Make a Paper Mache Canvas for Your Painting

Pedro's paper mache canvas


A few days ago, Pedro Rodrigues  posted a photo of one of his recent paintings on our new forum, and he mentioned that it was painted on a paper mache ‘canvas.’

I don’t do a lot of paintings myself, but I know that canvases are really expensive. Especially big ones like this.

So, naturally, I told Pedro that if he ever made a video of the process, I would love to put it here on the blog. He sent me the link this morning, and here it is. Thanks, Pedro!

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As a non-painter, the one thing in the video that I find most interesting is Pedro’s method of using flat cardboard, and keeping it flat. You know that cardboard (or even plywood) can warp drastically if you put paper mache over it, but Pedro’s canvas is perfectly flat. (And his painting of eyes is hauntingly beautiful.)

Lion painting on paper mache canvas
Lion painting on paper mache canvas

To see the full-sized image, of the painting shown above, go to his forum page, here.  And while you’re there, go ahead and introduce yourself! It’s so much fun seeing the faces of people we talk to so often here on the blog.

Pedro used a paper mache canvas for his lion, too:

Speaking of painting – I must mention my daughter’s recent work. Her paintings of the sun coming up in South Dakota are amazing. When you’re finished watching Pedro’s video, be sure to go check out her blog.


31 thoughts on “Make a Paper Mache Canvas for Your Painting”

  1. With the glue applications and priming the paper, how can I avoid warping on the surface or the entire canvas? I want a large one like 3 feet x 6 feet.

    • Hi Nicole. I’m not sure if the author is still watching this post for comments, so you may not get a reply. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. In the meantime, I did see a video that showed us how to keep a thin sheet of foam from warping, and I think the idea would also work for cardboard. I haven’t tried it, though, so you’d want to experiment. He glued some plastic mosquito netting to one side of the foam, which keeps it from stretching. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucf2FVIdr1Q

      Good luck!

  2. Pedro, you’re a star. Loved your video, and I’m going to pass it on to a friend of mine who paints in oils. The eyes are great, but the lion is magnificent. Thanks.

    (I thought perhaps you were the first vampire I would get to know until you ate something at the end, and I’m pretty certain it wasn’t blood!)

      • Hi, Pedro. We have another thing in common. I occasionally eat chicken because my dog is diabetic and the only meat he can eat is chicken. Keep us current with your projects. I knew some people in California that had a low headstand on their bed. They had eyes painted on the headboard that is very close to what you showed us. I really liked it.

        • Hi Rex!

          I thank you once again 🙂

          I’ve been diving into painting a bit more seriously, but also preparing a new papier mache “birdie” whilst going in the streets to find more cardboard boxes to make more canvas!

          Thinking upon finally constructing a website to put there all my things: the paintings, the paper mache sculptures, my historical dolls and finally, why not, advertising my “new age” practises like crystal healings or my (so called or considered) psychic readings. We’ll see if I manage …

          Warmest regards from Portugal to you Rex!

          ps – May I presume that the other thing in common is the fact that you too are not a vampire? Eh eh eh

  3. Great idea! I have a couple of questions. Is the white paper glued down with the wood glue? Also, before I paint onto the white paper with oil paints, are you saying I should put a layer of wood glue over the white paper? Thanks for your help

    • Hi Robyn.

      Yes its all glued with white glue and as for the 2nd question it depends. As I said on the video a coat of glue on the paper it allows the turpentine tinted paint to be more fluid, so much so that on the begining of painting it almost feels that the paint doesnt attach the surface but as we work through and the paint starts to be absorbed by the surface we can start to add less diluated paint or even impasto. It surely depends upon your medium and painting technique (if u paint in acrilics for example its pointless to coat the paper with glue)

      “Should” is a word that one shouldnt use in art that often, eh eh eh

      Thanks for your questions

  4. Hi Jonni have been watching your tutorials and find then very helpful. If I am making a medium size dog which stands on all feet and want to attach a cat riding on its back, how would I go about the armature? Can I make two separate pieces or does it have to be one piece? I would appreciate your help. I am stuck…..

    • Hi Trina. I think the real challenge will be making the connections between the two beasts as secure as possible. That would be easiest if you have wires running under the dog’s belly, and then up through the cat’s legs and perhaps over his back. Then, if somebody decides to pick up the sculpture by the cat instead of the dog, they won’t come apart. Making the armatures that way could be tricky, though. Perhaps you will need to make them separately, then put them together very securely before adding paper mache. Does that sound reasonable?

  5. This is my first paper mache canvas. I don’t know if I did it exactly the way Pedro Rodriguez would have, but I am satisfied with the results. I needed to have cut the card board more evenly but that’s okay, maybe the next time.

    • Hi Sandra. Did you try to upload a photo of your new paper mache canvas? If you did, it didn’t come through. That usually happens if the file size is too large. Could you try again? I’d really like to see how it turned out.

      As for the edges, can they be covered by a frame?

        • Oops – we still didn’t get the photo. Are you using a PC or a Mac or an iPhone? There are easy ways to make photos smaller, and if we know what system you’re using, I think we’ll be able to find something that will work for you. The blog can’t handle the huge photos, like Facebook can, so we do need the file sizes to be smaller.

  6. It’s been many years since I attempted painting, but what a clever way to make a canvas. I also imagine you could cover the surface with different types of paper to create different textures for painting.

    • Hi Joy!

      Sure! there is even crêpe paper with in contact with water the colour dilutes a bit like watercolour, could already do some coloring!

      En’Joy and thanks

  7. Very interesting! I had difficulty figuring out when he applied the white paper to the cardboard. Did he wrap the cardboard with newspaper first and then place the white paper over the top and then apply the wood glue or did he put the white paper on the front of the cardboard, wrap it in newspaper and then apply the wood glue? I liked the fact that you could see the newsprint through his painting. Did he forgo using the wood glue when he did this? Sorry about all of the questions but I want to be clear on the directions if I try this. Thanks a bunch!

    • The fun in art is, for me, when you know the direction and want to try your own version, so one doesnt really have to know or understand all all 🙂

      Janet, he just covered one “face” or side of the cardboard (now I wrote it properly!) to have a white surface to draw/paint on, then glued the 2 “placs” of cardboard together and then he glued the newspaper paper strips on the edges all around to unify both placs in 1. On the canvas of the eyes he didnt forgot, he just tried a different aproach.

      Hope it helped

    • Hi Sandra, thanks!
      It is really simple and easy and makes painting activity a lot cheaper (and probably more fun!) as one can control better the canvas size and can have 10 with the price of 1 if one would have to buy them

  8. Jonni,
    This is a little off topic, sorry. I want to ask a question about using joint compound. I live in an apartment in the middle of a large city. There are certain things I shouldn’t be putting in my (actually my landlord’s) pipes. Would joint compound be one of them? I have nightmare visions of clogging up the pipes. I’m referring to the excess when you clean out jars, and rinse brushes, not dumping huge loads of the stuff.

    • Diana, if you use the pre-mixed kind that comes in a plastic tub, it won’t get hard until it dries in the air. That version doesn’t contain any plaster. However, the dry kind, the ones that usually say on the bag how long it will take to harden – those do not belong in the pipes. So, as long as you use the pre-mixed drywall joint compound, you should have no problems, if you’re just rinsing out your bowls and brushes.

      • You could still end up cleaning coagulated joint compound out of your waste pipe’s U-bend (water trap) section.
        I always clean things in a plastic bowl, then pour it down the sink waste through a sieve. Should capture anything that might tend to form lumps.

    • Thanks Sandy! Its really easy, within an hour everything is ready to dry (which doesnt take long, white glue dries fast!

      I’m amazed because within 3 days only the video got almost 300 visualisations, wow! Should open a papermache canvas school, what do you think Jonni? Eh eh eh


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