Make a Gnome – Part 2

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Adding the Waterproof Shell and Painting the Garden Gnome

In my previous video I showed you how I made the foil armature for my DIY gnome. If you haven’t seen that video yet, or if you’d like to download the free pattern, click here.

If you want to make a house gnome instead of a garden sculpture, you can use paper strips and paste or paper mache clay instead of the waterproof materials I used for this tutorial.

Some of the other posts that were mentioned in this video:

(If I forgot anything, be sure to let me know. 🙂

Gnome in the snow

This is how my gnome looks in the snow.

Rain, snow, wind or summer heat – he takes it all in stride. His friend, an epoxy clay squirrel, has been outside since 2016, and he doesn’t mind the snow, either. 🙂

How to finish the DIY Garden Gnome:

Covering the gnome's armature with masking tape.

Step 1:

Cover the gnome’s foil armature with masking tape. I used Frog Tape because it sticks better than the regular white kind. And green is nice…

Options: You don’t need the masking tape if you’re making a house gnome out of paper mache clay. You will want masking tape if you’re using paper strips and paste, because it won’t stick to foil.

Covering the gnome with plaster cloth.

Step 2:

Cover the masking tape with plaster cloth.

Options: You don’t need plaster cloth under any kind of paper mache, but occasionally use it under paper strips and paste because the project is finished so much faster.

Covering the gnome with Mapai Ultracolor grout.

Step 3:

Use a foam brush to add a thin coat of the grout. I used about one part water to three parts of the powder. You won’t need very much – but don’t mix up any more than you think you can use within half an hour. It does set up fairly quickly.

To make the grout smooth, get your gloves slightly damp and rub your hands lightly over the grout.

Set the gnome aside for a few hours to get hard.

Adding a second coat of grout to the gnome.

Step 4:

Add a second coat of grout. I used more water this time to make it thinner so it would go on faster. I used the foam brush for everything except the beard and mustache. For the hairy parts I used a chip brush.

Sculpting the gnome's face with Magic Sculpt

Step 5:

Sculpt the face with epoxy clay. I used Magic Sculpt this time because it’s slightly less expensive than the Apoxie Sculpt that I usually use. I couldn’t see any noticeable difference between the two brands. You’ll need less than a pound of the product for your gnome’s face.

I always buy the larger containers, because it costs half the price per pound – they charge a lot of money for those little plastic tubs. But if you don’t’ think you’ll use the epoxy clay for any other projects, stick with the one-pound set, because it can dry up even with the lid on tight.

Let the epoxy clay cure overnight.

Options: If you’re making a paper mache house gnome, you can use air dry clay to make the features of his face.

Garden Gnome

Step 6:

Paint your gnome with acrylic paint. The colors I used are:

  • Tunic – ultramarine blue and white
  • Hat – cadmium red medium
  • Mittens – burnt sienna (but any color would work)
  • Boots – burnt sienna and burnt umber
  • Belt – burnt sienna and ultramarine blue
  • Face – Cadmium red medium, yellow ocher and white
  • Eyes – ultramarine blue with black pupils and white reflection spots
  • Beard and mustache – white and yellow ocher

You could also choose pre-mixed colors of craft acrylics at a hobby store. Be sure to give your gnome a final coat or two of exterior varnish. Folk Art brand makes an outdoor matte sealer that would look nice. Or find an exterior clear sealer at your local DIY store.

If you’d like to make a smaller, faster Gnome… 

OK, this isn’t really a gnome, but that’s what a lot of people call him – when they aren’t calling him Santa. He’s based on the Swedish Tomte.

> See how to make it here.

And remember – if you make a gnome, either for inside or outside, please come back and show him off. We really want to see it. 

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Make a Gnome Part 2

16 thoughts on “Make a Gnome – Part 2”

  1. Hi Jonni,

    I absolutely love your videos so much.
    Would it be possible to put the water poof grout over paper mache clay? I loved the texture of the clay on my sturdy armature. I’m wondering if applying a thin layer of grout before I paint my sculpture will work. Thanks!

    • You could do that, but the texture of the paper mache clay would be completely covered. And if there’s a hairline crack, or a tiny pinhole in the grout, the paper mache will slowly get wet inside your sculpture. Since you’d never see it anyway, I think it would be best to leave it out and just use the grout.

  2. Sorry, I have another question. Is there something significant about the frog tape versus masking tape. I think you said you could use either. Do you feel it is stronger, maybe more waterproof. I was thinking about that gorilla tape, because it is supposed to be pretty strong, and I believe it is a bit water repellant.

    • The Frog tape is stickier, so it doesn’t have little ears popping up. But I had some in the house, left over from painting the living room last summer. If you have regular masking tape, go ahead and use it. I’ve used it for hundreds of sculptures, and it’s fine.

  3. I just found this video. This is sort of what I want to do with the giraffe, but I want to mosaic it with glass, too. Just for your information, thinset and grout are different products. Thinset nas more strength and is an adhesive. Grout has no Adhesive qualities. Mapei makes a thinset, as well as grout. Thinset is going to be sticker, but can be smoothed out with a wet brush. In mosaics, I have used thinset with fiberglass mesh to add strength to foam bases.

    This is a very cute gnome. But I have to admit, gnomes have always freaked me out. ?

    • I would love to see how your giraffe turns out after you’ve added the mosaics. And great info about the grout vs. thinset. Jackie wrote a guest post for us, showing us how she created a figure sculpture with thinset, but we haven’t heard from her lately so we don’t know how well it’s holding up. I’ll need to do more experiments, perhaps using both side by side if my local Lowes store has them. So far, the gnome is holding up really well. And he’s one of the nice ones, you know – not creepy at all. 🙂

  4. Hello, Ms. Good. I started making clay figures half a year ago and from the very beginning I wanted to make a garden gnome. I don’t have a lot of experience with sculpting in general, but your tutorial and your videos in general have been utterly helpful for me. Here is my gnome. I made a more cartoon-like face. I loved the result and enjoyed the process. You’re an inspiration for me, Ms. Good. Thank you.

    Greetings from Mexico

    • Hi Roberto. We didn’t get to see your gnome, but we would really like to see how it came out. Images need to be less than 250 kb to upload into a comment. I do hope you’ll edit the photo to make it smaller, and try again. If you don’t have image editing software you can use one of the free tools online.

  5. Your gnome came out really cute Jonni! I love your experiments! They help us to think outside of the box for ourselves. One question for you…do you think it would be possible to also do the face with an armature covered with the plaster cloth? Didn’t you do that with your Santa face? Or did you just want a smoother look? Is there any chance the apoxy sculpt could shrink off of the sculpture over time and temp changes? Ok, I lied, that was more than one question! This would be a cute project for a paper mache class….thanks for that…always looking for ideas!
    Sorry about your cold weather, it has been cold here in PA but not like you in Minnesota. Winter has arrived. Sigh!

    • Hi Eileen. Yes, the face could have been done with the foil first, then plaster cloth – but it’s hard to keep the grout from covering up details. I used plaster cloth to define the tops of his boots, and then lost that line when the grout was added. But I’m sure it could be done if someone had more patience. I wanted to play with the Magic Sculpt again, and it seemed like a good opportunity to do that. Will it be affected by our crazy cold weather? I guess we’ll find out. 🙂

      And it has warmed up a little – the temps will be back to normal tomorrow, at least for a little while. The Farmer’s Almanac says we might have to get used to the cold. Something about sun spots and a mini ice age. I hope they’re wrong…

  6. Genious! Santa’s workshop is waiting for you Jonni – these gnomes are so much fun – who doesn’t want one of them? Their faces are so whimsical and easy to accomplish. You know one of my idols loved them too – his name, George Harrison. Love you.


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