Paper Mache Clay Recipe Without Flour

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.

paper mache giraffe patternSo, 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:

Small cheap food chopper for paper mache clay

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

Break up the paper in the Ninja chopper

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.

The paper shredded for the paper mache clay recipe with no flour.

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.

Add pva glue to the paper mache clay recipe with no flour.

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

No-flour paper mache clay recipe.

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.

The texture of the the mixture with less paper added:

Smoother paper mache clay with less paper.
The area right above the knife is the new layer made with the mixture that has just one cup of shredded paper. It still shows some texture, but not as much.For even less texture, you can try the Silky-Smooth Air Dry Clay recipe, instead.You’ll notice that I didn’t add paper mache clay to the ears or eyelashes on my giraffe. I used paper strips and paste in those areas because paper mache clay isn’t as easy to use over sharp edges.

Now it’s your turn …

If you try the new recipe for paper mache clay with no flour, please let us know what you think of it.  Can you think of specific reasons why it would be helpful to leave out the flour? Have you been reluctant to make something with paper mache because you were concerned about the flour in the paste or paper mache clay?

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No-flour gluten free paper mache clay recipe.

47 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Recipe Without Flour”

  1. Hi Joni,
    I have bought a 1985 Jeep Cherokee and I and working on the inside of it, right now. I like so many others have a headliner board that is falling apart. I ran across your sight and was wondering if I use mat board like for framing pictures) glued together and with suports for the curves, after I take the mat board form out, could I use any of your recipes to make a new headliner board? It needs to be strong and last for more then 1-2 years. There are a lot of people in need of a way to fix this problem. To buy a new one coast a lot and so does the shipping. I also was thinking about adding dryer lint to the recipe. I have put up heat and sound padding already, so I am more worried about getting a good headliner board.
    thank you,
    Donna, from Greenville S.C.

    • Hi Donna. Someone asked about this a long time ago, and I did some research on YouTube. I can’t remember exactly why, but at that time it looked like the paper mache clay recipe would not work well for this particular purpose. Maybe it was the heat, or the humidity – I just can’t remember. But this seems to be a common issue, so there are YouTube videos that will give you some ideas for a permanent solution.

  2. Hi Jonni
    Thank you for the wealth of information you have kindly made available on your site. I have been reading non stop for the past few hours now and have made myself a little confused. I want to make paper mache lampshades – which I will paint and hopefully sell one day. I am a bit confused as to which of your paper mache recipes to follow for this project. I have emailed a few companies here in Australia to get a hold of the correct drywall product as I am thinking that for my lampshades I need to; apply paper mache clay over my form, then drywall, then gesso and then I can paint it. Please advise me if you think this is incorrect. Also, do you think that a lampshade made from paper mache would be long lasting? And, finally, do you think that I would need to spray the finished product with a fire retardant spray. Any help at all would be much appreciated. Thank you
    Victoria

    • Hi Victoria. Can I assume that you don’t want the lampshade to allow any light through it? As for the fire issue, I don’t know what your regulations require. I have never tried to light one of my sculptures on fire, so I don’t know if it would burn. You would want to ask an expert in Australia who knows about the laws. The method you described would certainly create a very strong shade, and it would be very smooth if you use the drywall joint compound applied with a rubber spatula, like I showed in one of my videos. Good luck with your project – and be sure to let us see how they come out.

      • Hi Jonni
        Thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly. I am not really concerned about the lamp shade letting light through (at the moment)…just about making a strong shade that looks well made. Could you please recommend a particular paper mache recipe of yours as I am unsure which one to use. Again, thank you very much and I will most definitely post some process and completed product pics soon. Looking at getting started in the next few days.

      • I might suggest LED bulbs, which give off very small amounts of heat. That has helped a lot with my work with paper –
        And thanks so much for all your recipes. I’m amazed at the difference between paper clay and fired clay or the baked polymer clay. I love the feel of paper, and recycling, so it’s a great find for me.

        • Good idea, Aleta. And just coincidentally I found a list of videos on YouTube showing us how to make paper mache lamp shades. It must be a really popular thing to do. I must try it sometime.

  3. I made this recipe today. I used in grams messurement. I made it with white paper and used 100 gr. I think next time I can use 125 gr. I did put baby oil in it what is more liquid in the recipe so more paper needed.

    • I Es. If you’re not using toilet paper, you will need to experiment a little more to get the consistency you want. And different brands of drywall joint compound can affect the wetness of the mixture, too. Just keep adding more paper until it turns out the way you like it.

  4. I have used paper clay successfully with a pottery kiln…obviously using powdered ceramic clay with the paper pulp, and am interested in making larger pieces with an air-drying material. Your experiments and recipes for paper mache may well work, but I wondered if you had ever used pottery clay in any of your mixtures, blending with pva as a hardener?

    Your articles and videos are very inspiring and helpful!

    • Hi Alec. I have done a few experiments with powdered clay added to the mixture, but most of my readers don’t have easy access to powdered clay, so I haven’t played around with it very much.

      You have a better understanding of how clay reacts when mixed with other materials, so I hope you’ll do some experiments of your own. And then let us know what you discover, of course. 🙂

    • Hi Edward. Do you mean how long will it keep in the bowl, before you apply it to a sculpture? It won’t get hard until it dries, so if you keep it in an air-dry container it won’t set up. There’s no plaster in it. We use the pre-mixed drywall joint compound, and it doesn’t harden fast, the way the powdered versions do.

  5. Hi Jonni, I am so glad I found your site! I will be making props for our musical group and the paper mache clay looks like a super Alternative to normal paper mache (time is a huge factor?). I was just wondering, how heavy is it when used on bigger projects? I would like to sculpt a big tree (cardboard armature)but am a bit worried about the weight. Thanks for all the great tips!

    • Hi Natalie. If you have cardboard under it, you can use a paper-thin layer of the paper mache. It will be slightly heavier than paper strips and paste of the same thickness. If you need additional strength, you’ll need more paper mache clay, but you can reduce the weight by making your props hollow, or build them around crumpled foil or empty plastic jugs.

      I hope you’ll show us your props when they’re done. How much time do you have?

      • Thanks for the info!
        Well, time is always relative 🙂 I need to finish by March 2020, which sounds like a lot of time but as it is on a volunteer basis we can only work on it about once a week. I love the crumpled foil idea – I am going to start with a pvc pipe (small diameter, very light) on a base with small wheels at the bottom, put foil around it and then the clay. Lightweight and can be moved easily.
        I will gladly share some pics when they are finished!

        • It sounds like you have a great plan. The time will sneak up on you before you know it, so you’re smart to get an early start. Just for kicks, click here to see a paper mache tree troll that was made by Kim Beaton – I got the foil and hot glue idea from her.

  6. I had never thought mice would be a problem with my paper mache until our cats failed to do their job and one got in this past fall. The only thing it nibbled at was my paper mache. One dragon in particular was it’s preferred choice and it made quite the mess of it (fortunately, I didn’t care for that one anyway). Most was paper and paste, but I sculpted teeth and toenails from the silky smooth paper mache clay. That little bugger gave my dragon quite the manicure! I couldn’t believe it would choose to chew on that (but then, they chew on a lot of things I find it hard to imagine could be tasty). My favorite pieces escaped the mouse, for which I am grateful. After nearly two weeks of battleing this fiend I nearly caught the thing between my cardboard paste catchers (which, admittedly, don’t belong on the livingroom floor), but when I went to adjust my grip he disappeared. Haven’t seen him since, though. Hoping he scrammed back outside into the waiting jaws of one of the farm cats. But it has made me wonder if I should rethink the paste and clay recipes and how much cat food the outside cats get. Thank you for your experiments – you make life so much easier for the rest of us.

  7. HI Jonni. I hope you had a great Christmas. It’s ages since I left a comment but hope to visit a lot more in 2019. I’m waiting for a hip operation and hopefully will feel more like working out in my workshop once it happens.

  8. Hi Jonni
    I don’t have mice (have 4 cats!) or other menacing insects BUT I have another entity that sometimes pops up and can be devastating for flour based paper clay – mold!
    Some days ago I noticed that some tiny papercrete experiments I had placed near a window since summer were moldy and started to wonder about another solution WHEN your new video popped on my email as newsletter!
    Intrigued and somewhat disbelieving that by transforming paper into “froth” would skip the need for flour in order to try the paste a bit more malleable, I tried your new recipe today but added a little extra!
    Made a video about it and here’s the link, thank you!
    Greetings from Portugal
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6B1zvrd2_8&t=5s

    • Thank you so much for the video, Pedro! Can you tell me how the addition of the small amount of cement changes the mixture? Does it harden more quickly, or get harder after it’s dry? And when you use it more like clay, without making a thin layer like I do, how do you make sure it gets dry all the way through?

      My cat chews on the ears and tails of my sculptures if I’m not careful to put them out of his reach – but he does make sure I don’t have to worry about mice. 🙂

      • Hey Jonni,
        Indeed interesting questions! I’m posting a photo of what I did with the clay and to be honest looks worse than should because when I did decided to play with it, it was already a bit dried so it wasn’t easy to “knead” it around the bust structure that I speak on the video, I’ve sprinkled some water on top though … All fine because again this will only be a sort of mask to work the real face on top of “this”.
        The implement of the cement powder didn’t change the paste’s modeling characteristics
        How do I know its dried? By the sound whilst knocking with my nail (does that make sense?) It sounds different when the piece is still wet (even if only a tiny bit inside) than when its totally dried … That simple!
        Nevertheless and although I’ve already “de-faced” the mask from the bust structure, its still not dried yet …
        In the meantime had made a tiny dot with the paste to try it out and yes its dried, feels a bit like plastic and tiny less heavy than papercrete with flour but equally hard = great !!!

        • I like your technique for finding out if something is dry all the way through. I tend to feel a sculpture to see if it’s warm or cold. Even the smallest bit cold, and it’s still wet. But that probably only works with thin layers, like the ones I use. Does anyone else have a clever method for knowing for sure that a sculpture is dry and ready to paint?

  9. Very interesting thanks..I wonder whether the small machine might be most useful to get the paper shredded before adding the usual ingredients? My clay does not seem to be as smooth as yours does in your videos!
    PS Happy New Year and all best wishes for a splendid 2019

    • Some of our readers do churn their paper in a food processor or blender, with plenty of water, before squeezing the water out. But if you take that newly pulped paper and squeeze it too tight and make it too dry, it will turn back into a big lumpy piece of paper, and you’ll end up with lumpy paper mache clay.

      That said, you’ll always have a paper texture with either recipe for paper mache clay. You saw in the video that I intended to add a second coat on my giraffe with a mixture that has less paper, because it was smoother. It worked, but slowly. I ran out of patience and put a very thin skim coat over the first layer, which filled in all the little dips – after it dried and I ‘sanded’ it with a slightly damp cloth, it’s very smooth. And it was much easier than smoothing out the wet pm clay. I’ll do a new video to show how it was done – but not until the giraffe is finished.

  10. Hello Jonni, how are you? Always enjoy reading your posts. I am working now on a cat project so hope to forward a photo once it’s completed. Love using the paper mache recipe. Wishing you my warmest wishes for a happy and fruitful new year, Miki

  11. Hola Jonni !! Te felicito porque siempre estas investigando y mejorando tu formula.
    Acà en Argentina usamos la masa como la haces ahora y le incluimos tiza en polvo, en vez de harina. Yo probè la formula tuya de harina y es mas modelable, me permite hacer detalles pequeños. Te mando muchos cariños a vos y a los amantes del papel machè. Feliz 2019 !!!!

  12. Thank you Joni. I will certainly try that. I’m redoing my bathroom after a hot water heater problem. I have arthritis in my hands so had trouble squeezing water from from the paper. I found a salad spinner works very well. So anyone else has a problem with that try it .
    Happy New year.

  13. Another reason people may not want to use flour is a gluten allergy. Some people are so sensitive to it that they have problems even working with it, not just ingesting. In my write ups for my classes, I put a disclaimer that we are not working in a gluten free environment just to be safe.
    Question- do you think it would work pulverizing with water in the paper so the machine does not have to work as hard, then pouring through a sieve? Maybe the paper would condense too much while squeezing it out?
    This recipe would simplify the clay making process and it didn’t appear to rise up into the beaters like the original recipe. To me, that’s the most maddening part of making the clay. Thanks for the experimenting!

    • Eileen, I’ve never thought about the gluten in the paper mache clay recipe, even though I put two gluten-free paste products in my 5 Best Recipes download. I don’t know how I missed that – but of course it would be a problem for some people. And I agree about the problem with the original recipe riding up the beaters. That’s why I had to buy my new $12 mixer – the old one finally had so much clay inside the holes where the beaters go, and it had fallen into the housing where I couldn’t reach it to get it out. The beaters wouldn’t stay in the machine any more, and the mixer wasn’t built so it could be taken apart. I don’t think that would be an issue with the flour-free recipe. If you try it, please let us know what you think of it.

  14. Thanks, Jonni,
    You know your craft so well that you understand ‘why’ changing the recipe modifies the outcome and the ‘how’ of it. That is interesting to me because it takes a long time and experimentation and thought to know the why of a thing.
    I have an example. I used PVA wood glue for all my Failed batches. I didn’t realise that the cheaper ‘school’ glues do better. But… Jonni to the rescue with her directions and depth of understanding of her subject! Now I know my blunder.
    Can’t stop and chat – I am going to make up the new flourless batch with the Jonni-prescribed glue type!
    Thanks, Jonni, I love your style and your site.

  15. Hi Joni,
    My exhibition is up in the Southwest terminal at LAX. All the pieces, except the large bird, were done with paper mache pulp. Over the course of the 2 years that I worked on the pieces I used different recipes for the pulp. While I was in China I could get dry pulped paper, which was easiest. When I came back to L A I could not find this and so switched to toilet paper. I added chalk and powdered clay, or talc usually. I did not like mineral oil. I spent a lot of time refining the dried pieces with tools. Check out the lawa.org website for pics.

  16. Thanks Jonni, I will give this new recipe a try as mice and cockroaches are a problem where I live. I think you have made a typo in your pictur descriptions above, you have written “flour” instead of “paper”, not a big prob, I knew what you meant. Have a Happy New Year.
    Lesley, from Australia.

  17. Muchas gracias por compartir esto Jonni, en verdad yo estoy feliz con tu receta, así fabricó mis manualidades! Gracias por todo lo que compartes! Éxito y prosperidad para ti y todos en tu maravilloso espacio!

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