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

  • Hi there ,
    I am just wondering the finished product with the paper mache clay ,
    is it ok to leave it outdoor ? will it gets damage cos of exposing to the sun ?
    cos i would really love to make sth to decorate my garden 😀
    cheers

    • Hi Izzy. The paper mache clay is not waterproof – it will melt in the rain. We’re trying to find a way to waterproof it so we can use it outside, but so far we haven’t found a good solution. Concrete is still the best product for yard ornaments, unfortunately. But we’re working on it.

  • Hi,
    I would like to make a couple of three foot tall paper mache cats (and maybe a dog) to sit on a Christmas float for an animal rescue I volunteer with. I did some paper mache years ago for an art class, but it’s been a while. I’ve gotten some great tips and recipes from your website, but I’m at a loss on how to get started? Any suggestions for making the body? It needs to be as light weight as possible (we don’t have any heavy lifters :)). Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

    • I would make the armatures with crumpled paper and masking tape, as I do with all my sculptures. That’s how I made my bulldog sculpture, which was about 2 feet high. He isn’t very heavy. You can use a cardboard armature for the basic shapes, which I did for my bulldog – I’m now working on an owl and posted the process of creating the cardboard pattern, which you can see here. Of course, all the instructions are also illustrated in my book. 🙂

      I hope your critters turn out exactly the way you want them to.

  • I love the idea of paper mache as a first wedding anniversary gift. A gift box, trinket holder, mask or mini-sculpture would all be good fun!

    Great recipes to get started!

  • Hi Jonni,

    My seven year old daughter wants to be a tootsie pop for Halloween. I’ve purchased a 24″ beach ball with the intent of covering with paper mache, but I don’t know how to make it sit correctly on her head. Also, how many layers of paper strips will I likely need to make it strong but not too heavy?

    • Hi Silvia. I think four or five layers of paper and paste should be enough, and that wouldn’t be too heavy. I think the beach ball would have to come out, as I’m sure you intend, and then the bottom could be cut to fit over her shoulders, which should keep it in place.

      What an interesting idea. Where do kids come up with things like this?

  • Hi- I am trying to think of ways to reinforce my daughter’s Halloween costume. I plan on making her a lightning bug. My original idea was to blow up a large balloon and put glow sticks in it. But she is four and I imagine it will pop the minute she hits something. So then I though maybe I could do a very thin paper mache over the balloon and possibly use wax paper so it is more transparent? I am not looking for something that will last for more than a few hours. What are your thoughts?

    • Hi Kim. I’ve never tried to make a transparent paper mache item, but I think it could work if you use diluted white glue in place of the flour and water paste. The glue probably won’t stick to the wax paper, though. If you use white copy paper, and only a few layers, the lights should show through. Or maybe tissue paper would work – these are just ideas off the top of my head, since I haven’t done it myself.

      Good luck with your project. People are really getting creative with Halloween costumes this year!

  • Hi Jonni,
    I haven’t done paper mache in a few years but wanted to give you a great tip/secret I use to use, and hope to do so again after seeing your wonderful animals.
    When I made bowls I always used brown paper bags, which is great for quick coverage, breaking the fibers down by crumbling them first. I also used wood glue instead of pvc glue. The wood glue made the bowls super hard. It’s something I never heard anyone use before instead of school glue, so it’s a secret I hope you & other will try.

    • Hi Jonni,
      It’s Jan. 2011.. I noticed I’m the only post you didn’t comment or answer. I was wondering if u actually received it, so I was re-posting my post..lol LOVE ur animals and you blog has such wonderful ideas from everyone, thank u and thank u to all ur people who post.

      ORIGINAL POST: Sharon S. October 8, 2010 at 4:43 pm
      Hi Jonni,
      I haven’t done paper mache in a few years but wanted to give you a great tip/secret I use to use, and hope to do so again after seeing your wonderful animals.
      When I made bowls I always used brown paper bags, which is great for quick coverage, breaking the fibers down by crumbling them first. I also used wood glue instead of pvc glue. The wood glue made the bowls super hard. It’s something I never heard anyone use before instead of school glue, so it’s a secret I hope you & other will try.

      • Thanks for reposting, Sharon. I can’t remember having seen your suggestions before. I like the idea of crumpling the brown paper first to soften it – I’m doing a project now that will be using brown paper, and this will really help.

  • Do you recommend this recipe used over a balloon?? My son wants to be Stewie and we found a football balloon that I could use to place the paper mache over.

    • I’ve never used the clay over a balloon, but I know many of my readers have tried it, and it seems to work. Of course, you can also use regular paper strips and paste over a balloon, too.

  • This recipe worked great!
    I used it in my ceramic and sculpture class last semester and it turned out great considering I’ve never experimented with paper mache before.Paper Mache Seal

    • very nice seal, Nicole. It looks like ceramics – is it actually made from the paper mache clay? How did you get that nice soft finish?

  • Hi!
    I need to make a lotion bottle replica, a Bath and Body Works one, actually. Not any specific one, just identifiable as one when I am through. The bottle itself has got to be about a foot tall, not less, then the short neck/lid on top of that. There are a few things I have considered using as my mold, like a cereal box with part of a toilet paper roll on top, or maybe just wire-Do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks!
    Lindsey

    • Hi Ruth. The recipe I used when I was a kid was just plain old flour and water, mixed up until it was nice and smooth. Did your school use different ingredients?

  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! I am currently making a paper mache dragon mask for my 9 year old daughter for Halloween. So far I have been using the paper strip method with watered down elmers glue for the paste. I started out by pressing a doubled piece of aluminum foil to her face (gently) so her mask is somewhat molded to fit her features. I will be trying your clay recipe for my next piece. Thank you so much for all of the wonderful info on here. Happy crafting!

  • Hi, I just came across your blog, and it is great! I have a quick question for you. My 2 1/2 year old daughter is determined to be a blue balloon for Halloween this year. I am considering paper mache-ing over a big exercise ball and then putting the hollow form over her head with a cut out for her face. Do you think this would work? Will it be too heavy? Any better ideas you have would be welcome as well. Thanks! 🙂

    • What a novel idea. Your daughter is very creative for her age.

      Your idea will probably work, but if at all possible, leave the wall of the exercise ball inside to add support. That way you could use a few light layers of paper and paste to stiffen the rubber, without needing to add so many layers that it weighs her down. Do be sure to post a photo when it’s done – I think it will be an adorable costume.

  • I haven’t used paper mache in YEARS, but being (f)unemployed has inspired me to revisit my fine arts roots. I came across your site looking for a good PM recipe, and I have a suggestion that you might consider trying to help the whole mold issue. I studied restoration in college, and part of the curriculum was learning water gilding from an elderly Italian man named Giovanni. One of his tricks for keeping homemade gesso from molding was to add a whole clove (or more) of garlic to the mixture while it cooked. I don’t know if this would work with the raw paste, but it’s certainly worth a try with the cooked one. Another idea that may or may not work- I’m just guessing- is adding a penny (pre ’89 have more copper content) to the paste. Copper is a natural biocide, and helps keep fountains fresh, as well as cut flowers!

    • Interesting – I wonder if garlic oil from the natural food store would work as well? I don’t have a mold problem here in my dry part of the country, but these are definitely ideas that folks in wetter, muggy areas should consider trying. If anyone does try one of these ideas, please let us know how your experiment turns out. Thanks, Lauren.

  • Hi I noticed you put that you use paper mache clay. I could not find the recipe can you direct me to where I can find it or email it to me? I teach Sculpture in High School and we use papier mache build up which is really expensive and this sounds like it would work perfectly. Thanks

    • Hi Jeff. I’ve never done anything like that myself. With something that huge, I’m not sure chicken wire will be strong enough – it seems like the weight of the paper mache could cause the whole thing to crumple in on itself.

      With a really big project, I’d go with Dan Reeder’s method of creating big balls of crumpled paper and masking tape, running a strong wire around the ball and then covering the ball with paper mache. You can then cut the ball open and take out the innards, and put it back together with more paper mache. If you build enough balls like this, you can tape them all together to create a honeycombed inner armature which can then be fleshed out with more crumpled paper, masking tape, and paper mache. It would be incredibly strong if you do it that way. I can’t offer any advice about using the chicken wire, though, since I’ve never tried it. Maybe another reader will chime in and give you some help with it.

  • Good morning, Jonni!
    I’m undertaking my first paper mache project in a long while, and I wanted to ask you a few questions before I screw anything up. So far I have a form made of balloons taped together, and right now there’s a moderately thick layer of newspaper using the raw flour and water paste. For the finished project, I plan to pop the balloons and pull them out of the inside, so the structure needs to stand on its own. It’s going to be mainly a decoration piece, but it’s a marionette, so I’m expecting some people to want to play around with it. How many layers of paper do you think would be best? Also, I’ve been reading about your clay recipe; it looks really interesting and I want to try it! I’d like to use it to even out some of the spaces where the paper layers drooped a bit in between the balloon form. Do you think two layers with a layer of clay smoothing it out would suffice?

    • hi Joshua. The clay is very strong, so two layers of paper strips and a final layer of clay may be enough. It depends on the size of the piece you’re making, and how much handling it gets. Also, I haven’t tried using the clay over a balloon – balloons change their shape when the air temperature changes, so it may crack or buckle. If you see any problems with using the clay with the balloons, please let us know.

      • Jonni,
        Thanks for your advice! So far the balloons are working surprisingly well, except for one of them popped during application of the second layer. My question for you is that when I made the clay, it came out surprisingly lumpy. In your videos your clay is smooth and you say a frosting consistency? Perhaps I’m just making it wrong but I followed all the directions you outlined. Any advice on how to get it a smoother, more spreadable consistency?

        • Hi Joshua. I’ve never run into that problem. Is it possible that you used too much toilet paper? Some rolls have way more paper than the ones I use. You can measure the paper in the roll after you get it wet, by putting it in a large measuring cup and pressing out the water. The recipe uses a roll that contains 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of paper.

          Or, are you mixing up more than one recipe at a time? That could make it difficult to get it smooth, because the materials are fairly heavy. I only make one recipe at a time, and make more when the first batch runs out.

          And you are using the pre-mixed wet joint compound instead of the dry stuff, aren’t you? Since I didn’t get to watch you making your clay, it’s hard to guess what went wrong. I hope I’ve been at least a little bit of help.

  • Hi Jonni,
    Its Dan again… working on the UPS paper mache project. A few more questions for you…
    This project is site specific, so I don’t believe I’ll be showing the UPS truck after this exhibition (which means it doesn’t have to be constructed for durability or quality so that generations to come can experience it) … since thats the case, and because I’m pressed for time (this has to be completed and presented in December) I was thinking that perhaps I can cut a few corners. For instance, without getting to into detail, I’ve decided that the truck will be tightly fitted into the space so that viewers will only see the front of the truck, the side of the truck, and the view underneath the truck (it will be standing upright with the back of the truck to the floor and front of the truck to the ceiling)… in other words it will be only three sided. Also, the armature will be constructed of pink styrofoam housing insulation secured to metal brackets… the paper mache will go on top. Now here is my question… which method of paper mache would you recommend for me to use considering the large size of the project, the fact it will be painted brown, the fact that this project will only be shown once, and knowing that time is of the essence?
    Thank you so much. I’m just looking for some of your suggestions, not guarantees. Thanks again.

      • That’s the way Dan Reeder does it too – it will create a very strong skin for your sculptures. I haven’t tried it yet, but it will give you a great finish.

    • Hi Dan. I’d use huge pieces of torn newspaper dipped in a paste made from flour and water. The large pieces will go on fast, and just a few layers are needed because you have the foam backing up your paper mache. You could get the whole project covered very quickly. If you need to make it absolutely smooth, like a real truck, you can sand it or use joint compound applied with a very wide tool, to smooth out any irregularities between the different pieces of paper. Then sand or use a lightly damp sponge to smooth it out, and apply some primer, then paint.

      Dan Reeder uses really big pieces of newsprint when he makes his monsters. You might be able to see him do it in one of his videos.

      • Thanks for the lead to Dan Reeder… he’s been helpful!
        Heres another question that I also asked Dan… Because time is a factor in this project and making a project that is archival is not… would you recommend that I paper mache one layer only and then use house paint directly on top once the paper is dry (remember I’ll have insulation styrofoam as an armature? That would be cutting many corners, but its an easy and quick way to do it. In other words, how necessary is it to use multiple paper mache layers and to gesso the paper before painting on it? Note: I prefer the handmade look so I’m not planning on doing any sanding of the paper to smooth it out. Also, is house paint acceptable?

        • One layer should work, if it doesn’t wrinkle too much as it goes on or dries. If it does wrinkle a bit, maybe it wouldn’t matter. Another option, which maybe I shouldn’t mention here on a paper mache blog, is that you could just use a thin skim coat of joint compound to give your paint something to hang on to, and skip the paper. For the joints between foam sheets, you could use the tape that’s normally used for sheet rock joints. A very thin coat, almost thin enough to see through, would dry fast, and you could add texture or smooth it down as much as you want. And the house paint should work, too. If it isn’t going outside, I’d use inside wall paint, just because it’s usually cheaper. I hope you’re having fun with your project so far.

  • So i’ve been thinking of making a paper mache rhinoceros. I cant find instructions for it anywhere, and i’m not really amazing at this either. I was wondering if you knew how to or could give me some instructions or tips?

    • Yes – watch the video about the baby elephant – your rhino could be made the same way. If I did the elephant now I’d use the paper mache clay recipe, but other than that I don’t think I’d change anything.

      In my paper mache book I show people how to make a pattern using a photo, so all the proportions come out right. I’ll give a quick version of it here – find a photo online of your rhino standing squarely sideways to the camera – no foreshortening. Print out your photo and draw a grid over it, and then use a dark pen to draw an outline around the body/head part, and around each of the two legs you can see. Be sure the leg outlines go all the way up to the shoulder – legs are attached at the spine. Then use a larger grid on the pattern material, and blow up your pattern. After that, follow the instructions on the elephant video.

      I haven’t made a rhino yet, but I would love to give it a try. Be sure to upload a photo of yours when it’s done, to give me some inspiration.

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