What Paint is Best for Paper Mache?

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Your paper mache sculpture is dry, and now it’s time to paint it. Which kind of paint will work the best?

In the video below, I tell you why I always choose acrylic paint, and three different kinds of acrylic paint that you can use.  Some of them are cheap and easy to find, while others are more professional but also more costly.

By the way, this video is part of a series I created for people who downloaded my new guide, The 5 Best Recipes for Paper Mache. If you don’t have it yet, don’t miss out – just click here and I’ll send it to you right away.

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You can use any paint on paper mache that you can use on paper, but almost all paper mache artists use acrylic paint. It dries quickly and it’s easy to find acrylic paint in any art or hobby store.

But what type of acrylic paint is best? That depends on your budget and the look you want for your finished sculpture.

Hobbby Paint or Artists’ Paint?

This is really the most important decision. Artists paint, like Liquatex and Golden, are made to last many years. They have more pigment in them than hobby paint, so the colors are strong and clear, and colors will be easier to mix.

I have had trouble in the past with hobby paint that was too cheap. I bought a 24-tube set at WalMart for $12 and used it for my very first attempt at painting an abstract mask. (I mentioned that disappointing result in the video on this page.) Even when the colors weren’t mixed at all, they dried muddy and dark. One of these days I intend to repaint it with better supplies.

On the other hand, I’ve been very happy with the Apple Barrel and Waverly brands that I also bought at Walmart, and the Deco Art Americana Chalk Paint that I ordered from amazon.com.

I really like the soft finish of the chalk paint, especially if you use the stencil-type brush when applying it. However, I did find that it dries out fast if you don’t get the lid on very tight, and it can separate in the container if you don’t use it very often. Be sure to stir it before each use.

You can watch a video of my baby unicorn and the chalk paint I used for it here (scroll down to the second video on that page).

If you’re thinking about using hobby paints, try some on a small project and see if you’re happy with the results.

On the other hand, you really should use the professional grade acrylic paints if you intend to sell your sculptures. Your buyers will expect it.

Do you have trouble mixing colors? I wrote a post a few years ago about a book that completely changed the way I think about color. You can see that post here. The book is now out of print but you might be able to find a copy in your local library, or a used copy online.

You might like these posts, too:

What questions do you have about paper mache?

Be sure to ask them in the comment section below.

Have fun sculpting!

5 thoughts on “Best Paint for Paper Mache”

  1. Hi Jonni,

    Love your work!
    I’m working on paper mache pots with a tessellated ‘3d’ surface, and wondered about using a fine mix of paper mache and acrylic paint to paint layers over the surface. Have you tried this and do you have any tips/examples? Thank you!

  2. I made some very large decorative papermache planter pots and want to paint them. I have Golden and Liquitex Artist acrylic tube paint, but it would be very expensive to use these to paint large pots. They have a strcco texture so I need something that will get into the cracks without saturating the pot. Are there thinner acrylic paints that are sold in large bottles that would work for paper mache?

    • Hi Jay. Dan Reeder, the cloth mache dragon guy, always uses latex paint from the paint store instead of artists’ acrylics. Latex paint for painting walls is much less expensive than acrylic paint for artists. I would also recommend picking up a small can of latex primer to use first. It would seal the paper mache and give you a nice white ground for your paint.

      We would love to see your pots when they’re done. You can upload some photos on the Daily Sculptors page, if you’d like to show them off.


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