Turn a Drawing Into a Paper Mache Sculpture

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My daughter recently made a fast watercolor painting of a green alien for her YouTube channel. She agreed to let me use it to show you how much fun it can be to turn a drawing into a paper mache sculpture.

This would be a perfect project for a child’s drawing, if the shapes are simple enough β€” and it would be a wonderful gift for grandma and grandpa next Christmas. πŸ™‚

Links mentioned in the video:

Note: If you turn a child’s drawing (or one of your own drawings!) into a paper mache sculpture, you can show it off here.

You can find my mask and sculpting patterns here.

How I turned my daughter’s Alien painting into a paper mache sculpture:

Using sand in a plastic bag for a sculpting armature.

Step 1: The sand armature

I started with a plastic bag with some wet sand in it. If I had added more water, it would have been easier to shape the sand inside the bag.

The sand was left over from a dust bath I made for my chickens – they said they prefered real dirt for their dust bath, so I had some sand left over that I could use for this project.

If I did this over, I’d make the front legs separate, and push the tummy way back so the bottom of the sculpture has a C shape, from one hind leg to the other. Then the front legs would be added separately. It would have been much closer to the original drawing. (One of these days I might actually do that, just for fun. πŸ™‚ )

Adding eye stalks to the alien

Step 2: Add the eye stalks

I made the eye stalks with foil crumpled loosely into a long rope, and squished in the middle so I’d have a flat place to tape it to the top of the alien’s head.

Cover the shape with masking tape

Step 3: Cover the shape with masking tape

After pushing the sand around to get some very generalized shapes for his legs and hips, I covered the plastic with masking tape.

I also taped the bottom edges to a piece of cardboard so I’d have a flat edge.

You don’t need to buy green Frog-brand masking tape – I just have some left over from painting my house a few years ago. However, the frog tape came in really handy when it was time to paint around the glass eyes.

Add two layers of paper strips and paste to the alien

Step 4: Add two layers of paper strips and paste

I made some cooked flour and water paste and tore some strips of newspaper. If you tear off the cut edges of the paper, the torn edges will melt together and make a smoother surface.

I like the cooked paste a lot more when it’s warm than when it’s cold. If it gets cold you can heat it up again in the microwave, just a few seconds at a time, but you have to be really careful to not burn it. It can also splatter in the microwave if you leave it in too long – kind of like an erupting volcano. Guess how I know… πŸ™‚

You don’t have to use it warm, of course – I just like it better that way.

I covered the head and body, plus the eye stalks. I only used two layers, just enough so I couldn’t see the green frog tape through the wet paper. Then I let the paper mache dry before adding the glass eyes.

Paint the pupil on the glass eye
Painting the whites of the eyes

Step 5: Painting the glass eyes

I used black acrylic paint to make a very small black dot on the back of a glass cabochon. I let it dry, and then added a layer of white acrylic paint, brushing from the middle to the outside.

Making the eye sockets
Adding the rim to the eyes
Putting the glass eye in the socket

Step 6: The eye socket

While the paint dried I used an unpainted cabochon as a model for the eye container – eye socket? – that will allow me to attach the eye to the eye stalk.

I crumpled foil (with a hole at the back to go over the stalk), and with a flat surface the size of the eye.

I put green tape on the flat part because I thought it might show through the white paint, just a little, and look better than just foil behind the eye – but I’m not sure it mattered.

Then I used hot glue to attach a thin foil rope around the edge. I made it big enough so it could be pressed around the edge of the glass eye and hold it in.

I should have covered the eye holder foil with masking tape, but I forgot.

When the eyes’ paint was dry I put the eyes on the new eye holders, pressed the foil around the edges, and tried to make the foil as smooth as possible on the outside.

Sticking the eyes on the stalks
Adding masking tape to the eye sockets

Step 7: Attaching the eyes

I put hot glue inside the hole at the back of the eye holder doohicky, and pushed it over the end of the stalk. When both were situated the way I wanted them, I held them on with paper mache.

However, I goofed – remember that masking tape I didn’t use? The paper mache wouldn’t stick to the foil, so I had to go back and add masking tape. It would have been a lot easier to do it before the eyes were attached to the stalk.

The tape just happens to be the same color as the paint I’ll be using, so I carefully covered all the way around the eye, right up to the glass. I then covered almost everything with paper strips and paste, but left the 1/4 inch next to the glass without paper mache. It was easier that way, and after it was painted you can’t tell that I didn’t cover that strip around the eyes. Of course, if I didn’t happen to have that exact shade of green paint it wouldn’t have worked. πŸ™‚

Making last-minute changes to the shape

Step 8: Making last-minute changes

I wasn’t happy with the front legs, so I added some more foil, covered it with masking tape, and covered that with paper mache.

Cutting away the extra cardboard base
Paper mache on bottom of alien
Drying the paper mache on a rack

Step 9: Removing the sand and attaching the cardboard base

After the eye holders were dry, I carefully cut the cardboard around the bottom edge of the alien, then pulled it off.

I poured out the sand and removed all the extra plastic, just leaving the part that was stuck to the masking tape.

Then I put the cardboard bottom back on with a few pieces of masking tape and paper mache all around the edge.

Don’t cover the entire bottom, though – flat cardboard will warp if it’s covered with paper mache. Mine warped a little anyway, but not enough to matter.

I set it on a wire grate and let it dry again.

Adding the FolkArt paint

Step 10: The paint

I used FolkArt brand “Fresh Cut Grass” for my alien. It’s very close to the color Jessie used for her alien painting, and it’s an exact match for Frog Tape.

As you see below, I gave two coats of green. Then I painted a thin black stripe around the edge of the eyes, and drew the alien’s mouth with a felt tip pen.

Drawing the alien's mouthh
Paper mache alien with his watercolor portrai

14 thoughts on “Turn a Drawing Into a Paper Mache Sculpture”

  1. What a fun project. And I love the idea of using a bag of sand for your base. I’m forever commandeering household items for projects, but it never occurred to me to use sand. Your recommendation to use a child’s drawing as the basis for a gift for them is perfect. What a lovely way to honor their imaginations.

    • I’m glad you like the idea. My daughter made some wonderful drawings when she was really little, and they would have been perfect for a project like this. Have fun!

  2. Wow jonni I love it , it came out exactly like the pic you are so amazing Iam always excited to see what you come up with ,and wow I was checking out your daughter’s utube channel all I can say is wow once Iam done with my projects Iam going to try painting look forward to watching her videos on utube so inspiring ?

  3. Hi Jonnie,

    That’s a beautiful monster you and your daughter made.

    I work in a men’s prison and I make monsters with them for a few years now. It’s a project “you can make mistake and then fix them”.
    I did choose monsters, because they are the most perfect! It’s never wrong. Everything is okay. One eye or 4 eyes. Three fingers or just lots of them.
    Ofcourse the men can make everything they want. Some of them make nice butterflies for there kids or beautiful very funny dragons. Every time I’m surprised what they come up with. I love it and the man also love this project.
    When I came up with this project I had to ask my director for permission of course. So I brought my own “inner monster” to my director and told my story. How I came up with my monster and what’s the story is about. Why the middel finger and what it did to me to finish my monster.
    She loved it and sins then I can give this project once a week to the men in our prison. I hope I can make them realize what they did and what they did to the familie, kids, themselves, victims and even to the community.
    I hope my project is helping a lot of people and i know making monsters is so easy! Everybody can do this! Just for fun or maybe you can let your inner monster out!

    I hope I can sent you some pictures..

    • What a wonderful program!

      This is such a great creative idea for those men (and you)…and very rewarding, I’m sure. Making “monsters” is so freeing…anyone can make anything with no worries about it looking “real” or “right”.

      I’m going to keep this idea in mind, as working with sculpture/paper mache with others to inspire and encourage creativity is something I’ve been mulling over for awhile. The freeing nature of making something totally invented in one’s mind is fantastic!

      Thanks so much for sharing this!

  4. That is cute, and I think a child would love it, maybe even make one.

    I have some cabochons I can send you!


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