How to Make a Paper Mache Bunny Sculpture

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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. Paper Mache Lop-Eared Rabbit, Step 1

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. Paper Mache Lop-Eared Rabbit, Step 2

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.

Paper Mache Lop-Eared Rabbit, Step 3

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.

Paper Mache Lop-Eared Rabbit, Step 4

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. Paper Mache Lop-Eared Rabbit, Step 5

Step 6:

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. Paper Mache Lop-Eared Rabbit, Step 6

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. If you would like to use it, 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. 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 prefer to use a damp sponge instead of sanding. 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. Paper Mache Lop-Eared Rabbit, Step 6

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. Paper Mache Lop-Eared Rabbit, painting 2 Paper Mache Lop-Eared Rabbit, painting 1

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.

110 thoughts on “How to Make a Paper Mache Bunny Sculpture”

  1. Hello, I’d made ??sculptures that can be outside. For now I will work with your ultimate paper mache recipe. I found this site that allows you to leave the sculptures outside. But there is not yet alas recipe. I expect he put online to buy if it is not too expensive. I live in France, but I do not know where to buy the pal Tyia? the next episode. And thank you for your tutorials.

    do you known this web ?
    http://www.paltiya.com/about-pal-tiya.html

    Reply
    • It looks like the Paltiya product is a fiber-reinforced concrete. Their website says it hasn’t been released yet. I signed up for their newsletter so I’ll be notified when it’s available. There are fiber reinforced concrete products available at builder’s supply stores, but perhaps this product is different in some way. We’ll stay tuned. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Thank you for sharing your technique it was really helpfull, I created a pig with the same technique and it worked out really well. Thanks again

    Reply
    • You can let the bunny air dry. It will get just as hard, but it takes a little longer. If you put it in front of a fan, it will probably dry faster than it would in the oven.

      Reply
  3. hi jonni,
    great ideas , my daughter has a paper mache project at her school , she wanted to make a pig but she fall in love with the bunny 🙂 i was wondering how long will it stays in the oven ? like an average an hour less or more , when can u tell it`s dry and that u can add another layer .. awesome lovely work .. regards .. engi .. p.s. we will post a photo of our final project 🙂

    Reply
  4. i need it for art class and this is so complicated i need easier steps so i wont get a failing grade plz help me plz i need it by next week and i need to use paper mache and sta-flo

    Reply
    • I’m not sure we’ve ever found a product in India that works the same way. It is used in the construction industry, and it’s possible that houses in India are not built the same way, using plasterboard on the walls. You might try calling a local contractor who does remodeling work, and ask if they use joint compound (or whatever they call it there) to fill in cracks between sheets of plasterboard. If you find out what it’s called, please let us know.

      I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

      Reply
  5. Hi. I am making twenty hot air balloon paper mache sculptures. All my research brings me to your site! I used punch balloons for the base, paper mached traditionally and let dry then added your paper mache clay recipe. It is quite bumpy still. Would you suggest using your gesso recipe to smooth it out or just joint compound? I am making the prototype this weekend so any suggestions are welcome!! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Kelly. I think either one would work. If you use a lot of joint compound it could make your balloons a bit heavy, but if you only need to smooth things out, it should work. The gesso would work too, of course.

      Reply
  6. Hello Joni,
    I tried to make this rabbit as my first paper mache project and I had some difficulty. Is there a method to scrunching up the newspaper into a ball? Yours always look so smooth and mine are always lumpy. Also, any tips on the legs? I had a hard time making the newspaper take those shapes.

    P.S. Bought your book and love it. My paper mache clay has lasted a month so far and I’m still using it! I’ve made a Clownfish,duck, three lop rabbits(they don’t really look like rabbits), and a dolphin. I am in the process of making a cat right now. LOVE your book!

    Reply
    • Hi Kaitlin. I’m so happy that you’re enjoying the book! That’s always nice to hear.

      I scrunch my newspaper into a really tight ball, and do a lot of prodding and pushing. Sometimes I put it on the table and press down on it to get the bumps out. Then you have to tape it up really fast, or it will try to unfold itself.

      We would love to see your sculptures – you can upload photos in the comments now, and I know we’d all like to see them.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for answering my question so promptly! I see that you already answered the leg/paw question in another comment, whoops! Sorry to have asked again!
        I’ll be sure to get pictures up when I get around to photographing the sculptures. Currently they are spread out among friends and family.

        Reply
  7. Hello Jonni

    First off let me say your work is amazing , That being said , i have attempted this bunny . I have a few questions for my next try. First off – When i was doing the skin layer , i had trouble texturing it with the tool. It actually just ended up shredding the paper towel. Next what is the benefit of using the paper from paper bags? Can you heat it after painting it to dry? How do i upload a picture lol?

    Reply
    • Hi Ciomara. The towels are so fragile that you can’t really use a tool, as you found out. I smooth it out with my fingers. The paper bag paper is heavier, so you don’t need to make as many layers as you do with newspaper. However, with a project like this one, it doesn’t really need the extra strength. If you prefer newspaper, go ahead and use it instead.

      I think that acrylic paint will warp or bubble if you heat it up. It would be best to put the finished work in front of a fan, instead.

      We would love to see your bunny or any other project you’re working on. We can’t upload pictures directly to the comment section any more, so the photos would need to be uploaded to a photo sharing site first, or to a page on your own website. Then you can put the URL of the photo in your comments, and I’ll put in the code that lets them show up here.

      Reply
  8. Hi Jonni,

    I was wondering if you’ve ever tried embedding glass eyes on one of your animal sculptures and, if so, how you make the glass adhere.

    Many thanks for these tutorials — they’re fantastic!

    Reply
  9. Thanks for your help! I have found the newspaper a bit easier, which did suprise me, but I think it may have been because I found it easier to make the legs 3D without using a flat pattern. You have been a great help :]

    Steph

    Reply
  10. Hey Jonni.

    What I have seen completed on this website by both you and all viewers is amazing! I was just wondering, how did you get the shapes for the legs? I have made many attempts but none look like a real rabbit foot. Would you be able to tell me how you created the leg shapes and any advice you have to assist me with mine?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Steph. When I made this bunny I just wadded up some paper into a long narrow shape, and bent it at the “elbow.” With that technique, if you can even call it that, you don’t have nearly as much control over shapes as my newer technique. I’m now using cardboard patterns inside every four-legged critter, with the patterns filled out with crumpled paper. I search for good photos on the web, and use as many as needed to get the original pattern “right.” You can see how the patterns look after they’re put together, but before all the padding has been added, in the first portion of my video about the spotted piglet.

      You can also see a demonstration that shows how a pattern is made from a photo or sketch in the first post about the Snowy Owl.

      Reply
      • Thanks. Did you fold over the end of the paper to make a paw, or was that just built in during the paper mache stage? Would you suggest for me to use a cardboard pattern forit, or is the paper easier?

        Reply
        • Steph, I form the rounded shapes like paws with crumpled paper and masking tape. You should try both with and without a pattern, and see which techniques works best for you.

          Reply
  11. That’s good to know. Because i can’t use the oven, since we are replacing it with a new one. And i will try to go outside and buy some acrylic paint, before the weekend ends. I really want to get started, can’t wait to see how it comes up! I will let you know as soon as possible 🙂 ~May

    Reply

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