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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1,995 Comments

  • Does anyone know when you use tissue paper does it retain any of its color? and which recipe would be good for tissue paper?

    • I don’t know the answer to that one. You would need a glue or paste that doesn’t destroy the paper or cause the color to run too much. The best place for this question would be the Yahoo PaperMacheArt group – I’m sure some of the people on that group will know the answer. (And I’d love to know, too – so if you find out, please come back and let us know.)

    • i have used crepe paper, the sort that comes when you get gift in a birthday bag rather than wrapped. it generally gets a little darker but orange stays orange, blue stays blue and so on.

  • In making molds, to reproduce the paper mache sculptures, do have a suggestion as to which product and process works best? Thanks, Nancy. Ps: I enjoy your website ..it’s the best of it’s kind and gives every step needed for papermache sculpture..I’ve made several really cute dogs and plan to make more with
    Christmas hats for gifts and ornaments this Christmas..

  • Hi 🙂
    I am making a box for my art gcse and instead of buying a wooden box, which can be very expensive, I was told to simply get a cardboard box and paper mâché it. Do you have any tips? I would be very grateful
    Thanks
    Also instead of stripping newspaper, would it work if I shredded it?

    • Georgia, you might want to download the free paper mache ebook that we all created earlier this year. You’ll find a ton of ideas about how to use cardboard for a base of your box. The best suggestion you’ll find in the ebook is to completely seal the cardboard before adding paper mache, to keep it from warping.

      Using tiny strips of shredded paper would take a very long time. I would suggest going in the other direction, and use really big pieces of newspaper. You can brush the paste onto the cardboard, then lay your newspaper over that. Use at least 6 layers. Some people dry each layer before adding the next one, some people add them all at once – it seems to be a matter of choice.

      Enjoy!

  • I am looking to make a topper for my daughter’s birthday cake. The “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, is what she is insisting to have on top. I wanted to know if I could make shapes out of aluminum foil, and put the paper mache around it to make the things I need? Can I leave the foil inside the shape after it is dry? Also, what is the best glue to use to attach my shapes to each other after they have dried?

    • Hi Alice. Yes, you can use aluminum foil, and put the paper mache around it. You can also leave the foil inside. Some Elmer’s Glue-All, or any white glue, should work to glue pieces together, although a hot glue gun would be faster.

      Good luck with your project. This sounds fun.

  • I am making a paper mache minion from despicable me, I am using acrylic paint, but it seems to be cracking in some areas. What am I doing wrong and how can I correct the problem.

    • Kim, did you let your minion dry completely before using the paint? I’m wondering if the paper mache might be shrinking just a little under your paint.

      I’ve never run into this problem, so I might not be the best one to answer the question. Does anyone else have some suggestions for Kim? (You might also want to join the Yahoo Paper Mache Art group. They have a very active membership, and they’re all really helpful.)

      • Sometimes you can get cracking in paint if the surface is a little dusty or dirty also. Have you been sanding it? Or sanding something else in the vicinity?

        You can try wiping the piece down with a damp cloth or tack cloth (but then you’d probably want to let it dry again before painting.

        — b

        • hi im new here i been reading the forums may i ask a question after making minature w/ clay can i sand it to get smoth surface?

          • Michael, the clay is very strong, but I’ve never used it without an armature. So – I don’t know if you could use it to make miniature items, modeling it like “real” clay. You could give it a try and find out. And, if you do, please let us know if it works.

  • Using the glue and water (1:1) recipe for a large round head, how solid/hard does it need to be before popping the balloon? It doesn’t have to be sturdy, just strong enough to hold it’s shape on someone’s head for a picture. I have a deadline looming!
    Thanks!

    • Hi Carol. You might be able to tell if the paper mache is hard enough by pressing on it, or by carefully lifting up the edge and feeling how dry it is. If there’s very much give, it may be too soon. This is a tough call – it depends on how many layers, the temperature and humidity of the room, etc. You can speed things up a lot if you put the piece in front of a fan. Your mask may feel perfectly dry on the outside, but will probably still be wet next to the balloon – you might need to put the inside facing the fan when you pop the balloon, so your model won’t get glue all over his face.

      Good luck – and I hope we can see how your project turns out.

  • My comment is that I have obtained a mache’ recipe, this is more of a cooking method and takes a bit to make but it is like cement when you put it on your project.

    Take one cup of water and put in a small saucepan, use 1/4 or 1/2 of flour and mix til the lumps are out. Heat on medium til it boils, in the meantime take a larger saucepan and boil five cups of water. When everything has boiled then add the flour mixture to the water and make sure you remove it from that burner, put it on the burner that is on medium heat and turn up to just below medium high, stirring constantly, when the mixture comes to a slight boil again set timer for three minutes and boil til timer goes off.

    When that happens take off burner and put on one that is not on and let it cool usually overnight, bt in the meantime you need to stir every 15 minutes or so.

    That is what I use.

  • Hello! Like the group above making a mascot head over an exercise ball I’m doing the same with a halloween costume head but I’m using the “clay” recipe. The ball is totally covered now (except for the head hole of course.) What I want to know is will I need more than one layer of the clay for strength? It is surprisingly heavy when its wet!

    • Mindy, I’ve never used the clay for a hollow project that big. What I would suggest is that you wait until the clay is completely dry and then you should get a very good feel for how strong it is. Depending on how thickly you applied the goo, one layer may be all you need. Please let us know how it turns out.

  • I am making my sons Halloween costume, I need to make a “can” shaped costume. Can the paper mache be place on chicken wire to hold that curved shape I need?

    • Yes, chicken wire can be used as an armature for paper mache. You’d need to be extra careful about making sure none of the sharp points would stick out and scratch your son when he wears the costume. You could also use a big piece of cardboard bent into a can shape, and cover that with paper mache. Safety is really the primary concern with this sort of costume.

      • No, do not use cardboaard with paper mache’, I made that mistake all it does is just wrinkle it. On the costume I wouldn’t use chicken wire, I woud use very light plastic tubing on the top and the bottom, that will make a better shape and keep your son from gett hurn by the wire. Try that.

  • can i use marmolite marble dust for used in construction with cements ?for a strong glase surfice on mask making? how to mix for thismarble surfice look?

    • I am not familiar with that product. Marble dust can be used to make gesso, as described in the post, so it will probably work. You might need to do an experiment and see what happens.

  • Hello! I’m very much a recycling fanatic, and have a big box of shredded paper from work I’d like to use for project. Will your clay recipe still work with shredded paper?

    Thanks!

    • Yes, it will work, but you’ll need to give the paper a lot more time to soften before mixing it in. Some people put it in boiling water, but you can just let the paper soak for several hours. It should mix in well when you can easily pull the wet paper pieces apart.

      Good luck – and let us know how your project turns out.

        • Shredded copy paper from work is all I use!!! That and cardboard of all shapes and sizes, hardly any of my projects contain anything off the shelf.

          I use a hot water, flour and elmer glue mix for my paste and I also add in various colors depending on what my desire is. this woeks very well. I do not soak the paper but I do spritz it down with hot water. I mix the paste in still hot, cover it for about a half hour and then it is ready to mold, shape, cover or just what ever one can think of.

          Once I have my shapes, I normally place them in a 170 degree oven for a few hours until the outer skin is hard, then I let them air dry for a couple of days. For larger pieces, I just let them air dry setting them in the sun whenever possible. These have turned out structurally very hard and sturdy; and yes they are sandable, cutable and can be finished with a variety of finishes. I usually use a spay type of urethane finish to seal everything once I’m finished.

          This is almost like the “clay” recipes but it has a much more texured and rough surface, much like stucco, but it can also be smoothed with a putty knife just like drywall mud.

          This is a great website, keep up the great tips!! Many thanks!!

          Kathy

  • I would like to know what type of mâché would work best for molding a human body. Also what could I mix to put in mold so that I could make the final product more stable to be put on a wall for a wall sculpture. Any tips will do.

    • JT, you might want to check out one of our recent guest posts, you can find it here. The author did a fabulous job, and he used my paper mache clay recipe. You can also use traditional paper strips and paste, although it will take a bit longer. All paper mache is very strong, as long as you make enough layers and allow it to dry completely all he way through.

  • I’d like to make a paper mache birdbath (for a kids craft, not to be actually used as one with water in it) and was going to use the underside of a large plastic bowl as a mold to apply the paper and paste to. Will I be able to release it from the bowl? Is there something I can rub on the bowl beforehand to make this easier? Thanks!

  • I am working on a Halloween project, with my wife, and am planning to use paper mache to make a mold for use with spray foam insulation. Would the paper mache hold up as a mold in this case? What is the average drying time before it fully solidifies? This is a very helpful guide and was kinda hoping someone might have the answers to my questions. Thanks.

    • Scott, the spray foam can exert a lot of pressure against the walls of whatever cavity it’s placed in. If there are plenty of excape routes for it, it might work without distorting or breaking your paper mache mold. You would need a pretty strong paper mache wall, at least 8 to ten layers thick, and possibly more, which will take two to four days to dry.

  • Hello all. We are trying to construct a mascot head out of paper mache. We used a exercise ball that’s about 28″ around. We were wondering just how many layers does it take to make this thing sturdy. So far there are 5 layers, but there are still soft spots or voids. Is there something we’re doing wrong? Our paste is made of flour, water and elmers glue (3-2-2 ration) and we’re using paper towels instead if newspaper. Is there something stronger out there? Perhaps guaze? Thinker/thinner paste?

    Currently the project is in the garage. Could that slow down drying? We started this a week and a half ago and it still has soft spots. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Hi guys. With a project this big, you’ll need at least 8 to ten layers to get a really stiff and strong paper mache. The paste you’re using will dry very hard and strong, so it might be the paper towels that’s making it soft. Assuming, of course, that it’s completely dry. Paper mache has no strength at all until it’s dry.

      If you add a few layers of newspaper, or even heavy brown paper using the paste you’re currently using, it should make your piece strong enough. You’ll also want to find a fan so you get some air moving over the wet paper mache. Paper towels are designed to hold water, and that might be slowing things down. You need to dry the piece as quickly as possible so mold doesn’t find it.

      Good luck! I hope you’ll let us see it when it’s done.

    • Do you know what I use and it makes it really strong. Inbetween every layer I take some tissure paper (not the kind in the bathroom) ha ha. I use the kind you use to wrap in those gift bags that look like sacks. Put a couole of layers of that after each layer and it will be really strong. I found this out by accident, it was laying there and I was out of paper at the moment and I couldn’t believe it, it worked. Thy that out. ope it works for you.

  • Hi – I am helping my daughter to create a paper mache ziggurat with a temple on top. The base needs to look like a desert mountain. I was considering adding a colored “skin” like you had mentioned above. Could I add actual sand to the top of the wet “skin” layer for texture and color? Or would that be a huge mess? Do you have any other suggestions for creating a dirt/sand appearance? Thank you for your help. Your website is really well organized and looks great – beautiful art work, too.

  • I am about to make a halloween mask from paper mache and was wondering how many layers I need to use of paper mache and how long I need to let the layers dry before applying the next layer.

    • The number of layers depends on how strong you need it to be. If you intend to wear the mask, you’ll probably need at least 8 layers. Some people dry each layer before reapplying another one. Others put on two or three layers and then let them dry. Each new wet layer will soak into the layers below, so it’s really a matter of personal choice, I think.

      • Here is the mask I made. It worked so well I am planning to use paper mache for this year’s costume. [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Marvin006.JPG[/img]

  • There is a papier mache/clay I’ve used for several years. It dries hard as a brick; it’s capable of sanding, drilling, sawing…almost anything! Materials needed: newspaper, water, Elmer’s glue, blender, plastic zip-lock baggie. Place about 1/2 the blender full of torn newspaper; fill blender with water until about 1/3 full. Blend on liquefy until paper is pulverized to a fine pulp. Drain out water and then, using your hands, squeeze out as much water as possible and place the pulp into a zip-lock baggie. Add Elmer’s glue to the pulp and kneed like you would bread. The more glue you use, the stronger the clay upon drying. I have used about a 1/2 cup to a baggie/pulp. This clay/papier mache takes longer to dry than a day, and it will shrink as it dries.
    My classes have used this to cover baloons, make sculptures, masks as well as wall hangings.

    • hi i think you paper ache is hard but if i made some menature is it easy to break wen wet?i mena if i accedently my yourng brother fill a glass of water to minature is it easy to break appart?

    • Do I understand that you put paper mache clay over pottery-type clay, and then put them in a kiln? Must not be, since the heat would probably burn off the paper mache clay. So, if you put paper mache clay over a fired piece and let it dry, and now want to remove it, the only thing I can suggest is to soak it in a tub of water for as long as it takes. Which might be quite a while.

      If you wanted to use the clay item as a temporary armature, and you want the paper mache clay to remain intact as a piece of art but without the clay inside, I hope you used a really good release. If so, you could use a razor blade to cut the paper mache into several pieces, and then gently lift it off the clay underneath, and then put the pieces back together with glue or more paper mache clay.

      Good luck.

  • hey guys im doing a island diagram an this website was very helpful! i just wanted to say thanks everyboy for you ideas!!!

  • Hi folks my Name is Leon from the UK, iam gonna try all these recipes and ides……. This is one of the more informative recipes i have online,.
    Thanks………

  • Okay, so i have come up with a new way to do paper mache! The other day i decided to try something new. i cut up the newspaper into tiny peices and then put it in the blender. i added water untill it was just over the top of the pile of newspaper and blended it up. then i added about 2/3 cup flour and blended that into it as well. it made a cool goop sort of thing that works wonders! all you have to do is get a handful and smear it on your project. it takes a little longer to dry than normal paper mache, but it takes less coats to finish a project. Also, it dries extremely hard, and if you put it on right, verry smooth. i have found it is great for pinatas and the beaver i am working on with this stuff is coming along great, too. the texture differs depending on how well you blend it, but i have found a way to make it perfect for a beaver fur texture, by mixing it on shred and pulse in my blender for about 3 min. sparadically. i havent taken measurements, but it doesnt seem to need it. i hope you all enjoy the new recipe and give it a go!
    ~Leah

      • That’s exactly what it looks like!! funnily enough, i was making some while my brother’s friend was over and he saw me blending it up and thought i was making a smoothie or something. Anyway, i poured it into a bowl and he came up and got a big fingerful and stuck it in his mouth!! he made a hilarious face and spit it out and said, “That is THE WORST smoothie i have ever had!”

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