Sculpting Pattern for Life-Sized Paper Mache Elephant

Life-Sized Paper Mache Baby Indian Elephant Pattern

This pattern has been used by hundreds of people to create their own paper mache baby elephants.

This project takes time and patience to complete, but don’t let the size scare you. It’s actually a fairly easy project. In fact, this was one of the first sculptures I ever made with an internal pattern, and now I almost never make a sculpture without one. The pattern makes sculpting so much easier!

The finished size of the paper mache sculpture shown above is 29″ high and 36″ long from trunk to tail, (but you can change the size easily to make your own elephant bigger or smaller.)

Watch the video below to see how to make your elephant sculpture.

I copied the pattern onto sheet of plywood, as you’ll see in the video, but if I made this elephant today I’d use a piece of cardboard from a large appliance carton instead. Cardboard is much lighter than wood.

To make this elephant sculpture you’ll need:

  • A large sheet of heavy cardboard or a scrap of thin plywood.
  • Lots of recycled newspaper to fill the inside
  • Masking tape.
  • Aluminum mesh wire for the ears
  • Flour and water paste
  • More newspaper for the paper mache
  • Paper towels for the final skin
  • Acrylic or latex paint
  • Acrylic varnish

Use either paper strips and paste or paper mache clay –

I didn’t invent my paper mache clay recipe until after I made this elephant. Since the paper mache clay goes on faster than paper strips and paste, I’d  use the paper mache clay if I made another life-sized elephant. However, I’d still use the final layer of paper towels to get that realistic elephant-skin look.

Note: Keep your baby elephant inside –

When I made my own elephant sculpture I thought a few coats of marine varnish would protect her from the elements. That’s why I took some photos of her out in the garden. I changed my mind after I did some experiments. Marine (spar) varnish doesn’t prevent rain and sun from destroying a paper mache sculpture, so be sure to keep your baby elephant inside.

You might also like these patterns for paper mache sculptures:

To see even more patterns for sculptures and masks, click here.


You can ask in the comment field below. I read all the comments, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Or send me an email – [email protected] – be sure to put “paper mache” in the subject line so your email won’t get accidentally deleted.

281 thoughts on “How to Make a Life-Sized Baby Elephant with Paper Mache

  1. I was wondering the brand names for the joint compound and the cellulose insulation that you used. Also is there a particular ratio that you found works best for this particular type of project?

    • Hi Brittney. I don’t use cellulose insulation anymore. I use the paper mache clay recipe, instead. It works much better, and you don’t need to buy an entire bale of insulation to make it. I use any brand except DAP in my clay recipe. In fact, I usually use the drywall joint compound they sell at Walmart. If you just want to make some spots on your elephant smoother you can use the joint compound by itself, and then cover it with one more layer of paper strips and paste.

    • Hi Shawna. I cut the aluminum mesh extra long, so some of it could overlap the head for a firm connection. I think I also ran some small nails with large heads through the mesh to temporarily hold it in place. You need to work slowly with the paper mache, attaching the mesh to the head first, and let it dry. Then work up the ears, a few inches at a time, and letting the paper mache dry each time. If you try to add all the wet paper mache at once, the weight will pull the ears off.

      If you happen to have some extra wire at your house, you could made the attachment even more secure by running wire all around the edge of one ear, across the top of the head, and around the edge of the other ear. Once the paper mache goes over the extra wire between the ears it will be very firmly attached.

      I hope this helps. Do we get to see your elephant when it’s done?

  2. Hi Jonni, i absolutly love your paper mache creations . just wondering what are the mesurments of the Elephant please. kind regards levi

    • Hi Levi. The finished size of the baby elephant is 29? high and 36? long from trunk to tail, if you transfer the pattern onto a grid with 2″ squares. But you can change the size easily to make your own elephant bigger or smaller, just by changing the size of the squares on your pattern grid.

  3. Hi, My name is Misty. Thanks for sharing this awesome project with us!!! I’m so excited to get started, but I had a little problem when I printed everything out. It did not print out the grid / diagram that I’m suppose to use to draw out the elephant. Can you help please?

    Thanks a bunch! 🙂

    • Hi Misty. There should be a blue grid over the pattern. Did you see it when you opened the file? If you did, then maybe you don’t have any color ink left in your printer. I always run out of color ink, myself, so I set the printer to print “fast” and “greyscale.” That would print the grid over the elephant pattern.

      I hope this helps. If not, please let me know.

  4. I love them at all ages, sizes, or stages. They may grow much larger than a human being but no matter what age we need to love and care for them even if human beings cannot use them. But they start as babies and usually grow to an adult.

  5. It’s great that you used wood for the frame. . . I tried to make a whale for Vacation Bible School one year – made the frame out of chicken wire and then started the paper mache´ process . . . Luckily, I was working outside on the deck. The whole thing collapsed and I gave up (and REALLY filled the garbage for that week! . . . I think we still had some paper mache´ bumps on the deck when we sold the house!
    Your project looks intriguing. . . I’d like to give it a try!

    • I’ve never had any luck with chicken wire myself. But what an interesting coincidence – we just got a guest post today from Esther, who made a very large paper mache whale, using chicken wire. There was welding involved, too, which made a big difference. Check it out here.

      I do hope you’ll try making the baby elephant – it isn’t hard to do, and I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun.

  6. hi!! I had a to make a very big elephant for some school parthy, your elephant it’s wonderfull but i don’t imagine myself doing it, because I want to make it of a height of 1,70 meters, can you give me some kind of advise how to give it the shape of a real elephant like yours, I will be very gratefull. I’ll wait for your answer

    • Hi Lucía. Many people have made life-sized adult elephants using the video and pattern on this page. You just have to make the pattern bigger, and you’ll want to fill out the forms with really lightweight items, like empty plastic bottles or bubble wrap, instead of crumpled paper. The paper gets really heavy for something that big.

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