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Paper Mache Clay Recipe

The recipe for paper mache clay

  • 1 1/4 cups damp toilet paper
  • 1 cup premixed drywall joint compound in a plastic tub
  • 3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue-All or any PVA glue (or Gorilla Wood Glue if you’re using DAP brand joint compound. Elmer’s Glue won’t work with DAP
  • 1/2 to 1 cup white flour (adjustable)
  • 2 tablespoons mineral oil (optional)

Note: If you have a kitchen scale, you can use this recipe with gram measurements.

You can also make colored paper mache clay – click the link to see how.

What does it look like when it’s dry?

Paper Mache Clay Deer Head

If you’d like to see what your sculpture might look like when you use this recipe, I finished many of my sculpture and mask patterns with paper mache clay, or with a combination of this recipe and traditional paper strips and paste.

Yes, I do sometimes use both. The clay doesn’t like covering the sharp edges of ears, and it’s easier to wind narrow strips of paper and paste around long thin shapes, like the wire used for bird legs or tiny animal sculptures.

For everything else, I use paper mache clay or one of the variations of this recipe.

Why I Created the Recipe for Paper Mache Clay:

Over ten years ago I became frustrated with traditional paper strips and paste. I couldn’t get fine details, like I could when sculpting with real clay. It took too much time to add all those layers of paper mache. And it was messy.

But I wanted to sculpt, and paper mache was the only affordable option.

That’s why I created this original (and still my favorite) recipe for paper mache clay. 

  • It’s affordable.
  • It uses common ingredients that you can find at your local DIY store or Walmart.
  • And it helps you create beautiful sculptures that you can be proud of. This is not the kind of paper mache you made back in grade school!

I put this recipe for paper mache clay on this blog and on YouTube about ten years ago. It has now been used by millions of people around the world, and I get emails and comments every day from people who tell me they love it!

How do you use it?

You use a knife to apply paper mache clay in a really thin layer over your armature, almost like frosting a cake.  You only need a very thin layer, because it dries hard and strong, even with as little as 1/8″ applied to your sculpture. 

How long will it last?

Once the material is completely dry, painted and sealed, it will last for years.

When it’s still in the bowl, it will last several days if you cover it tightly to keep it from drying out. Put it in the fridge if you can’t use it again for a week or two, because the organic materials in the recipe can attract mold while it’s still wet. If you want it to last longer, put it in the freezer, and it will last indefinitely. 

Can you sand it?

Yes, but I almost never do. Paper mache clay dries really hard, and sanding it is a pain in the rear. Plus, you need to wear a mask, because you don’t want the fine powder in your lungs.

And you probably want to do it outside, because that fine dust will go all over your house.

What do I do instead? I use drywall joint compound, which I always have on hand because it’s one of the main ingredients of the recipe. To see exactly how I do it, watch my video that shows you how to make paper mache smooth without sanding.

(And yes, it works with traditional paper strips and paste, too.)

When I really have to sand my paper clay I use my little electric sander.

Are there other options?

Yes, there are two alternative recipes, and many people actually prefer them. Go ahead and try them all, and see which one you like best.

  1. If you like to create fine details, the way you might if you were using real clay or polymer clay, try the silky-smooth air dry clay recipe. It uses the same ingredients, plus corn starch, but there’s less paper in the mix so it’s great for detailed textures and details. Many readers have also used it in small silicone molds for jewelry, and they say it works well. I haven’t tried that yet, myself, so do some experiments to see if it works for you.
  2. If you need a recipe that can be used for outdoor sculptures, check out the paper cement clay recipe. It’s only been tested for a little over a year so far, so consider it experimental – but many people have had very good luck with it.

How to make paper mache clay:

Bowls and mixer for paper mache clay/

You’ll need several large bowls, some measuring cups, a spoon and an electric mixer.

Supplies for making paper mache clay.

The supplies you need for paper mache clay are:

Elmer’s Glue-All, or any PVA glue. Most white glue will work. The Clear Glue from the Elmer’s company also works.

Drywall joint compound – any brand except DAP. That brand doesn’t work because it turns into rubber when mixed with glue.

I buy my joint compound at Walmart. It works great for this recipe, and it’s much less expensive than most brands.

If you aren’t sure what joint compound is called in your country, click here.

Note: There is a warning on the joint compound container that says you should wear a mask when you sand it because it contains silica. Silica is a very hard mineral (most sand is made out of silica) and you don’t want the fine powder in your lungs. I never sand paper mache clay myself, but if you do, be sure to wear a mask. (You should wear a mask when you sand anything!)

To make your paper mache clay smooth without sanding, watch this video.

White flour. The flour thickens the paper mache by soaking up the water. If you can’t use the flour for any reason, you’ll want to use this variation of the paper mache clay recipe instead.

Toilet paper. Any brand will work, so buy the cheapest brand you can find.

Some people use recycled paper instead. In fact, ever since the toilet paper shortage in early 2020, more and more people have made the recipe with old newspapers or the brown paper that Amazon.com uses inside it’s cartons. The texture of the final mix may be slightly different, but recycled paper works just fine. To see a video about using recycled paper in paper mache clay, click here.

Mineral oil (baby oil) or linseed oil – this is totally optional. The oil changes the ‘feel’ of the paper mache clay while you’re working with it, but the recipe works just fine without it. Don’t use boiled linseed oil if children will be helping you with your sculpture, because it contains chemicals.

More Lion King mask patterns for paper mache:

Step 1: Soak and measure your paper.

Soaking toilet paper for paper mache clay.

The first thing we need to do is get our paper ready. We want about a cup and a quarter of wet paper. You can use any cup to measure with – it doesn’t have to be exact.

Put the paper in hot water to get it wet, and press it down into a measuring cup until you have about a cup and a quarter of wet paper. Then put it back in the hot water. You want all the paper fibers to be separated. Just swirl the paper around with your fingers and the toilet paper will completely fall apart.

Step 2: Press out the water.

Paper Mache Clay Recipe

You want to press most of the water out of the paper, but you have to be really careful that you don’t press out too much.

If you press out so much of the water that it’s almost dry, it won’t fall apart when you run your mixer. You’ll end up with big globs and bumpy lumps in your paper mache clay.

So go ahead and test it in your hand. Can you push it around and have it come apart, even though most of the water has been pressed out? Then you’re good to go.

Step 3: Add joint compound and glue to the paper mache clay mixture.

Paper Mache Clay Recipe

Now you can add the drywall joint compound and glue, and start mixing.

What is drywall joint compound? This product is made for the construction industry when they build interior walls. The joint compound is used to cover the edges between two sheets of drywall (also called gypsum board, plaster board and sheet rock). You’ll find it in the paint department at Walmart, or in any DIY store.

If you live in a country where they don’t make flat walls out of plasterboard or drywall, you won’t be able to find drywall joint compound in your stores.

A lot of people ask me, “Can you make paper mache clay without drywall joint compound?” No, you can’t – this recipe requires the joint compound.

If you can’t find the joint compound in your country or if you don’t want to use it, this site has projects that use the traditional paper mache mixture of softened paper and paste.

Mix your paper, joint compound and glue for several minutes. You want the mixer to tear all of the paper fibers apart so it’ll be nice and smooth.

Step 4: Add the flour.

Add flour to the paper mache clay mixture.

You’re going to use the white flour to thicken the paper mache clay. The flour soaks up the excess water in the mixture, and makes it easier to spread the paper mache or create sculpted details.

The amount of flour you need depends on how you want to use your paper mache clay, and how much water was left in the paper. Just keep adding more until you get the consistency you want.

For instance, if you want a really thin layer like I use when I’m covering my mask patterns, or when I want to create a hard solid surface with my first layer, I’ll use a  small amount of flour to make a really thin mixture of the paper mache clay.

Snowy Owl made with paper mache clay

But when I want to add texture, or if I want to actually sculpt with the paper mache clay like I did with my snowy owl, then I’ll add more flour.

A note about the beaters: I add 1/2 cup of flour to start with, using the standard beaters. When I need more flour, I’ll switch to the dough hooks.

My mixer didn’t come with the dough hooks, like this one does, but I use some old ones I have from another mixer, and they fit.

If you don’t have the bread-mixing beaters, the paper mache clay has a tendency to crawl up the standard beaters. The mixture will also become very heavy, and could burn out the motor in a small mixer if you use the standard beaters.

Another option is to mix the flour in by hand.

An alternative to a kitchen mixer: If you need to mix up a lot of the paper mache at one time, perhaps for a workshop or a very large project, you can use a paint mixer attachment for an electric drill instead of a of a kitchen mixer, and a plastic pail instead of a bowl.

Step 5: Apply your paper mache clay to your armature.

Use a knife to spread a thin layer of paper mache clay over your armature. If you’ll be using the paper mache clay to add finer details, it’s easiest if you put on a thin layer first and let it dry. Then you have a solid surface for your final sculpting.

Almost any of the projects on this site can be made with paper mache clay. You’ll find them all in the Art Library.  There’s a link to that page at the top of the site, so you can always come back to it. That’s also where you’ll find other recipes, like the smooth air dry clay and the paper mache clay without flour.

For a fast start on a project, choose one of  my mask and sculpture patterns. Any of the patterns can be used with either paper strips and paste or this paper mache clay recipe.

Have fun!


DIY paper mache clay recipe

5,241 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Recipe”

  1. NEED HELP!!!!
    I’m doing great sculpting my whimsical animals but I’d like to add some clothes to some of them. I made a “dress” from aluminum foil over my plastic, .metal and foil armature…. but have no clue how to add my clay and keep the “ruffles”?????
    Michele

    Reply
    • When I need to cover something with a sharp edge, like an ear or a collar, I use paper strips and paste instead of the paper mache clay. That way, the edges can stay sharp. The paper mache clay can be put on very thinly almost up to the edge to make it strong, but still hold the edge. By the way, we’d love to see your whimsical animals! You can show them off on the Daily Scuptors page, if you’d like. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hello, Jonni! I first want to thank you for sharing this recipe, I can’t wait to create!!
    I have a question though about the toilet paper. I looked high and low for an answer and couldn’t find one so hope you can help! You suggested buying the cheapest toilet paper available and I love that idea as I’m frugal. With this in mind, there’s one ply or two ply options..the one-ply is least expensive but does the thicker two-ply add more volume when measuring it out, taking less of an amount compared to one-ply? I was also looking at total cost in cents based on “sheets per roll” and wondered if that may just be the best way to go? Thank you!

    Reply
    • I’ve never done any math like that, but the kind I buy, for the recipe and my bathroom, is Scott 1000 – and it looks like it’s one ply. But I really don’t think it makes any difference. You get a lot of paper in a roll of that brand, so it should last a while. Have fun! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Have you ever embedded natural materials such as pebbles or twigs in it? Will it hold them do you think? I’m wanting to make fairy garden houses with my students.

    Reply
    • I haven’t done it. I know some other people were going to experiment with that idea, but I don’t remember them getting back to us to let us know if it works or not. You might want to try it at home before starting the project with your students – and be sure to let us know how your fairy houses turn out! 🙂
      By the way, the paper mache clay can’t be left outside in the garden. If you want to do that, you’ll want to try the paper cement clay instead – but it will still be an experiment.

      Reply
  4. Hi Jonni, My grandson and myself are nearing completing a 6 1/2’ shark project, which we started some time ago. When we paint the shark do you recommend mixing the acrylic paint with Elmers glue so it won’t peel and flake off. Also do we then need to seal it and if so, what would you recommend. Many thanks. Sue

    Reply
    • Hi Sue. I think adding glue to the acrylic paint will make it crackle. It’s a nice look for some projects, but probably not for a shark. The best way to protect the acrylic paint is to use a good clear top coat. Lately, I’ve been using Rustoleum Matte Clear Enamel. You can find it at any DIY store. If you’re looking for a glossy finish, they’ll have some in the same section of the store. I’ve been reading good reports about this one, but I haven’t tried it. If you prefer a brush-on sealer, a polyurethane vanish will work, but it might yellow slightly. If your shark is painted a dark color, it shouldn’t matter. The varnish available at a DIY store is a lot less expensive than acrylic artists’ varnish, but if you have some of that, it will work just fine.

      Reply
  5. Hi Jonni – love your YouTube videos! I’m brand new to this as I’ve been searching how to make lightshades. I want to use your clay recipe (I think) but wonder if I should put the clay over plaster strips or plain old paper strips with glue. Many thanks from a new fan ?

    Reply
  6. Thanks for this ! I’m curious if I put the mache/slurry over a smooth object to make a mould, do you think it will stick to the original object? Any release agents ?
    Would be grateful for your input.

    Reply
    • Hi Gerri. There’s a lot of glue in the recipe, and drywall joint compound is also made to stick to walls. It won’t stick to slick plastic, usually – but it would be a good idea to do a test first, to make sure. If it sticks, you can try petroleum jelly as a release, but that could make it difficult to paint the casting after it comes out of the mould. I have not been able to get good castings using this recipe – the shape will become distorted as it dries, because the mould keeps it from drying on both sides at the same time.

      Reply
    • Try wrapping in cling film first! I did this with plastic molds and then pulled the cling film out when I was done.

      Reply
  7. Hello Joni – thank you so much for all this valuable info. I have used the paper clay recipe for students while teaching at community college and am now making a large Sitting Rock sculpture with it. I am finding gallons of Elmer’s school glue and not so much the Elmer’s glue all. Will the school glue be weaker? I need it to be strong/weight bearing. I have a stacked cardboard armature inside so that helps but still it has some lumps and bumps that need to hold up. I’m also finding the paper clay wets paper mache I started with over chicken wire so I used tinfoil as a moisture barrier and that seems to have worked so it dries faster. Tho time consuming to do that between additional coats of paper clay I’m in LA but it’s our cold damp season unfortunately.

    Reply
    • Hi Alice. They don’t sell any school glue at my local store (I live in a really small town) so I can’t test the recipe for strength myself. You might want to make up a really small batch with your glue, and spread it out thinly over a piece of plastic. When it’s dry you can bend it and play with it, to see if it will be strong enough. The recipe really isn’t intended to be used as a structural material, though – try to make the armature stronger so it will hold someone’s weight by itself, and use the paper mache clay as a final skin. Maybe a few more pieces of strong cardboard placed inside.

      Reply
      • thank you so much for taking the time to reply! I’ve been using a mesh seam tape made for sheetrock and that greatly helps it strengthen the clay.

        Reply
  8. Hey Jonni!
    I’ve been following you as I am doing a full deer head sculpture and I’ve come to the clay recipe. I bought Wurth joint compound from Walmart, careful not to buy DAP, and the recipe turned out papery and rubbery. I use the exact measurement with my scale and went through it twice. Same outcome. My thoughts are it’s the joint compound…Help!!

    Reply
      • Hi again Jonni,
        I used your silky-smooth air dry clay recipe. I am trying to make the Frankie the Stag Wall Mount. You can find it just by googling the name. Its aluminum with a brass like finish. My question is, what do you recommend I use to get as close as I can to that finish? You definitely have the experience. Thank you.

        Reply
      • Awww, I wish I would have checked this thread sooner. I just mixed my clay with the wurth brand and had to throw it out! I was all set to start texturing on this cold and snowy day. Oh well, might have to make a run to the store in the morning! Thanks for your awesome recipes!

        Reply
    • If you leave it in the bowl long enough without using it, it can grow mold. In fact, so can wet paper. And I’ve seen mold grow on drywall joint compound a few months after I open the container and forget to close it properly. All mold needs to grow is water. You can make smaller batches if you think you’ll take a long time to make your sculpture. After applying a thin layer to your armature, make sure you get it dry as fast as you can (a fan really helps) and then paint it and seal it with a good varnish. If you take care of it, like you would any fine art, it should last for many years.

      Reply
  9. Hi Jonni!
    Have you ever tried making paper mache clay with cornstarch instead of flour? I was wondering if it might make a more silky clay?

    Reply
    • We do put some cornstarch in the air dry clay – it has less paper in it, too, so it is smoother. You can see that recipe here. And the batch of paper mache clay that I made this week using the Wurth brand joint compound with Gorilla wood glue didn’t need much flour to make it thick enough to spread. I’ll bet it would be possible to leave all the flour out and just use cornstarch. I haven’t tried that yet, though. You can see that version of the recipe here.

      Reply
      • Thank you, Jonni!
        I made your paper Máchê clay last week that used both flour and cornstarch. I really like it! I was just curious if you’ve ever tried making it with only cornstarch. I might have to give it a try!??

        Reply
      • Side note: I wasn’t sure if flour (gluten) added some sort of binding property to the clay recipe that cornstarch might not. ????

        Reply
        • No, I don’t think it has any effect except for soaking up the extra moisture. The joint compound and glue make the mixture dry really hard, and the paper fibers act as reinforcing. Using just corn start shouldn’t hurt anything – but it tends to soak up the water slower than the flour, so just add a little at a time, and add more if needed. Have fun with it!

          Reply
          • I mixed up two batches….one with flour and cornstarch and the other one with only cornstarch. I thought the one with only cornstarch would have a lighter consistency but it doesn’t. It’s actually heavier and not as “stretchy” as the one with flour. Apparently, gluten does make a difference in how it feels. Tomorrow I’m going to make two round paper armatures and apply each one of the clay mixtures to them so I can see how they compare to one another after they’re dry. I’ll be sure to share the results on here!

            Reply
  10. Thanks so much for sharing this! Mine came out not so much like clay as like a yeasty dough. It’s very… stretchy? I’m not sure, but think the balance is off. Have you seen this before? Thanks for any help you can provide! 🙂

    Reply
  11. Hi Jonni –

    I have a paper mache E.T. that I made using the directions here: https://www.instructables.com/ET-Costume-1/. I tried using latex and cotton batting as shown but it was just too frustrating, and it got everywhere. I’m planning on using your paper mache clay instead. Do I need to be careful about the amount that I use at one time? Can I add the clay as a 1/2” layer and shape it, or do I need to do this in multiple thinner layers?

    Reply
    • I don’t recommend a layer more than 1/4″, and I usually apply the paper mache even thinner than that. It’s really strong, so even 1/8″ is usually enough. But you can always add more paper mache clay to add details, and it does stick to the dried layers. Have fun with it!

      Reply
  12. I can’t find small pails of Proform all purpose joint compound anywhere in my area (Walmart is out of stock, and Lowes no longer carries it.) I’m concerned that using another brand could cause the same results as using Dap or Wurth pre-mixed compounds. Do you know if I can use USG (US Gypsum) Sheetrock all purpose joint compound as a substitute?

    Reply
  13. doe the paper clay have to be applied thinly? would it be possible to use this in layers on top of itself? and how long does it typically take to dry. Thank you for your efforts and art!

    Reply
    • Hi Julia. It is best to use thin layers, so the paper mache clay can dry all the way through. You can add more layers on the top of dried layers, and add small details as you work. It’s hard to say exactly how long it takes to dry, because it depends on the humidity in the room, the temperature, whether or not you use a fan (recommended) and how thickly it’s applied. Do give it at least a few days, and make sure you don’t paint it until it’s dry all the way through.

      Reply
  14. Hey! would mixing the glue, flour and drywall with paper mache (which is already grinded and mixed) with my hands instead of a beater work?

    Reply
    • I’m not sure what you mean by the paper mache – do you mean the powdered product that you can buy in the store? I think it depends on whether or not the mixture contains plaster of Paris – some of them do, but they don’t mention it on the label. You’d need to try it to find out if it works or not.

      Reply
    • It looks like he’s stuck! Great character – and I know more of my readers would love to see it. You can show it off on the Daily Sculptors page on my site, too. 🙂

      Reply

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