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I used this fast and easy DIY Instant Paper Mache recipe to make the cougar and hippo wall hangings that often appear behind me in my videos.
The result, as you’ll see in the video, is strong and lightweight, and it captures details in a silicone mold completely. The cast sculptures look exactly like the clay originals.
This stuff is strong – and I proved it yesterday when I sent my hippo crashing to the floor. It survived without cracking, chipping, or shattering. It’s pretty amazing, when you consider how easy and cheap it is.
The original idea came from a book called The Barefoot Architect, which has tons of ideas for inexpensive building methods. One of the building methods I found in the book is called “plasto.” It’s very thin concrete reinforced with mesh onion bags. Using this method, you can build a 3-cubic-meter silo or a water reservoir that holds a thousand liters of water with just one bag of cement.
I didn’t need either a silo or a water reservoir, but I used the basic idea of sandwiching a cheap form of reinforcement (cheesecloth) inside two layers of a fast-setting material (plaster of Paris mixed with paper). The result is this DIY Instant Paper Mache. It’s similar to the Activa CelluClay product, which seems to be a mixture of ground paper fibers and plaster, but when you add the cheesecloth reinforcing, like you see in the video, this recipe can be used in very thin sheets and still be very strong. I don’t know if you could do that with the CelluClay or not.
This paper mache recipe does require a mold – at least I think it does. However, I shouldn’t say you can’t use it without a mold. Maybe it would work, if you work faster than I do. If you try it, let us know what happens.
The silicone molds:
I used Smooth-On’s Rebound 25 to make brush-on silicone molds of the clay sculpts of my wolf, cougar and hippo. For some reason I decided that I didn’t like the wolf, so I threw away both the original and the mold. Now I’m kicking myself for doing that. I think I didn’t like the human-looking scowl, because I also remade the cougar to have a more benign expression. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. Sigh…
Anyway, the clay was sealed, (I used Smooth-On’s SuperSeal) then the silicone was mixed together in equal parts and brushed over the original clay model. I let it dry for about an hour, and then added another coat. I believe it requires three or four coats to get the silicone thick enough. Then you make a stiff “mother mold” with plaster cloth – and when that hardens you can remove your original sculpture and use the mold to make a copy of the original with your Instant Paper Mache.
DIY Instant Paper Mache Recipe:
For the “face” layer, I used the following formula:
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 cup Plaster of Paris
- 1/4 cup damp paper pulp
- And I used a dash of Linseed oil, but I would skip that and use a teaspoon of vinegar instead, to slow down the setting of the plaster
For the second layer of instant paper mache, which goes on top of the cheesecloth:
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 cup Plaster of Paris
- 1/2 cup damp paper pulp
- You can add a small amount of vinegar to this layer, too, if you need a little more time to work. You’ll still have to hurry!
You mix the plaster like you normally would. Leave it in the water for a few minutes to allow the plaster particles to absorb water. Then mix it, and add the paper. I mixed the paper in by hand to make sure the fibers didn’t stick together.
I mixed up a batch big enough to cover the inside of one mold about 1/8″ thick. I tapped it into all the spaces with a chip brush, and then immediately laid a piece of cheesecloth over the wet plaster and paper. A new batch of instant paper mache was mixed up quickly and spread over the cheesecloth, to make sure both layers of plaster would meld seamlessly together. I smoothed the plaster and paper mixture with a piece of old burlap, to make sure everything was pressed firmly together. Then I let it harden and dry for about an hour before removing it from the mold.
When you remove the plaster cloth outer shell and peel off the silicone mold, your casting will show every detail of the original clay sculpt.
I used cellulose insulation for the paper. I soaked it in hot water for about an hour, and then squished out as much water as I could. The paper in the insulation has been ground into tiny fibers, so it was easy to mix it in with the plaster. You could do the same thing with newspaper if you take the time to make sure the fibers are all separated and broken down before you mix it in with the plaster.
If you try this recipe for DIY Instant Paper Mache, I hope you’ll let us see how it turns out, and let us know what you think.
24 thoughts on “Fast and Easy Instant Paper Mache Recipe”
Hi 2017, it is 2021 🙂
Tried this, loved it, thank you! And now it comes – I also tried baking powder as a plaster setting retardant, and it worked great. 1/2 tsp of BP per 1 cup of plaster ( I mixed it dry) gave me double the usual working time, and the plaster-paper composite set very hard (possibly not as hard as it would without BP, but I did not notice any difference; am reluctant to throw the thing on the floor to check 🙂 ).
Jonni, the hippo is so good! Wish I could share pics of the head I made using this recipe, however I don‘t see how to do that.
Marina, we’d love to see your hippo. You can share photos here. 🙂
Thank you so much, will do.:) …but, no hippo, I meant – your hippo, me – I made something else.
Thank you for your great recipes!
Do you have any tips & tricks to share on this this:
I have a two part silicone mold and I would like to use your procedure …
I’m planning to to coat the two halfs and then as quick as I can close the mold and hope that it dries and sticks together properly!
Do you see my challenge?
Thank you in advance 🙂
Hi Bine. I used to make my doll heads that way, but I used a commercial paper mache made with ground-up paper and plaster of Paris. You do have to work really fast, although I’ve read that either vinegar or baking soda will slow the setting time of the plaster. Make some very small batches first to get a feel for it. You’ll need to press the material into the molds so you get a good casting, but do it fast enough so the two sides are still wet when you stick them together. It takes time to get used to it. Good luck!
Thank you 🙂
I’ve got a question regarding the same technique Bine was talking about – putting together 2 halves of mould and create a closed, full small scale sculpture with this technique. Do you recommend any commercial paper mache brand that would work best? Also, are the steps the same as the ones you described in this article? 2 separate layers with cheesecloth in between? How thick should the 2 layers be considering this is a full, closed shape so the overall thickness of the piece is way larger than of a hollow, half shape piece.
Hi Maria. Using this technique with the cheesecloth would be really hard to do with a two-sided mold, unless you fill each piece separately and then put the pieces together after they dry and you remove them from the mold. Getting the edges to fit would be challenging. I haven’t used any commercial paper mache products in years, so I can’t make a recommendation for that. However, I do love using the Li-Qua-Che pourable paper mache product in mold made with plaster of Paris. It works great in more complicated molds, just like ceramic slip. This video shows how the product is used. That project didn’t need a two part mold, but it works just as well, as long as you have an open area that lets you pour out the liquid after a skin has set next to the mold.
Here is a photo of the Helmets I made.
Thank you so much for posting this recipe on Pinterest. It started out as looking for something easier to make my Children Paper Mache helmet. My son is crazy about Knights, Romans & Spartans. I have made many helmets and dress costumes in this theme over the years. However, my helmets mer seem to last. However, have just made them each a Spartan Helmet using your recipe and I am hoping that they will last a lot longer, as long as they don’t leave them outside in the rain.
As a result I clicked on your baby elephant sculpture. We are from Africa and I have been a Safari Guide (in my life before children), so this was of interest to me. You have now inspired me to try make something of my own for a bigger project I am working on. So thank you for inspiring us all.
Hi Tracy. I’m glad the recipe helped. Your helmets turned out very nice. Be sure and let us see your next projects, too – are you thinking about making a baby elephant?
Inspired by your site, I made a very simple hollow white mouse with Sculptamold over crumpled paper, removing the stuffing for faster drying. I wanted to reinforce the fragile tail, so I mounted the whole thing on piece of scrap plastic, making a flap so that I could hide a necklace in the hollow center, and this became a Christmas present to my granddaughter. It was all a bit crude, so I wonder if anyone has suggestions for good hidden compartments in lightweight paper sculptures?
Hi Sandra – that’s a great idea, but I’ve never done it. If you use a material that’s strong enough, you could put a hings and lock on it.
Thanks Jonni for posting this again. I’ve been working on a full horse head with neck and want to make a mold of it now. Stuck. I went back to your Making Masks book and used the shop towel method to end up with a hollow lite weight finished piece. Cut it off in sections when it dried, then attached them all back together…saving my original plasticine model to reuse since that sucker took me forever to sculpt. Didn’t work as smoothly as when I made my masks back in 2012 but I’m patching it with PM. (Originally I used plastic grocery bags to cover the clay….can’t do that (I found) since all the plastic bags are bio degradable now…wonderful for the environment but didn’t hold up to in the process. To get to the point, the masks I made back in ’12 are hard as a rock, lite weight and I love them. So my question is…as hard as these pieces become….do you see any difficulty cutting the silicone mold in half to get it off the sculpture, then joining the 2 halves securely bake together? Thank you.
back together….sorry, didn’t catch that boo boo
Hi Sharon. I just saw a wonderful video yesterday by Brick in the Yard that showed us how to make a one-piece mold out of silicone that’s really stretchy. You do the silicone all in one piece, then make a hard shell over it in two pieces. The silicone can be pulled off the piece like a sock. I really want to try it. Your horse head might be a good candidate for that method. That video is here: https://youtu.be/jhIVAEvmTGA They’re making the mother mold (the hard shell) out of resin, which is really expensive. I’d probably use plaster cloth or plaster of Paris.
For a two part silicone mold, see their other video, where they use less stretchy rubber and cut a line up the back to get it off the original, then make a two-part mother mold: https://youtu.be/kKXSo20ngTc
As long as you have that rigid support mold, you should have no problems getting it all back together again. The silicone will sit in the mother mod nicely, especially since you’ll make the keys like they show in that first video, and then you can do the casting. Do you think you’ll try using the shop towel mache on the inside of the mold? I’ve never tried that. I wonder if it will capture all the details. I hope we’ll get to see your horse as soon as you’re happy with it.
Thank you so much Jonni. I really appreciate your input. I was thinking my only alternative was to caste a plaster mold (haven’t tried that one and this is rather large) but was contemplating how I’d save the one sculpted side face down and not certain I wouldn’t ruin the details in the process. I’m going to look at the videos. Won’t be using the shop towels on the inside if it works as I said they didn’t pick up the defined details well and I’m hoping the silicone will, as your experience has proved. Will certainly post the piece here …. regardless how it will eventually turn out.
Hello Jonni , my name is Vadim. I am from St. Petersburg (Russia). In search of the recipe of papier mache on the Internet, I came across your sayt.Vy done.
I myself am also developing a robust, easy quick-version of papier-mâché. I also have old recipes sodrzhaschie in svaem part of plaster or chalk.
But as I add a lot of glue … If you work with plaster, without glue, instead of its paper reinforced with hemp (jute rope)
Sorry if clumsily written (using Google Translate).
Hello, Vadim. Do you have any photos of sculptures you’ve made with your quick paper mache recipe that you’d like to share?
Thank you, also for putting me onto The Barefoot Architect; sounds a most useful book. Your hippo is gorgeous .. especially love the eye and nostrils. I can see why you didn’t like the wolf’s scowl.. your work is realistic and that look would make it more caricaturish (is that a word?) thanks again.
I like that word, even if it isn’t one. 🙂
That is a great book – many pages of amazingly creative ways to build things with very little money. I’m going to use the cement idea to make raised beds for my strawberries in the sprint. Way cheaper than wood.
Hello Jonni Good
Thank you so much for your wonderful website. I follow it now for quite a long time since I was desperatly looking for some fun DIY material for my beercan lamps.
I will definitly try this recipy because plaster fast or slow (45 minutes) setting is the cheapest material here in France and Switzerland and getting the right joint compound is next to impossible.
Great- please let us know what you think after you’ve had a chance to play with it.
Your are so talented…it amaze me on each piece you do….thanks for sharing…