Big Dragon Gets His Paper Mache Clay Skin

This is a reader-supported site. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for your support! :)

African Animals Pattern Set.
Save $10
when you buy this three-pattern set. Use the patterns to create memorable gifts, or to bring a little bit of Africa to your own home

paper mache dragon
How the Dragon Looked When it Was Finished

In this video you can see the dragon is getting his skin of paper mache clay over the duct tape. This process is taking a long time, but only because I have so many other projects I’m working on at the same time. I’ve mixed up many, many batches of paper mache clay at this point, and there’s still three or four to go.

I did thin the clay I was using when I started adding the pm clay to the wire mesh wing – after making this video. I just added some more glue to thin it out, and that helped it go on the mesh more easily. I want the wings to be not much thicker than the wire mesh itself. It seemed to work pretty well, and hasn’t cracked or anything while drying.

In a week or two, I might even get a chance to start painting him. I think I’ll use house paint, since acrylic paints would be way too expensive for a project this big.

See all of the posts for this paper mache clay dragon:

38 thoughts on “Big Dragon Gets His Paper Mache Clay Skin”

  1. Hi Jonni, Is there a problem with the audio of this video? I can’t hear what you are saying even the volume of my iPad is in full… what am I doing wrong? ? Thanks by the way.

      • Oh – I didn’t read far enough. You’re using an iPad and the volume is turned on. I don’t own and iPad, so I can’t test it on that device. Is anyone else having problems watching YouTube videos on your iPad?

  2. I waswondering how much cornstarch was adde to the clay receipe to give it a smoother finisf… and how much glue wa added to make it thinner..

    Just found the website andhave so many ideas for projects….


    • Gosh – I just threw in some corn starch, and did the same with the glue – the paper mache clay recipe seems to work as long as you have all the ingredients. The exact amounts don’t seem to matter all that much, as long as you don’t deviate too much from the usual proportions.

      I hope you’ll show us your projects when they’re done.

  3. Dear Jonni,
    After 6 months with various life events in between, I have finally finished my dragon for my Hobbit/Middle Earth/Tolkien party! Originally I planned on making a dragon with a length of around 3 feet to hang above my party’s food table, but this turned out to be 6 feet long without the fire in his mouth! I had to drill holes in his back and use eyehook toggle bolts so he can be suspended from the ceiling.

    I used many of your helpful tips and your paper mache clay recipe which was SOOO fun to use. As a matter of fact, I just won a contest for this dragon! Thank you for your inspiration! I just thought I would share the final results with you (my son’s friend gladly holding him up)….

      • Great job! Of course you won a contest – how could you not? But now that the party is over, where will he live?

        • Thanks Jonni,
          Actually, the party isn’t over. Haha…It hasn’t even begun! I needed to postpone it a few times. We had week long visitors, in Dec. and surgery for my 9 year old after that. The plan is to host the party within the next month. Also, I came to a creative freeze when I wasn’t sure how to attach the fabric to his wings and how to paint the eyes. Entering him in the contest was the kick I needed to get him done.

          I’m hoping the dragon will take up temporary residence at our local toy store. They have a nice tall 2 story ceiling where I invision him hanging from,… until he is sold of course (fingers crossed). I have thought about donating him to the library or my son’s school library. I think my best option is to sell him and donate the money to a missionary friend of mine who lives in Mexico.

          Upon first seeing the dragon a local friend said, “You’re not going to keep that are you?!” No, no, I have a small home, so he’ll just be “hanging around” for the party. Ha!
          I have fallen in love with my dragon and I have called him my beast, since I don’t have any real pets of my own. I’m kind of attached.
          Guess I’ll have to find more inspiration from you to create something else. I do love your Humpty Dumpty. I’m thinking about making one. I would also like to make something else from Mother Goose. Have any ideas?

          Thank you. -Natalie

          • Couldn’t you hang your dragon in a corner somewhere in the house? He’s going to be up high, so he wouldn’t get in the way very much…

            Listen to me talk – my house is so full of sculptures now that I really don’t have any more room. I have to start experimenting so I can figure out how to take them outside, without costing a fortune in plastic coatings, or loosing them in the next big wind storm. A house really has only so much room. Sigh…

            I need to get out my Mother Goose book and see who’s in there. I think it would be fun to do a whole series from old books and poems. That’s something that would fit in well at the library.

            • Perhaps we both should just go out and purchase a bigger home…haha!
              Thanks Jonni, Humpty Dumpty is on my list! We’ll see what will come next. Bless you. -Natalie

  4. Love the random scales plus plasticky wrinkles. Excellent. I’d have got all caught up trying to make overlapping scales in a “proper” pattern, wrinkling the skin, changing the shapes of the scales for different areas of the body …….. and never finished him at all! 😉 The texture of the mesh coming through on the wings is going to look very cool. I hope you get someone to film the adventure of getting him through the door and to wherever he is headed!

  5. Hi Jonni-
    Thanks to you and the 4th grade science teacher, my son is growing a life sized Gila Monster in my dinning room. We are discussing how to make Gila’s bumpy skin. I thought of your paper towel suggestion to add on top of the dried paper mache clay. What would you suggest he stick it down with? I was thinking a thinned Glue Al.
    Thanks! Jill and Nicholas
    P.S. His 12 year old sister votes for the purple dragon with a blue belly!

    • What a great project – I do hope your son will let us see the Gila Monster after it’s done.

      I used diluted Glue All and paper towels to make the fur texture on my gorilla mask, and it worked really well. I brushed the glue onto the mask, pushed the towels around to get the texture I wanted, and then brushed more glue over them to make sure the paper was completely saturated. Some paper towels have better bumps than others.

      I like the purple and blue design, too. There are so many options, it’s hard to decide…

  6. I’m so glad you’re making slow, but steady progress, Jonni! Very inspiring. I’ll have to try using cornstarch. It’s always great to follow along and learn a little more from you! Thank you!

  7. I was so inspired by this creation, I decided to draw this dragon in a few variations of colors. Some are much more exotic-looking rather than others… I can’t wait to see what the completed dragon looks like!

  8. Your dragon is fabulous! Just great. I would love to see how the wings turn out over the aluminum netting. Perhaps you could show that a bit before you get into the painting. I am guessing that aluminum does not rust at all so you dont need to cover it with tape?
    I am reading a series about dragons right now-makes me want to make one, but in the series, the “queen” is gold, the rest are bronze, green or brown. You should make it whatever colors you would like though- it is your dragon after all. Nice work.

    • Hi Eileen. No, I didn’t cover the aluminum with tape, because, as you say, it won’t rust. Here’s how the wing looks now – I added more Elmer’s glue to the clay I had in the bowl to make it a lot runnier, and it was easier to push it through the mesh without adding hardly any thickness to the wing. I may go back over it to smooth it out, but I kind of like the texture, looks stretched-skin-like, sort of…

      • Ooh- I do like the texture as well- it is sort of reptilian looking. It gives me some thoughts on achieving the reptile skin on turtles and such. I wonder if it comes in a finer mesh?
        Is the painting in the background one of Jessie’s paintings? It looks like her style- very nice.

        • Thanks, Eileen. And yes, that’s Jessie’s painting – a self-portrait. Actually, it’s a print of one of her paintings. It’s one of my favorites.

  9. The dragon is awesome, Jonni. It’s reassuring to know you can get from the lumpy duct tape figure to this smooth looking finish, I wouldn’t have believed it without seeing it. You must have had a successful shape there, but I couldn’t see it before. It makes me feel I can give it a try now. Thanks, Jonni.

    • I was actually surprised at how easy it was to smooth out that ugly tape. The clay is really thin over the tape, but it seemed to cover it well, and it’s quite strong. I really should have taken more time to get more definition to the muscles, but I got kind of tired of him after building the armature twice…

  10. Wow! He is really coming along great! I can’t wait to see him next time. I love how you show us all that if you don’t like something you just re-do it. I would be tempted to give up. Thanks for sharing your amazing talent with us.

    • Believe me, I’ve been tempted to give up plenty of times already. But I’d have to take a chainsaw to him to get the bits into my garbage can, so I slogged on. I’m glad I did – he’s a lot better looking now that the tape is covered up!

  11. My wife posted a couple times about the dragon we are working on for our high school’s after prom in the spring. This is the first project, sculpture, paper mache project I have ever attempted, so your posts have been invaluable.
    I am trying to make our body out of chicken wire, as you suggested, but am not feeling real confident about getting the wire into the right shape. My thought is to take what I have, put a layer of plain paper mache over it, then fill in with paper and tape to build up to the right shape.
    Anyway, here are some pictures of the project so far.

    • Your dragon is looking good already. I agree that it isn’t easy getting chicken wire to hold the right shape. I need to do some more experimenting with it, though, because my dragon would probably weight at least 30 pounds less if I’d used the wire instead of crumpled paper. I think I’d use the cardboard or foam board pattern to help get the wire shaped correctly, but without having tried it yet, I’m not sure how much that would help. Maybe I’ll make a life-sized rhino or something next, just to see how it works. Keep us posted with more progress photos!

  12. Hello again! I just went back and found your response to my first post. I wanted to thank you for the recommendation of Monique’s book. I just ordered it from Amazon. We will keep you posted. Again, thank you.

  13. Hi Jonni, it looks great! We finished the head and will post a picture soon. We are in the process of making the body with chicken wire. It’s kind of trial and error at this point. I mentioned we were hoping to finish our dragon by Christmas, but we don’t need it until April for an after prom party at our children’s high school. The theme is Excalibur and King Arthur and we are planning to stage the dragon in the throne room on a chain. We hope to make it the centerpiece of the decorations. I hope we can ask for your help in the logistics. I think it’s going to be only double the size of yours, rather than triple but still very large. Anyway, thanks for your latest and we will send pics.

    • Double the size of my dragon is huge! I hope you’ll remember to send photos after it’s placed among all the other decorations at the prom. Wheat will you be doing with him after the event? Will the school keep him?

  14. Conventional Dragons are green with browns and copper. Personalty I feel a red/orange skin, tan belly with overall copper highlights / wash would be the eye catcher since you mentioned once it may be on public display.
    I can’t state enough what an inspiration you are. A “thank you” just does not feel adequate.


Leave a Comment