About UltimatePaperMache.com

This site provides tutorials, patterns, recipes and support for grownups looking for an affordable way to create their own custom-made masks, holiday decorations, and home decor.
Yes, grownups – why should kids have all the fun? πŸ™‚

About UltimatePaperMache.com

Why paper mache?

I’ve been making art, in one form or another, for as long as I can remember. I sold pen and ink portraits of animals at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, I sold my paper mache baby animal dolls at the Portland Saturday Market, and I showed my work in many major art fairs on the West Coast.

Then I got a ‘real’ job, as many of us eventually do – sigh – but I finally quit my last one in 2005.

Then I started a small business in affiliate marketing, back when that was fairly easy, and it gave me lots of free time to start working on my art again. I tried a number of different things, but I had a hard time finding one that really appealed to me.

cat and the fiddle sculpture

Sculpting is what I really wanted to do, and I love sculpting in clay, but I can’t afford a kiln.

I tried making plaster of Paris copies of my clay sculptures, like this little plaque of the Cat and the Fiddle, but the molds were expensive and the castings were really heavy.

Besides, it seemed silly to make a mold for just one copy of a sculpture. I didn’t want to sell my work – I just wanted to have fun.

Then I decided to try paper mache. And why not? It worked when I was a kid. πŸ™‚

This little dragon was my very first project, back in 2008, and I made him the same way I used paper mache in grade school.

I think he’s really cute, and my grandson still has him – but it was a lot less fun than I thought it would be.

About UltimatePaperMache.com

The biggest problem was that the dragon’s nose kept slumping to the table when I was adding the paper mache, and I had to prop him up with a toilet paper roll while he dried. Not too classy…

And I had to start over on the head a couple of times, because it wasn’t the right size.

So I started using cardboard patterns and building my sculptures around them – and it worked!

That’s why I now recommend using a cardboard pattern inside your animal sculptures.

The pattern supports the sculpture and makes it stronger, and it sets the silhouette, or outline, of the animal. With a pattern, you know you’re getting the legs as long as they’re supposed to be and the head is the right size. It saves hours of trial and error.

Now, because of this website and my YouTube channel, thousands of artists use patterns for their sculptures, and it makes sculpting with paper mache so much easier! This post shows you how to make your own flat cardboard patterns for any animal you want to make.

There are hundreds of posts on this site, and many of them use those patterns that you can make yourself.

I also show you how I often experiment, changing things around, using different methods and recipes, sometimes starting over entirely – because that’s how real sculptures are made. I don’t always know exactly how I’m going to make something, but it usually ends up OK at the end. Isn’t that how art usually works? πŸ™‚

And I kept looking for easier ways to sculpt with paper mache…

Original recipe for paper mache clay

I’m actually best-known for my paper mache clay recipe. It makes paper mache sculpting much less messy, and the final sculpture is lightweight and strong. You can also get some great textures and details that are really difficult to achieve with paper strips and paste.

I combined the pattern idea with the PM clay recipe in my first book: Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.

Since beginning the site, I’ve now written five books about sculpting with inexpensive materials. Several of them are often listed at the top of Amazon’s sculpture category, and they’ve received many five star reviews.

How to make animal sculptures with paper mache clay

But could paper mache sculpting be even easier?

After creating hundreds of posts and videos, and meeting many creative readers of this blog and my YouTube channel, I discovered that many people need an even easier, faster way to make masks and sculptures.

Sometimes it’s because they feel intimidated by the sculpting process, but it’s usually just because they don’t have time to start entirely from scratch.

That’s when I started making 3D templates for masks and sculptures that make all the shapes for you.

And I’ll tell you a little secret – at my young age of 73 I think I’ve finally found what I want to do when I grow up!

Creating each pattern from an original clay sculpture is really fun for me, and I love to see all the different ways people use them – often in ways that I never would have thought of myself!

The idea of taking a few sheets of recycled cereal box and turning them into a sculpture that’s so lifelike, it seems to be looking back at you – that feels like magic to me. πŸ™‚

About UltimatePaperMache.com

When designing the patterns I try to make it easy for anyone over the age of 13 to create a lifelike animal sculpture, even if they’ve never sculpted anything before. After putting all the pieces together (which does take some patience) you can add your own creative touches and bring your sculpture to life. Each one becomes a one-of-a-kind sculpture or mask that their creator can be proud of. And that makes me proud, too. πŸ™‚

Whether you start from scratch or use one of my patterns, one of the most common things you’ll hear is:

“I didn’t know you could make something like that with paper mache!”

285 thoughts on “About UltimatePaperMache.com”

  1. Hello Jonni. I write to you from Chile! I follow you since 2014. I make paper mache pinatas. I am trying to make my first sculpture πŸ™‚ I love your work. Thank you for sharing your art.

    • Hi Daniela. I’m so glad you joined us. Do you have a photo of your pinatas that you would like to share with us? We get more readers on the Daily Sculptors Page, and I know we’d all like to see your pinatas. We get a lot of questions about how to make them, and I have never done it. I do hope you’ll share a photo, and maybe some tips, too. πŸ™‚

  2. Hi, I just love all of your pieces. I saw your highland head. I would love to do it as a raise them. What materials did you use on them? I’m pretty new to this.

  3. Jonni, Thank you for sharing your projects with the world, it has been delightful to watch the creation of your dragon, it inspired me to do a dragon project with my seven-year-old daughter who is a BIG BIG fan of “How to Train Your Dragon” (Stormfly)! Your project is definitely a grand dragon and very charming. Great work and keep them coming!

    • Hi Christopher. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. I would love to see the dragon you made. Did you try to upload a photo? If so, the image was probably too big. I hope you will show us that dragon – it sounds wonderful. By the way, the best place to show off your work is the Daily Sculptors’ page, because more people visit that page than the About page.

    • No, sorry. I don’t have time to do commissions, because of all the time I spend keeping this blog running, and all my writing projects. Perhaps you could find an artist who could help you at your local community college.

    • I agree, Asghar – your rhino came out very good indeed. Thank you for showing it to us. As a matter of fact, you might want to post new comments on the Daily Sculptors page, too, and show off your rhino and stag there. A lot more people visit to that page every day, so more people would get to see it.

  4. Hello! Its me, Raven. (For others, my name is Raven and I’m 11 years old.) The large bird I mentioned on Youtube was nearly done, and I set it out overnight to dry. It was quite hard before I applied a thin layer of newspaper on it, and I was baffled to see how soggy it was the next morning! Each separately dried layer turned into mush because of the humidity of the room that night. It was recovered in a few hours thanks to the dehumidifier, but it was very chipped and collapsed because of its former incident. I will try to repair it soon, but it will take a very long time. The head, however, was very solid and it was already painted, so besides falling off, it was unaffected. Here is a collage I made of some of my recent creations; My Australian Robin on a tree, Festive Skeleton, Unfinished Day of the Dead Family, and the severed bird head. When I have the opportunity and time to repair my bird, I will be sure to Email you, and I will also post all the Christmas gifts I’m working on this year!

    • Hi Raven. I’m sorry to hear that your bird suffered from the humidity. Would it be possible to dry your projects in front of a fan? That often helps, if the air itself isn’t too wet. If you’re making your Christmas gifts this year, some people are going to be very lucky! Handmade gifts are the best, and the love and attention you’re putting into your sculptures is obvious.

      Good luck with your bird – and thanks for sharing.

  5. Hello Jonni !
    Thank you so much for your videos and for your explications about how to make paper clay !
    I make paper clothes that you can see them on facebook ” dmncreations”.
    And i make also accesoiries.
    I ‘m sorry for mistakes because i’m french !
    Have a good day, Jonni !

  6. Neighbor asked me to try and repair damage done by her dog. Hope the photo’s are attached.

    Frank LoPresti

    • Hi Frank. The photos didn’t come through – there’s a size limit, so they might need to be edited to make the file size smaller. I hope you’ll try again.

  7. Jonni,

    So I’m just curious, as of today, whats been your Favorite piece that you’ve created so far?

    • That’s an interesting question! I tried to pick just one, but I can’t. Part of my enjoyment of the pieces is remembering how much fun they were to make. I like my giraffe head, although I would make it very differently if I did it again. The baby elephant takes up a lot of room, but can’t imagine my living room without her. If I did that one again, I would make her much lighter! I like the rhino, mostly because of the aged stone look of her textured hide. I’m quite fond of the Lodge Brother because he makes me smile (I imagine his wife shaking her head every time he puts on his outfit), and I enjoy looking at the silly dodo bird. My favorite faux trophy mount is probably the Highland cow, because of all that crazy hair. And the flying pig always makes me smile when I see him hanging in my daughter’s kitchen. I gave away my chimp to be used as a display in a restaurant, and I’ve been missing him ever since.

      But my favorite piece is usually the one I’m either working on, or thinking about making next. I’m currently making a baby unicorn with Apoxie Sculpt, and I’m really having fun with it. Now I just have to find a place to put him when he’s done.

      • Jonni.
        Well looking over a bunch of your works of art I can see why its too difficult to pick just one, I don’t think I could just pick one either. I’m sure they all have a special place in your heart & a piece of your heart is in each one!

        Your giraffe head, baby elephant, & rhino are amazing, I love the textures they each have & their eyes are so real looking. How do you get them to look so real like that? Is it just the type of paint & color? The textures & details that you gave your rhino around his eyes are fab. I can see why your silly lodge brother makes you smile, I absolutely love his bear hat & claw necklace & the look on his face is priceless! I think he needs a wife next to & facing him with that look on her face that you know she would have lol! I also really love the colors you chose for your dodo bird & again the textures are wonderful, love his tail & he is just silly looking for some reason. I love you highland cow’s hair also, what did you use for that any way? It looks spot on! Well now on to your flying pig, well whats to say other than how cute is he & who doesn’t just love a flying pig! Your daughter is really lucky to be able to see it hanging in her kitchen each day. I now have a special little bird that sits on its little wire perch that my grandmother had hanging in her kitchen window for many, many years & I just love looking at it each day, brings back wonderful memories of spending time with her & my grandfather. Your chimp is amazing, I’d miss it to! What kind of restaurant is he now in? Maybe you should go visit him once in a while. =)

        Well I can’t wait to see your baby unicorn, I’m sure its going to be amazing as always! =)

  8. I am just beginning to make a full-sized, paper mached woman in Grecian dress. Thinking it would be easier to start with a ready-made form, I ordered a mannequin. How would you go about creating her costume? Could a starched bedsheet serve as the gown before applying paper mache? Would wire screening be better for creating the costume?
    GREATLY appreciative of any suggestions you could offer.

    • Hi Marj. I haven’t really done anything like that. You might get better feedback if you repost your comment on the Daily Sculptors page (there’s a link to it at the top of the site). The only thing that comes to my mind is cloth (or clothing) dipped in Monster Mud. There are a lot of articles about it online, but I’ve never used it. Most of them are Halloween-oriented, or for theater props, but the information will still be helpful. I think it would dry harder and more durable than the starch.

      But do ask again on the other page. We have a lot of readers, and one of them is bound to have a good idea for you.

  9. Hi Jonni,

    I am currently in charge of costumes for my local junior high school’s drama club and we are doing the Lion King this year. I found your hyena mask pattern very helpful. I’m contacting you to say THANK YOU and to ask if you could help me. I’m kind of stuck on how to modify the pattern to create other animals. I have to make one of each animal (hyena, giraffe, lion, antelope/gazelle) and then teach the technique to the costume crew (6th, 7th & 8th graders). I need to make the eye holes and muzzles different for each type of animal but I don’t know how to do it without ruining the pattern. I made a giraffe head and a zebra head but I don’t exactly remember what I did step by step. I was in the moment and didn’t document how I did what I did now I don’t know how to replicate or teach it. Please help! Could you show me how to adjust the pattern for different animals?

    • Gosh – to be honest, when I made the hyena I cut four or five versions and taped them together before I got the shapes I wanted. Then I un-taped the pieces, drew around them on paper, and scanned the paper so I could put the pattern online. There was a lot of cardboard in the recycle bin when I got done. And I don’t know of any other way to do it. You can’t really tell how it’s going to look until you cut out the pieces and tape them together.

      Did you keep copies of your giraffe ans zebra by any chance? Or would it be possible to un-tape them and make patterns, like I did?

  10. Hi there, I wanted to know why you made the calico angel cat sculpture. Were there any intentions with that piece? Anything you were trying to show? Personal aspects? could you also give an estimate in size and year it was created. I’m using this as an example for my art project and I want to write about it.

    • Hi Desiree. I made the angel cat in October of 2009. I made a lot of cats that month because I was invited to participate in a charity event. The event was called off, though, and I gave the sculpture to a friend. It’s always been one of my favorites. It’s cat-sized, but I don’t have exact measurements.

      It’s been a really long time since I made the sculpture, and I may have added the wings just for fun. As for ‘intention,’ I was really just trying to produce a large grouping of cats in a short amount of time. It was that project, in fact, that led to the development of my paper mache clay recipe, because I needed a faster way to work. The friend I gave her to takes care of a large number of stray cats, so she liked the sculpture.

  11. I just wanted to thank you for all of the information you have available on your website. You are so gracious to share your love of paper mache with everyone searching for information on the internet. This website is so awesome I couldn’t be more thrilled with all of the ideas you have posted with videos to boot. WOW!!! I teach art to students K-12 in Palmer, Alaska and found this site absolutely the best resource for paper mache. Thanks again!

  12. Hi There!
    Your youtube channel and website is so cool!
    I Live in Australia and I’m currently studying year 9.
    I have to do this thing we do in year nine called ‘Projects’ for Art and design.
    I was wondering if you could put up a video of how you made the lion I saw in one of your videos.
    It was the video to this link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrNSCNr2S5Q
    Turtle made with air dry clay πŸ™‚
    I have such a cool idea for its mane!

    Thank you so much!! πŸ™‚ p.s it would be great if I could get a reply!!

    • Olivia, the lion in the background of the video is a mountain lion (cougar, puma) and it was made in a rather different way than my usual techniques. You can see the mold I made for it here, and the final piece here. I have made an African lion, however, and you can see it here – There isn’t much info in that video on how the lion was made, unfortunately. There was really no room in that little house for any craft project. But it was basically a mask sculpted with oil-based clay, and then several layers of shop towel mache were put over the clay sculpture and pulled off when the paper mache was dry. I played with the mane, because of the ReStore auction, and it was fun. I do hope you’ll make one, too, so we can see what you come up with for the mane!

      If you’d like more info on the techniques for making the masks, check out the videos on this page for the Commedia del Arte Mask – Pantalone mask.

  13. Salutations Jonni,
    I am a mask maker/performer/Instructor and I am doing a summer camp, soon, with kids who will make their own animal mask and use it to perform with. I was using Celluclay but it is very expensive and slow drying. in looking for a quick and easy way for kids to make a paper mache mask, I found your tutorial on how to make a quick drying Commedia mask. Thank you for the very informative tutorial. I went to purchase some Plaster of Paris today but noticed the huge warning about how it shouldn’t make contact with skin and eyes. Since all the masks that I make are for performance, I am concerned about the toxicity and the breathability of the skin. Is this product safe or could you please give me some guidance in another product or process that is quick and easy for kids as well as me. -Thank you, Tanya

    • Hi Tanya. I’m not a chemist, but I know many people make masks right on their own face using plaster cloth – which is gauze material with plaster embedded in it. It’s a messy way to make a mask, and I don’t personally do that, but lots of people do. That said, plaster of Paris does, I think, have some silica in it from the way it’s mined or manufactured, and that means you should never sand it without wearing a mask. And, the plaster loves water (hydrophilic is the technical term, I think) and that means it will draw water from anything it touches, including your skin. There should always be something between yourself and the plaster, which could be something as simple as a coat of acrylic paint.

      Another issue with plaster that you probably won’t run into but it’s worth mentioning. When you mix plaster of Paris with water, a chemical reaction sets in immediately, and this causes the powdered plaster to turn itself back into the stone it started out as. It also creates heat – and people have been burned badly by trying to make molds of themselves by covering their hands or even faces with a thick layer of wet plaster. The method shown in my videos doesn’t recommend anything remotely like this, but this seemed like a good place to throw in a caution. I’m sure the bag of plaster mentions this, too.

      OK – that was a whole lot more rambling than was really needed πŸ˜‰

      Here’s what I would suggest if you’re making your masks using the techniques shown in the Commedia mask videos: First, make sure the sculptors wear latex or nitrile gloves so the skin on their hands don’t get dried out when working with the fast-setting paste, and to make it easier to clean up later. When your masks are totally dry, paint both the inside and outside of the masks with acrylic paint, and seal with a good acrylic varnish. And finally, for comfort and breathability, add a few strips of foam to the inside of each mask to bring it away from the face and make it more comfortable. I see that Amazon has self-sticking helmet pads that would be perfect for this use, but $4 price, times the number of kids in the play, might be prohibitive.

      Another option that would work great for many theater production is to make headpieces rather than face masks, like Keven Doheny is doing for his school’s Lion King production, and then secure them to the head using baseball caps – he uses the construction method shown in my Commedia mask videos (and my mask book) – with some creative changes, of course – and then secures them to the head with the method he shows in this video.

      I hope this wasn’t too long and drawn out – I do tend to overdo things sometimes. Let me know if you have more questions.

      • Thank you so much for your speedy and informative response. Kevin’s technique is great but I would like to stick to face masks and I love your technique used for the Commedia tutorial. I forgot to mention that I have large amounts of buffstone clay and so will have 10 kids use that to build up the features off of face molds of myself that I made years ago. Will it still work with your technique? I am assuming that the Plaster of Paris is what makes the mixture fast drying, and also wondering if there might be a different product that I could use instead of the Plaster of Paris or if I used less of it would it still work? As well, I have 3 two hour classes to get these masks complete, including painting. Thanks for your time and expertise, Tanya

        • Hi Tanya. Yes, the wet clay will work just fine with the shop towel mache – I use it all the time.

          As for the paste, will there be a few days between sessions? Even when you add the plaster of Paris to the paste, it still has to dry. It hardens quickly, but then it dries the same as any other paper mache – but with just two layers it still dries quicker than many layers of newspaper and paste. I’ve been thinking that when working with kids, the joint compound/glue mixture would be a lot easier because it won’t harden in the bowl. And only two layers are needed, so it also dries fairly quickly, if you put the masks (still on their clay forms) in front of a fan. However, some schools don’t put joint compound on their “approved” list for art supplies. Have I already given you a link to the witch mask video, that shows how the joint compound paste comes out when used instead of the plaster-based paste? Just in case I didn’t, it’s here.

          • Thanks Jonni,
            I have 3 consecutive days to complete this mask process so that the kids can be using them on the 4 day, Yikes! This is the problem that I have had with a 5 day Theatre camp. In the witch video, you mention using an Elmers art paste and boiled flour and water recipe. Might that work with your shop paper technique? Not sure if I feel comfortable using joint compound with kids. Is the plaster of paris less toxic and could I use less of it?

            • Ouch – 3 days! That does make it difficult. Another option that might work – if it’s affordable: use two or three layers of plaster cloth instead of the paper mache. You’d be able to pull the masks off the forms within 1/2 hour, and they dry much faster when air can reach both sides. One layer of newspaper (using any type of paste) could be added on top of the plaster cloth as soon as the masks are pulled off the forms, even though they aren’t dry yet. The paper mache would make the plaster cloth smoother, and it would dry along with the plaster, probably over night. I hate to keep throwing links at you, but you can see a project I did using the plaster cloth under paper mache here.

              Now for your question: You can use less plaster of Paris in the recipe – and that will allow you to use a thinner application of paste, which might help it dry faster, but I can’t guarantee how quickly it would dry. I don’t have an alternative recipe for you, so you’d need to play around with it and test it before the workshop to make sure it works. I did try the boiled flour and water recipe with shop towels. It worked, but it wasn’t easy – the shop towels are really thick, and they stay soft and towel-like, rather than paper mache-like, if they aren’t totally saturated with paste. I had to brush more layers of paste over the shop towels several times to get them totally saturated, and that obviously adds to the drying time. I can’t remember using Elmer’s Art Paste with the shop towels. If you have some on hand, give it a try and see if the shop towels are hard when they’re dry.

              I think the plaster of Paris has similar warnings on the bag that joint compound does – mostly because of the trace amounts of silica that you shouldn’t breathe. But I’m not an expert, by any means. Also, some people have said that joint compound contains a anti-fungal ingredient, just like wallpaper paste does.

          • Thank you so much for all your time Jonni, I have one final question for you, please. I have found some plain white paper full masks in my supplies. I will cut them and put them on my bases and have kids build big features with tin foil then add a mache clay? for smaller features. Would you recommend using your air dry clay recipe along with additional glue and water so it adheres to the mask structure?

            • I think the answer to this depends on the age and abilities of the kids you’re working with. The pm clay and the air dry clay recipes are a bit tricky to work with, and some of the products used in the recipes weren’t intended for use by children – I developed the recipes with adults in mind – who have reasonably good fine motor skills so they can apply thin layers of pm clay to an armature. The air-dry clay is even more difficult to work with than the original recipe. I’ve never tried working with kids with either of the recipes.

              If they’re older and you think they can apply the material thinly over the armature (anything over 1/8″ takes a really long time to dry); and if you make sure they wear disposable gloves so their hands aren’t covered with the clay, then it’s possible that it would work. Test it at home first. Don’t use the linseed oil, whatever you do – it contains chemicals that shouldn’t be used around kids. I try to say that as often as possible, but it’s always a good idea to say it again.

              Since you don’t have much time for this project, I would strongly advise you to do a workshop for yourself at home, and follow all the procedures exactly as you intend your kids to do them. Give yourself exactly as much time as they’ll have, remembering to reduce your working time to allow for instructions and questions. Try to pretend that you have no idea how to do any of it before you begin, and that you’re the same age as the kids in the workshop. Then see how long your masks take to dry and paint. It’s the only way you’ll really know ahead of time if your workshop will be a success or not.

  14. Hi Jonni – I am finishing my masters this year in Sculpture – I am working mostly from home and I’ve found I like paper mache the best – I have really enjoyed your site and the recipes and have experimented with several. Right now I am making figures and a larger tree and will be making some larger figures. I met someone who used papercrete and I wondered if you’d experimented with that yet? I want to make figures for outdoors but am concerned they will be too heavy to use for my masters show….not sure how thick paper crete has to be to prevent breakage….thanks for your generosity to share your knowledge – you’ve been an inspiration…..

  15. Hello , I am a student from Taiwan. Currently a high school sophomore , studying the design department , we have a graduation exhibition , and my chosen theme is animals, just unexpected to see your work , I feel great is very unique, so I can see more different animal presentation , I would like to ask you , when you are doing these works when trying to convey the idea of ??what is it ?

  16. I feel upset because i was paper maching a balloon and now its gone wrinkly im not sure what to do start again or find an idea.i think i might use masking tape but i will have to use allot because it is wrinkly all over

    • That always happens to me, too, when using paper mache over a balloon. I know a lot of people use them for their sculptures, but I’ve never been able to get it to work. I did use a balloon for my Humpty Dumpty, but I cheated and put on a layer of plaster cloth first. Your masking tape idea seems like it might work, if the paper mache is completely dry.

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