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.

Save

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

2,238 Comments

  • Hi Jonni,
    I’m an experienced artist who normally does drawings, music, and sometimes large installation projects. However I have just been granted an exhibition in december to show a life size UPS Truck sculpture. My initial idea was to make it out of paper mache (which should be fairly easy because a UPS truck is basically a large rectangle). So in the months leading up to december I’ve began experimenting with smaller sculptures. Here are my questions…

    1) As an artist who works with paper, archival quality materials are important to me. Are most the materials that you use in your sculptures long lasting? I know that newpaper yellows over time… but I suppose since its ground up and then painted over it shouldn’t be a problem.

    2) I’ve been using a medium thick aluminum wire with chicken and duct tape to create my armatures. However, it occured to me that perhaps styrofoam would be more suitable for me given the forms I’ve been creating. Any advantages or disadvantages of either? Any other suggestions?

    3) Anything come to mind when thinking about the construction of a UPS Truck that you think I should know before starting the project? By the way, I’ll probably build it in 6 ft x 6 ft sections and assemble them in the gallery.

    Thanks so much,
    Please visit my website to see some of my work http://www.danielgalas.com
    Dan

    • Hi Daniel. This sounds like a great project. I hope you have fun with it.

      I don’t think that any of the materials I use in my sculptures could be considered archival. The exception might be the artist’s acrylic paint and varnish. Newspaper and toilet paper both contain chemicals of all sorts, and they’re not acid free. Elmer’s glue is reported to be acidic, (I think I read that somewhere). White flour paste will turn brown over time, etc. I think that if you want your work to last forever, you would need to make sure there is a seal between the paper mache and the painted surface. I’m not sure what sort of seal – perhaps a commercial gesso would do the trick. I’m not a chemist, so I can’t say with any certainty.

      Styrofoam blocks would be nice and flat, and that’s what you need for a truck. It would also be nice and light. Foam insulation boards come in very large sheets at the construction supply store, and if you connect them together somehow, they may prove strong enough. Getting chicken wire to behave over such a large sculpture would be a real challenge. I agree that the foam would be an easier choice, but it may be quite a bit more expensive.

      If you’re putting the truck together in sections, you might need to use your Styrofoam all the way around each section, making a complete box, so you know the edges will stay square. You might then be able to glue dowels or blocks on one section, and drill holes on the other, and fit the two pieces together like Legos.

      I can’t think of any other ideas or suggestions. I’m sure you already have far more experience with this type of installation than I do. Enjoy your project!

  • Yes, it will burn outside, on concrete, fire extinguishers at the ready.

    It is actually in the shape of a dolphin. I know it sounds out there, but it’s all in fun. We have a large group of displaced Buffalonians that get together for football. I certainly don’t want to offend any Miami Dolphin Fans out there, but football fans and effigies ….. well …………..

    I just hope it works. As I’m not an artist, and therefore need to use the entire form as the base will I be able to get it out??

    P.S. For Halloween we build forms of wood and chicken wire…. well not me but I sure can cover them.

    • You’ll need to cut the skin apart to pull out the form, and then stick the edges together with more paper mache. An alternative is to make your form out of paper in the first place, so you don’t need to take anything out of the inside. All my armatures are made with crumpled paper and masking tape. I squish them to tightly to burn well, but you could do the same thing with loosely crumpled paper if you tape the outside well. Make your form look like a marine mammal, cover it with a few layers of paper mache, and let it dry. Poof.

  • I’m sure this will sound strange to you as an artist, because I am making a prop that is flammable. Yes, it must burn. I am using a large vinyl swimming pool float as the shape, and raw flower paste. Will I be able to pull that out in order to stuff shredded paper inside? How many layers will I need to hold the shape? Any help or insight would be so appreciated.

    This site is amazing, your work is beautiful and I’m so glad I found it.

    • Wow. I sure hope this prop is going up in flames outside. If you fill a wading pool with shredded paper, that baby is going to get hot!

      You will need to put a release on the swimming pool, like Pam cooking spray, or simply put a sheet of plastic over it. If you just use one side of the pool for your form, you should be able to easily pull it out. If a few bits of paper mache catch on the edge, just use a sharp knife to trim them off.

      Now – what on earth is this for? Any hints? Are you doing a Druid theme for Halloween?

  • Hi Jonni, great site! I usually cast my relief sculptures in plaster or fibre glass but now want to make a clay in 100 percent recyclable/scavenged materials . i like your recipe a lot but wonder if there is a substitute for the joint compound,would clay work? i know it will be weaker but i will be adding wool,human/horse hair and lint fibres, in areas where there is no detail and.each relief is at least 2 metres wide by 1.5 hi so want to keep expences down. what about 50/ 50 clay powder and cement instead ?

    • Hi Kirk. I have not tried your idea of using clay powder and cement. I do know the cement will cause your clay to set very fast, and possibly too fast. And I’m not quite sure that Portland cement is more “green” than joint compound, which is made from calcium carbonate or gypsum. Maybe it is – I just haven’t done the research, so I’m questioning it. The Elmer’s in the clay might not pass the “green” test either, since it seems to be made out of polymers. I don’t know how they do it, or where the base materials come from. Might be an interesting question for a high school science class…

      There is only one way to find out if your mixture will work, and that’s to give it a try. Do some tests – and then let us know how it turns out!

  • Hi Jonni – I am a folk artist and use paper mache in some parts of my art.
    Your information is great and has given me some new ideas to try. I thought I would pass on the fact that I use a large dehydrater to dry my objects quickly.
    It’s fast and cheap!

  • Hello Jonni,
    You have a wonderful site! I actually took a sculpture class in highschool and wasn’t able to do the paper mache mask project other students were assigned. My memory is really bad, but I’m a complete amatuer when it comes to letting out my creativity, I jump around from ideas to other ideas. This seems like a very in-expensive art and the creations are beautiful and unique. I’ve been wanting to make a mask for quite some time now ( I’ve been trying to get ideas for using some oven-baked sculpey, but I came across your site instead), and I’ve been inspired to try my hand out on this. I’ve done two plaster masks before and I used my own face and a class-mates for the moldings, this seems a bit easier and not as messy. I will definitely keep coming back for advice and tips during my process. Wish me luck and it’s wonderful to see such unique and creative work!

  • Hi Jonni, Thanks for the tip. I’m planning on making cone shaped Xmas trees with the paper mache and covering with china and mirror shards so, yes, it would be moved some and stored off season. I could use styrofoam for the smaller ones but I want one about 3 feet tall. I guess if I keep it narrow it would not buckle. Well, it’s worth the try as I would like to craft the entire project. I’ll let you know how it comes out. I’m planning on using the clay recipe. Thanks, P

  • Hi there! I’m going to attempt to make a paper mache vase using a balloon as a model, which will be for my sisters wedding present, and then cover it in both tissue paper and Fimo clay. Cooking the clay on the vase takes 230 F for about 30 minutes, and I was wondering if this will be too much heat stress for the paper mache underneath, especially with the tissue paper on, and with the vase been already previously ovened to harden it? I was worried that it might ‘over’ dry the vase out, and I would’nt want to ruin my efforts in any way. Is it possible to only oven it once when the Fimo is in place? And will the delicate tissue paper be ok in the oven?
    Many Thanks!

    • Hi Krystal. I have dried paper mache in ovens that hot before, but you do need to be careful about warping and scorching. However, I’ve never used Fimo over tissue paper, so I’m not sure I’m the right person to advise you. If I had a project like this planned, I’d do a test before making the vase. Try to recreate the materials that you intend to use, but in a little experimental shape – you don’t need to make the test piece very big. Then give it the same treatment that the big piece will receive, and see what happens. And let us know how your vase turns out.

  • Good Morning~
    I am hoping to make some paper mache spheres that can be illuminated with battery operated LEDs, so they need to be translucent. I plan to use punch-ball balloons and white tissue paper. Any suggestions or tips?

    Thanks so much~ your blog is amazing!

    • Hi Ruth – this is another project I’ve never tried. I have another question from a reader I received yesterday that’s going into a blog post, so we can get some feedback from other readers. I’ll include your question in the post, too, and we might get some ideas.

  • Hi Jonni, I love this blog! It’s very helpful. I am planning on making a paper mache form as a base for a shard project. I am planning on glueing china shards to it and later grout it. Do you have a paper mache recipe that would be sturdy enough to accomodate the shards? Thanks! P

    • Hmm. That’s a tough question. If you intend to move your sculpture very much, you’d need a very sturdy base so it doesn’t flex and pop off the shards. If the base has no “give” to it, you could cover it with any paper mache recipe, whether it’s the traditional paper and paste, or the new paper mache clay (link at the top of this page). The trick would be to build the base of your sculpture out of something that was rigid enough on it’s own.

      If you need to make a rounded sculpture, so you couldn’t use plywood or similar product for the base, maybe you could make a form with crumpled paper and masking tape, maybe give it one or two rounds of wire, like Dan Reeder does with his monster armatures, and cover the form with any paper mache material you like. Once it dries, it might work to cut it in half, remove the crumpled paper inside, and put it back together – leaving a small hole. Then you could fill the form with expanding foam. This is just an idea off the top of my head – I have no idea if it would work for your purposes.

      Good luck with your project!

  • Hi! I am trying to make a Cheshire Cat mask using the flour and water paste and after I do intend to paint it too. I was just wondering though do you think I should sand before painting it or would it be better to leave it for this particular project? and how many layers of paper should i use before doing the final layer? i was thinking of using just plain white paper that you would get for your printer for the final layer… will that work?

    • Hi Sabrina. Whether you sand or not depends on what texture you want. That would be totally up to you, and how you want the finished piece to look. For a mask with no supporting armature behind it, you’ll need at least 8 layers of paper and paste, and you’ll need to let them dry completely before you paint. The white paper is a great idea. It should make it nice and easy to paint. This sounds like a really fun project!

  • i’ve been doing the traditional paper strips lied down in four layers instead of the .pulp. time is not an issue. i want to use the pulp method for details can i do that over the layered technique. i have a recipe that seems to be strong.
    flour,water,white glue,raw linseed oil ,salt ,arylic. nedium and oil of gloves. it seems to dry moderately fast and very hard.since iam an artist i have these materials in my studio.
    thanks for your good advice

  • Hi, I am trying to help my daughter make an ostrich egg shaped water container using paper mache, only problem is that the previous layers when dry are falling off. Any suggestions as to what I am doing wrong? (used cornflour and cold water to make the paste)

    • Hi Angie. I’ve never used corn flour to make paper mache paste. I know people sometimes use corn starch – is it the same thing?

      I would suggest that you make up a new batch of paste using white flour made from wheat. You can just mix some into your cold water until you get a nice smooth paste. Put on several layers, and let it dry completely. I’ve never seen paper strips and paste made with flour fall off.

      However, one time I can imagine that it would is if the egg is built around a balloon that changes shape or size with the changes in the air temperature. Are you using a balloon for your armature?

      • Angie,
        The problem is the flour! Corn flour and wheat flour are two different flours altogether. The difference between the two is that wheat flour, when mixed with water, releases a starch called ‘gluten’. Gluten is the stuff that gives bread dough its stretchy consistency, and makes cakes chewy if you beat the batter too much. Corn flour, on the other hand, doesn’t contain near as much gluten, if any at all. No gluten, no binding power; that is the reason your outer layers are falling off.

  • Hi, I am trying to make a paper mache pinata of mickey mouse for my one year olds first birthday party. I am making it with my 3 year old so I thought that it might be easier to do the last layer in black paper instead of painting the newspaper. I havn’t used paper mache in years so I don’t remember how it dries. will it work with the flour water paste, or shoud i try elmers, or should i just paint it? What do you think?

    • Hi Kerry. The flour and water paste will dry sort of white, on top of your black paper. I’d use diluted Elmer’s for the last layer.

      I hope it turns out the way you want it to.

      • Hi, Thank you for the Elmer’s glue tip. It worked great. Looks awesome, we’ll see how it flys tomorrow. :o) Thanks again!

  • Hi I would like to try and make a Venetian style mask. But I can’t work out what paper they are using. Some websites say they use wool paper. Where can you buy this from or do they just mean wall paper? This is properly a stupid question. But if you can help that would be great!

    Many Thanks
    Clarice

    • Hi Clarice. According to one of our readers from Australia, they use actual sheep’s wool in Venetian masks. She suggested adding wool to the paper mache clay recipe. I’m not sure how you would use wool if you’re making a mask with traditional paper strips and paste.

      I just discovered that you can buy wool roving (carded but not spun) wool from a variety of animals, from Local Harvest. This might be well worth experimenting with, as Meryl suggested, but I haven’t tried it yet myself. If you figure out how it’s done, please let us know.

  • Hi
    I love your blog. I am writing an article about paper mache and I was hoping I could link up to your site. I am not into just paper mache but I enjoy working with it with my kids. I want to send people to where they can really get good recipes for the paste and i see that you have some great information here. Let me know what you think I added my website for a followup if you like…..

    • Yes, Lucia, you certainly may link to my blog. I like links – links are good 🙂

      I like your blog, too, by the way. Thanks for letting us know about it.

  • Hello Jonni. After trying to make balls about 1″ around, I found your recipe and will be trying that as it seems much easier. My question is will it work as well in a larger solid object as it does when you spread it on as thin layers? Also, I want my finished balls to be very shiny and durable. Can you tell me what I can use to get that finish? I’ve tried Modge Podge but it seems to be milky in color. Thank you.
    Paula

    • Hi Paula. I’ve never used the recipe for a solid object, using clay all the way through. If the beads are small enough and you allow them to dry completely throughout, it will probably work – but you should do some experiments first to make sure.

      You might try Verathane or Minwax for your shiny finish. They seem to dry quite clear, and they come in water-soluble formulas. You find them at the hardware store. I have never used these products for beads, so you might need to experiment with this, too.

      Good luck with your project. Please let us know how they turn out.

  • I like working with oil based and polymer clay because of the fine details you can achieve. But, weight is a factor because I want to ship things. I’ve made several things with a base of regular paper mache strips, and I want to use your clay to spread on top and add the fine details. I’d like to know the work time of the clay, before I start using it. Say if I’m making a life size bust. Would I have time to cover the entire bust with a layer of clay, then have time to go back and sculpt in the fine details? Or will the clay begin to set? Also, would the bond between the regular paper mache strips, and your clay, be strong? Is there any worry of cracking or chipping off the paper mache strip base?

    Thanks for a great site and sharing your paper mache clay recipe with everyone.

    • The working time of the clay is quite long – several hours at the least. It doesn’t set up like plaster or some of the commercial instant paper mache products that contain plaster. However, since you’ll be using it for items that may be for sale, I strongly suggest that you do some experimenting before investing a lot of time into your projects. Make up a test piece using the techniques you’re thinking of using, and then test the finished piece to see if you see any cracking or other problems. I haven’t run into any problems like that, myself, but we all use it in slightly different ways, and I use the clay for items I keep in my own home. As I suggest to everyone – try it out and see if it works the way you need it to. And if you do decide to use it in your projects, we’d love to see how they turned out.

  • hi jonni,I would love to make a mache guitar for my sons b-day party! My wife and I haven’t done paper mache since school, so we wanted to no if you had any helpful advice ? We got the concept of making the mache, but was wondering about the shape? You know, how would we build a form to wrap the mache around? Any advice would be awsome !

    • Hi Christopher. I’d use cardboard and masking tape – you can easily cut the cardboard to the right shape, build a hollow “box” and cover with paper mache.

      I wonder if it’s possible to make a paper mache guitar that you can actually play? That would be pretty cool.

Leave a Comment

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.

Heads up! You are attempting to upload a file that's too large. Please try a smaller file smaller than 250KB.

Note that images greater than 250KB will not be uploaded.

26K Shares
Tweet
Share2K
Pin24K
+136