsters, by the way. I used his wire armature technique when I built the insides of my bobcat and all my other big cats).

      And the third method, which I haven’t tried but which obviously works, is shown in the new Papier Mache Design book by Monique Roberts.

      I don’t know what you’re using the screening for. I use the expanded aluminum stuff that’s sold in hardware stores for keeping leaves out of gutters when I need to make ears or strong tails with the paper mache clay. The clay keys into it really well, and the result is light and strong.

      I hope this helps. Let us see your project when it’s done!

  • Your information is wonderful, thanks! My Gr.3/4 class is making a teacher-sized inukshuk for the winter Olympics in February. We are using cardboard boxes as the base. We’ll cover it with paper mache and use paper towels as a final layer to provide texture. Our art teacher (not me!) suggested sponge painting it to add to the textured appearance. The kids can’t wait to get started! Your raw recipe’s instructions are just what I needed! I am going to try adding salt as an extra measure to fight mold.

  • Thank you for the information you have generously shared. I will be trying out paper mache and find that you having experimented with various types of paper mache that will save me the trouble of trying out will save me a lot of time.

  • Jonni – You are like the Paper Mache Encyclopedia! Thank you so much for the tips – I’m going to try your recipes instead of using the pre-made mix I’ve been buying. Cheap is always good! Thank you so much. xx

    • Yes, you can put small paper mache sculptures in the oven to dry, but keep the temperature under 200. Also keep checking the sculpture, because some shapes will warp. If you don’t catch it in time, it could ruin your work.

      This applies only to sculptures made entirely with paper and flour paste. Sculptures made with glue, like Elmers Glue-All, should be dried over a heating vent or out in the sun, instead of in the oven. The baking glue will release plastic into the air, and you probably don’t want to breath plastic, or smell it, either. If you must dry a sculpture made with the paper mache clay recipe on this blog in the oven, keep the temp under 150F.

      I find that sculptures actually dry faster when you place them over a heating vent that has warm, forced air. You can also use a fan, with no extra heat. The moving air seems to dry the pieces more quickly than the warm, still air in an oven.

      Hope this helps…

  • Thank you so much… this was exactly what I was looking for. I have a craft fair coming up and wanted to make a paper mache head to display one of the hats that I make. I was afraid it was going to cost me an arm and a leg for the materials to make it!

    • Hi Jenifer. I checked out the hats you make over on your Etsy site, and they’re very nice. I hope you share a photo of your hat on top of your new paper mache head display. That’s a really good idea – light enough to cart around, and inexpensive so you won’t have to worry too much about dings while packing up at the show. Good luck at the fair!

  • Discovered your site a few days ago & I am sooo intrigued by this recipe. I have been wanting to make some paper mache *heads on a stick* but have been initimidated by the process. Seeing your simplified method gives me courage to try one….today! Let you know how it goes….thanks for being so generous w/ your knowledge & talent!

  • Hello there!

    First, I must say how truly gifted you are. These sculptures are AMAZING! I am not doing anything that intricate. I have made 3 large dinosaur egg pinatas for my daughters 7th birthday party. There will be about 39 kids in attendance. I made this by covering plastic trash bags (filled with more plastic bags) with paper mache (using the flour/water/salt/cinnamon recipe). I have done 2 layers of paper mache and it’s SLOWLY drying. I plan to spray paint them, then go back and add details with a paint brush – like adding a crack and a claw sticking out, etc. My goal is to give each kid a good whack at the pinata – so each pinata should be able to withhold about 13 whacks before cracking open. What can I do to strengthen them more? I have run out of time to do a 3rd coat as it seems to take longer and longer to dry. Thank you for any insight you can provide to me – It’s much appreciated!
    Suzanne

    • Hi Suzanne. I’ve never made a sculpture that is supposed to break, so I can’t offer much help. I’ll copy your question as a regular post, and see if any of my readers can help.

      Check for answers to your question on the new pinata post, here.

  • Hi Jonni, it’s me again, after looking through all the rest of your site. Really fantastic, and thank you for sharing all your techniques. the posts on the horse were particularly fascinating for me as this is the sort of thing I want to do. On Elmer’s Glue-all – I’m sorry to have bothered you asking this.Only after I’d sent the email did I think to look on Google, and sure enough, there it is. Still don’t know if the actual product is available in the UK and France, but I have enough info to go looking now.. (well, when the snow melts, that is – I’ve been snowed in for three days so far!) Actually it’s great – no tv, so I have been creative.
    Thanks again, and – a bit belatedly, Happy New Year!
    Mags

  • Thank you for your paper mache information. I have made quite a few items out of paper mache and I am now in the process of making a large tree so I decided to do a search on which paper mache glue recipe is the strongest and this is how I have bumped into you.

    I wanted to add, that some people recommend putting salt in your paste mix to prevent it from molding. Don’t know how true this is but I have done this and no mold so far. Also, some recipes recommend sugar. I wonder if this will make the glue any stronger?

    • Hi Sarah. Interesting questions.

      I’ve never used salt in my paste recipe, but I live on the edge of a desert–that may give you a clue that mold is not my primary concern. Mold does not like salt, probably because it dries out their little bodies, so it should be a good addition to a paper mache paste recipe.

      About the sugar, however–I’m no chemist, but I do make bread occasionally. So I know that yeast (a fungus) loves sugar. I would steer clear of that idea.

      And the best way to prevent mold is to make sure you dry your projects as fast as possible, and then seal them with a good quality varnish to keep moisture from getting back in.

      Hope this helps.

  • Hello,I really liked your video. I had so many different recipes for paste,but you have given me a clear picture of what the options are and why. I want to do bowls and African symbols for wall hangings. thanks

  • hi, thanks so much for the info. I’m wondering if you can use a hair dryer (blow dryer) to help dry your paper mache project if you are not able to put it in the oven.

    • Hi Valerie. I like to use plaster of paris to weight sculptures, if needed. If your bust has a flat bottom, you can turn it upside down and remove some of the material you used as the inner form. Then place a plastic bag in the hole you make and fill it with some plaster of paris. Close the bag over the plaster and make sure the bottom is still flat. Allow it to set up, and then close your sculpture’s bottom with a final layer of paper mache.

      You do need to isolate the plaster with plastic to prevent the water in the plaster from migrating out into the paper mache.

      I hope this helps.

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