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.

94 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Recipe Without Flour”

  1. I’ve never worked with paper mache before. Is it suceptipal to mold only while still wet? Is that threat gone once it’s completely dry?
    Also, can you spray with something like polyurethane to protect the paint.

    Reply
    • Hi Sue. If you make sure it dries all the way through before painting, and then make sure it’s sealed so it can’t absorb moisture from the air, you should have no problem with mold. It does depend, though, on your climate. In some very humid areas it’s very difficult to keep anything dry. And yes, you can use a spray polyurethane. Have fun!

      Reply
  2. I use wallpaper paste that is for Vinyl bathroom wallpaper.
    I use this with the strips of newspaper. It holds up longer and I found roaches etc. will eat Elmer’s glue. I am wondering if I could replace the Elmer’s with the Wallpaper paste?

    Reply
    • I don’t know. It’s a completely different material, so the only way to know if it will work is to try it and see. If you do an experiment with it, please let us know what you find out.

      Reply
    • Hi Karla. It depends on how thickly you apply it to the armature, and how humid or warm the room is. It will take at least 24 hours, and maybe more. It will dry faster if you put it in front of a fan.

      Reply
    • I suppose it would slow it down, but the best way to prevent mold or mildew is to make sure you let your sculptures dry quickly, and then seal them so they can’t absorb moisture from the air. Fungi can’t live without water.

      Reply
  3. I use a little kosher salt and I haven’t had any problems with mold and I keep the bag on my work desk for several weeks

    Reply
  4. I have a couple of questions…1) can you mix either the original or no-flor recipes by hand? 2) would cornstarch work as a flour substitute?

    Reply
    • People have told me that they were able to mix the original recipe by hand. You’ll need to keep mixing long enough to break down all the paper fibers, so it won’t be as easy as it is using a mixer. If you happen to have a paint-mixer attachment for an electric drill, you can use that, too. I haven’t heard from anyone who tried the no-flour mix by hand.
      You can try the cornstarch – I use it in the smooth air dry clay recipe, but not without flour. It tends to dry out the mix and reduces the stickiness. You might find that works for your purposes, or maybe you won’t. The only way to find out is to try it. In the paper mache clay recipe, the flour’s function is to soak up extra water.

      Reply
  5. Hi, I love all the new ideas I got from your site but I have a question about my current project, a dress form. It says in a plaster mold to use paper mache clay made with paper pulp insulation and wallpaper glue but gave no details on how to make it. I was wondering if this recipe would work using those.
    Thank you so much

    Reply
    • Hi Tiffany. This recipe dries really hard, so I don’t know if it would work for a dress form – you wouldn’t be able to stick a pin in it. If that isn’t a problem, you should know that both this recipe and your paper insulation and glue mixture will stick to plaster. You’ll need to seal the plaster mold if you haven’t done that yet, and use a release, like petroleum jelly. Even then, make sure you test it in a small spot to make sure you can get the dried paper mixture out of the mold. Let us know how it comes out – we’d like to see it when it’s done.

      Reply
      • Sorry this is so long.
        Drying really hard is perfect, so it won’t change shape on me with 5yrds of fabric on it :)I mostly make historical and fantasy costumes. I was going to cover it with some fabric that I could pin to instead of the form itself. Also, I just finished applying a seal to the mold today, waiting for that to be completely dry 🙂 However the instructions I have say:
        2. Line each half of the mold with paper towels to keep the papier mâché from sticking to the plaster.
        That didn’t seem like it would prevent it from sticking very well so I was planning on a cling wrap/cellophane liner. A textured surface from any little wrinkles would be ok covered by fabric or use left over joint compound to fill in spots if needed. Would a release be a better option as long as I test it first?

        Reply
          • Thank you for all the advice, I finally got my dress form all the way complete. To help out with question above, I actually hand mixed all 4 gallons worth of clay needed by hand(batches at a time all added together). Also, I was using paper insulation so it was already pretty broken down. I did find that adding it in dry worked better for me than damp like the recipe calls for.

            Reply
  6. Does paper clay keep (in the fridge or freezer)? And if so, for how long?

    In a nutshell, I may not be able to hand out the material on the same day as my zoom class and would likely need to leave it with staff days earlier for them to distribute to the my after school kids.

    Reply
    • Hi Rebecca. Yes, the original paper mache clay will keep in the fridge for at least a week, and it will keep in the freezer indefinitely. This recipe without flour may last quite a lot longer, because it won’t be affected by yeast spores. Just make sure that you put it in an air-tight container so it won’t dry out. I hope your class has a lot of fun with it! 🙂

      Reply
  7. I need it to be water proof for outdoor elements what do you suggest?
    I have an outdoor faux dog I want to cover but its a garden sculpture. I had weathered so I want to cover it with something lite. will this clay work?

    Reply
    • Hi Barbara. Paper mache clay is not waterproof. Do you need a material that has thickness, so you can sculpt in some additional details? Or do you just want to seal it? Is the sculpture waterproof now?

      Reply
  8. I just saw a comment on someone else asking about the same thing. Sorry I didn’t see it before I sent the message. I will look up your video.

    Reply
  9. Good Morning Jonni, Love your site. I am going to try to make Julie’s mountain lion sculpture. She uses a rough paper mache. I was reading your recipes for this and with it being outside I looked at the recipe for the one without flour. My problem (I am hoping you can give me suggestions) is the shortage on toilet paper due to the pandemic. What can I use instead? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Rhonda. As you probably saw, I don’t recommend any kind of paper mache for outside sculptures, unless you just want them to stay out for a few days. Some people do coat their paper mache with Flex Seal and they say it works. But other people have tried it and came close to losing their artwork. Is this the link you already saw?

      Reply
  10. Wondering how long you can store the mix for. I made up some today and it’s way more than I’m going to use in a day. I’ve put it in air tight containers and added a tiny bit a bleach to the mix, any idea how long it will be good for and should I store in the the frig?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Suzanne. It should last several weeks in the fridge. If you’re using the recipe without flour, it will probably last even longer than that. If you want to store it for a month or more, just pop it in the freezer.

      Have fun!

      Reply
  11. I’m curious; what does the oil do for the mixture. I’m getting ready to try this for the first time. I’m making a shark head mask . ?

    Reply
    • Hi Barbara. The oil makes it feel a little different while you’re applying the clay to the armature, but if you leave it out the pm clay will still work just fine.

      Reply
  12. Thanks for a flourless option. I had dealt with mildew in the past with projects. One of my earliest and longest lasting are a pair of ears that I use for my earrings displays. I recycled shredded paper egg cartons, added bleach to the paper pulp after boiling it and pressed into a mold that I made of a friend’s display mannequin’s ear. Although the display is nine years old and has garnered a lot of attention and comments, I am ready to redo it. Opting for a more refined look…

    Reply

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