Paper Mache Clay Recipe

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The recipe for paper mache clay

  • 1 1/4 cups damp toilet paper
  • 1 cup premixed drywall joint compound in a plastic tub (but not DAP brand joint compound)
  • 3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue-All or any PVA glue
  • 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.

What does it look like when it’s dry?

Paper Mache Clay Deer HeadGood question.

If you’d like to see what your sculpture might look like when you use this recipe, I finished most of my sculpture and mask patterns with it, 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 inside bird legs.

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

See my patterns for paper mache wall sculptures and masks:

Why I Created the Recipe for Paper Mache Clay:

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.

See my patterns for the Lion King headdress masks:

Are there other options?

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

  1. If you live in a humid environment and you worry about mold and mildew, or if you’re allergic to gluten, check out the new recipe for paper mache clay without flour. It takes another small appliance to make it, but the final product works just as well as the original recipe on this page.
  2. 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.

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

5,104 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Recipe”

  1. Hello! Wow your work is amazing! I am trying a beetlejuice masks.., and is the Elmers school glue the same? I cannot find the ALL here in Canada. Thank you

    Reply
    • That sounds like a fun project! No, the school glue isn’t the same, and one of my readers recently tried it and says it doesn’t work. However, PVA glue is sold in Canada, and that’s what you need. It should say PVA on the label. I’m sorry I don’t know the brands.

      Reply
  2. Querida, eres una verdadera artista talentosa, tus trabajos son asombrosos! Muchas gracias por compartir tu receta!! El conocimiento compartido se multiplica y nunca muere. Felicitaciones de corazón y gracias otra vez!! Abrazo desde Uruguay.

    Reply
  3. Jennifer, you have been a inspiration to me. I haven’t done paper mache in years and you have sparked the bug. I hate sanding too. Being a re-beginner I need to hone my skills. In trying to make a paper mache balloon smooth, I found my ‘Zyliss’ citrus peeler works great for me to even out lumpy spots. I dampen the area first to soften it a bit, then use the stripper in long strokes. It leaves some shallow grooves that I go over with a wet sanding sponge, then smooth it with my hand. Hope this helps another beginner. I was getting frustrated and this made it easier.

    Reply
  4. Does the drywall joint compound have to be all-purpose? I went to the hardware store and only found the “lite blue” version of the ProForm brand. Is that okay or does it have to be all-purpose?

    Reply
    • I hadn’t heard of that version, so I checked online. It looks like the Lite Blue ProForm joint compound is vinyl based, so I don’t know if it would work or not. You might want to use one of their other brands, like Sheetrock, instead. But remember that DAP brand doesn’t work.

      Reply
  5. Hello!

    Not sure if this has been asked yet, but I was wondering if i could use paper mache clay over a paper & tape or aluminum foil armature and once it’s dry, put a layer of concrete over the paper mache clay. I have a tub of quickcrete that I haven’t opened yet and has been in my shed for a few months. Got inspired and I’m interested in making concrete sculptures that will be abstract but want to do so without using silicone or molds or casting. Also These would be for indoor display and not outdoors. Any advice would be great.

    Thank you! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Jay. I have no idea if that would work or not. The water in the concrete mix will soak into any paper product that’s under it, and it might also prevent the water in the paper from evaporating. I think the only way to find out is to try it, and see what happens. Why are you thinking about using the concrete? Is it for the color or texture?

      Reply
  6. Hello. Firstly.. thank you for this site, recipes and tuition, all amazing and such fun! I’ve previously been using cold porcelain clay but this is much better due to the shrinking and cracking issues of CP (in my experience anyway!). I have one question please … how to stop the MPC/Super Smooth ADC going mouldy?. In the cold or cooked CP recipes it always calls for a tbspn of white vinegar which is supposed to stop mould (and so far I’ve never had a problem), but your recipes don’t so I wondered if it would ruin it. Or if you can advise another way to stop the mould forming. I stored the PMC in a pot, with cling film over the top and then the tight fitting lid. The clay itself is over a week old, and would still be useable (soft and squishy) were it not for the mould.
    Thank you for any help on this.

    Reply
  7. I’ve been using your recipe for about 5 years even though I made it my own by the way I had a little of this and subtracted things- it originally started here. I was hoping you still had others creations on your site. I sent my first one in and wanted a comparison to what I’ve become since. Apparently competition isn’t still in your blood.

    Thanks for getting me started I’m not going to use my real name. I wish I knew how to make it obvious.

    Take care
    ‘T’

    Reply
  8. Hi Jonni!

    Absolutely love this and currently trying to use it for a college project, my mixture is coming out a bit like cake batter and difficult to smooth down. Any ideas on what i’m doing wrong?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • If you didn’t use DAP brand drywall joint compound, which will stiffen the mixture, then it might just need to be mixed longer. The paper might have clumped together when you squeezed out the water, and it just hasn’t broken apart yet. Try mixing it longer, and if that doesn’t help add a small amount of the glue and joint compound to get the consistency you want.

      Reply
  9. Hi, I’ve be been using your guide to make centerpieces for my wedding. I was wondering is it possible to color the clay when making it, by say mixing in acrylic paint when mixing in the joint compound?

    Reply
    • Yes, you can add acrylic paint, but the other ingredients are all white so the resulting color will be pastel. That might work really well, though, for some projects. Go ahead and give it a try.

      Reply

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