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Why do we need a recipe for paper mache clay without flour?
A lot of people have told me that they’re concerned about the flour in my original paper mache clay recipe. This is usually because they live in places where there are a lot of mice or insects that are attracted to flour. And some people are very allergic to the gluten in flour, so they can’t use the original recipe.
We recently received a comment from Suzan Gamble, who told us that she makes her dog sculptures with paper mache clay – but she doesn’t use the flour that the original recipe calls for. She didn’t mention mice, but she did say that she’s never had any problems with mold, even when she keeps the wet clay for long periods of time.
So, if Suzan can do it, it’s obviously possible. It was time for me to see if I could develop a new recipe for No-Flour Paper Mache Clay that comes out the same way every time.
So I gave it a try, and used it for one of my latest sculpture patterns, the giraffe. The pattern is now available (and you can make with any paper mache recipe, including this one).
Why is there flour in the original recipe?
The flour is in the original recipe to soak up extra moisture so the paper mache clay won’t be too wet.
And the extra moisture is in the original recipe because it makes the paper soft enough to fall apart when you use a cheap mixer to make your paper mache clay, like the one I own.
The flour absorbs the extra water and makes the paper mache clay stiff enough to actually use.
This week I decided to experiment. I wanted to see if I could make a paper mache clay recipe without flour that has the same thickness as the original recipe.
And it had to work without a big food processor like the one Suzan uses, because I don’t have one.
The gadget that makes this recipe work:
The new recipe requires a small, cheap food processor/chopper, like the one I bought to chop up walnuts. I think it cost about $12 when I bought it. It was $16.69 yesterday on amazon.com, but today it’s $18.95. Go figure….
I would not use an expensive food processor to chop the paper, but if you’re brave and you don’t think it will burn out the motor, go ahead and try it. (But don’t say I told you to!)
Step 1: Get the Toilet Paper Wet
This recipe starts just like the original recipe for paper mache clay – we get the toilet paper wet so we can measure it.
But then we do something very different…
But this time, because I’m going to use that little cheapo food processor, I squished all the water out.
Step 2: Squeeze Out the Water
As you can see, I’m squishing as much of the water out as I can.
Step 3: Chop up the Paper
Tear the damp paper into smaller pieces, so the blades won’t have to chop through a big hunk of paper. We don’t want to burn out the motor.
Turn on the chopper and leave it on until the paper looks like shredded coconut, as shown below.
Step 4: Add the Other Ingredients
The amounts I used for this small batch of No-Flour Paper Mache Clay:
- 1 cup shredded damp paper
- 2/3 cup of drywall joint compound
- 1/2 cup of PVA Glue (Elmer’s Glue-All or Clear)
- (Optional) 1 tablespoon baby oil/mineral oil or linseed oil. If you don’t have any, just leave it out. It won’t hurt anything.
Use the premixed joint compound, not the powdered kind that contains plaster.
And remember – don’t use DAP joint compound. When that brand is mixed with PVA glue it turns into rubber. Use Sheetrock brand, or the joint compound they sell at Walmart in the paint department – or any brand you can find that isn’t made by DAP. If you can’t find any locally, you can order it from amazon.com.
If you aren’t sure what what drywall joint compound is called in your country, some of our readers have made suggestions here.
Use any PVA glue. (I’ve tried wood glue before, and it didn’t work.) Elmer’s Glue-All and Clear are PVA glues, and they’re easy to find in the US. Most white glue is PVA glue.
Step 5: Mix
I’m using a $13 mixer. It’s plenty strong enough for paper mache clay.
Note: If you have problems with the motor on your mixer getting too hot, you might be using too much paper, or the paper hasn’t been chopped up enough. If you’re making the original recipe and the motor gets hot, you might be squeezing too much water out of the paper.
I added my paper shreds a little at a time so I could see how thick the paper mache clay was getting. Because the paper is almost dry, it will soak up the moisture in the mixture and thicken the PM clay, just like the flour does in the original recipe.
I only added one cup of paper this time, but I used more paper for the first layer on my giraffe.
Less paper makes the mixture smoother. More paper makes it thicker, and it isn’t quite as easy to get a very thin layer on your armature – but the thicker paper mache clay can be used to sculpt small details.
The texture of the mixture with more paper added:
The first layer on my giraffe – you can see the natural texture of the paper showing through. You can use a knife to make it a little smoother, but you’ll always have some texture.
141 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Recipe Without Flour”
Hi Jonni, is there anything in the flourless paper mache clay that would go mouldy?
I made a huge batch for a group activity that has been postponed and wanted to keep it for a couple of months? What do you think.
Thanks for you inspirational posts.
Hi Denise. Damp paper will grow mold if it’s wet, and I’ve had old containers of drywall joint compound go moldy on me, too. But if you stick your paper mache clay in the freezer, and then thaw it out when you finally get to use it, it will be just fine. Have fun! 🙂
Thanks Jonni ?
Add some salt to the mix to help keep it from molding
It may not stop the mold but will delay it a long time
Or next batch use acrylic paint instead of glue and no flour
And it will last like 6-8 months or more.
You make it the same way just use the paint in place of the glue
John, have you tried using this recipe with paint instead of glue? Did it dry as hard as the original recipe?
Oh yes I think it works so much better.
And you can use any color you want of paint too.
I’ve used the original recipe before and found that with the flour less recipe, I didn’t need to use a mixer at all. Just dampened the TP, rung it out, shredded it by hand and used a heavy duty metal spoon to mix the paper, glue and joint compound together.
Eliminated a lot of mess and extra steps.
I like my clay thick and use water on my fingertips to smooth it out while it is on my armature. Many of my pieces are small (8″ or under with most of them only 2-4″) and it is difficult to use a knife or other typical clay type instrument to put on and smooth out the clay, so I always use my hands. The smoother texture of thr clay in the beginning just isn’t feasible for me bc it is stickier.
Thanks for letting us know that this recipe can be mixed by hand. I’ve never tried it – it’s good to know that it’s possible.
Thanks for this comment I want to do just this with my students. I like teaching ceramics but this year I have no art room or kiln. Hoping this will be suitable for small figurines. Sounds like it is working for you
Thank you so much for your comment, that might just save me a lot of work and cost tomorrow. I’m making a mask for a theater show and I don’t have the time to go get a processor or a mixer, so that is fantastic to know you can just mix it by hand. Thank you so much!!
Love your site! Do you think talc powder could replace flour in the recipe?
I have no idea – you’d need to try it to see what happens. 🙂
Hi Jonni, I’m in regional Australia so Joint compound is double (at least) the cost & ants are a big problem so don’t want to use flour especially for outdoor decor.
Have you tried plaster of Paris?
If so what was the result?
Yes, I have. You can see my video about it here. 🙂
Hi , can i store unused clay made with this recipe to use in other projects months later? Or i should throw them away and make some before my next projects?
By the way thanks for your awesome and useful instructions i had lots of fun making some kitsune mask in my free time without triggering my glutton allergies All thanks to you ??
You can put it in a air-tight container and stick it in the freezer. I don’t know how long it will last in there. Another option is to make a smaller batch. We’d love to see your mask, if you’d like to share some photos. You can do that here. And you’re welcome. 🙂
oh, and I don’t add any flour to my mix either, if it’s to thin I just add more paper to it, to thick add paint to it
Is there a way to contact you privately?
I wanted to share my share my recipe and thoughts on my paper mache clay, I came up with.
Not enough room on these comment space to do it.
If you would like to see it just send me a email,
And I’ll send it to you,
Can I use ultra lightweight joint compound that I bought for use with drywall? Also, can I use a blender instead? Thank you in advance.
Yes, the lightweight joint compounds works well. I don’t know about the blender, though. The mixture is quite thick, and blenders seem to work best with a mixture that has more water in it. You could try it, though.
Just wondering if one could use dryer lint instead of the toilet paper…..or dryer sheets? Thinking about trying to recycle instead of using toilet paper. Has anyone tried this?
I think people have tried the lint, but I can’t remember if it worked or not. Go ahead and give it a try and see what happens. The dryer sheets won’t disintegrate in water, so I don’t think they’d work for this recipe.
Will you do a video sometime and tell us your story. How did you get started with this art form? What inspired you? When/how did you decide to take it to another level and publish a book and create a website? I so appreciate your generosity in sharing your recipes and your creativity with us and I would like to be further inspired by your story.
Hi Lani. That’s an interesting idea! I’ll try to see if I could come up with a way to do it that wouldn’t bore people too much. 🙂
This is great I love your techniques and recipes! So glad I stumbled upon your site. I like to make a paper mache pulp/clay for sculpting too and I’ve been having a hard time with mold and sturdiness. Now I have a much better vision of how to fix that.
Walmart has a bit pack of “cardstock” paper that feels more like construction paper. I accidentally got some sheets wet and I noticed how quickly and easily the paper broke down in cold water. Lightbulb! So I shredded some and put it in hot water and within an hour (I was multitasking) I had a papery material suitable for making pulp or clay. I’ve added salt to prevent molding and that never works for me. Im going to add my Walmart paper to your recipe and see what I can create. Thanks for doing what you do!!
Good luck with it! As for the mold issue, the most important thing is to apply the paper mache as thinly as possible, and get it dry as fast as possible. A fan really helps. Mold can’t grow without water. You can also keep your unused paper mache clay in the fridge or freezer. Have fun. 🙂
I use Walmart “white art paint” instead of the White glue and have no issues with mold, I keep my paper mache clay in a gal. jug by my work table never freese it or even refridge it.
and this works great for my projects
Ich habe zuvor noch nie Pappmaché-ton gemacht und auch weder mit etwas anderem modeliert oder die Variante mit Kleister und Papier streifen ausprobiert. Also eine blutige Anfängerin ?.
Nun hatte ich noch angerührten Kleister (gekauft in Pulverform für Vliestapeten der Marke Metylan) übrig und dachte mir, warum nicht Mal etwas aus Pappmaché ausprobieren. So bin ich auf diese wundervolle Seite und die Rezepte gestossen.
Da ich zur Zeit ständig Pappkartons rumliegen habe, habe ich mich dann dazu entschieden, diese zur Herstellung zu nutzen. Außerdem musste ich dann feststellen, dass ich kein Mehl mehr zu Hause habe. Und zu guter Letzt, habe ich statt Trockenbau-Fugenspachtel zu kaufen, noch einen geöffneten Eimer Holz Reparatur Spachtel raumstehen und diesen stattdessen verwendet.
Versuch macht klug bzw. Probieren geht über studieren, also hab ich losgelegt:
Gestern Abend, während ich meinen Feierabend auf der Couch eingeläutet habe, beim Fernsehen also einen kleinen Pappkarton in viele kleine Schnipsel zerlegt.
Anschließend habe ich daraus eine Suppe gekocht, etwa 15min. Dann hatte ich erstmal genug Spaß für einen Abend und hab das ganze über Nacht einfach stehen lassen.
Neuer Tag, voll motiviert, ging es dann weiter.
Die Schnipsel wie beschrieben in eine Tasse gequetscht und so gut wie möglich das Wasser rausgedrückt.
Im Anschluss habe ich die gepressten Stücken etwas auseinander gepflückt und in mit meinem Smoothie-maker, ebenfalls wie beschrieben, in Kokosnuss ähnliche Raspeln geschreddert.
Im Anschluss habe ich die Masse in eine Schüssel getan und eine halbe Tasse Kleister sowie eine dreiviertel Tasse des Reparatur Spachtel hinzugefügt.
Mit dem Handmixer alles gut vermengt und gleich danach Mal ne Runde den Ton mit der Hand geknetet und was soll ich sagen. Auf den ersten Blick ist der Ton perfekt, lässt sich auch wunderbar an der Oberfläche glatt streichen und hat eine klasse Konsistenz zum modelieren von Hand.
Ich bin begeistert, vielen herzlichen Dank für dieses tolle, anschauliche und super erklärte Rezept sowie der Internetseite im allgemeinen.
Jetzt muss ich nur noch loslegen und bin gespannt, ob und wie die Masse aushärtet.
Bis bald ihr Lieben!
Hi Christin. I’m so glad you’re having fun with the paper mache clay. I hope it will be even more fun when you have a chance to make some sculptures. 🙂
New to this here. Very intriguing. What is the advantage of using the pva glue? I don’t suppose that the Elmers Art Paste is a suitable replacement?
The PVA glue combines with the calcium in the joint compound to create a rock-hard material when it dries. The Elmer’s Art Paste won’t work with the paper mache clay, but it’s a great paste all by itself.
Can you use the powder joint compound instead of the premixed?
I haven’t tried it myself, but some people have told me that it works. Just don’t get the really fast-setting type. I think you have to mix it with water according to the directions on the package before adding it to the other ingredients.
LOL as Jonni said, don’t get the fast-setting type! I made that mistake. It hardened in like 5 minutes! Seriously! I was able to soften it with water but ultimately it was a disaster.
There is a lady on youtube who uses a bag of cotton insulation from home depot. It’s already just fibers and I guess it’s cheap. No need for a mixer.
The bag is big so she must be doing a lot of sculpting. you know…it’s that gray loose stuff you’ve seen in people’s attics.
Interesting – does she use the cotton instead of paper in the paper mache clay recipe? I don’t think we have that kind of insulation here, but I did try a big bale of cellulose insulation one time. I think they added boron for mold control, so it got very rubbery when I mixed in some Elmer’s glue. Do you know if she uses glue in her mixture?
I’m wondering if you first start soaking the paper in a soapy mixture to begin with to see if you get the same results of smoother clay.
I haven’t used soap in the recipe, but it would be worth a try. Let us know how it turns out if you experiment with it.
Interesting serendipity! What brand of dish soap did you use?
Thank you for all the information and recipes! I am wondering: could I use scraps of cotton rag paper instead of toilet paper in this recipe? Thank you.
That’s a really interesting idea, but I don’t know if anyone has tried it yet. If you try it, I hope you’ll let us know how it works. 🙂
I made a batch using cotton linter and it was fine. No need to use the chopper as it is already the texture of coconut. Down side is it is expensive. I use it for paper casting.
Interesting experiment, Vickie. Thanks!
I’ve been watching your videos and taking careful notes. I admire and envy your artistic ability. I’m not artistic, more of a carpenter and stage hand for an opera company. I needed paper mache to make six semi-frightening severed heads for the opera “Turandot”. I decided on your flour-less clay and the first batch worked beautifully. I started with styrofoam heads from store displays, primed them with acrylic-latex primer for hardening and adherence. I used crumpled tin-foil and double sided tape to add bulk where needed, putty to cover and adjust shapes and textures. This worked beautifully, although the surface was a bit lumpy. That was fine since these heads are supposed to be partly decomposed!
For my second batch, I discovered something serendipitously. After soaking and macerating the toilet-paper with my $12 mixer, I had it draining in a strainer in the kitchen sink. Meanwhile, I was washing the mixing bowl with dishwashing detergent which accidentally went into the strainer and created some suds.
Suddenly the lumpy wet toilet paper became smooth!!!
I rinsed it thoroughly to get rid of the soap and then wringed it out (wrang? wrung?). This time, my wet 28 g of TP was only 88 g. The previous batch was 130g when wrung out. It released more of the water! When I mixed the joint compound and PVA glue, the result is a wonderfully smooth and creamy clay. It goes on smoothly without the lumps that I was getting previously. It’s a real pleasure to smooth out. I will be “washing” my paper fibers from now on. I love the creamy texture.
I’m not afraid to wring out the water any more!!
Wow – what a great accidental experiment! I will definitely try this. In fact, I might try it with the original recipe, which just uses soaked paper that hasn’t been run through a mixer. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!
Have a great Christmas! 🙂
Richard…can you share your process with a bit more clarity? Did you “wash” the paper that had been shred into a coconut texture and then add it directly into the glue and joint compound mix? Or did you have to go back and put it through the little chopper again to make the paper “coconut”? Was it just suds that got on the paper in the strainer, or was it actually dish soap? Thanks!