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

5,030 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Recipe”

  1. Used your recipe to make a monkey. It’s been a few years now and it’s really durable and has held up excellently. Just wanted to say thank you!

    Reply
  2. I wanted to thank you gor your recipe of the clay as it works great for my monsters.
    Only thing is i changed it a bit by using by using Sargent Acrylic paint from Walmart in stead of the white glue and it worked very well, oh and i added salt to the mix (about 2 tablespoons) it seams to make it more of smooth texture.
    I also have a friend and he uses this same recipe but instead of the joint compound he uses find powdered cement. And more paint. With this recipe he makes things that can stand up to the weather outside.
    Not sure of his proportion but you can experiment with it if you think you might want to try it.
    Thanks again for whst to you do for people on here
    Be assured you have made this world a better place

    Reply
    • Thanks for mentioning your friend’s version of the recipe. We had a guest post years ago from a fellow who also uses cement, and I’ve never tried it! My bad – I’ll try to find a small bag of cement and play around with it this winter, after the holidays.

      Your own version sounds really similar to Monster Mud – a concoction made with latex paint and joint compound. I’ve often wondered if paint could be used instead of the glue, and now you’ve proved that it’s possible. Thanks! 🙂

      Reply
      • I put a picture of my latest monster for your you and your reader’s on the show our master pieces page. Please check it out and let me know what you think

        Reply
  3. Hi Jonni! Thank you so much for all the helpful information you have posted on your website! I was wondering if you might help me answer a few questions… I am making a paper mache Death Star costume for Halloween. My plan is to paper mache either an exercise ball or large (36”) balloon then cut a hole for the head to go through and paint it. Something like this but not quite as large… http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-oqweu5X8FJM/UhK_vWFPPHI/AAAAAAAAGxo/B5QmWcHYg-Y/s1600/death_star.jpg

    I do not need it to be especially sturdy as it will only be worn one night and does not need to last beyond that. What I am looking for is what will be easiest as far as application and quickest to dry and somewhat sturdy, at least to last the night and be wearable. I was wonder your advice on what application you would recommend, paper mache clay or the traditional method with newspaper strips and also, how many layers I would need to apply? If I do strips, how long to dry in between each layer? Thank you so much for your help and all the tutorials you have posted!

    Reply
    • Hi Macall. A paper mache costume like that would probably need quite a few layers to be strong enough to not get bent or squished if someone bumps into you. (I wonder how that guy in the photo gets through doors? 🙂 ) The brown paper and wood glue method might be strong enough, if you added at least 8 or 10 layers, and let them dry before adding more.

      I hate using balloons (paper mache almost always wrinkles or cracks when used over balloons) so let’s talk about the exercise ball, instead. I made a video that shows how to make a globe, using plaster bandages for the first layer and paper strips and paste for the second layer. You could use either the paper strips or a paper-thin layer of the paper mache clay. The threads in the plaster cloth fabric do a great job of reinforcing the ball, and the paper mache makes a nice smooth, paintable surface. If you use the paper mache clay over plaster cloth, you can add it just as soon as the plaster has hardened. It will still be damp, but the two materials will dry together and be very strong.

      Be sure everything is dry all the way through before taking the air out of the ball. And make the ‘cut’ between the two halves by leaving a space uncovered. That’s a lot easier than trying to cut it after it’s dry. You can smooth the edges with paper strips and paste.

      I hope this helps. Have fun with it!

      Reply
      • Thank you so much! I am going to take your suggestion and do the plaster cloth and paper mâché clay. How much will one recipe cover? I wonder if I need to double or even maybe triple this recipe for an exercise ball that is 3′ in diameter? Thanks again!

        Reply
  4. Im so excited to try your recipe! Is the pre-mixed joint compound for convenience and consistency or does it have a different composition than the powder? Do you know if mixing the powder separately and then adding to your recipe would work?

    Reply
    • Hi Elle. I have never tried using the powdered form, but many people have told me that it works. You do need to mix it according to the instructions on the package before adding it to the paper mache clay recipe. The biggest difference is that the powdered form usually contains plaster, and the type that hardens very fast when used on a wall could make the paper mache clay harden faster, too – but so far, nobody has told me that there’s any problem with it. Have fun! 🙂

      Reply
  5. I’m working on making a doll house well the Addams Family house inside and out using cardboard and this is the best clay ever , I’m Disabled and unable to lift much so heavy is out and this isn’t heavy will send pic when done

    Reply
  6. What a site! I’m so excited.
    Can I embed mosaic ( ceramic or glass) tiles into this, for example on the back of a tortoise sculpture? Or would it be better to create the sculpture, then glue mosaic pieces then ‘grout’ with your clay?

    Reply
    • Hi Mia. I have never done any mosaic work with this recipe, so I really don’t know. Try a small test piece, maybe on a piece of cardboard, and see which way works best.

      Reply
    • Lori, it’s supposed to be at least a little sticky, so it will stick to your armature. If you use a lightly dampened knife to spread it, the stickiness shouldn’t matter. If you want it to be more firm, you can add more flour or use some corn starch.

      Reply
    • No, very few materials will stick to rubber, and the weight of the wet paper mache clay will cause the balloon to turn, so it will probably slide off. If you can get some paper strips over the balloon, one side at a time (paper strips and paste don’t stick to rubber, either) you could then add the paper mache clay over the dried paper strips and paste.

      However, balloons are one of the most difficult forms to work with with any kind of paper mache. I have a video that shows how I get around the many problems, like cracking and wrinkling, with a first layer of plaster cloth. If interested, you can see it here: https://www.ultimatepapermache.com/paper-mache-egg-humpty-dumpty

      You can apply a thin layer of paper mache clay over the plaster cloth as soon as it hardens. The two materials will dry together.

      Reply
    • Hey Vanessa. Try mixing a bit of joint compound with water, until it has the consistency of yogurt and spread a thin layer to the balloon and letting it dry before applying the paper mache clay. I am making Santa globes using balloons and it is working beautifully.

      Reply
  7. Hey Jonni!
    I find your work so inspirational, and want to try this!!
    I do have a question: would you put this in the oven to dry, and if so, for how long? I am live in a humid climate and I am wondering if adding salt will prevent mold, but not change the substance. Lastly, could I use my hands instead of beaters? Keep creating, and thank you so much!
    May God bless!

    Reply
    • Hi Joy. I have been told that you can mix the paper mache clay by hand, but it will take a lot more time. You’ll need to keep mixing until all of the paper fibers have dispersed evenly through the mix. You can add salt if you want to. I don’t live in a humid climate, but I think the best way to prevent mold is to get the paper mache clay to dry as fast as possible, and then seal it so it can’t absorb moisture from the air. You can dry it in the oven at around 200F. The amount of time it needs will depend on how thickly it’s applied, so just keep checking it. There should be no spring or give to it when pressed. If you have a fan in your oven, turn it on. That will speed things up a lot. Don’t turn the oven up over 250F, though, or it will burn. Have fun!

      Reply
  8. Are there any materials that you found the paper mache clay wont stick to? Just looking for some guidance on building the forms first before adding the clay!

    I love your page!

    Reply
    • Hi Emily. It won’t stick to silicone, and it doesn’t like to stick to plastic wrap. It won’t stick to smooth aluminum, but sticks just fine to crumpled foil. Do you want it to not stick so you can remove the dried paper mache clay from the form?

      Reply
      • Thanks Jonni! I would prefer it to stick to whatever I apply it to. I’ll be making some larger sculptures. I’m using chicken wire to create the initial rough form, and the paper clay as my last layer before painting… what do you think would work best in between the chicken wire and clay?

        Reply
        • You really only need something that will keep the paper mache clay from falling through the holes. I’d cover the chicken wire with masking tape, and then add a thin layer of paper mache clay over it. If it isn’t strong enough after it dries, you can add more layers.

          Reply
  9. Thank you kindly for your clear, easy to follow and friendly tutorials.
    Your instructions will support me to make a paper mache mask for a theatre project. So glad to find your website and art.

    Erika SF

    Reply
  10. I am putting paper mache clay over plaster gauze strips for a large wall sculpture. Would small pieces of card stock stick to the clay after it dries (I plan to use glue or mod podge)? Basically I’m creating a postcard mosaic with small cut card stock pieces all over the surface of the sculpted form (rather than painting the surface).

    Reply
  11. I am very impressed with all your work, and would like to start covering a huge glass flower vase using paper mache. Do you think peper machine will stick to glass vase?

    Reply
    • Hi Benz. Paper mache won’t stick to glass, and it will shrink slightly as it dries. That could cause it to crack. If you cover the vase with masking tape first it might work better.

      Reply
  12. Hi Joni,
    I am so very glad and thankful finding you two days ago, I am trying to watch as much as I can your videos, kindly I have a question,
    Which is the best recipe for me to make thin sheet for flowers no armature underneath? I watch Mark smith video and his brilliant invention, but still not sure if your recipe can be used as structured itself , please forgive my ignorance I’ve never worked with clay before.
    Thank you so much for your giving spirit
    May God bless you

    Reply
    • Hi Maguy. I never use any of my recipes without an armature, but Mark used the smooth air dry clay recipe, and he says the dried clay will hold its shape. I don’t know how well it would hold up if it was handled a lot instead of being displayed on a wall.

      Reply
  13. Wow, wow, wow
    Thank you so much for the recipe. I have been making sculptures with air dry clay, but found that thin arms break easily when someone bumps them.
    I am defenitely going to try your paper mache clay and armourture. I live in Knysna, South Africa

    Reply

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