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.

102 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Recipe Without Flour”

  1. 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.

    Reply
  2. 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!!

    Reply
    • 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! 🙂

      Reply
    • 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!

      Reply

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