Elmer’s Art Paste Alternative – Methylcellulose

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Have you recently looked for Elmer’s Art Paste, but couldn’t find it?

They don’t seem to be selling it anymore, but if you’re looking for an alternative that works even better – and doesn’t attract mold or mildew – try pure methylcellulose.

As you can see in the video, I didn’t find a version of methylcellulose that’s made specifically for paste, although I’m sure there are some. It’s been used for years by paper mache artists, and by librarians who repair old books. I just ordered a product that was intended for use in the kitchen. It’s pure methylcellulose, and it worked just fine. Any product that contains just methylcellulose, and nothing else, should also work, but this is the only one I’ve had a chance to try.

Elmer’s Art Paste was made with methylcellulose– but they may have added something to it to make it easier to mix. I made a bit of a mess because I didn’t realize that it would create so much foam when I used my immersion blender. I’m sure you’ll be a little more careful when you mix yours – an you’ll probably use a bigger container. ๐Ÿ™‚

I made a video several years ago showing how to make a paper mache mask using Elmer’s Art Paste, and it would work just as well with this alternative. You can see that video here.

I also made a video with some tips for applying paper strips and paste to an armature, and you can find it here.

And there’s now a follow-up video showing how to make sure your methylcellulose paste will still be sticky, even after letting it sit in a jar on the shelf for a month or more.

26 thoughts on “Elmer’s Art Paste Alternative – Methylcellulose”

  1. I used methyl cellulose for my fourth grade papier-mรขchรฉ animals because I found out that Elmer quit making their paste. Problem was I make mine in a 5 gallon bucket and I did follow the same amount for Elmers with measurements and I used a gallon jug of water to pour into a 5 gallon bucket and then used a whisk to whisk it up. That was fine. The problem was I left it over the weekend in the bucket, as well as the covered Cool Whip containers and came back on Monday to find all of it smelling like mold and looked odd. Of course I poured it out and it made me very disappointed because the Elmer did not do this. I donโ€™t know if they put something in it to keep it from molding. I thought about adding a tablespoon of salt. I only used 4 oz with a gallon of water.
    Any suggestions?

    • Hi Lori. I still have the quart of methyl cellulose that I made up for this post, and it’s still exactly the same as it was when I made it. I do have to stir it up again before using it, but it hasn’t grown mold. I do keep the lid on tight, but it isn’t vacuum sealed or anything. I did a fast Google search, and some other people have the same results I have, but others have seen their methyl cellulose get moldy, so I’m not sure why there’s such a difference. I did see recommendations to keep it in the refrigerator, although I didn’t need to. You might want to sign up for the forum at http://www.papiermache.co.uk/forum/index.php – the site isn’t very active now, but many of their posts are about methyl cellulose. One of their readers might have a good answer for you.

  2. Methyl cellulose is also available from a ceramic supply shop, it is used as a glue for glaze to adhere to bisque prior to firing. Other gums can be used, too, such as gum arabic or gaur gum (don’t use borate containing ingredients, it will also turn to flubber like PVA glue). You are a fantastic sculptor, your work is amazing. I do ceramics (hence knowledge of gums). I’m making a form to apply clay slabs over in a repeatable fashion. Robert

  3. Hi
    I am so happy to have stumbled upon you. Love your art work. I definitely want to give papermache a try some day. I love the fact that you share recipes to make various pastes at home. Have you ever tried using pieces/scraps of fabric? As a previous quilter I have lots of fabric scraps- would love your input.
    Do you do in person classes?

    • Hi Sue. I’m glad you found the site. I have not used fabric in my sculptures, but several readers have sent in photos of their work that includes fabric. You can see some of them here. I don’t do any in-person classes – partly because I live many miles from any city, but mostly because I barely have time to get everything that is already on my to-do list. But thanks for asking. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Hi Jonni…awesome video. Just found a good link at Metroframe.com. Has directions for mixing powder that looks real easy.

    • Hi Judy. I tried to find something about methylcellulose on their site, but none of my searches worked. Do you happen to have a direct link to the page with that info?

      • I tried to find it again and couldn’t find it. I checked under PaperPageDesigns…a different site and found a You Tube thing. One thing that seemed helpful from the Metaframe one was that the gal used a small amount of warm water first to mix the paste powder and then added the amount of cold water to desired consistency. The Meta…gal used 15 grams, as you did. The powder mixed in more quickly without the stuff floating to the top…she let it sit about 15 min. before adding cold water. Hope this helps. I’ll keep an eye out for more info. Really love your site Jonni!!!

        The You tube program was called “Making paste papers: foolproof…”

  5. try looking on an art supply website such as Jerry’s Artarama or Blick. Q&A there as well as product. One tidbit is copied and pasted here:
    We mixed the powder with water, but there’s still a pool of water under the gummy substance. Do we drain the water? Please advise. Thank you!
    Asked by Jennifer 2 years ago
    Add your answer
    Verified Reply – Andrea
    Methyl cellulose absorbs water slowly. Mix the powder with the recommended amount of distilled water and then let stand several hours or overnight prior to diluting to the desired consistency.

  6. Hi Jonni! I searched “what is methylcellulose used for”, and got some interesting info. Wikipedia summed them up well. Then I searched for “bulk methylcellulose”, and that had useful results for what might be less expensive sources. I learned that it was used as the slime in Ghustbusters! LOL!

  7. I use it for bookbinding as an additive to PVA glue to thin and extend the drying time. In addition to Amazon, Talas and Hollander and other book binding sites, carry it in powder form.

  8. Loved your methylcellulose video. I am wondering if this is what wallpaper paste is? Several of my fellow artists use the wallpaper paste for gluing down various paper items in their work. Just wondering.

    • Several people have asked me that, and I had no idea. So I looked it up, and it looks like wallpaper paste is made with “Standard adhesive consists of cellulose ether and starch.” I still don’t know what cellulose ether is – but I don’t think that paste is the same as methylcellulose. I do know that a lot of people use it for paper mache, though.

      • Thanks for the added information. I have a friend that has been using methylcellulose for over 20 years. She is a fiber artist and incorporates paper when doing encaustics. She uses various food grade MC as you described. Love your work!! Marge


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