A few days ago our friend Linda Crawford posted photos of her paper mache Easter eggs on the Daily Sculptors page. I wasn’t the only one who begged her to show us how they were made. She very graciously agreed, and in her post below she shows us exactly what we need to make paper mache eggs just like hers, and how she does it. Thanks, Linda!
© 2021 Linda Crawford
Paper Mache Easter Eggs
Materials you will need to make the egg:
- Egg form such as one made from styrofoam, plastic or wood.
- Cling film (Saran wrap)
- Selotape (clear plastic tape)
- Thin paper strips
- Flour paste (or any other glue paste. See Jonni’s recipies for paper mache pastes)
- A wooden stick (such as a skewer)
- Egg tray (plastic or cardboard) to dry your eggs on
- Thin cardboard (such as from a cereal packet)
- PVA Glue
- Sealant (Varnish)
Suggested Materials to decorate your egg:
This will depend on how you want your egg to look so I will list some of the materials I used and then explain later which I used for each egg. Not all of the eggs used all of the items listed.
- Joint compound
- Paper clay
- Airdry clay
- Chalk paints / Acrylic Paints
- Crackle glaze
- Silver foil leaf
- PVA Glue
- Soft pastels
- Thick decorative twine or braiding.
Tools you will need:
- Craft knife
- Small pegs
- Paint brushes
- Pen or pencil
- Sponge (depending on your decoration, this was used on the Poppy and Steampunk eggs).
Cover your egg form with cling film (Saran wrap).
Try to do this using as little as possible and in one layer to avoid air bubbles. Pull the film tight and cut off any excess, this will give you a smooth surface to work on whilst maintaining the egg shape.
If the film doesn’t stick well in places you can use a little selotape to secure it. Do not use masking tape as the paper strips will stick to this and you will find it difficult to release your egg from the mould.
Cover your egg form using the paper strips and flour paste.
To maintain the shape of the egg and to avoid as many creases as possible, make sure your strips are short and not too wide. You will need a minimum of six layers of paper mache making sure that you dry them thoroughly between each layer. Pop them on the egg tray (or egg box) to dry them between layers.
The larger the egg, the more layers you will need. I used 6 on the small eggs and 8 to 10 on the larger ones. This will make your egg strong and less flexible so it will hold its shape well when it comes off the mould.
Do not be tempted to do less layers as the egg will deform when you start to decorate it.
I put my eggs outside to dry (I live in a warm dry climate) but if you can’t do this and you want to speed up the drying process between layers, you can use a hairdryer or pop them in a very cool oven (but not if they are on a plastic egg tray!)
Once you have all your layers on and your egg is completely dry, use a pen or pencil to mark where you want to divide it into two pieces. Either end to end or round the wide part in the middle, draw a line.
Carefully, using your craft knife, score along your marked line. Keep going round the line until you can feel the egg form inside. Due to the number of paper mache layers, this can take some time but be patient, as the neater your cut the better the end result.
Once you have cut all the way through, pull each of the pieces off the egg form. You will be able to use the egg form again.
(Please refer to photo on this one as it is a little difficult to explain!)
Cut a strip of thin cardboard that will fit almost all the way around inside your egg. If you have cut your egg through the wide middle part then cut your cardboard to fit into the top half of the egg (the part with the pointy bit on top!). If you have cut your egg from end to end then it doesn’t matter which half you use to fix the cardboard to as both halves will be the same size. (Hope this is making sense!)
The width of the card for a small egg should be one and a half centimeters in width (0.6 inches). Draw a line along the strip half a centimeter wide (0.2 inches), this will be a guide line when fixing the cardboard strip inside your egg and will be the bit that will fit into the other half of your egg, we will call this the bottom edge.
Along the the top edge, using a pair of scissors, cut small slits along the whole length, this is the edge that will be glued into place inside your egg. (See image above) Put PVA glue along the strip where you have cut the slits and fix to the inside of one half of your egg, use the pencil line you drew and line this up with the edge of your egg so that the cardboard is sticking out by half a centimeter.
Hold the cardboard in place using a few pegs and leave to dry completely.
Once dry, the two halves of your egg should fit together nicely. The diameter of the cardboard band has to be slightly smaller than the diameter of the egg half it is going to slot into – otherwise they will not fit together.
Obviously, you can decorate your egg box however you wish. I will list the eggs I made with the materials I used to decorate them. (See the image at the bottom of the post.)
You may find it handy when decorating (if you used a styrofoam egg as your form) to put the half you are working on back onto the egg form, this will give you something to hold onto without having to touch the egg and will also help to stop the egg from deforming. If you cut your egg round the girth (fat middle part) you can also instert the wooden skewer into the egg form to hold it whilst you decorate. If you cut your egg length ways from top to bottom you can also place it back on the form to decorate it but make sure you have something to balance the egg form on or it will roll over, I found that the cardboard egg tray I used for drying my eggs worked well for this.
1. Gothic Egg.
- This egg was made over a plastic egg from and then cut round the middle (or girth of the egg).
- I drew the design I wanted onto the egg with a ball point pen and then filled in the design using paper clay.
- The band around the middle is on the bottom half of the egg and I made the markings by crimping the clay using a pair of tweezers.
- The “pointy bit” on the top of the egg is a shaped piece of paper clay glued in place with PVA glue.
- Once the egg was dry I painted it first with acrylic white gesso then with brown acrylic paint and then dry brushed it with gold, copper and silver metallic acrylics. I finished it off with a couple of layers of gloss varnish.
- The inside of the egg is painted with black acrylic and also has a couple of layers of varnish so that the whole egg is sealed.
2. “Antique” Silver Egg.
- This egg was cut round the middle (or girth of the egg).
- I covered a sheet of card with cling film (Saran wrap) and then “drizzled” PVA glue in a random pattern over the film and let it dry completely. Don’t make the drizzles too close to each other as they will spread but you do need them to connect in places. I did mine a bit too close together but this was an experiment so I know for next time!
- Wait for the glue to dry completely (it goes transparent) and then carefully peel it off from the cling film. I cut pieces of the dried glue and stuck them to my egg to give it a nice relief pattern.
- As this egg didn’t fit together as nicely as I would have liked, I made a band out of thin cardboard and attached it to the bottom edge of the top part of the egg so it slightly overlapped to cover where the two egg halves meet.
- I made small round decorative “buttons” from airdry clay and glued them to the cardboard band.
- I painted the egg inside and out with acrylic white gesso and then with black acrylic paint.
- I have some silver foil leaf which I have had for sometime but never tried so this was my first foray into “leafing or guilding.” I applied the leaf according to the instructions, basically using the correct glue and smoothing down with a soft paint brush. If you don’t have any foil leaf, you could always paint it with metallic silver acrylic paint.
- I then covered the foil layer with a thin wash of acrylic brown paint to try to achieve an antique look (a wash is just watered down paint), and finished it with a satin finish varnish inside and out.
3. Poppy Egg.
- This egg was made over a plastic egg form that I had lying around, it has a flat bottom so the egg stands up nicely.
- This egg was cut round the middle (or girth of the egg).
- I covered the paper mache egg with joint compound as I wanted a nice smooth finish to this one. This is the first time that I have used joint compound and I used the powdered version that you mix with water. I had a few issues but nothing I couldn’t fix. I found it difficult to get it to spread evenly near the edge of the egg half, so just applied a bit more when it was dry and sanded it back.
- I then painted it with acrylic white gesso which didn’t stick to the joint compound and just peeled off so I covered it with a layer of watered down PVA glue and then painted the gesso over this, that worked!
- I then painted the egg using acrylic paints and a sponge, only using a paint brush for the flower stems, black flower centres and some of the dark red at the base of each flower. This technique was taken from acrylic paint artist Gerda Lipski and you can find the poppy tutorial here. She, of course is painting on a flat surface so I had to adapt it to my egg. If you want to try her technique on a curved surface then make sure you have a hairdryer at hand and work small areas at a time so that the paint does not run too much.
- I painted the inside a nice bright red and sealed the egg using a gloss varnish.
4. “Wedgwood” Style Small Blue and Green Eggs.
- These two eggs were made over a small styrofoam egg form and cut length ways.
- Both eggs were covered in joint compound and white gesso as per the Poppy Egg above.
- I then painted the eggs with a layer of chalk paint inside and out and then when dry formed the flower and grape designs directly onto each egg using air dry clay. I didn’t draw on the designs, just went with the flow but you could always pencil in your design first.
- Before adding the clay I dampened down the area where I wanted to apply it with a little water, I didn’t use any glue as it is easier to move the clay around using just water and a small paint brush. The clay adhered to the surface with no problem.
- Once the clay was dry, I decided I liked it just the way it was so chose not to paint it. I sealed both eggs using a satin finish varnish and then added a border to the very edge of each half with some thick cream satin thread that I already had to neaten off where the two halves of the eggs meet. If you don’t have any decorative thread or braiding then you could always attach a thin roll of air dry clay around the edges and paint them.
- If you would prefer your designs painted then I would suggest that you colour your clay first that way it will look really neat and you won’t get paint on the main body of your egg. There are lots of ways you can colour your clay and there are loads of tutorials on how to do this on the internet.
5. Butterfly Egg.
- This egg was made over a styrofoam egg form and cut lengthways.
- I cut out three butterfly shapes from some wrapping paper that I had and glued each of them onto a piece of thin card.
- Then, using a tooth pick dipped in PVA glue, I enhanced the outline, body shape and added some other lines to the butterflies to give them some depth and texture. This is a bit fiddly but worth it in the end I think. Leave these to dry completely and then cut them out and set aside.
- For the decoration around the top edge of the egg I cut the edge off a paper doily and glued it to the top edge of the egg. Doily paper is a bit thin so I tried to keep two of them together which also meant I would get a stronger relief pattern, a bit fiddly again and it didn’t go on perfectly but I do like the finished effect.
- After the doily edge was glued I glued on my butterflies and then added their antennae and a couple of swirly bits again using a tooth pick and some PVA glue.
- When all the glued on pieces were all fixed and the antennae had dried, I painted the egg with a white acrylic gesso.
- I then painted the egg inside and out with a pale peach coloured acrylic paint.
- Once dried I then highlighted the relief areas with a dusting of brown and burnt orange soft pastels and then sprayed over with a satin finish varnish. If you apply your sealant with a brush, it will remove the pastels. If you don’t have any soft pastels then you can highlight by dry brushing or with a little highlight colour on your finger and rub over lightly.
6. Cream and Gold small egg.
- This egg was made over a small styrofoam egg form and cut around the middle or girth of the egg.
- I added a random shape of airdry clay to the bottom of the egg, shaping and smoothing it with a damp paintbrush. I didn’t use any glue to affix this, I just dampened the paper mache egg with a little water.
- To the top of the egg I applied a “swirly” design using air dry clay. I first made a long think sausage roll and looped it around the top of the egg, again no glue, just applying it onto a damp surface and moving it into place using a small damp paintbrush.
- I then added small thin rolled pieces of air dry clay inside the loop, curling them round using a damp paint brush. Again I didn’t draw on a design, just went with the flow but if you want to be more exact then you can draw your design on first. Make sure your design is fairly evenly distributed over your egg otherwise your egg will not stand up and will topple over to the heavier side.
- Leave your air dry clay design to dry completely before painting. I painted mine first with a layer of gold acrylic paint, I didn’t use gesso on this one as I didn’t want to lose any of the detail. I did use a high quality gold acrylic paint as it gives a much better depth of colour but you can use any combination of colours and it doesn’t need to be a metallic paint, just make sure the colours that you choose contrast well for example red and black or blue and yellow.
- Once the gold paint had dried I added a layer of crackle glaze and left it to dry again. If you don’t have any crackle glaze then look on the internet on how to acheive similar results using PVA glue, there are a number of tutorials out there showing how to do this. I would suggest that you try it out on a piece of card first though before applying to your egg.
- When the crackle glaze dried I painted over it with an antique white coloured acrylic paint, I had my hairdryer handy as this helps to “crackle” the paint better.Voila! Nice shiny gold paint showing through the antique white colour!
- I painted the inside of the egg with the antique white acrylic paint.
- To finish, I sealed the egg inside and out with a gloss varnish and added some gold braiding around the edges where the two halves meet.
7. Steampunk Style Egg.
- This egg was made over a styrofoam egg form and cut lengthwise.
- The egg was covered in joint compound and white gesso as per the Poppy Egg above.
- To decorate the egg I used some small wooden cogs which I first soaked in water overnight to try to make them a bit more flexible. It worked to a point however when I glued them to the egg surface I had to tape them firmly down with masking tape and leave them overnight to dry completely. I had to do this with each cog individually so it took quite a few days to get them all glued on and dry.
- Once all cogs were attached and dry I painted the whole egg inside and out with a cream coloured acrylic paint.
- Once dry, I then applied random patches of black, light green and light blue paint using a sponge.
- When this was dry I then added, again using a sponge, copper and bronze coloured metallic paints until I arrived at the effect that I wanted.
- I sealed the whole egg inside and out using a gloss varnish.
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and more importantly understood it!
I had much fun making my eggs and I hope you will too. There are endless ways you can decorate these and I hope mine have given you some inspiration to get creative.
Kind regards to you all and I look forward to seeing your future creations.