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Make Colored Paper Mache Clay

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Use Powdered Pigment to Color Your Paper Mache Clay

For years, I’ve been asked if it’s possible to add acrylic paint to make colored paper mache clay. And yes, you can – but when I tried it, the colors came out very light.

I know that concrete can be colored with powdered pigments, so I finally decided to find out if they would work for colored paper mache clay, too.

I’m very happy with the result. You can get a strong color with a small amounts of the powdered pigment, and it doesn’t change color when it dries.

I was just experimenting so I just bought a three-color set on Amazon.com. The earth tones are closest to the colors I most often use for my animal sculptures. You can see the grizzly bear at the top of this photo has the same yellow and browns that are in the fake Mexican pot I made for this experiment.

This website has more colors, in smaller containers.

Make Colored Paper Mache Clay

It takes a bit of time to mix the pigments into the paper mache clay. If you only need one color, you could add it when you were mixing the other ingredients, and let the mixer do the work. I wanted three different colors, and I actually wanted some variation, because pre-Columbian olla I used as a model was made with real clay, and it has a lot of texture. It would have been possible to come very close to the original, if I’d taken more time. The only thing I’m not sure how to reproduce is the white crackling on the surface of the original pot. (If you have any ideas for that, let me know. I won’t be doing any more work on this pot, but that ancient, well-used surface is interesting, and it might work for another project. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’ve made colored paper mache clay another way, and it worked, please let us know how you did it in the comments below.

And if you have some ideas about how we could use colored paper mache clay in our sculptures, let us know that, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

12 thoughts on “Make Colored Paper Mache Clay”

  1. I have just started experimenting using Jonniโ€™s fab original recipe. Then top coating with plaster ( joint compound). I planned on painting the items but after sanding back, the effect was fabulous. Yellow and white mottled effect. This idea using tinted pulp and possibly plaster would look amazing. I wish I could figure out how to add photo

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  2. You can buy small tubes of strong colourpaste, to use, for example, to give white wallpaint a different colour. I also use this for colouring my paper mache.
    In the Netherlands you can get it by ‘Karwei’ for about 5 or 6 euro’s.

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  3. The Inuit folks sometimes soaked animal intestine/grasses in crepe paper for color in baskets…not sure what the wetting agent was though.
    Also wonder what using crepe paper for texture would be like.

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    • I’ve used crepe paper as the final layer in paper mache. Carefully applying it and letting it “crunch” up a bit rather than smoothing it out lets it keep its crepe texture.

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      • Interesting idea, Carol! I’ll have to try that soon. And Judy, I haven’t tried adding crepe paper to the paper mache to add texture or color, but it’s definitely worth a try. If you experiment with it, please show us how it turns out. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Have you tried adding dyes when you are making the paper mache clay? Dyes would be permanent. (I would think that food color could possibly be use too, but not fade-proof or fade resistant.)

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      • I’ve used permanent inks. Get the good ones. Not cheap but little bit goes a long way. I’ve only used it for small projects.
        Oh! As I’m writing this reply, I just checked The Rit website and see that Rit has several colors and also offer a formula guide for you to custom mix your own additional colors. I’m not affiliated with Rit so I’ll put their website here: https://www.ritdye.com/products/
        Judy’s mention about the Inuit folks’ use of animal intestines/grasses as a dye. That said, I wonder if chokecherry berries would work? (When I was a kid, I had a real fountain pen and I mashed chokecherries with a bit of water and filled the fountain pen ink barrel with the resulting juice. Worked great!)

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