paper mache paste recipes

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.

If you were looking for the recipe for my famous paper mache clay recipe – click here.

My Favorite – Easy Paper Mache Paste Recipe:

This is the paste I prefer when I use strips of newspaper and paste. It’s also the best paste to use if you’re working with a classroom of kids, because it’s both fast and inexpensive.

paper mache paste recipe

Mixing paper mache paste with an immersion blender.

To make the paste, just pour some white flour in a bowl, and add water gradually until you have a consistency that will work well. (If you want, you can use a small kitchen mixer so you don’t have any lumps. An immersion blender works great).

How thick should you make your paste?  You want it thin enough so it more closely resembles white glue than pancake batter – although thicker paste will work OK, too, if that’s the way you like it.

What kind of flour will work? You’ll need to use all-purpose white flour. Whole-wheat flour makes healthier bread, but it isn’t sticky enough to make good paste.

Make up just enough for one sculpting session. This is good advice for any paste made with wheat flour. Wild yeast is attracted to flour (that’s how sourdough bread is made.) If the paste is kept over from one session to the next, the yeast will break down the flour and make the paste less sticky (and slightly stinky). It’s best to whip up as much as you need today, throw out any paste that’s left over, and make a new batch tomorrow – or whenever you need some more. (If you need a paste that can be kept for longer periods of time, see the Elmer’s Art Paste, below.)

Be sure to clean the bowl and utensils before the paste has time to dry – it will dry very hard. That’s good for paper mache, but not so good for the person washing the dishes.

Are you concerned about mold growing on your paper mache, either before or after the sculpture is finished? Watch this video for some ways to avoid the problem of mold on paper mache.

Boiled Flour and Water Paste:

Boiled paper mache paste takes a little longer to make, and it doesn’t seem to be any stronger than the raw flour and water paste shown above. However, it will dry almost clear, unlike the raw paste, and the surface of your paper mache sculpture will be slightly smoother. If you aren’t sure which recipe you’ll like better, mix up a batch of both of them and try them out.

To make boiled paste, mix two tablespoons of white flour with a cup of water in a small saucepan and stir until there are no lumps. A whisk works really well for this. Put the pan on the stove at medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When it begins to thicken, be sure to watch carefully and keep stirring, to make sure it doesn’t burn. As soon as it starts to bubble, remove from heat and allow to cool. The paste will be runny when it’s hot, but it will gel slightly as it cools.

Gluten-Free Paper Mache Paste Ideas:

Elmer’s Art Paste:

Gluten-free paper mache pasteIf you mix Elmer’s Art Paste with the amount of water specified on the package you’ll have up to four quarts of gluten-free paste that doesn’t attract mold. It feels different than the more traditional wheat paste, but it works just as well. Mix it way ahead of time, because it takes longer to absorb the water than the maker claims.

Elmer’s Art Paste is made with methyl-cellulose, the product often considered the ‘gold standard’ for professional paper mache artists. It’s non-toxic, safe for kids, and a great paste for people who live in hot, humid climates.

You can mix up the entire 2 oz package and keep it in a covered jar. It won’t spoil.

Glue-Based Paste:

If you need a paste that dries perfectly clear, you can use Elmer’s Glue-All (or any white PVA glue) mixed with just enough water to make the glue thinner and easier to spread. Many people use the glue and water to avoid the gluten in wheat-based paste. I don’t personally like using it because it’s slick, which makes the pieces of paper slide around on the armature until the glue finally ‘grabs on.’ However, some people really like it, and never use anything else.

Acrylic Gel:

This isn’t really a paste, but acrylic gel medium does a fine job of sticking paper onto an armature. This is the product that I use when I add colored tissue paper as a final layer over a paper mache sculpture. If you do this, make sure the paper mache underneath is completely dry, because the acrylic medium could dry on top, sealing moisture inside. This would lead to problems later on.

I use the gel medium with tissue paper for two reasons: It dries perfectly clear, and it doesn’t cause the fragile tissue paper to fall apart, the way a water-based paste will do.

You can use any acrylic gel medium, but the one I now use exclusively is the Acrylic Gel Medium by Rock Paint. It isn’t ‘better’ than other gels on the market, but it seems to be the least expensive product of it’s type, and it works just fine.

You can see how the gel medium worked with tissue paper on a bullfrog sculpture here: (If you follow the links on that page, you’ll find a free 3D pattern for the bullfrog.)

Drywall Joint Compound and Glue Paste:

I use this recipe, or the plaster and glue recipe below, whenever I make a mask or sculpture with blue shop towels. Just just two or three layers of the heavy shop towel paper, held together with one of these paste, will make a strong, hard skin for a sculpture or mask. I also use this recipe as gesso, to create a nice white ground for the final paint on my sculptures.

To make the paste with glue and joint compound, you’ll need a mixture of about 1/3 Elmer’s Glue-All or any white PVA glue, and 2/3 joint compound. After you’ve mixed it thoroughly, add just a small amount of water to make it thin enough to brush over your armature.

Use any joint compound except Dap brand, which doesn’t work. Walmart sells non-Dap joint compound in their paint department. You can find gallon-sized bottles of Elmer’s Glue-All at most hardware stores and DIY stores. It’s much less expensive when purchased in the larger size.

This paste is too heavy to use with newspaper, but it works great with the blue shop towels. The towels need to be completely saturated with the paste, so they’ll dry hard and strong.

You can find a video showing how I make the home-made paste (called gesso in the video) here.

Glue and Plaster of Paris Paste:

This is the paste that I used for all the masks in my book How to Make Masks. It works great with the blue shop towels, but is too heavy to use with lighter papers. Unfortunately, the towels are not available in all countries, but in the US you can find them at hardware stores, DIY stores, and Walmart. You can see a three-video series of a Commedia del Arte Mask  mask made with the blue shop towels and the glue and plaster paste here.

The recipe for this fast-setting paper mache paste:

Mix together:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) white glue (Elmer’s Glue-All® or any PVA glue)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) cold water
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vinegar (it slows down the plaster to give you more time to work)

Then mix in:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) plaster of Paris

This paste will harden quickly, and may even begin to harden right in the bowl. If you will be working with children, or if you’re working on a large project, use the previous recipe for paste made with drywall joint compound and glue instead. Both recipes dry very hard when used with the blue shop towels.

Finishing Your Paper Mache Sculpture:

You can use any type of paint on your sculpture. I like to use acrylic craft paints, and I seal my sculptures with a matte acrylic varnish. If the sculpture is very dry when you paint it, and if you seal it with varnish, it should last a lifetime.
















  • hey,
    I’m usually used to working with regular clay but I read your paper mache methods and I’m really interested in trying one, as they seem fun and really inexpensive but my concern is due to the fact that we’re using flour, have ants ever been attracted to it? I really wouldn’t wanna do it to have it eaten by ants or something… What’s your advise on this?

    • Hmm – I don’t know if ants like it or not. I haven’t had a problem with it, but I think the glue and joint compound make the clay dry so hard (almost like plastic) so ants would have a hard time with it. You won’t want to display your sculptures outside, though, because they aren’t waterproof.

  • Hi name is Jo Jo Jenkins and I used Jonni’s special clay to make him : ) THANKS JONNI!!! My final pic shows the crackle look. I smoothed him out with creative paper clay but used 98% Jonni clay : )

    • Carmelina, I hope you saw my other comment. Your images aren’t coming through for some reason. Please try using a different photo sharing site – we really want to see these sculptures>

  • Hi Jonni,
    I would just like to thank you well in advance of the competion of my project!!! I have used your flour, water and wood glue recipe to start covering paper wrinkles that were not in my mental plan for my bowl. I had other plans that would have taken longer to cover… but I just mixed your recipe very thick and I can see already it will only take 2 maybe 3 coats with some sanding in between. Life saver! Genius! I work with wood glue all the time for other things, I can truly say this may never have occured to me or it might have taken years. Thank you!

  • Hi Elaine,
    As another option you could use metal lathe (mesh) that is sold for putting stucco on houses, it is sold in a roll and made of aluminum so it can be rolled, bent and shaped however you want and cuts easily with a tin snips. After the tentacles are formed they can be “sewn” to the head or body of the squid with cable ties. The aluminum will have to be cut and shaped by you since there can be some sharp edges, but after a layer of masking tape or an initial layer of paper your son can join in. This armature will be much lighter than plywood of the same size. The lathe can normaly be purchased at home improvement stores, I would call ahead. Since this is a Giant Squid make sure he will go through the door for transportation when he is done 🙂

    • You’re all coming up with some great ideas for Elaine – thanks for jumping in. This sounds like a really fun project – I’m starting to envision a giant squid hanging from my ceiling.

      But Elaine, I am curious — why did your son’s teacher give you such a complicated assignment? And how old is your son, if you don’t mind me asking?

  • Let me begin by saying any art project is pretty foreign to me however we have to do a paper mache giant squid as project for my son at school. After reading through some of the questions and answers you have posted I have a general idea of how to start but have some other questions. Giant squid have huge eyes, how would I do that? Also, what would be the best way to handle to tentacles so the project would stand when finished?? I appreciate any help you could offer. Thanks!

    • Elaine, how big is this creature going to be when it’s finished? Is it going to be in a play or something?

      I think I’d just make the eyes really smooth, and then paint them. I just looked up images for giant squid eyes and you’re right – they are huge. That actually makes them easier to paint than if they were tiny. If the sculpture is big enough, you could even use cheap rubber balls for the eyes, and cover them with a few layers of paper mache. Sand a bit to make them smooth, paint, and then finish with really shiny varnish or ModPodge.

      If he has to stand up, you’ll need to engineer the armature depending on his size, how heavy he will be when he’s finished, and how much activity will be going on around him. For a small squid, tentacles could be made out of crumpled paper and covered with paper mache. Slightly larger squids would need heavy wire running down the legs and into the body, for support. Really giant squids might need rebar. Don’t cover the armature with paper mache until you know it will stand up under the circumstances where it will be displayed. The paper mache is just the skin – the important part is the skeleton – the armature.

      Good luck – and be sure to post a photo when he’s done!

      • If I were you, Elaine, depending on how big this squid needs to be, i would probably just make the whole armature, or at least the legs out of plywood. then you could get the flowey shape of the tentacles a little better, and the ends would be flat and more stable connected to the body and therefore easier to stand. Also, if you dont think the chemicals in the mixture would be to dangerous, i’d use JonniClay over the armature and wadded up news paper. with even just one coat of that, it’s practically bulletproof. if you wanna go with just the strips of newspaper and the flower-water mixture, just be sure you have more flour than water in your mix to give it extra strength, rememberr to let it dry between layers, and do several layers of paper mache. for a project like this i would strongly reccommend JonniClay, though. It will be faster, stronger, probably easier for your son to apply, amd a lot smoother looking after it has been sanded down. As this is a slimy fish you’ll want to get a smooth look.i hope you found this helpful! Good Luck! cant wait to see the pictures!

        • Wow… i just looked up a picture of a giant squid, and their heads are enormous. those are going to have to be some strong tentacles, and a strong head armature. i’d definitely go with plywood on at least the legs and possibly the whole thing. that is one big fish! I send you renewed good luck!

  • I want to make a paper mache pig for a school project. I used a similar process that you used for the penguin. What kind of paper mache should I use to cover the pig?

    • The traditional paper strips and raw flour paste will work just fine. It will result in a very strong paper mache. However, the boiled paste works well, too. Some people prefer it because the paste doesn’t show on the last layer of paper. Since I always paint my sculptures, this is not an issue for me, but it’s really your choice.

      • Also, how did you make the legs to the pig on your tutorial? You said they were “equal-sized scrunched-up paper legs”, but I still don’t understand what that means. Can you please elaborate?

        • I tear some newspaper into four equal-sized pieces, and then scrunch and roll the pieces into cigar-shaped “legs.” Then I bend them if knees or feet are needed, and wrap them with masking tape. The legs can then be taped onto the body with more masking tape.

  • Hi Jonni,
    I am a first grade teacher and would like to make the clown fish featured in your new book and on I ordered your book today from Amazon for more information.

    Should I use the flour, water and paper strip method with young children or is the paper mache clay safe? Also, should the fish shape be made out of cardboard? I would like the fish to be lifelike and somewhat rounded.

    Thanks for you help!

    • Hi Linda. The clown fish should be a perfect project for grade-school kids. I would suggest that you use the traditional paper strips and paste for this project, since it will work just as well as the clay and you won’t need to worry about the chemical additives in some of the paper mache clay ingredients. Two or three layers of paper mache should be all that’s needed, and that means the fish should dry quickly. I made my fish round-ish by forming the body with crumpled paper and masking tape, and then taped on the fins. Once the fins and body are covered with paper mache, the fish are quite strong. You could also cut the entire fish out of light cardboard and pad the body portion with crumpled paper and tape – you might want to do a practice run to see which method you think your kids would like better.

      I do hope you’ll let us see the fish when they’re done. A whole school of clown fish should make a very interesting photo!

  • Thanks so much Jonni for such detailed recipes. My kids and I will be making paper mache Easter basket from newspaper w/ shredded bill fill. Not having done paper mache since my own school days… it’s nice to read your take on different recipes, pros/cons, etc…

    I also like your tip on drying each layer so it won’t go moldy… I’m impatient, so I would have had them do all the layers in one sitting… So thanks to you… no eggs/candy falling through moldy/mushy baskets.

    Thanks again!

  • Hi,

    Love your projects and all the information on your site. I will be attempting to make a bald eagle sculpture for a Memorial Day parade float. It will be designed as though it is “in flight” so it’s wings will be fully extended. I will also be making it life-size if not larger, so we are looking at a wing span of at least 5 or 6 feet. Any thoughts on what type of base structure to use? And do you know of any patterns I can use to get started?

    Michele Parker

  • Hi there,
    I hope you can give me some advice. I am a doll artist and, up until now, have been working with fabric. I would love to try my hand at using clay for a change and thought that paper clay might be the way to go (I’ve tried polymer clay before and I just don’t like it!)
    I have seen some little sculptures similar to what I’d like to try here
    just simple little people – nothing too fancy, and I wondered if any of your recipes may be suitable for this kind of sculpture? I wasn’t quite sure which of the listed recipes was your ‘new’ one?
    If you have any other tips for trying little dolls like these then I’d be most grateful.
    Thank you for a great, informative site – I look forward to hearing from you soon!
    Lesley x

    • I use the paper mache clay recipe that you see at the top of this page. However, many readers have come up with variations, which you can see if you scroll through the comments. (There are over a 1000 comments on that page, so scrolling might take some time… 🙂 )

      The paper mache clay recipe was developed as a substitute for layering paper and paste, and it still needs an armature. It won’t give you a satin-smooth finish without some work, but you can achieve that smooth texture with a bit of extra work. I don’t make dolls myself – does anyone else out there have some good advice for Lesley?

      • Thank you so much for your reply! I have started having a read through all the comments, but you’re right, its going to take a while 😀
        I have two more questions that perhaps you can help me with.
        1. I am from the UK and am not sure what ‘joint compund’ would be called over here…would it be the same as polyfiller, or something like that?
        2. If I try a doll (or any kind of sculpture) with the more traditional method of layering paper and PVA glue, can I paint it with acrylics, or would I need to use something else (I don’t know if acrylics will ‘stick’ on top of the dried glue?)
        Thank you so much for your help, its really kind of you to take time to answer my questions xx

        • Acrylics work just fine with any type of paper mache. And the joint compound is called joint filler in the UK. I can’t wait to see how your dolls turn out.

  • Jonni,
    Pleeeaaase Heeelp!! My 8 yr old son, who is in 2nd grade has to do a project in honor of Earth Day made from recycled materials. His teacher says the object of the project is to take something that has been used & reuse it or transform it into something else. We were leaning towards a PM volcano (which we are going to add baking soda, food coloring & vineager to make it erupt). This project is broken down into a point system that equals 100. When his points are totaled that will result in a science grade!! Which of the recipe do you recommend on us to use for this?? THANK YOU : )

  • ok, i have one question…. where is the recipe for your clay paper mache? my friend and i need to make a real tough sculpture…

    • Hi Connor. The recipe is here. If you need to find it again later, you can use the link at the top of each page that says “Paper Mache Clay.”

      Good luck with your sculpture. I hope you’ll let us see it when it’s done.

  • I don’t know if this has already been mention somewhere, but I had to improvise. I was already boiling up some newspaper when I found this article and didn’t feel like wasting it. I used an immersion blender to make a fine pulp in the pot and then strained the pulp (not fully strained, just mostly) then added a good amount of flour..had no linseed..used a tiny touch of olive oil. Hey, what do I know 😉 Anyway, I was able to get a very clay-like consistency after much stirring. Seems to adhere verrrry well!

  • I am currently using paper mache around a large exercise ball, do i need to use masking tape around it, or will it be alright without it?

    • I don’t think you’ll need the tape. However, you’ll probably need to apply the paper mache in stages and allow it to dry on one side before turning it over. The wet paper is heavy, and it might slide off.

      Does anyone else have a better answer? I’ve never done this myself.

      • This may be a cheat but when working with the large rubber balls for making bowl forms I start with plaster casting tape, just a couple layers makes a strong armiture to finish with the paper mache. I have also used the plaster tape on joints of wire armitures were they will need to bear some weight or will take a lot of abuse.

        • There are no “rules” with paper mache. Therefore, there cannot be any cheating, either. 🙂

          I haven’t worked with plaster tape much, but when I did I really enjoyed it. Good advice on the bowls.

  • Its Umesh from India

    I have completed my course in Master in fine Arts (Scrupture).I have good working knowledge in Paper mache and can make clock ,wall mounting ,name plate etc.But want to know how can i make a commercial use of my art in India especially in mumbai.And the color used for mache painting.


    • Hello, Umesh. Congratulations on the completion of your Masters in fine arts degree. We would absolutely love to see some of your work – if you would like to show some of your pieces on our Practical Paper Mache page, that would be wonderful. Here’s the submission form.

      As for making a living with your artwork in India – that’s way outside my expertise. Does anyone from the area have some good ideas for Umesh? Would it be possible for you to set up a website and sell internationally?

      And for the color – I use acrylic paint, but almost any paint would work. It would depend on what look you’re trying to achieve.

  • Hi, I want to make a globe. I thought of using a big rubber ball for the form or a
    large Chinese lantern. Are there any other object/forms you could recommend?
    And if I use a rubber ball does it stay inside once I’ve paper mached it?
    Also, how many layers of paper do you recommend in order to make the globe sturdy enough?
    Your suggestions are greatly appreciated!
    Thank you,

    • The big rubber ball would work great. If you want to take the ball out after the paper mache is dry, leave a hole uncovered around the air valve, if the ball has one. Then you can let the air out and pull the ball out of the paper mache, leaving it hollow. You can cover the hole with more paper mache.

      You’d want at least 8 layers of paper mache, and possibly more. Once it’s dry, push on the sides a bit and see if it’s solid enough. If not, add a few more layers. And remember that the outside will dry first, because the rubber ball will keep air from reaching the inside of the paper mache layer. Let it dry long enough to dry all the way through before taking the ball out.

      Be sure to let us see your globe when it’s done.

    • If you make some raw flour and water paste ahead of time, be sure to add some salt or clove oil to keep it from getting moldy. Also, you’d want to keep it as cold as possible to keep the wild yeast from growing.

  • I would never subject real photographs to soaking in water mixtures of any kind. It will end badly for the images. On the other hand, if you print the images onto regular paper you might be able to lay those images on top of a base coat of paper mache. When I was working on my shredded dissertation project, I took some black and white photocopies of key images, colored them with Prismacolor pencils [not the watercolor kind!] rubbed the image side with beeswax from a handy candle [any white candle would work as well] and then got some of the glue mixture on the back side of the image….plunked it onto the body of the project. Worked fine.

    There are probably lots of ways to do this, but you need to do some experiments to see which one best does the job your group is trying to accomplish

  • Hello:

    i am doing a school photo project. I was wondering if you could answer a question. are photographs able to be paper mached? is there anything in the past that might damage or hurt the photographs? would you recommend a special recipe? thank you

    • Hi Joe. Are you thinking about adding photos as the last layer of paper mache, so the photos show? I think that flour and water paste will seep into the photo paper and either wrinkle them or cause blotches to appear on the front of the pictures. I’m not sure what would work, other than the type of spray glue that is specially formulated for attaching photos to a mat. Does anyone else have some good suggestions for Joe?

      • This makes me think of decoupage. You might want to print the photos on printer paper which would decoupage perfectly.
        Tip from experience: Only put glue on where you want it to stick, not on the paper and the sculpture or it will wrinkle badly.

    • I would imagine that you can use color laser/copier printouts because the toner is heat-activated (as opposed to inkjet which is water soluble ink). Another idea: I have also used acrylic gloss medium to “paste” down color printouts to paper, although the medium can be pricey (like $7 for a 4oz. bottle). Also there are toner transfer sprays available that folks use to put images on wood. I haven’t done that myself but have seen others have success with it.

  • Jonnie!! You are trully inspiring me. I got your site for a project I’m doing with 5-3rd graders and because of your info I’m off making projects for myself!! I never knew paper mache could look like this!!! I’m already working 9 months ahead on Christmas gifts for others!! Thanks, Myla

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