How to Make a Paper Mache Cat, Lesson #2 – Making the Armature

grey cat mask pattern

Note: If you like cats but you’d like to start with a faster project, you might be interested in my new cat mask pattern. The pattern creates all the shapes for you so it’s a fast, fun project. You can see it here.

This video is a little long, but I wanted you all to have plenty to do until the next one comes out. Please let me know if you have any questions.

If you’ve read my book Make Animal Sculptures With Paper Mache Clay, you’ll notice right away that I didn’t cut the foam blocks into wedges this time, like we needed to do for most of the animals in the book. The reason for the wedges can be seen in this photo of my poor African elephant, who is posing in a very undignified position for the photo. He’s sitting up just like the cat, and his legs are splayed out so that his feet are wider than his legs at the hips.

Paper Mache Elephant
Paper Mache Elephant, Seen from Below

When I looked at my cat photos, and then checked my cat closely while she sat still for a few seconds, her legs, or I should say the back limbs from the heal to the paw, seemed to be quite straight. And the upper portion of her legs, where the knee sticks up, didn’t seem to be at an angle, either. So we get away with using flat foam squares. If your cat pattern shows a cat in a different position, look closely at your reference photos. The foam pads may need to be narrower towards the tail.

All of the lessons to make a paper mache cat:




28 thoughts on “How to Make a Paper Mache Cat, Lesson #2 – Making the Armature”

    • I can’t remember – I think I used the drawing that I hand-drew the grid onto, rather than the one I posted online, so the scale would be different anyway. I’m afraid you might have to do a bit of math to figure out how big to make your squares. L/sq=SQ — L is the length you want your finished cat sculpture, divided by the number of squares (sq) on the drawing equals the size of each square (SQ) on your cardboard pattern.

  1. Thanks for the quick reply!
    Here’s the progress on E.T. so far!
    I haven’t added the other arm yet because I was afraid it might fall off while I was padding the other parts.
    Wish me luck on the next step! I’m really nervous about how to do the arms, fingers, and toes!

    • He’s looking good. You can already tell who it is.

      You might try making an armature for the hands and toes with light wire, and use aluminum foil to pad the fingers and toes instead of paper. It seems to be a lot easier than trying to get crumpled paper to take on little shapes.

  2. Hey Jonni,
    Thank you so much for these tutorials!!! I’m making a paper mache E.T. and this method is going to look soooo much better than what I started out doing – taping a bunch of newspaper balls and trash together to try to get the shape, then go from there (I’ve never made anything from paper mache before, so after making my E.T. skeleton, I looked up paper mache recipes and thank god I found you!)
    But my question is whether I need to use hot glue or if tacky glue would work. Oh…and I don’t have styrofoam squares…I have a couple wood blocks and a styrofoam cylinder I was going to use instead, and I’m gluing them down with tacky glue….will that work, or will everything just fall apart in the near future?


    • Hi Erin. I use the hot glue to temporarily hold the armature together until the masking tape has been added. Once you have the thing all taped together and the paper mache has been applied, it won’t fall apart. You do need to make it sturdy enough as you go along, so you don’t get frustrated while taping.

      Good luck with your E.T. I hope you let us see him when he’s done.

  3. Homework complete!

    I did end up wedging the foam a tad for the front legs. And I put the foam on the wrong side of one the legs at first … thanks for the heads up in the video. Next time I’ll follow the instructions a little more closely. : )

  4. [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMAG2623-1.jpg[/img]

    Hi Jonni!

    I have started on my cat after a heavy cold. My cat is copied by the Egyptian cat goddess – Bast. And I will design it a little as I want.
    I have some problems with the material and glue, but it dissolves enough. I have also had some difficulty with propotionerna.
    Here is a picture of my cat.

    • He looks good, Gisela. I’m working on the next video now, and I should have it online in an hour or so. (Maybe more – it always seems to take longer than I think it will). I can’t wait to see your Bast when she’s done.

    • Rich,

      This is great! … I’ve got my patterns enlarged but I should have at least one of the cardboard armatures done by tomorrow.

      I ended up enlarging on computer vs. by hand, tho. It’s just a little easier for me than drawing the grids. I open the my picture using the OpenOffice Draw program (free alternative to MS Office) — which lets me set a custom page size, enlarge the photo, and then tile print on multiple pages. I can be more detailed if anyone wants a step-by-step tutorial.

      Anyway, enlargements done. Just need to attach to the cardboard, cut and add spacers.

      Billy eventually cooperated, so this is the ‘with paws’ photo I’m using as well.

      • Ooh – I would love some more info on how to do the tile printing. I can think of so many times when that would be useful. If you have time, that would be great.

        You got a perfect photo of Billy – it’s making me realize that my own pattern might need to be slightly altered because the neck doesn’t dip in the way yours does. I couldn’t see my cat’s neck under all that fur – but I’ll play with that when the time comes.

        From the photo and your pattern, it looks like Billy’s hind legs are sitting at an angle, so you might need to cut your foam into a wedge shape to catch that position. You will be able to tell when you try the legs on before gluing them. If the hind legs seem to be too straight, just take a serrated knife and hack off a little foam so the wedge is thinner towards the back of the cat, and the back feet then angle out away from the body. You might have to follow Billy around a bit more and look at him from above and behind to see if it’s needed.

          • Beth,

            That was a great tutorial you put together. I’ve used the tiling feature in the past on my computer (to make a wall mural of my stepdaughter) but I completely forgot about that as an option.

            I actually think my cat is a little undersized but that’s because I was guessing at the size to increase the squares on my patterns. I opted for a 1.5:1 ratio but a 2:1 or better would probably have been right. Using the tiling feature would get it right from the get-go without the need to guess.

            Thanks for the really simple, straightforward tutorial on using it.


  5. Oh my gosh this is so much fun. Thank you Jonni for these lessons. I have always wanted to take lessons from an artist.


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