How to Make a Paper Mache Cat, Lesson 6

grey cat mask pattern

Note: If you like cats, you might be interested in my new cat mask pattern. It can be use as a mask or a wall sculpture – the pattern creates all the shapes for you so it’s a fast, fun project. You can see it here.

We finally made it to the step where we get to start adding paper mache clay (or paper strips and paste, if that’s what you’ve decided to use.) I’ll keep working on this part of my kitty for the next few days. If you have any questions about this part of the process, please let me know.

UPS is right now delivering my 24″ armature from the TruForm people, and I can’t wait to play with it. My figure sculpture has gone through 6 different versions, and each time she ends up looking like an amateurishly created dress form. I kept trying to do it the “easy” way instead of sculpting her the way sculptors do it. My mistake. Wish me luck with try #7.

All of the lessons to make a paper mache cat:

30 thoughts on “How to Make a Paper Mache Cat, Lesson 6”

  1. Hi, Jonni!
    I’ve just been watching your ‘kit-e-kat’ tutorial, lesson 6, in which you mention how you remove those things that don’t work from your videos!… and don’t we know all too well about that! But/and… there is still so much to learn from the mistakes and how they were put right, or not, as the case might be. May I dare to suggest you make a video devoted to ‘out-takes’, to complement your very informative videos and brilliant sculptures. You have such an accurate artist’s eye for detail, shape, form and expression, no doubt gleaned over years of hard graft, sweat, tears and practice. Your creations and advice are such an inspiration… makes one want to “Keep Calm and Carry On Trying”! Or at least, ‘trying another way’!… the watchword of Dr Marc Gold… which I think applies to all avenues of learning and industrious effort! So thanks for all your videos, Jonni, and the dedicated work that goes into making them.

    One thing I have noticed… since I became an obsessively compulsively disordered Web-Browser and mâché craft follower!… is how many ‘craft people’ (of all kinds, shapes, sizes, walks-of-life, and craft varieties) own cats! I love it when your cat appears… to hog centre stage, of course!… and your sculpture has caught its curious personality very well. However, can you tell me what it is about cats that attracts cats to crafters… or crafters to cats?!! Is it something to do with the ‘magic of artistic creation’ or simply the draw of ‘feral feline familiars’ to their mentors?

    My pretty feral tabby went to the Summerlands last November, after 17 years (I don’t know how old she was when she first came to us) of 24/7/365 undivided feline loyalty (who says only dogs are loyal?!) and gossip (she was a very canny and talkative cat… picking up the lingo very quickly!… with the expectation that I would do likewise!). Creative life has not been the same since her departure.

    Or is it something to do with the meditational alpha-brainwaves that are emitted when in a state of relaxed alertness and deep concentration, so important for creativity? Whenever I indulged in my TM meditation sessions, and their production of alpha-waves, within seconds both animals and young children would appear!… as if from nowhere! What drew them… even from afar? As soon as I stopped, they were nowhere to be seen!! Now there are no animals or young children around for me to monitor the quality of my alpha-waves, I find my creative endeavours fast sinking into the quagmire of despond!! I think Bunyan called it the ‘Slough of Despond’… but that was more to do with sin than with art!

    And now for something completely different…
    In your video you show a ‘paint stirrer’… with fins. I noticed Scott Stoll (from Stolloween) also uses one like it. Does it have a particular name, or maybe manufacturer? I have looked for one like it here in the UK, but without success –– even on-line. The only type we seem to have for using with drills are cumbersome circles connected with metal spirals fixed to the central rod. The plastic (?) fins don’t look quite as damaging as the all-metal variety. Seeking more enlightenment and hoping you can help.

    With kindest regards,

    • Hi Elizabeth. I can’t tell you why so many of us crafters like living with cats. I’m not sure if it’s universal or not – it might be an interesting subject for a survey. I’m not going to be much help with your last question either, I’m afraid. I can’t remember where I bought my little paint mixer, but I think it was a small hardware store back in Oregon. I just checked amazon.co.uk and they don’t have one that looks like mine, and our big building supply store doesn’t carry them, either. Maybe Scott would know where you could find one. I have two of the metal ones that you described, but I think the one with the plastic fins works better – but it’s probably just me.

  2. Hi, I hope I’m not repeating a question.
    I have watched a few videos and in some you talk about putting on Jesos (spelling??) after you have finished the paper mache. One video says there are directions on your website, but I’m not finding it. Can you tell me what this is and help me find directions to make it?
    Thank you!

  3. Hello Jonni!
    You’ve been such a big help!
    What do you think of E.T’s wrinkles? What’s the best way to go about this? Should I give him another layer of clay and then carve into that, or add wrinkles using clay or something? You can see on his chest that I tried both ways….I am so dissatisfied, but I’m a busy grad student and this needs to be finished soon. I don’t know if it’s worth making another batch of clay for the wrinkles or if I can paint wrinkles on him or what! Please help!!!


    • Erin, you might want to try making actual wrinkles, using some paper towels and paste. In fact, I’ve been thinking about the whole issue of adding realistic clothing to a paper mache figure, and that’s what I think I’d do. I’d probably use the shop towels, because the towels are really thick so you’d only need to put on one of them, fold and push it until the wrinkles look the way you like, and then make sure the edges meld into the surrounding “skin.” If you’d like to use the fast-setting paste recipe, like I used on the masks, you mix 1/4 cup Elmer’s glue, 1 tablespoon cold water, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, and 1/4 cup of plaster of Paris. Dampen the blue Scott shop towels first, and wring them out, so they are really pliable. Then you can dip your towels into the paste (it’s really thick) and put them on your sculpture. Be sure to tear off the hard edges so you can get a nice smooth line where the new wrinkles meet the hard skin.

      Your sculpture is looking great, by the way. You’re doing a wonderful job with it. Good

      • Thank you! You were So Right about the paper towels and paste! I ended up just using glue and water for the paste, but the wrinkles came out just like I wanted! Genius! I’ll get you more pictures after I put the gesso on!
        Thanks again!

  4. Hi Jonni,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful video series! I am still in the process of creating my cat model – trying to get it just so. I would love to be able to put this outside in the garden. You mentioned early on, I believe when you first were thinking of making this video series, a cement type product. Have you found such a thing that can be applied to make the figure more weather resistant? I’ve tried researching papercrete, but not quite sure this would or could work in place of or as an added layer over the paper mache clay. I’d appreciate any tips you can provide.
    Thanks again – I absolutely love your site!

    • Yes, Mandy, I found two products that will work. I haven’t tried either of them yet, but they were made specifically for creating sculptures to go outside. The first product is a water-proof cement that is applied to armatures with a brush or trowel. It was created for foam carvers, but it should work exactly the same way with an armature made with crumpled paper and masking tape. I would suggest putting on several layers of paper mache first, so the armature is quite solid, giving the cement some support. It’s called Exterior Foam Coat, and is made by the Hot Wire Foam Factory. I ordered some, but I haven’t tried it yet. You would use it instead of, or over, paper mache clay.

      The other product would go over a completed paper mache sculpture after it’s been painted. It’s called Smart Coat. It would completely encase the work in a waterproof satin lacquer. It’s a bit expensive, but (if my calculator is working right) it looks like the 16 oz size will cover 32 square feet – and that’s a pretty big sculpture. They say you can use it in fountains, so you know it’s waterproof. I’m going to order some today.

      If you try either product, please let us know what you think.


  5. Jonni
    I requested a copy of ATLAS OF ANIMAL ANATOMY FOR ARTISTS by Ellenberger from my library and it finally arrived. What a great book. Thank you for mentioning it. I will be picking up my own copy soon.

    It would have been nice if I had it before I started my cat. That’s fine, I only did a head mask anyway. It’s all primed and now I’m ready to start painting.

    El Lobo goes by the nickname of Rin Tin Tin. Should start painting him pretty quick too after all the repairs dry.

    Glad I’m making most of my mistakes up front with my mask making (fingers crossed). I took the cat off my sculpture when it was a tiny bit damp still. Soooo, it flattened out … a lot. I had to prop it up in front of my little fire blasting heater. The same thing happened with my wolf. Guess I might put some effort into not being so stinking impatient. Both my pieces had to be cleaned of the sculpty residue to…which had me thinking

    I was trying to figure out what I did different on my bear. You know, I didn’t have any vaseline to use at the time I did him (tied up being housebound) so I ad libbed and used dish washing liquid to hold the plastic in place. Plus, checking the bear, I realize I didn’t put the 1st layer of toweling directly on the clay, like I did with these 2. I layered the plastic over the clay then started the towel process. There’s a couple other things I did different, one thing … I used a grocery bag on the bear and the heat I used to dry it imprinted (backwards) the grocery store’s logo inside the mask on my 1st layer of toweling. Just an extra special touch to add some bling.

    Well, here’s my cat, all sanded and primed. (If I had money to invest in the stock market, I would definitely put my money on sand paper just to see if I could recoup any of it).

    • Wow – This was definitely worth the effort. Your cat (cougar?) is looking great. Excellent muscle structure, very expressive. Now I can’t wait to see him painted.

  6. About a year ago we spoke about your paper macher technique to be used in a school of samba. You´ve send me a real size elephant that was used in a marriage, using the same steps of your baby elephant as an example that it is possible to do something big and resistant. Well, as promised in our little conversation, I am sending the pictures of my indian head and some others from the carnival parade we do in our city. Well, it´s not like in Rio de Janeiro but we do our best heheheheheheh. I hope you enjoy. Thanks for sharing your habillities with us.

  7. Have you ever used Liquitex “Resin Sand” to simulate short hair on an animal, as an additive to either the Gesso or the paint layer? This would be an alternative to using a stiff bristled brush.

    I have a jar of this but haven’t used it yet. I just thought the texture might work – or maybe not.

    • Hi Joanne. I’ve never heard of that product, but it would be fun to see how it turns out if you try it. I put way too much paper mache clay on my cat, so the texture is really excessive. Oh well – next time it will come out better.

      I wanted to put up a video about painting cats today, but it looks like I have to do my taxes instead. Fun…

  8. Hi Jonni – I have been following along. I got a later start and am still working on my armature. Instead of a cat, I am working on a cow head! The model picture is so dang cute, I can’t wait to share. What size do pictures need to be in order to load successfully?

    I was wondering … are you going to post a video of how your paper mache-ing is going for the cat, as well as the final product? I was hoping that video #6 was not the last for this series.

    I wanted to give you some feedback too.
    (1) Thank you so much for sharing your abilities. I really enjoy following your videos. They have helped me to not be afraid to jump in and go for it. Including your process and letting us know that these things don’t go smoothly the first time through is reassuring. Thanks for your patience too, seeing your details really helps understand how I should expect things to go when I’m working on my project.

    (2) In the videos, you mention that others are following along…. but these videos will likely be used by people weeks, months or years after you have moved on to another project. This is a great thing, I think. If that is the case, would you still respond to questions posted under each video? It might be a good idea to clarify how questions to older videos will be answered. I was wondering this myself as I was going through the first couple of videos and realized you were already on a later step. FYI – I’m fairly new to the blogging world.

    (3) The tape that was mentioned in a prior step of the paper mache cat, that was 79 cents at Home Depot. I used her advice and bought it too, and I am liking that tape alot. Not just the price, but in comparison to what I was using (blue painting tape), the masking tape is alot thinner and a bit sticker. This helps with controlling the resulting shape, I think. It doesn’t leave little wrinkles in the tape and covers the wrinkles up in the paper so that the finished shap is smooth. The name on this tape is Tartan 5142. It actually says in small writing that it contains natural rubber latex. The roll is pretty small; it measures .7 in wide and 60 yards long. Its made by 3M.

    • Hi Sara. I didn’t make a video of me adding the paper mache, since most of the people who are following these lessons are doing their own cats. And it looks like most people chose short-haired cats, which is much more reasonable. I did show how the paper mache clay is applied in a video I did last week, which you can find here. It doesn’t go into a great deal of detail, but I think you can get the gist.

      All of the videos will stay on the blog, and I answer any question that I can, no matter what post the comment is on. I still get questions from some of the very first posts on this site.

      Now I really wish we had a Home Depot. I got some tape from Ace hardware that was pretty good, but it was way more expensive.

  9. You could try a spray adhesive before and after…spray your form, apply the tissue, let dry and then spay again and let dry. Then it should be tough enough to paint. But I agree, the tape will probably still show through. The blue paper towels (shop towels) are thicker but very flexible and stretchy. Or expensive, soft cushy toilet paper. Not being able to see your details makes it hard to know what might work.

  10. Hi I’m so sorry my question won’t really be of relevance to what you do and what this post is about, but you are very knowledgeable on paper mache/etc and I really need some help on a very basic thing.
    Can you use facial tissue as normal paper mache on masking tape? I’d like to paint over it, but I’m worried it might be too fragile and would tear somehow or go horribly wrong.
    I’m so sorry for wasting your time but I’m just a student with no experience/resources and whatever I’ve found from research is all very advanced. Sorry, and I’d be so thankful if you could help!
    Your work is really beautiful, by the way!

    • You could mix up a fairly thin paste, or dilute white glue with water. Brush that onto your masking tape form in a very thin layer. Then place the tissue over the paste and gently dab it down, perhaps with a sponge. If you use any sideways motion at all the tissue will tear. If you use two-ply tissue, the top layer probably won’t stick, and it will come off. Once the tissue is dry, you can paint it. But the tissue will become very transparent, so you might still be able to see the tape under it. Opaque paint would take care of that.

      I must ask – why tissue paper?

      • Would painting over the tissue with the dilute glue solution take care of the second layer coming off problem?

        Thanks so much!

        Because my model is fairly small, and there are certain details that I need to make apparent, so I was afraid anything else would be too thick.
        …Would it be better if I uploaded a picture of it?

        • I don’t know – you might do a small experiment and find out. Itmight not be a problem at all – it’s just something to look out for.

  11. Wow those Tru Form armatures are marvelous looking to work with – can’t wait to see what you are going to do – Why don’t you do a class with one of those once you get familiar with working with it. Perhaps a gorgeous Victorian Lady? Joanne

    • Heh – I wish I could do a gorgeous Victorian lady – maybe in a few years…

      In the meantime, I heard about these armatures from David Lemon, who puts a video on YouTube almost every day. The latest one shows how he uses the horse armature – I have to try that one next. You can see his latest video here. He’s a real inspiration.


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