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

5,080 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Recipe”

  1. Ik heb mijn project van karton gemaakt en afplaktape daarna heb ik het geverft maar het blijft rimpelig uitzien, kan ik over de verf nog papier maché klei gebruiken? En hoe krijg ik het papier maché klei mooi glad, want ik zag op een film dat het net boter was zoals u het erop smeerde. Alvast bedankt.

    Reply
    • Hi Marjo. I think the paper mache clay will stick to the paint, but if it doesn’t you can use a fine sandpaper to give the clay a better grip on the paint. You can make the paper mache clay go on smoothly by using slightly less flour than the recipe calls for, or use the Silky Smooth Air Dry clay recipe instead.

      Translated by Google: Hallo Marjo. Ik denk dat de klei van papier-maché aan de verf blijft plakken, maar als dat niet het geval is, kun je fijn schuurpapier gebruiken om de klei meer grip op de verf te geven. Je kunt de klei van papier-maché soepel laten verlopen door iets minder bloem te gebruiken dan het recept vereist, of gebruik het Silky Smooth Air Dry kleirecept in plaats daarvan.

      Reply
  2. Dear Jonni Good, MY wife and I discovered your wonderful tutorials this morning on Youtube and were absolutely thrilled with the information and clarity in which you demonstrated various paper mache methods and uses. My wife leads an artist trading card group and loves to give out-of-the-box challenges. You are a wealth of ideas. My entire childhood, I wanted to know the secrets of paper mache and had to wait until I had graduated from high school to learn from the master Yale puppeteer, Harry Burnett. You’ve added so much to my knowledge. Thank you, Charles Wm. Taylor

    Reply
  3. Hi Jonni!

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I’ve made your recipe a few times and my papier-mache clay is very sticky and dries very lumpy/with bits of fiber sticking out everywhere. I’m thinking I might not have blended it enough. But the “clay” feels more like very sticky peanut butter or honey that won’t come off my hands. I wouldn’t be able to roll it into a ball, for instance. Any tips on getting it smoother and less sticky?

    Reply
    • That does sound strange. We can usually get rid of the lumps and fiber by mixing a lot longer, and the stickiness will go away by adding more flour. You might want to try both of those things. But first, make sure you’re not using the DAP brand of drywall joint compound. It turns into Flubber when combined with glue.

      Reply
  4. I need to create 4″ x 2″ cones to use as tops on a mail tube crayon project. I have purchased Styrofoam cones to use as my model. Do you know if Vaseline will keep the paper mache clay from sticking to the styrofoam? The project will be a coin bank when finished, so I need the cone to be hollow.

    Reply
    • Hi Becky. There are some tiny dips and holes in the foam, so I’d cover them with some lightweight kitchen plastic wrap instead. Otherwise the paper mache clay could grab onto the holes and it would be hard to remove the foam.

      Reply
  5. I live in New england and would love to do a paper mache sculpture for my garden. If I seal it, is it possible I could leave it out all summer, taking it in in the early fall?

    Reply
    • None of my outdoor experiments with paper mache have worked, so I now use materials that are made for outdoor use, like the epoxy clay and mortar I used for my gnome. But our friend Linda wrote a guest post about a product she uses, and she says her garden mushroom is still doing fine. I think it’s best to assume that any product you put over a paper-based material will eventually break down in the sun, and will need to be reapplied. Good luck with it!

      Reply
  6. Is there a suggestion on what to add if I made my recipe to thick? What can I add in to thin it out some?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • I would let it dry for a full day or two, or even more, better safe than sorry
      but that’s just what I would do.

      Reply
        • Don’t forget to use a sealer on it too…
          but wait a few day’s to be sure it all dry though it.
          that brown paper can hold moisture a long time.

          Reply
    • Hi Sarah – this is probably a bit late, but it’s almost impossible to say for sure how long something will take to dry. It depends so much on the humidity in the air, the temperature, and whether or not the air is moving. Putting it in front of a fan really helps to get it dry faster. But as John mentioned, it’s really important to make sure it’s dry all the way through before you paint it. It will feel dry on the surface long before it’s dry inside. If you paint it when there’s still moisture inside, it’s possible for mold to start growing and eventually come to the surface. But if it’s dry completely, fungi can’t grow without water.

      Reply
  7. Someone in my church created these floor to ceiling trees with paper mache. The problem is they are not holding up very well, been kicked a few times.

    Could I do this recipe over the top of the existing trees? Also, will this be a much stronger material?

    I can provide pictures if needed.

    Reply
    • Yes, the paper mache clay should stick to dry paper mache. It is much harder, and can take more abuse – but it can be cracked if someone tries hard enough. A very thin layer is all that’s needed. We would love to see your trees – you can share photos here.

      Reply
  8. Love the idea!
    How flexible is it?
    I’m doing costume armor that will need a little flex to get on and off. I’ll coat it all in EVA foam once it’s smooth enough and I worry about it cracking under the foam.

    Reply
    • You’ll need to do some tests to make sure it will work for you. The paper mache clay dries as hard as a rock, but if it isn’t supported it’s possible that it will flex a little. I don’t make armored costumes myself, though, so be sure to do an experiment before you spend a lot of time on something that might not work. BTW, how did the knights get out of their metal armor? I never thought of that before!) 🙂

      Reply
      • Thank you!
        I have two experiments running now with different glues.
        They use hinges and buckles. I’m more worried about storage and shipping than wearing for mine. It’s just paper underneath.

        Reply
  9. Thank you for the great tutorial and the inspiration. My life size baby elephant was a huge success and I must say it was very satisfying to work with the paper mache. Thanks

    Reply
  10. Question–

    Would blue shop towels work instead of toilet paper? I have a huge bag of tiny scrap pieces left over from a project I’m working on, hate to just throw it away.

    Reply
    • The shop towels I’ve used won’t disintegrate easily. You need the paper fibers to separate, and the shop towels are made to stay together. However, I’ve never tried to make them fall apart, so maybe they will. Soak some scraps in warm water for awhile and see what happens. 🙂

      Reply
  11. How water proof is the paper mache (in case of rain).
    I would like to make two trees with a chicken wire armature (if that is possible) that are 6 feet high and three feet diameter at the base (to cover a pot), tapering to one foot near the top. They will need to be removable, thus they will not be fully finished on the back. This is for a stage prop to cover poles. What would be your very rough estimate of how many batches of your recipe I would require?

    Reply
    • Robin, paper mache clay is just as waterproof as a printed newspaper – so you can’t put it out in the rain without some kind of protection. Any varnish I’ve tried, even marine varnish, will still allow the paper mache clay to soften and ‘wilt.’ You could try the Rustoleum LeakSeal that Linda uses, but you’ll need a lot for a project that big.

      I don’t know how many square inches of surface you’ll be covering, or how thickly you’ll apply the paper mache clay. The recipe makes a little over three cups.

      You might want to consider using monster mud instead, with some old sheets. A lot of propmasters use it, perhaps because you can cover a large amount of surface quickly. Here’s a video I just found that has some variations, and it looks like their second recipe, with the thinset, may be waterproof, although he does add a waterproof material over it, too.

      Reply
  12. i have a question not a comment, i have a soon to be 2 yr old that LOVEs to play toy trucks and i want to make a track for his hot wheels monster trucks, something strong that wont break easy. i’m thinking of mounting it/building it/sculpting it on a piece of ply wood. question 1, do you think this clay would/could work good for that? 2, will the clay stick to wood?

    Reply
    • The clay will stick to wood. You might want to do a small test item first, though. The paper mache clay dries as hard as a rock, but it’s never been tested by a two-year old with a truck. I think it would work, but I could be wrong. Try it and see it you think it will be strong enough.

      Reply
    • Yes, it probably will. If the thickness was exactly the same it would probably weight the same, but that would be pretty hard to do. I don’t recommend using paper mache clay for the entire mask, anyway. It dries hard as a rock, and it has a natural texture. It’s almost impossible to make it smooth enough to feel comfortable against the skin. I recommend using at least a few layers of paper strips and paste first. Then you can use the paper mache clay for details.

      Reply
  13. Thank you for all your work and sharing your recipes for paper mache clay. You helped me so much with your tips and recipes. I would like to post a picture of my completed project but not sur how to post it.

    Reply

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