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How to Make a Life-Sized Baby Elephant with Paper Mache


Paper Mache Elephant Pattern

Only $7.00. Click the button to check out safely with PayPal for instant access to the pattern.

Use the pattern along with the video on this site to make your own baby elephant today.

This life-sized baby elephant pattern continues to be the most popular project on this site, and it’s been seen by over a million people on YouTube!.

Even though this sculpture is big and I used a power saw to make the armature, Elsie was not difficult to make. It isn’t a complicated sculpture, just a big one. She was one of the first sculptures I ever made with an internal pattern, and now I almost never make a sculpture without one.

As you’ll see in the video, the steps for this paper mache project are pretty easy. However, each step will take time.

I used a scrap of particle-board for my armature, but you could use plywood or even cardboard. In fact, I recommend it, because the particle board made my elephant a lot heavier than it needs to be. I notice that every time I move her so I can vacuum the floor. πŸ™‚

You can also fill out the body of your paper mache elephant with empty plastic bottles, and then finish the shapes with crumpled paper. This reduces the number of newspapers you need for your project, and it makes the elephant lighter.

Use paper mache 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 probably use the pm 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.

For the paint –

Acrylic paint is expensive, but you can also use house paint for this project. A quart container of grey should be all you need.

Keep your baby elephant inside –

When I started this project, I really thought a few coats of marine varnish would protect her from the elements. Fortunately, I chickened out and kept her inside. Experiments I’ve done since I made the elephant have proven that marine (spar) varnish doesn’t prevent rain and sun from destroying a paper mache sculpture. Be sure to keep your baby elephant inside.

You may also like:

How I painted the Unicorn.Unicorn Pattern
Hyena Mask PatternHyena Mask Pattern
Life Sized Paper Mache Baby ElephantLife-Sized Baby Elephant


  • This is amazing! We were at the zoo just yesterday and talking about whether it was possible to do something like this.

    I am part of Girlguiding North West England and at the end of September this year we will be taking over 4000 Brownies to Chester zoo to celebrate the Big Brownie Birthday (100 years). My team is responsible for the activities the girls will do there and one thing we would really like to do is create a sculpture or picture that then each girl can stick a piece of coloured paper on to (like Elmer the patchwork elephant) and we can then display in our office.

    For me I think this would be too much of an undertaking I don’t really have the tools or skills. How long did it take? Do you know of anyone in the UK or who would ship to the UK who sells such things, it wouldn’t need to be painted as we’d want to decorate it over the course of the weekend.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Hi Jen. I’m afraid I don’t know of anyone who makes large sculptures for sale, but you might ask your local high school art teacher if he or she would like to take on a project. A lot of people have made beautiful baby elephants using these instructions, and it would be a fun project for a class. And then you’d have another fun project with your Brownies.

      Be sure to see Linda’s elephant, if you haven’t seen it already. She did a great job, and it was her very first art project!

  • Hi Mrs Jonni . I made a elephant too .4.5 feet .Please let me know how do you feel about this one .sill i have to color when i Finnish ill send you all images.and once again thank you very much for you tutorials and web. this is the best gift i can send it to our teacher πŸ™‚
    thank you jonni ;*

    • What a great elephant, Hasitha. those tusks are especially impressive. Thank you so much for showing it to us, and do please also let us see it when it’s all finished.

  • Hi Jonni,

    Really got impressed by your elephant project, and I also tried along with my brothers to build a life size elephant for our Diwali festival in home town. 10.5 Feet tall.. Wow..!!! We did it. (Attached along this message)

    Though i tried to use your basic structure, it didn’t work completely for this tall structure, and I had to built a small platform along the feet and a support towards to the center of the structure.

    And for painting i used, Wall putty + Synthetic rubber Adhesive and colour and its standing in the hot sun and rain in Kerala, India πŸ™‚

    Please let me know how do you feel about the sculpture. πŸ™‚

    Thank you a lot for all the information on this website.


    • Wow – over 10 feet tall! And what a beauty. Thanks for showing him to us, Navaneeth. I haven’t heard of the products you used for his skin, but it sounds like it’s holding up well. I wonder if they have products like that here in the States?

      • Thanks for your time.

        I am so excited to know that this is the largest ever Paper Mache sculpture ever created, We would have been on the Guinness Records if we didn’t use the central support as Plywood, as per the definition on the records, it says we have to use paper mache for the entire structure. But, we are still happy that we made it all the way. πŸ™‚ Whole credit goes to you for inspiring us though you are loooong long way from us.

        We are teaming up again for various other massive projects which we have got references through this first project..!!! Everyone are happy that we have used 95% green products which can be recycled.


        • If you make more big projects, I hope you’ll remember to let us see them. And congratulations for “almost” winning the record. πŸ™‚

  • Hello everyone I loved the help from here and I have created a huge elephant for our autumn festival coming up. The theme is welcome to the jungle and I wanted something different than painting. πŸ™‚ I really like this girl she needs some work done and touch up and I decided to do some detailed work to her face now too and redo her eyes.
    She is going up against our stage backboard and being secured so that she is knocked over even though she is free standing.
    I made her from card boad and stuffed with paper. I had run into a few mishaps but over all am happy for first time ever working on something like this. I think I’m going to do the giraffe next I have a week to do it before our fair kicks off.

  • I am working on a project right now making a paper mache african elephant. I’ll most likely use the template that you provided to make the elephants body, but how do you suggest I make the tusks?

    • I think I would try to attach the tusks somehow to the plywood head pattern, but they would have to angle somehow. Perhaps the rebar that’s used in concrete construction could be cut twice as long as needed, and threaded through a hole in the pattern and then solidly attached to keep them from twisting or being bent if somebody grabs them “just to see if they’ll break.” (It happens). Then the rebar could be covered with either crumpled paper or aluminum foil, and covered with paper mache.

      I’m sure you know that both the shape of the ears and the shape of the elephant’s back will probably need to be changed, because Indian elephants and African elephants aren’t exactly the same. Everything else should work, though, just as they are.

  • Thanks for this! I used it for a New Media project that addresses the issue of elephant poaching. My ‘baby’ is actually the adult elephant for the project, but I used this to also make a smaller baby to go with the mom (to scale the piece).

    From you video though I wasn’t clear on what I needed to get to make the eyes – joint compound and what? And is there a recipe for mixing them?

    Your site is awesome!

      • May I ask – how did you put on the paper towel? I am doing this now, but I’m concerned that the lines of where the towel ends will show up. The wrinkles look great, as does the texture, but how do I hide the lines of the towel while showing the wrinkles and the bumps?

        BTW – thanks so much for your site. I am having endless fun making the elephants (I’ve made the large one as the mother and a smaller baby one), and I totally can’t wait to have time to just play around with some of your clay recipes. πŸ™‚

        • Julie, are you tearing the hard cut edges off your towels before you apply them to the sculpture? Torn edges can sort of melt together, but the cut edges won’t do that, and end up showing on the finished pieces.

          I’m glad you’re having fun making elephants. Could you post a photo so we can see how they turned out?

          • No, I didn’t. D’oh! I was having trouble getting the paper to be a size I could work with where I could get off the excess without the paper folding over on itself – paper towel is a challenge to work with. πŸ˜‰

            Can I put on another layer with torn paper to fix this or should I rip off the cut layer? (I find the paper towel sometimes easy to remove – anyway to fix that too?)

            Yes, I can post photos when they are done.

            Thanks so much for the additional help!

            • Another layer should fix it. To make sure the first layer is stuck fast to the sculpture, you could brush it with a fairly wet mix of paste, which should soak through the towel and onto the lower surface.

              Good luck – I look forward to seeing it when it’s done.

  • I just saw your post on Facebook about your Elephant tutorial and realised I hadn’t yet uploaded the one I made to this tutorial itself so here is the process picture of how it worked out for me.

  • Hi this is my effort, following your video, I am really pleased with the outcome, I’v not worked with paper mache before, I like it.

    • Jax, did you try to add a photo of your elephant? If so, it didn’t come through – and we’d love to see it, so please try again.

  • Hi Jonni,
    I love your all your ideas and designs so much that I decided to start a project of my own. I am expecting my first baby and when I saw your baby elephant project I fell in love. I have started the elephant but I wanted t o give the elephant a bit of a less realistic look and more cartoonish feel to the elephant considering it will be the main decoration in my sweet lil baby boy’s nursery. I will upload pictures for you to see so far following all your tips I am using paper mache paste and joint compound layers to smooth it out. The paper mache clay intimidated me a bit. So far so good. I wanted your advice or opinion on how I should decorate this elephant. I have thought long and hard about this…what do you think about using tissue paper or fabric as my finishing layer? any experience with working with these different materials? should I stick to painting my own design ? I will appreciate any input!! I have worked so hard that i would hate to miss the finishing touch. attached are some pictures I took before starting the layering.

    Excited and Expecting Momma.

    • Hi Cindy,

      I think that either tissue paper or fabric would work very well, but I have no personal experience with either of them. I’ll bet if you post your elephant photo and comment over on our Daily Sculptor’s page, you’d get some feedback — there may be someone who regularly watches that page who has tried it.

      Your elephant is really great, by the way. It’s going to be perfect for your lucky baby.

  • I am 12 and i am to working on a saber tooth tiger for my b-day party in july. I figured it will take a wile so I started now. I am useing your idea of how to make large paper mache sculptures and would like any advice you can offer because I have never done this before, but I like the art and would like to end up doing more than one.

  • I am in ore… very interested in paper mache at the moment. I always thoughts that paper mache was all newspaper, flour and water never thought to use masking tape, chipboard and glue. Thank you for the inspiration xx

  • [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/0012.JPG[/img]

    I once started an indian elephant but I thought it would take so much of that “dass” paste I think I told you on a prior message that I just ended by putting it aside …
    But just wanted to show another type or inner structure made out of the same kind of grid you used to make the trunk, and then reinforced by stripes of cardboard intertwined with the wire structure … You get a few scratch but I think its worth it because you get its shape right away!
    I’m not saying by any means that this is better than your aproach, just wanted to share other ways of getting there πŸ™‚
    Again thanks for your inspiring website πŸ™‚

  • Well our life size elephant was a huge success. It was a lot of work but it paid off because we took first place in the homecoming parade.

    paper mache elephant sculpture, life-sized

  • Wow I am so inspired by this! I am a Pre-school teacher in an International School in France. We are starting a theme on ‘Patterns’ and I am going to use Elmer the elephant as my main story character (she’s a patchwork elephant) I am desperate to make a 3D elephant with the children and this looks perfect. Watch this space!

  • how did you get the pattern for the elephant on the wood for the body? did you draw it!? i want to make one but i dont have anything near big enough to print out the image big enough. i want to make one that will stand about a foot high how did you measure the spacers for the legs to get the right proportions? i thought you may have used the grid spuares and measure the width of the leg and put that width as the same for the spacers? right or wrong? i want to make one for christmas πŸ™‚ thanks for the help!!!

  • We are in the process of almost finishing a life size elephant using your tutorial and it is coming together great so far, but I had a few questions. Do you recommend using the flour and water solution for the paper mache? Also when do you put on the paper towels for the skin? This has been some task but I think we are going to pull it off.

    • Yes, I used the raw flour and water paste. And I put on the paper towels right at the very end, so the bumps would show on the finished piece. The bumps are really the only reason to use the paper towels, in fact.

      I sure hope you’ll show us how your elephant turns out.

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