paper mache paste recipes

Paper Mache Recipes

This page contains recipes for several kinds of home-made paper mache paste, and home-made gesso recipes for finishing your sculptures.

I have been messing around with paper mache for over 50 years and up until a few months ago I always came back to the easiest paper mache recipes, using plain old white flour and water paste with torn strips of newspaper.

Now, however, I have abandoned the traditional layered paper process and use my new paper mache clay recipe  and/or the even newer silky-smooth air-dry clay recipe for most my sculptures. However, for younger artists or for those who really don’t want to make the trip to the hardware store, these following recipes work just fine, and most of the tutorials on this site would work using these traditional paper mache recipes.

Paper Mache Paste Recipes:

Paper Mache Recipe #1

Paper Mache Recipe #1

White flour and water make a remarkably strong paste. In fact, some folks think paper mache is strong enough to build houses with. Your finished sculptures might not be strong enough to hold up a house, but you can sand them and drill them, just like wood.

Boiled Flour and Water Paste:

Many people use a paste that is made of white flour and water that has been brought to a boil. I did some experimenting and found that this paste is not as strong as raw paste, so you’ll need more layers of paper to make your finished sculpture stiff enough. However, it does dry clear, so many people prefer it. To make boiled paste, mix a heaping tablespoon of white flour with a cup of water in a small saucepan and stir until there are no lumps. Put the pan on the stove at medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. The paste will be very runny at this stage, but it will gell as it cools.

Raw Flour and Water Paste:

This is the paste I almost always use, because it’s stronger than boiled paste and you can complete a project with only a few layers of paper. To make up the paste, just pour some white flour in a bowl, and add water gradually until you have a consistency that will work well. (Use a small kitchen mixer so you don’t have any lumps).

How thick should you make your paste? It’s actually up to you. Experiment with thick pastes that resemble hotcake batter, and thin pastes that are runny and watery. You get to decide which ones you prefer.

Keep in mind that it is the flour, and not the water, that gives strength to your paper mache sculpture. And also remember that each layer of paste and paper that is added to your project must dry completely to keep it from developing mold.

Speaking of mold, why not use wallpaper pastes that contain fungicides? There are two reasons why I choose to use white flour pastes, instead of ingredients that prevent mold. First, white flour is ridiculously cheap when compared to any other type of art supply. And second, I hate the idea of dipping my hands in something that contains poison. If small children were helping me with my projects, this would be even more important.

To prevent the development of mold in your projects, you just need to remember that molds cannot grow without water. Therefore, take every effort to dry out your projects completely. I usually put my small sculptures in a warm oven (not over 200 F) or place them near a radiator. Next summer I intend to build a solar dryer that will be large enough for bigger items. The main trick is to make sure the sculpture is dry all the way through – if any dampness is left inside when you apply paint or other finish, the sculpture will eventually rot from the inside out – a truly disappointing development, I assure you.

Glue-Based paste:

If you don’t want to mess with flour and water, and you don’t mind spending the money for some Elmer’s glue, I found this video for a glue-based paper mache paste that you might want to use instead.

Paper Mache Recipe #2

Paper Mache Recipe #2

Papers to Use for Paper Mache:

The traditional paper to use for paper mache is newspaper, which is torn into short strips. (Cut edges should be avoided, because they don’t blend in.) Newspaper is cheap, and it is a soft paper that is easy to bend and mold around a sculpture.

However, you can also use brown kraft paper from paper bags, which will give your sculpture a naturally warm color if the piece is left unpainted.

You can also use softer papers, like paper towels and even tissue paper. The softer papers are used to fashion delicate details, and textured paper towels can be used to add an interesting final coat. The paper mache dragon on this site used the bumpiness of paper towels to represent the dragon’s leathery skin.

Gesso Recipes:

Gesso helps to seal the paper mache and provide a nice white ground that makes your paint brighter. You can use acrylic gesso from the art store, or make your own.

Easy Glue and Joint Compound recipe:

I make my gesso using about 3 parts joint compound, 1 part Elmer’s Glue-All, and some white acrylic paint if I want the gesso nice and white. The paint isn’t really needed. You can apply a coat of this gesso, sand it or use a lightly damp sponge to smooth it out, and then add another layer if the surface still isn’t smooth enough.

Powdered Marble Gesso recipe:

For a thicker home-made gesso, you can use calcium carbonate (powdered marble) and white glue. The traditional proportions are 2 parts PVA glue (Elmer’s or an archival book-binder’s PVA glue if you worry about pH), 4 parts water, and 8 parts calcium carbonate. To make it nice and white, add 1 part powdered titanium or zinc white pigment. If you want to thicken the gesso to cover bumps faster, you can use more powdered marble.

Finishing Your Paper Mache Sculpture:

You can use any type of paint on your sculpture. I usually use acrylic craft paints, and a final glaze made from water-based Verathane mixed with a bit of brown, or copper paint from the craft store. This final coat is put on with a brush and then immediately rubbed off with a paper towel, leaving the darker color in the dips and valleys of the sculpture. I happen to like the effect, but it is certainly not required.

 

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1,724 Comments

  • I have an unusual question. I want to make a biodegradable urn that will hold the remains of my in-laws and their 3 Boston Terriers. We will be putting into the Gulf in March. Do you think that paper mache’ would work for this?
    Thanks!

  • I just ordered your book from Amazon. I can’t wait for it to arrive. I am going to make a pronghorn and I was wondering what you would use for the rings on the horns?

    • Hi Janie. I just did a google image search for the pronghorn antlers, (horns? I don’t know the difference :) ) and I don’t see any rings. If you want rings, though, you could use some thick twine glued to your armature, and then put the paper mache over the twine. Have fun!

      • Jonni, The difference between antlers and horns is that antlers are made of bone, and are shed each year by the deer. In fact, if you go searching in the forest you can sometimes find shed antlers. Horns are found on bovines and are primarily made of keratin (same things hair and fingernails are made of) and remain firmly attached year around. When I was in summer camp when I was a kid, one of the crafts that I did was to make a shofar from an animal’s horn. We had a choice between a cow’s, sheep’s (ram’s), or goat’s horn fresh from the butcher’s shop.

  • Dear Jonni,

    I am in training to be a Florist in the UK. Having found your site last year and watched your videos, I am going to take the plunge! Looking at your Dragon sculpture, I would like to change it to include flowers in its back or side. In order to get pre-formed holes in the body, how can I do this without weakening the structure?j I would like to create this as a Chinese New Year display.

  • Hi Jonni! I teach papier-mâché to teenagers at an afterschool GED program. Can you recommend a non-toxic recipe using pulp? I tried a very simple one using paper, water, flour, glue and blending it together, but the pulp fell apart. Maybe it needs to be heated? Thank you for all that you give to this site.

  • I have been doing this for a long time and I have found that if you add a little bit of salt to the flour mix that your mold problems go away.

  • Hi. I’m looking to create Pandora’s Box out of paper mache. Any ideas as to how I should construct it? I’m lost.

    • Hi Patrice. I’m not quite sure what part of the project is causing you problems. Can you give us a better idea what it will look like when it’s done?

  • Gesso is an art material consistancy of paint that can be applied on canvas and wood to prepare them to be painted.

  • Hi Jonni,
    This is all so interesting! I am working on paper mache bowls for my kids’ school fundraiser, and I am hoping to use birch bark paper as a final layer. Do you have any experience with this? I’m not finding anything in my google search! Thanks for any help/advice you can give,
    Rachel

    • Rachel, I think your idea is wonderful, but you may be the very first person to try it. I’ve never seen anyone use birch bark paper for paper mache. But perhaps one of our readers will have some ideas for you.

  • Hi Jonni, I’m an artist and mostly just paint…. but I’ve always been drawn to papier mache and have loved every second of reading all about your recipes and especially the papier mache clay…. can’t wait to try it! I use a completely different recipe to yours of flour and water… it’s so simple and very strong, it’s cornstarch and boiling water. I’m using some in a garden shed (My new Art Studio) at the moment which I’m “wall-papering” over ugly and uneven wood panelling on the inside. I’m using strong paper from old magazines and it seems to be doing a very good job. I will then paint it with an acrylic PVA paint so I will have relatively smooth decent looking white walls when I’m done. What is worrying me though are the “critters” I have heard people talk about! I have have used some oil of cloves in my mixture, do you think this is a sufficient deterrent or should I be using borax? If the borax, then what quantities should I use. My cornstarch recipe is approx 1 cup of cornstarch to 1.7 litres of boiling water. I use a little cold water with the cornstarch first to make it the consistency of pouring cream, then add the rapidly boiling water whilst stirring with a whisk, makes a nice clear jelly like paste, which dries strong and hard. Looking forward to your reply, and thanks again for a magnificent website! Trish :-)

    • Hi Trish. It sounds like your new studio is going to be really nice. I can’t help you with the borax question, though – perhaps one of our readers has more experience with critters and fungi than I do. Anyone???

  • I am making a pregnate belly cake for a baby shower and thought it would be interesting to make it the actual shape of the mother-to-be’s belly. I thought paper macheing it would work great but since my mold is a live person how long do i have to let it dry before setting her free? Has anyone ever done this before? Any suggestions?

    • Hi Krisi. Paper mache won’t work for a body mold, for exactly the reason you mention. Nobody can sit still with wet paper sticking to them for 24 hours or more. Ick. You could use plaster cloth (you get it at the hobby shop) but make sure you use lots of petroleum jelly to keep it from sticking to the skin.

      And, just for fun, check out this guest post showing how Kerry Stent made a pregnant body cast for his daughter.

  • Help! I am needing to make a horse head mask for a theatrical production. I have only cardboard to work with for the under structure and my knowledge of horse anatomy is lacking. I think i’m in over my head on this project. Can you suggest anything to make this less intimidating?

    • Teopa, I have the instructions for making a unicorn mask (same thing, really, except for the horn) in my mask book. Unfortunately, Amazon’s search inside the book skips over the pages where I show how to build up the shapes. You might be able to find a copy at the library, or maybe someone could loan you a copy. I didn’t use cardboard – I think my method is a lot easier.

  • I am making 5 foot mask of a goat from papier mache for a large burn sculpture. It is important that it burn easily. I hope this does not sound too dumb, but does papier mache burn easily? I will not be putting gesso on it. Also, can the papier mache clay burn if it has that joint compound in it?

    • Traditional paper mache (paper glued together with paste made from flour and water) will burn. Thinner paper mache will burn better than thicker. Joint compound is mostly calcium carbonate, and it won’t burn – but it probably won’t keep the paper mache under it from burning. I wouldn’t want to burn a really big mask like that if it was made with Elmer’s glue, because you’d probably end up with a burnt-plastic smell around the bonfire – stick with flour and water. (And I hope you show us a picture of your goat when he’s done. Is this a Solstice project?)

  • Hi, I’m hoping you can help. My Brownies (age 7-10) are going to be helping me make a piñata to finish one if their interest badges. The only thing is I need the paper mâché not to be too strong as they are going to need to break it and some are quite small and not very strong. Can you advise me which would be the best mixture to use for that? Thank you in advance

    • I would recommend using one of the flour and water pastes, either the raw or boiled version should work just fine. And add only two or three layers of paper – anything much thicker than that could be hard to break. Since a very thin layer will be somewhat fragile, make sure the paper mache is completely dry before removing if from the form. I should mention, though, that I’ve never made a pinata, so I shouldn’t be considered an expert. Perhaps someone else reading this will chime in with more tips.

    • Make it in two halves and then make the middle weak where you join it together and fill it with candy.

    • I just did a Humpty Dumpty pinata for my daughter’s 3rd birthday. Chose Humpty as it was easy & balloon-shaped! Used a very large party balloon, newspaper, and flour & water (raw, no boiling) paste. Did 3 layers, waited until it was completely dry (few days) then popped the balloon.
      Don’t pop the balloon before you have put all the layers & it is completely dry. First try, poor quality balloon popped after first layer (even though layer was dry) and ended up a sad shrivelled ball.
      2-3 year olds had to do quite a few ‘pushes’ of Humpty off the wall before he broke – but I wouldn’t do any fewer layers or the pinata contents would be too heavy & might break through before the day.

      • Forgot to add, if you look at pinata websites, they recommend not to paper mache over cardboard – then your pinata will be impossible to break!

        • Thank you all sooo much for your advice! I’ve done paper mâché before (quite a few years ago!) but never for a piñata. My Brownies will have a ball making then breaking the piñata!!

  • I just did 3 balloons using paper mache and I never had a problem with it slipping. I put the balloon over the container with the paper mache mixture in it and it laid one the edge of the bowl with no problems. I am waiting for them to dry so I can add more layers.

  • Im looking for a recipe that makes the paste clear
    I’ve seen it before I don’t know how it is made
    But it is clear and slimy
    I dont know if that helps
    But if you know what paste I’m talking about can you please tell me how to make it

  • I am looking for a recipe for paper machie that does not include flour. I can’t find oil of clove locally and making anything out of an edible material becomes moldy real fast. Painting and sealing don’t seem to help.
    Why not let your toilet paper soak about half an hour, then wring out the vexcess water. Toilet paper is designed to dissolve in water, albeit slowly.
    Why add joint compound? Very curious about that.

    • You can let your toilet paper soak as long as you like. If you use an electric mixer, it dissolves pretty fast in the recipe.

      You can use corn starch and water to make your paste, or you can use diluted white glue to avoid any edible ingredients in the paste itself. However, paper seems to be edible, too, for critters. Many people add salt or a small amount of household bleach. Others have used borax, which is the anti-fungal ingredient that is often used in wall paper paste. Just don’t add borax if you use the paper mache clay recipe, because it will ruin it.

      The joint compound, when mixed with white glue, dries to an almost plastic-like strength. It also makes a mixture that is much easier to use that paper pulp mixed just with glue. There are many recipes for paper mache paste that don’t use joint compound, but I have never enjoyed using them.

  • I havent paper mached in years! But Im about to make 2 large snowmen to sit on my fornt porch, I plan to frame them in chicken wire and wrap them in paper mache, then add lights inside and paint them up. My question is, how sturdy would the paper mache last in the elements. They will be partially covered on my porch but not entirely. Would they ruin in cold wet weather, with a great chance of snow over Christmas? Should I seal them in something to give a better protection? If so what? All your help would be much appreciated! Thanks!!

    • The paper mache does need to be sealed. Otherwise it will sort of melt when it gets hit by rain or snow. Not right away, but eventually. A good varnish from the hardware store, like Verathane or Minwax, should get it through the season just fine.

  • I am new to PMC and did my first bowl today. I have a fan blowing on the bowl next to my woodstove. Who long should I wait b4 putting on second coat? And what would you paint and seal the bowl for food safe.

    • Some people allow each layer to dry completely before adding another layer, and some people put all their layers on at one time. Both techniques seem to work, as long as you make sure the piece is dry all the way through before painting it.

      There are some varnishes that are made for kitchen counters. That might be considered food safe, but you won’t want to get your bowl really wet. Does anyone else have some suggestions for Melinda?

    • Probably the best bet for a food safe coating, is something from a kitchen sealing standpoint. Homedepot should have tons of it. I know some people use enamel, you can also probably look at some glazes that I have seen, food safe though is another thing.

  • Just did a simple paper mache of a balloon with your flour & water mix (no boiling) but the newspaper kept wanting to slide down, so it looked like a ‘melting balloon’. I tried a thick paste to start with then accidentally made a thin paste when I ran out so put that on. Newspaper dipped in both types wanted to migrate down. Is this a known problem or am I doing something wrong?

    • I think that’s perfectly normal, since balloons are made out of rubber and few things will stick to rubber. You can try putting paper mache on just the top, let it dry, and then turn the balloon so you can have a new “top,” or use really big pieces of paper that will go all the way around the balloon and attach to itself. However, I’m not an expert in using balloons (I avoid them entirely). Maybe someone else has more useful advice?

  • Hi, Jonni! It’s Aryea, the float guy again. I’m working on a large papier mache project right now, and have had problems like Jay has with bugs in the past. (Maybe one reason is that I tend to use “buggy” flour in the first place. Hey, I paid for it. I might not be able to eat it, so I might as well get some use out of it, right? 😉 ) Freezing is one way to kill the bugs in it, another is to heat it in a low (200 deg.) oven for about an hour. This will kill both bugs and eggs in the flour. But this doesn’t stop them from coming in afterwards and chowing down on the paper and glue, especially if this is a decoration that will be stored outside. Down here in the South we have a problem with water bugs. (If you’re not aware of them, these things are huge cockroaches that get in everywhere- they’ve even found them in operating rooms. But not to worry, for some reason, they tend to die once they come in.) They live in the trees and eat dead wood and leaf moulds. And paper being made from wood is a tasty snack for them. And the flour glue is just icing on the cake. I’ve made some outside decorations in the past and lost them in storage to water bugs, silverfish, and even mice. Mice don’t eat them of course, but they do like to live in them. So to prevent all of this, I’ve had to get creative to prevent this from happening. The idea that Prokopis had to add pyrethrins to the flour is actually a good idea. Pyrethrin is one of the most environmentally friendly of the insect poisons out there. It’s made from chrysanthemums, and is harmless to people and domestic animals. I wouldn’t recommend sprinkling it on your morning cereal, but it’s okay in papier mache. I’ve also found that bugs don’t like white glues (PVA) like Elmer’s very much. So I always mix a bunch of this into my flour glue. You can also use a few drops of citronella or spearmint oil in your mix to keep the bugs and mice away. Since oil and water don’t mix very well, I’ve found a couple of teaspoons of lecithin (which you can find in a health food store) will allow the oil to mix with with the water-based glues.

  • I just love your website and refer to it when I do projects for church. A couple of years ago, I made a boulder for our Hawaiian-themed ladies tea. Currently, I’m building a “stone” fireplace for our Christmas play. The “stones” are crumpled newspaper. I’ve used the old-fashioned newspaper strip/flour paste recipe, though I added a bit of Elmers and linseed oil to the paste. I had planned to use your recipe #1 for a final layer on all the stones, but since that still leaves a slight bumpy texture, I’ve decided to use a gesso layer over the strip layers. My question is this (and I apologize if you’ve answered this in the previous posts): is there any risk of the gesso layer cracking? How well do you think it would stand up in this particular application? Thanks again for the wonderful resource!

    • Hi Darla. I have not had a problem with the gesso cracking – but a few people have written in that they did get some cracks. I suggest that you try a small experiment, using a “stone” that is made the same way as the fireplace, (including the same paste recipe) and see what happens. I think it should work just fine, but it’s best to make sure.

      • Thanks for the quick reply! I think I’ll try it in an inconspicuous corner of the fireplace and test it when dry. You’ve been a tremendous help!

  • I have just finished writing exams and have piles and piles of white A4 paper. I would like to make something creative with it. Could I paper mache with white paper or does it have to be newspaper.

    • You can use any paper with paper mache. Newspaper is soft, so it is easier to use than some types of paper, but your paper will work just fine, too. Have fun!

  • Hi. I have been working for years with PM, but I want to sell my pieces. Could you please give me some ideas about it? I would appreciate it. Thanks

    • I don’t sell my own work very often, so I’m not a good person to give you advice on the subject. Does anyone have some ideas for Olivia? I know that people do show their work on etsy.com, but I don’t know if they actually sell anything or not.

    • Craft Shows are generally a good place to start. You can gain a good local customer base that way and may be able to get some commissions outside the shows.

  • I paper-mâché often for commissioned art pieces and I add Borax to the uncooked wheat paste. This keeps the bugs out.

    • Hi Patrick, thank you for the tip! I’m an artist too and was looking for a natural alternative to use with mache that will also repel bugs. You’re the first one that mentioned Borax, looks like a good solution!

    • I’ve never made one of those. You should be able to use a piece of foam board. To keep it from warping, you might want to seal it before building the volcano.

  • Thank you for your website! I am working on a paper mache planter. I’m using a small circular laundry basket for my base. I wadded paper around the basket and covered that with paper mache. It has more deep craters than I would like. What do you recommend to correct this?
    Thanks!!

    • Hi Meghan. If the craters are not too wide, you could add one more layer of paper mache, using heavy brown paper from a paper bag. This would cover the cracks and make the surface smoother. If that wouldn’t work, you could mix up a batch of the paper mache clay, and apply a thin layer with a knife. This would give you a perfectly smooth surface, if that’s what you’re looking for.

  • I wanted to thank you guys so very much for all your help! After many man hours and a ton of trial and error, the submarine project came to fruition. I wish I could figure out how to put a picture in here, I would have loved to show you how it ended up being. Thank you again!!!

    • Hi Stephanie. We would love to see the submarine – you can put a photo on the UltimatePaperMache Facebook page. (I need to look at that page more often – a lot of people have posted photos that I hadn’t seen until just now. Thanks, everyone! Now, if I can just figure out Facebook a bit better, we’ll be good to go.)

      Stephanie, if you do put a photo on Facebook, could you mention it in a comment here on my blog, too? I would hate to miss it.

      • Wonderful!! I want to thank you again for all of your help. I have posted two pictures on your FB page. Everything under the fabric on both pieces is PM…made possible by all of your tips and advice. My son LOVED it…and seems to be under the impression I can make him a Tank next year :)

  • Joni,

    I bought your book on masks. Thank-you. It really helped me complete my son’s halloween mask. One question seems unanswered by the book though. Once you have a bucket of waste water. How do you responsibly get rid of the water? Do you filter it off in some manner?

    Brian

    • Hi Brian – good question. I throw the water outside, in an area where the calcium in the water won’t hurt any plants (any plant that likes an acid soil would not like the water).

  • Thank you Jonni, I never thought about the bugs in the flour, it seems could be quite serious.I also read about bay leaf oil, what do youn think about this?

  • I made the Gesso (3 part JC to 1 part glue all) and it came out really really thick, is it supposed to be thick and hard to brush on, or is it supposed to be like paint where it is easy to brush on and you don’t get the clumping action as it dries or looks like sugar frosting?

    • thats how mine came out as well, i watered it down till it was usable because even though it was uber thick it would drip if i left it after i spread it on.

      • okay I will add some water to it and see if that helps. I made the mistake and added it to the face of what I was working on and now it looks odd and I can’t redo the face, I don’t have time.

        thanks for the reply.

  • Add a few drops of tea tree oil to the water mixture next time you make something. It repels insects and mold while lasting quite a while. You’ll know you got the really good stuff if you accidentally get it on your hands and can taste it in your mouth (lol).

    For your current project you could put a drop or two in water and “paint” it on your sculpture. It will soak in and once dry you can paint normally.

  • Hi I have experimented with paper mache’ for years, have turned out some truly remarkable pieces. My only problem is they keep being eaten by the weevils or bugs that naturally live in the flour. They eventual eat & destroy everything. I have now completed 1m high Angel and she looks awesome. How can I preserve her after she’s completed from bug infestation. But still be able to paint it. I thought of kreosote but then cant paint it. Thanks desperate to her survive for more than a year.

      • Read on Wikipedia about “pyrethrins”,you can find the stuff on amazon.com.I wonder if it could be added to the ingredients of the paste?

        • It might kill the bugs, but we need to be really careful about adding any kind of poison to our art materials. I think the tea tree oil idea would be safer.

          • Thank you Jonni. Inever thought about bugs in the flour it seems to be quite serious.Tea tree oil sounds great.I also read about bay leaf oil,if it helps.

          • Perhaps if you freeze your flour before using it. Are the bugs coming from the flour ? Or elsewhere? I know from baking that if you freeze your flour for 24 hours it is supposed to kill any larvae that might be in the flour. It is worth a shot.

    • Hi, Jonni! It’s Aryea, the float guy again. I’m working on a large papier mache project right now, and have had problems like Jay has with bugs in the past. (Maybe one reason is that I tend to use “buggy” flour in the first place. Hey, I paid for it. I might not be able to eat it, so I might as well get some use out of it, right? 😉 ) Freezing is one way to kill the bugs in it, another is to heat it in a low (200 deg.) oven for about an hour. This will kill both bugs and eggs in the flour. But this doesn’t stop them from coming in afterwards and chowing down on the paper and glue, especially if this is a decoration that will be stored outside. Down here in the South we have a problem with water bugs. (If you’re not aware of them, these things are huge cockroaches that get in everywhere- they’ve even found them in operating rooms. But not to worry, for some reason, they tend to die once they come in.) They live in the trees and eat dead wood and leaf moulds. And paper being made from wood is a tasty snack for them. And the flour glue is just icing on the cake. I’ve made some outside decorations in the past and lost them in storage to water bugs, silverfish, and even mice. Mice don’t eat them of course, but they do like to live in them. So to prevent all of this, I’ve had to get creative to prevent this from happening. The idea that Prokopis had to add pyrethrins to the flour is actually a good idea. Pyrethrin is one of the most environmentally friendly of the insect poisons out there. It’s made from chrysanthemums, and is harmless to people and domestic animals. I wouldn’t recommend sprinkling it on your morning cereal, but it’s okay in papier mache. I’ve also found that bugs don’t like white glues (PVA) like Elmer’s very much. So I always mix a bunch of this into my flour glue. You can also use a few drops of citronella or spearmint oil in your mix to keep the bugs and mice away. Since oil and water don’t mix very well, I’ve found a couple of teaspoons of lecithin (which you can find in a health food store) will allow the oil to mix with with the water-based glues.

  • Hi Jonni
    I am wondering what consistancy the gesso should have, mine looks rather strange, it is a bit like the result of a lot of cornstarch and water. it is both rubbery to apply and then drippy once it is on, even when i spread it really thin. I couldnt find any elmers “glue all” but on the lepage glue website it said carenters glue is a pva glue as well, and i bought that. is that what is messing this up or should it really have this bizzare texture?

    • Are you making your gesso with joint compound or powdered marble? I have never used carpenter’s glue, but it should work. If you want something thicker, you can play with the amount of ingredients. It is usually thick, and not runny when I make it.

      • i couldnt find joint compound here in canada, so i am useing drywall filler. i think thats the same thing. or have i royally messed this up lol :) i ended up adding a bunch of water to make it thin enough to be useable. it was just too rubbery to spread.

        • You may have used a joint compound that contains boron – or perhaps you used too much paper? We can’t use joint compound/filler made by the Dap corporation, but I’m not familiar with brands available in Canada. Suggestions, anyone?

  • Hi!

    I was interested in making bangles with 7-11 year old girls using your paper mache paste. You mention the gesso will give the paste a very smooth finish. Will mod podge work just as well as the gesso?

    • I can answer that one :). No, mod pod will not work as good as the Gesso, the Gesso is thicker and fills in the holes better. mod pod is to thin and will wet down your project meaning for each layer you put on, it will require extra drying time. Go with the Gesso, one shot no extra drying time required. (except for the drying of the Gesso) Hope that helps.

      trust me you learn things from trial and error and there was more error than anything..:)

  • Also would it be advantageous to do a few layers then let them dry then do a few more or do them all at once for stronger bonds in the drying process? Thanks again.

  • Two questions:

    1) How big can I realistically cut the newspaper strips to?
    I am making a muppet head for a costume and a 16″ ballon. I am going with 7 layers and am on round two after a drying disaster.

    2) how does the oven method work? Per information seen elsewhere I put the oven on 200 and when I checked 15 minutes later the heat had caused the ballon to expand and the project had to be scrapped. I’d like to avoid that again so what is the best way to speed the process of drying? I’d like to have it covered and dried Ina day. Thank you.

    • If you’re putting paper mache over a balloon, you can’t dry it in an oven, as you discovered. The best way to get things dry is to put them in front of a fan.

      I use the largest piece of paper that I can, which will depend on how many contours are on the piece. If the paper doesn’t lie down flat you can tear it where it wants to fold, and lay the two resulting pieces side by side. You’ll need to experiment a bit to see how that works.

    • If you make gesso with marble dust (calcium carbonate) or joint compound, it will take a long time for mold to grow. Fungi will eventually find it, though, so keep it well covered. The fridge would’t hurt, either.

      • cool, so I don’t have to worry about it if I don’t use it all right away. I make things sort of slowly and I don’t want anything to go bad before I have the chance to use any of what I make.

        drying times take the longest.

  • how long do you let your paper mache clay dry?

    How long doew the gesso take to dry?

    Can you paint over the dried paper mache clay?

    Im running out of time for my project.

    • The drying time depends on the thickness that the clay was applied, the temperature and humidity in the room, and whether or not the air is moving. You can dry it fastest if you put it in a warm, dry room in front of a fan. Give it at least two days – it will harden on the outside before the inside is completely dry. The gesso dries much faster, because it’s such a thin layer. You can paint directly over the paper mache.

      Good luck!

      • You mentioned drying using a low degree oven. How long between each layer (using the paper strip and paste method) should it be in. We waited longer than we should have to complete a school for our son and it’s crunch time. Please help!!

        Thanks,
        Nancy

        • Nancy, if you’re in a real hurry, you can dry the piece faster if you put it in front of a fan, as long as the room is reasonably warm. Moving air dries paper mache faster than heat by itself. You can go ahead and put on several layers before drying the piece, too – that might speed things up a bit for you.

        • I have no patience for drying paper (and children and a husband that can’t leave things alone) I dried all my projects at 200 degrees and checked it every 10 minutes.

  • We are making a mike costume from monsters inc and using a medicine ball as the shape. How many layers newspaper would you suggest putting on?

    • Sorry, we are using a large exercise ball as the shape of the costume. We have already done 4 layers, and thinking that we need somewhere between 6-7. When we deflate the ball, will it get stuck to the sides and cause the ball itself to crumble?

      • You will probably need at least 7. You’ll be able to tell when the paper mache is completely dry. You shouldn’t be able to deform it at all when you push against the side of the ball. The ball inside should come out when it deflates – although it’s always a good idea to use a release, just in case. If the paper mache is strong enough, there should be no distortion of the shape.

  • Can someone please help me?? I took a lot of time to make some paper mache letters for my son’s room. He was sick recently, and I put a humidifier in his room without even thinking about it until today. A couple of the letters are slightly softer, indicating they’ve dampened and one has mold on it. :( I sealed everything *except* for the back of the letters. Is there ANY way to salvage them or is this a lost cause? I regret my mistake immensely and would love to hear any feedback.

    Thank you!

    • Hi I have 2 things I have done since I have also made this mistake.First remove them from this room as I am sure you have already done Let them harden again and Than get A small can of Kilz (hardware store) it is used for getting rid of mold and such.Brush on the kilz 3 times let each coat dry in between Then repaint them ((sorry you’ll have to redo that)).Also after you have painted them again get a laquer to seal in the paint it will make them shine and also keep out any moisture.Make sure you do the backs of them too. Hope this helps.

      • Good advice, Carolyn. Amanda might even want to put the damp numbers in the oven at 200 degrees F to dry them out as fast as possible. The heat will also help to kill any remaining mold spores.

        • Great advice, thank you both so much. I’m going to do the lowest setting on the oven with the door open to fully dry out the damp and then use a small can of the kilz and seal, seal, seal! I know better now..trial and error can be a good teacher sometimes I suppose.

          Anyway, thanks again! I appreciate the feedback.

  • Question: If I want to bring my paper mache creations into a humid 105 degree room for 90+ min, will this gesso be enough? There will be a great deal of sweating happening. Halloween in the Bikram yoga hot room and I want to be Kali, the Goddess of time, change, destruction, violence, and salvation. I’ll be making a garland of severed heads and some extra arms (fixed somehow to my back), maybe a skirt of severed arms, and a crown…. maybe I’m in over my head. Any thoughts?
    Thank you,
    Shira

    • The gesso is absorbent, so you’ll need to put on a water resistant varnish. Otherwise, the sculpture will become damp. That might not hurt it at all, if you dry it out again quickly, but varnish would be a good idea anyway. It helps to protect the finish from all sorts of things, like dust and grease, as well as moisture.

      It will be an ambitious project, but it would be great fun. Just make sure you give yourself enough time so you don’t need to rush through the process.

  • Thank you! I love this site. I was wondering if anyone had made a paper mache wastebasket. If so can you share some directions with me? Thank you!!

  • I want to make a giant head for a Halloween costume (it is a cartoon character: Pops) any ideas on how I can get that shape and what paint to use? It is for my teenage son and the head should come down to the middle of his chest. I have not used paper mache in awhile and am looking forward to trying.
    Thanks in advance for your help!

    • I’m not familiar with that cartoon. Is the head in the shape of a big ball? If so, you can use a large exercise ball for the shape. Once your paper mache is dry, release the valve and let the air out, then pull the ball out through a hole (you’ll need to leave a hole when making your head). Anyone else have any suggestions for Nancy?

      • I once made 5 large heads – they were not worn as costumes over someone’s head, so you would have to adapt this – by first forming the heads out of flexible chicken wire, then covering the with brown wrapping paper and crimping the wire to attach the wrapping paper at strategic spots. Then I made the features with more wrapping paper or brown paper bags twisted into shapes like eyebrows or ears and using paper tape to hold them in place. Then I applied the paper mache all over using a cornstarch water and Elmer’s glue mixture. It dried quickly and was very sturdy. I finished by painting with acrylics. They were big hits!

  • I want to make a costume for my husband for Halloween. It is the cartoon character Pops. He has a huge head that should come down to the middle of my husbands chest. I think I am going to use paper mache. Any ideas on how I can get the form of a head that big or the process in making it. I have never used paper mache (or made a costume) before and am anxious to try my hand at it.
    Thanks in advance!

  • Hi

    I love your site…it has been since grade school that I have worked with Paper Mache. My daughter wants to be a disco ball for Halloween. So I am using a beach ball as the “armature”, but as it drys it does not seem very durable. I plan on adding several layers because the end piece will be cut into two halves. I am using the Boiled Water method. Should I use the Raw Method instead. Also, as the project dries I am putting the “glue” mixture in the fridge…is that okay?

    • You will need several layers to make the paper mache strong enough. You might need 8 or ten. The boiled paste is strong, so if that’s what you like using, it’s fine. I use the raw paste because it’s really fast and easy to make. And yes, you can put the extra paste in the fridge to keep it fresh until you’re ready to use it.

      Are you going to glue hundreds of little mirrors to the ball? If so, you have a lot more patience than I do!

      • Thank you – I found an amazing fabric that will be in place of the mirrors – I will be sure to send a picture of the final project.

    • It depends on how big you make your sculpture, and how thick the paper mache will be. Wet paper takes a long time to dry, so put it in front of a fan if you can and give it two or three days, at least, to dry all the way through.

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