How to Make a Life-Sized Paper Mache Reindeer


We have a really fun guest post today, from Rona McIntosh. She made a life-sized paper mache reindeer, and as Rona and her husband say, “he’s not just for Christmas.”

I would love to have this fellow keeping me company all year long. Nice work, Rona. And thanks so much for showing us exactly how he was made!

Be sure to click on the smaller images so you can see them full-sized.

Papier Mache Reindeer

© 2015

Rona McIntosh

I came across Jonni’s work and site recently and was inspired especially by her animal heads. I have seen a few life sized animals in shops and wondered if it would be possible to create something similar.

I have made a few small papier mache things in the past (bowls, cat, Taj Mahal for son’s school project) using paper and cardboard and paper strip covering.

I was putting out my daughter’s old bed and mattress and thought could I do anything with this? All these ideas came together in a moment of madness so making an armature out of metal bed springs and wood from the bed seemed like the thing to do.

Bed springs.
Bed springs.

I couldn’t decide whether to go for  a realistic or cartoon look life size  Reindeer so just started and it kind of developed a life of its own. I had no idea if it would be possible. I studied lots photos to get body shape, facial characteristics and especially antlers.

I cut out a reindeer shape out of the metal bedsprings and reinforced it with wooden frame made from scrap wood. His legs were made from bed head and bottom and upper thighs from the bed slats.

I drew a reindeer onto cardboard packaging (from new bed ) and taped this onto spring and wood armature.

Adding teh cardboard pattern to the armature.
Adding the cardboard pattern to the armature.

I then padded him out with things I had.  Bubble wrap, newspaper, plastic bottle for his nose. I put on a couple of layers of paper strips using your paste recipe.

I then used Jonni’s papier mache clay recipe for the first time.  I really liked making and using the clay.

It would have taken me forever to do the requisite number of layers with paper and I love the texture and robustness of the finish it gives.

The only things I bought were the glass eyes. He came to life once he was able to look at me. Having watched your tutorial of the dog with the beautiful painted eyes if there is ever a next time I will try and paint eyes.

It took a leap of faith to paint him but I just mixed up a mixture of burnt umber, raw sienna and various other acrylic paint I had, diluted it with water and put it on with a kitchen sponge. He was a bit orange so I added some darker brown a couple of times and a suggestion of gold here and there.

His feet /hooves are plastic water bottle bases which form the toes which I painted black and then added gold textured wrapping paper that I had I tore to give shredded hairy appearance.

His tail was problematic. I didn’t want it rigid as they have little short furry tails and I wanted it to move  I tried all sorts of things before using material (old mattress cover) torn into strips.

Reindeer tail
Reindeer tail

I used metal garden canes covered with foil and twisted newspaper and masking tape to form the horns. I completed his horns after his body was finished to get them in proportion and after I moved him from the room I was working on him. I didn’t want to give him magnificent antlers and then discover that they wouldn’t fit through the door.

The brown paper I used as a final layer wasn’t the bold look I wanted so I used old woollen scarves torn into strips to cover his antlers. I liked the colours and textures. The strips are wound round and just tucked in so if I want to alter or change them in the future I can easily do so. His stance isn’t quite right – his back legs are a bit too far forward and his front legs a bit too far back but all in all he has turned out much better than I ever thought.

I can’t quite believe I made a life sized Reindeer. My teenage children got a surprise like no other. My husband likes him enough to agree with me that he’s not just for Christmas and can stay in the house. I have bonded with him as he came to life before my eyes. I loved creating him.  He makes me smile every day.

Paper mache reindeer
Paper mache reindeer, finished.

You inspired me with your skill and tutorials so thank you so much Jonni.

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17 thoughts on “How to Make a Life-Sized Paper Mache Reindeer

  1. Hi!

    Just wanted to let you know that you inspired me to make Bertie the life-sized, mince-pie dispensing, Reindeer for Age UK Somerset (the Charity in the UK I work for)! When you push down on his ears, a gift flys out of his rear!

    Have a look at for images and to see how I made him. He’s not as sleek as yours! I link to this site on the Gallery page. Thank you!

    • Love your reindeer!

      He’s a real character and the ear pulling dispenser is ingenious!

      My reindeer is part of the family now and He moves from room to room.
      Thanks so much for your comments – great to hear I inspire you.

    • So glad making Rhuari inspired you to make Bertie.

      He is fantastic. I love the gift firing out of his rear – ingenious!
      Wonderful that he raised money for your charity.

  2. Help! I have to make 5 life size sheep for our Christmas cantata. Not sure what to do. Cardboard or wood. Can I make the armature with stiff cardboard and just fill it out like any other animal?

  3. Dear Jonni,

    I plan on using paper mache to cover a mannequin and then after applying several layers of paper i want to stick nails into this form. What method would you suggest. Also i plan on using beach balls to make spheres and then cover themwith paper mache and put toothpicks and nails through it.

    • Hello, Srika. Paper strips held on with flour and water paste should work well for your purpose. you might need to drill holes first, though, to keep the paper mache from crumpling or cracking when you add the sharp items.

  4. I think he is absolutely magnificent . Thanks for the wonderful tutorial! I might take a try one day…LOve, love, luv!! Rona, he truly deserves a name….:)

    • Thanks. He took about 4 weeks to make working on him a few hours a day.

      Once inside the house the paper strips and then the clay dried over a few days each.

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