This little paper mache lop-eared rabbit was a lot of fun to make, and only cost a few pennies in materials.
This is one of the very first projects I made for this blog. I hadn’t started using the cardboard patterns yet, and I hadn’t come up with the recipe for paper mache clay.
However, I have made many sculptures using these very simple techniques – it’s a fast, easy way to make a sculpture. And it’s fun, because you never know exactly how it will look until it’s done.
Step 1 – Starting to make the armature:
The bunny starts out with a wad of newspaper that is made into a ball for the bunny’s body. Once you have a ball that’s about the right size, cover it completely with masking tape.
Step 2 – Adding the legs and tail:
Next, add smaller scrunches of paper for the four legs and the tail. The front legs are slightly bent at the bottom to make the feet. The back legs have a wide section at the top for the knees. The tail is a small ball of crumpled paper.
Step 3 – Adding the bunny’s head and cutting the ears:
Now the head is added. It’s just another ball of crumpled paper.
Then cut two ears out of the cardboard from a cereal box.
Cut tabs at the top of the ears so you can bend them over and use them to tape the ears to the head.
You can make your bunny’s ears long enough to go all the way to the table, or you can make them stand up straight.
If you make lots of bunnies, you can make all of them have different ears, by changing the length and the way they’re attached to the head.
Step 4 – Adding the ears:
Tape the ears to the bunny’s head and bend them downward for lop ears.
A small bump of paper is added at the top of the ears to give them a realistic curve.
If your rabbit has ears that go straight up, just tape the tabs to the head and cover them with masking tape.
I left the details, like eyes, nose and toes, until after the paper and paste was dry.
If I made another rabbit I would go ahead and add those details now. Do it the way that is easiest for you.
Step 5 – Adding the paper mache:
Now the paper and masking tape are completely covered with strips of newsprint and a paste made from flour and water.
Do this in two stages – put paper mache on the bottom and let it dry, then cover the top.
My bunny was dried in an oven set at 200 F. (Never put paper mache projects in an oven that is hotter than that, because the heat will distort the shape.
And never put them near a fire or electric heater unless you want to burn down your house).
You can watch this video to see how to apply paper strips so they lay down nice and smooth.
I used the raw flour and water paste for my bunny, but you can use any recipe you like. You can see many paper mache recipes here.
Step 6: Adding Details
I let the paper mache dry and then added the details with paper towels dipped in the flour and water paste.
Bunnies don’t have too many details because they’re covered with fur. However, I wanted to have some nice toes, and I built her nose and mouth from pieces of paper towel.
I also gave her some “eyebrows”, and added a bump that some bunnies have on the top of their head.
Then I let the paper towels dry.
Step 7 – Making the bunny smooth:
When the paper mache was dry I used some premixed drywall joint compound to round out the bunny’s body. You can buy this product at the hardware store.
This step isn’t necessary, because many people like to leave the ridges and bumps that are created when you crumple paper – it gives the final project an unmistakable “paper mache” look.
You can watch this video to see how it can easily be applied in a paper-thin layer with a silicone spatula.
You can also spread it on with a wet finger, but it can dry out your hands, so might want to wear some gloves if you do it that way.
In any case, you want to spread it very thin. If it’s too thick it will crack when it dries.
As soon as the joint compound is dry, you can easily sand it, but that can make a real mess with dust all over the place. You will also want to wear a mask to keep the dust out of your lungs. I never sand my sculptures unless I absolutely have to, and then I do it outside – while wearing a mask!
I prefer to use a damp sponge instead of sanding, like I did in this video. Just rub it lightly over the drywall joint compound after the joint compound is dry.
Don’t rub too hard or you’ll damage the paper mache.
Step 9 – Painting your bunny:
Cover the entire bunny with a warm white craft paint, or mix acrylic paint with White and a tiny bit of Yellow Ochre or Naples Yellow. allow the white to dry. I used an old, stiff brush to create fur marks in the white paint.
Now add the spots:
To make your bunny look like mine:
- Mix Black with water to make a light grey.
- Mix Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna to make an orange-brown, and thin it with water.
I put on the orange spots first, and let them dry. Some of the orange was placed on the part of the ear closest to the head.
Then I added the light grey spots and painted the dark ears.
The ears and cheeks are dark brown.
In the second photo below you can see that I’m trying to copy the colors of a real rabbit.
The eyes are painted black with a tiny spot of white for a reflection.
Painting over the fur texture with thinned acrylic paint creates a nice illusion of real hair, without having to paint in little hairs with a tiny brush.
The bunny was then finished with a coat of acrylic varnish. I always use a matte varnish on my animal sculptures, but you can use a satin or gloss varnish if you prefer a shiny coat.