How to Make a Paper Mache Cat, Lesson #3 – Padding the Armature

grey cat mask pattern

Note: I recently added a cat mask to my pattern collection. You can put it together and let your kids paint it, or make it yourself and display it as a wall sculpture, like I do. The pattern creates all the shapes for you so it’s a fast, fun project. You can see it here.

Today we start filling out the padding on our paper mache cat. This portion took quite a long time, so I’ll wait and do the head and toes on the next video. As you’ll see in the video, I made a little clay model to make it easier for me to see where all the furry bumps go on the outside of the armature. There’s still a bit of work to do on her, but she’s definitely more cat-like than she was when all we saw was five pieces of flat cardboard.

I’ll post the photos I took down below the video, in case anyone is using the pattern I posted in How to Make a Paper Mache Cat, Lesson 1.

Long-Haired Cat, Side View
Long-Haired Cat, Side View
Long-Haired Cat, Front View
Long-Haired Cat, Front View

Those white toes are going to be fun to paint. So – how’s everyone doing? Are you having fun with this project?

All of the lessons to make a paper mache cat:




32 thoughts on “How to Make a Paper Mache Cat, Lesson #3 – Padding the Armature”

  1. Hi Jonni: I was looking at this part 3 of making your cat – and I have gotten to the point where you show the padding process half way through and this is the point I am at.

    Can you to an addendum to this possibly and show us how you completed the padding of the body?

    I am so reluctant to go ahead without seeing how you arrived at your cat up to the point of this video – part 3 – thanks.

  2. Hi Jonni,

    My 9th grade homeschooled son is doing this project for an art credit. Things were coming along fine until this stage. Now he’s struggling to get things taped in so it looks realistic and not too lumpy but also not too skinny. Do you have any tips or suggestions? He’s getting rather frustrated. His cat is in a sitting with legs folded in an underneath position and that position is posing some challenges because the legs tend to disappear underneath the body. I’ll see if I can figure out how to get pictures of the cat uploaded so you can see the progress. Thank you for taking so much time to make these videos! (This cat is my son’s favorite and he’s getting old, so I think having the sculpture will be a comfort when this one heads off into the great cat yonder.)

    I may have to make several posts with all the pictures I have, I can’t see how to add more than one photo per comment. Sorry if that clutters things up!

    • Hi Jennifer. The legs on a cat do disappear when they’re lying down like that, so I don’t think your son should worry too much about that. For details or for making an armature less lumpy, he could try using crumpled aluminum foil instead of crumpled paper. It’s much easier to manipulate, and the shape of it can be changed even after it’s been taped onto the pattern. If he wants the armature to be even smoother before adding the paper mache, he can use some drywall joint compound right out of the bucket, and smooth it on with a knife. It has little strength by itself, but it would be covered with the paper mache, so that doesn’t really matter.

      He’s working with an excellent pattern, by the way. His sculpture should come out really nice.

      • Thank you so much for the advice and suggestions as well as for the quick response! We will keep working at it and see where we end up and post a photo of the completed project when it’s done. 🙂

        Thanks again!

  3. Hello Jonni,
    I am wondering how firm the padding needs to be to make the finished sculpture solid (I plan on doing a layer of paper mache followed by paper mache clay). Despite wadding and twisting the newspaper and taping it down securely I still get a little give when I poke it. If I can’t get it any denser would it be better to use the shop towels and fast set paste, or should regular paper mache be strong enough under the pm clay?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Susanne. I don’t actually use any paper mache under paper mache clay, but I know some people like to do it that way. Pm clay dries hard as a rock, so the armature you have now should work just fine – with or without a layer of paper mache under it.

      I hope you’re having fun – be sure to show it to us when it’s done.

  4. jonni,

    i just discovered your page,and omg..am now in paper mache mode.thanks. i just started my cat. i was thinking it was going to be easy,but my tape kept falling off,which i then was huffing and growling at my hubby.poor guy. but,this project will have me be more patient. oh,i’m a huge cat lover,thats why i wanted to whip it up. thanks for your tuts.


    • You’re welcome, Veronica. I hope you’ll show us your cat when it’s done. I’m going to put up a post where we’ll have all the cats in a gallery. The tape issue is exasperating, isn’t it? Some brands hold together better than others. But some brands are stuck so hard on the roll that it’s hard to get any tape off without tearing it. Masking tape is the one material that I really dislike about the whole process – if there was a way to do without it, I would love to know about it.

  5. How do you trim down the padding? I’m thinking of putting a glowing heart in E.T.’s chest, but I’ve already padded half of it. :/

    • If you put paper on the chest and now want to take it off, you’ll probably have to use a box knife or exacto blade. That way you could remove just the area where the heart goes, without having to rip out the whole chest-full of paper and tape and start over.

      Where does one find a glowing heart that could be used in a sculpture? Now you really have me intrigued!

  6. My taped scrunched paper kept popping off, so I’ve switched techniques and am now doing scrunched paper with paste. Also, I realize I got the body shape wrong on my original cardboard. Billy’s belly actually comes right up to his arms … so I need to fill in more.

    Here’s my progress shot:

    Here’s the original pic:

    I also realized, I’ve made him too narrow:


    Not sure this will come through, but I did a transparent overlay in GIMP to see how far I’m off — pretty far actually. The billy overlay looks a little squashed in this version … but in my original it’s more accurate … and I need to add alot more bulk on the sides.

    I’ve got him drying tonight. I’ll pick back up tomorrow.

    — b

    • I’m so glad you posted these photos. I go through almost the same exact sequence – putting things on, looking them over and finding out things aren’t quite the way I like them, adding things here and there. I like that image overlay idea – that could really help when you know something is a little off, but you’re not quite sure where.

      Your kitty is looking really good. Billy looks so regal in his photo – I hope he doesn’t get jealous when the new cat moves in!

      • So I got ambitious, and I knew better — made my pasted paper too thick and it didn’t dry properly. (Outside dried, inside still soggy mess.) … So I’m starting over.

        Didn’t want you to think I’ve abandoned ship. I’m still in, and determined. : ) Will post new pics soon.

        • Is it too big to go in the oven? It might take three or four hours at 200F, but it might be worth a try. You had such a great start. Or if your furnace is still on, can you put it right over a floor register? And perhaps create a hole at the bottom so the air could reach inside?

  7. Hi Jonnie, thanks so very much for these lessons and all that you have graciously given us. I am making the cat along with yours and can’t offer a picture now but hopefully when it is done. Just a note about the masking tape – I found masking tape for $.79 at Home Depot – and it sticks – I know what the person means when it doesn’t stick -UUUGH . It is called Tartan – .70 inch or 18mm. It is right by all the other tapes. I have to go back and buy a bunch before they stop selling it…..it always seems to happen that way. I hope your stores carry it also – it works perfectly. Thanks again……

    • Wow – my Walmart tape cost at least 3 times that amount, and the ends come unstuck. I wish we had a Home Depot here in town.

      Thanks for the tip – and I hope you show us your cat when it’s done, if not before.

  8. I made some padding progress last night, but discovered I didn’t secure one of the legs quite well enough with the hot glue. I’ll repair today and continue.

    And Jonni, thanks for the additional part at the end of the video where you discuss the different sections of the body. When I look at Billy now, I can see those sections on him. He’s a bit of a tank so there’s arm, then body, then hip/leg, then it narrows at his foot. Now that I know what I’m looking for, it’s relatively easy to see. That was really helpful.

    I also love that you’re sharing your actual process, including what didn’t work, and how you fixed it. Those are valuable nuggets for me — that it’s ok if the sculpture sometimes needs to be fixed, and how to fix it.


    • It’s looking good. I’m glad you don’t mind knowing that I’m not infallible. When I write my books I do try to leave out most of the bits where I do things over. I actually made all of the critters in the animal sculpture book at least three times. Then when I was writing the last chapter, on the horse, I found a better way to explain how the face parts all go together – and that meant I had to go back and do every sculpture over again! (But I learned so much – I think writing instructions is a better way to learn than anything else I’ve ever done.) When I do these videos I’m making the piece right along with you, so I don’t have much choice but to let you know when I change my mind or have to do something over. But that’s just the way art works, right?

  9. Lesson 3 complete!?!

    Well that was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be, getting all the lumps and bumps in the right spot. One thing I did find out was maybe the cheapest masking tape isn’t really the best. Used my dollar store rolls to tape up the cat only to find the pieces starting to stick up and fall off. A better quality brand might have more stickiness.


    • Yes, stickiness is a problem with cheap tape. That’s happening with my cat, too. But we have to remember that masking tape is specifically designed to come off easily. We use it because it’s cheap, but it isn’t perfect.

      Your cat is looking great! I’ll post the face portion this morning, as soon as I get the video edited. It took me several hours, so I think I’ll leave the ears, toes and tail for another day.

  10. Hello there Jonni! I have followed your site for some time now, and I am really enjoying this tutorial! At first I was telling myself that it is out of my experience level and abilities, but you make it look so doable that I just can’t help myself. I’m starting my cat this weekend!

  11. Absolutely love the tutorials! Also appreciate all the additional tips and tidbits you throw in beyond the structure your working on. You have such wonderful talent, both as an artist and teacher. Thank you so much, Jonni!

  12. Hi Jonni, I’m enjoying the cat tutorial even tho I’m not doing a cat. You give me great ideas for how to do the giraffs I’m doing. Also, I see the self-sculpture (I think it is you) in the background – it looks as if it is coming along very nicely! Thank you for so generously sharing your wonderful knowledge!


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