Paper Mache Clay

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The recipe for paper mache clay

  • 1 1/2 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. For everything else, I use paper mache clay or one of the variations of this recipe.

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, becasue 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.

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 that has been soaked in hot water and then chopped up with an electric blender. I haven’t tried that myself because I’m lazy and toilet paper is so much easier. But many people have told me that it works.

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 uses boiled linseed oil if children will be helping you with your sculpture, because it contains chemicals.

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.

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.

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

4,763 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay”

    • Two questions today about School Glue. And the answer is no – the Elmer’s school glue won’t work. Another reader tried it, and she said the texture of the clay turned out like “tuna fish.” I know you probably have gallons of the stuff around, but it won’t work for this recipe.

  1. Hi Jonni: I am a teacher in Oregon and wonder if Elmer’s School Glue is basically the same formula as Elmer’s Glue All. Can you share the brand of joint compound you use? We put on an international festival each year, during which our students create clay head puppets, cardboard castles, African huts, papier mache masks, etc. Your paper mache clay recipe looks very promising for many of our projects. Thanks for sharing so generously your creative genius!

    • Hi Elaine. As I told Monica, above (you two are on the same wave-length today) the Elmer’s School Glue won’t work for this recipe. Just as an aside, the Elmer’s Carpenters Glue doesn’t work, either. Just Elmer’s Glue All.

      I have used joint compounds from Walmart and from the local Ace Hardware store. All brands are made primarily from calcium carbonate (sold as ground marble in art stores) plus various fillers. In other countries the basic ingredient may be gypsum, another form of calcium, but I’ve been told the local brands work just fine.

      The only brand I’ve had problems with was from the local Bi-Mart store. It makes the clay just fine, but an additive in the formula prevents me from using the joint compound for my home-made gesso.

      And in case you’re wondering, you can make home-made gesso with 1 tablespoon of joint compound (most brands) and 1 teaspoon of Elmer’s glue-all. Add a dab of white acrylic paint, if you want to, and mix well. I use this gesso on my sculptures because it’s so much easier to sand than the dry paper mache clay.

  2. Hi Jonni,
    This weekend was experiment weekend. I made a batch with wall paper glue and made a small bowl in which I will place a tea candle in it…So, end results are…I made it about a good 1/4 inch thick and it is very sturdy but It feels kind of chalky.The usual paper mache that I make has a wood like feel to it.
    Oh, after I formed the bowl I had realised that I forgot the flour….What exactly is the flour for? Could that be why it feels chalky? I will try another batch with the glue. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Hi Eunice. I’m afraid I can’t tell you why your clay feels chalky, since you made up your own recipe. It may be the way your wallpaper paste is reacting to the calcium in the joint compound. I’ve used several different types of glue, and the one that I found works every time is Elmer’s Glue-All. Since the joint compound by itself has no plastic in it, I’m assuming that it won’t hold up very well without Elmer’s.

      The flour is just a filler, to make the clay a little more firm. You can leave it out. I suggest you try it both ways, and see which one you like best. An

  3. Hello,
    once more.

    I told you that I tried your recipe and had to wait til it has become dry. So ma result:
    At first- I think I used the false thing when searching for this joint compound.
    I used something that I descirbed: “.. that I bought is normally used to fill the space between two sheetrocks….” and it works but it was readymade and smells from the chemical ingredient like hell or living next to a chemical labor. But it was ok to work wih, no bad reaction at my hands. And I think that I was looking for was the stuff that is used for the space between that I bought is normally used to fill the space between two tiles? Maybe you could explain what it is realy used for, think then I will get a hint to finde the right thing.. I hope.
    So back to the work: the clay becames very heavy- I started to make a pig pig to and if needed I could use it a hammer 😉
    It is realy heavy. Now I have to sand that- the ugly part of this fun.
    Maybe I will do that tomorrow, I hate sanding…
    But I want to paint it, so I have to do.

    And one more thing I found out:
    PM is the stuff my parents always warned me:”.. you could become addicted!”
    So many new ideas and not enough time.

    • Hi Erika. The joint compound is as you first described it – it’s used to smooth out the crack between pieces of wallboard. It comes pre-mixed in a plastic tub, but I’ve never bought any that smelled. It’s made primarily of calcium carbonate in this country, or another form of calcium called gypsum in some other countries. The grout that is used to fill cracks between tiles contains portland cement – which will harden before you can shape anything with it, and would be almost impossible to sand.

      I hope you show us your project when it’s done.

  4. I will experiment with it and let you know how it went. I would also like to know how many layers are necessary. I decided to make a small bowl for a tee candle.
    I have been working with paper Mache for the last couple of years and have been very successful making sculptures for myself and those who have found an interest in my work. But I have never use joint compound and when I saw this recipe I decided to give it a try. Again, I will let you know how it went.
    Thanks
    I have added a photo of one of my sculptures.

    • I don’t think so. Most wall paper paste is made from some sort of starch, I think (but I’m not an expert, by any means). The Elmer’s Glue-All has a plastic in it that combines with the calcium in the joint compound, and this creates a very hard material once it dries. However, I obviously haven’t tried using wall paper paste, so I can’t say for sure. If you experiment, please let us know how it turns out.

  5. Hello, I also use creative paper clay, and have been getting recipes for homemade clay online. I have noticed that baby oil has been used in some of the Cold Porcelain Clay receipes. So I am going to try to use that in place of linseed oil your paper mache clay. I have also noticed that lemon juice, witchhazel, white vineger and bleach are used to prevent mold in other clay recipes – so I will test these out and let you know! Thanks so much for your recipe!
    What did we ever do without the internet!!

    • Hi Shayla. We would love to hear how your experiments turn out. So far, I have not had any mold grow in my clay, and I’ve kept it in the bowl for up to two weeks. By that time, no matter how well I keep it covered the bits around the edges get dry, so I need to start over with a new batch.

      I discovered this morning, by accident, that the clay also works if you forget to add the flour. It’s wetter, but it spreads faster over the form, and it still dries very hard. The more we use this stuff, the more we’ll learn about it.

  6. Hello, I just found your site and would like to thank you for all the wonderful information. I’ve been sculpting with a product called Creative Paperclay and although I love working with it it’s not cheap. I was hoping to find a recipe for a paperclay that I could use when building my armatures and then use the commercial brand for the detail layer. I’m wondering how your recipe compares, is it archival? Have you noticed any problems with mold since you use flour in your mix? I only ask because my collectors would be pretty upset with me if their pieces began to mold or crumble.

    • Hi Tamara. I checked your website – lovely work. I totally understand your concerns about longevity, but I’m not sure I can give definitive answers. I just made up the paper mache recipe in my kitchen, and I don’t have a laboratory. I do know that I’ve kept the wet clay in it’s container for several weeks, with no mold appearing. This could never happen with flour and water paste, which begins to “come alive” almost as soon as the water is added to the flour. The Elmer’s glue seems to inhibit mold, and the calcium carbonate or gypsum in the joint compound might be helping, too. Maybe a university student could come up with a good set of tests (anyone want to volunteer?).

      I have not done a pH test on the clay, but the high amount of calcium in the joint compound leads me to think there should be no problem with acids, although toilet paper is made with a variety of chemicals (I assume bleach is one of them) so there could be some reaction with the paint layer over time. I have not yet seen any problems yet, so I’m talking about “maybe” over a number of years.

      Crumbling should never be a problem. The joint compound itself stays on walls for as long as the walls last. When the glue is added, the recipe turns into an air-dried polymer clay, reinforced with the cellulose from the toilet paper. You do need to completely seal your finished work to keep it from getting damp. I use a matte acrylic varnish for this purpose.

      I know that commercial art supply companies have tests they use to determine how well their paints will hold up over a 100 years or so, and the tests are done in a short amount of time – they certainly don’t wait for 100 years to pass and then look to see if the paint has yellowed… So if anyone can give us some good ideas for how we can test this do-it-yourself art material, we’d love to hear your suggestions. In the meantime, I firmly believe that the paper mache clay is at least as durable as traditional paper mache.

  7. hello jonni, i am a homeschool mama and we are always looking for great good quality crafts to make and keep and i stumbled across your site today and am soooo excited. we want to use the clay, we are studying s. america and are going to make some s. american toys…i have a few questions 1. do you “need” a form underneath the clay or can you just use the clay itself?? i looked at your frog tutorial and read about the gesso?? 2. is this a needed step?…3. if i do need to use the forms what tape is best to use?? i would like to do this tomorrow or thurs ..thanks for your wonderful site…keep us the great work and may the Lord bless you 😉

    • You need a form because the clay won’t stand up by itself. I suppose you could try to manipulate a pile of paper mache clay into a shape, but I can’t imagine it working very well. I do use the clay to make really fine details, like a row of eyelashes, where the clay is very thin and has no backing, but these are only in small spots. However, I hope you won’t take my word for it – you may discover a whole new way to use the clay. (And if you do, please let us know!)

      You could build up thick and thin layers on a flat cardboard to make a topical map, of course. Thicker parts will take longer to dry. You wouldn’t have to make mountains with crumpled paper and tape first, but your project will dry a lot faster if you do.

      I use masking tape — the cheapest brands are best for this work, because they’re easier to tear. And you don’t need to use the gesso. I use it for most items that I want to have a nice smooth finish. But sometimes I don’t use gesso because I like the texture of the clay. You can use found objects to make specific textures (like the wire screening I used for elephant skin). So, the gesso issue is up to you.

      Have fun with your project. You didn’t mention how old your kids are, so I’ll go ahead and remind you that the clay is not edible, even though it looks a bit like cookie dough.

      • thanks jonni, for all your info…i have a mind flooded with ideas to do… they are 11 9 6 4 2 and baby due in june 😉 boy.girl.girl.girl.girl love and peace. they will help me make it so i will remind them no to eat it 🙂

    • Hi Khloe. I have not tried any other type of oil, but you could do some experiments. The linseed oil dries (that’s why it’s used in oil paint) so finding another oil with that property would be difficult. If you really don’t want to use it, try making some clay without it. It will still work–it just doesn’t feel quite as nice.

  8. Hi,
    first of all: thank you for the recipe and the wonderful tutorials. At the moment I started the frog and also the rabbit. For the frog I didn´t used paper mache- I used a air-dry clay that I bought in Germany. Seems towork, at the moment I have to wait, cause it has to dry. But it looks good. The second try is the rabbit and I decided to give your paper mache clay a try and so today I bought all the things I need. It is a problem to buy Elmer Glue in Germany, so I used wood glue. It is also a problem to read about cups in a recipe, because in Germany recipes tells about l or weight. And then this mystical joint compound…
    I searched for that with Google and try to translate it and I hope I found the right thing.
    I´m not sure. Maybe it would be helpful when you write what it is normaly used for. The thing that I bought is normally used to fill the space between two sheetrocks.
    I made the PM clay today and it cames out fine. And because the rabbit needs more then only some pieces of newspaper I used the clay for him. Now I have to wait til it is dry too.

  9. Hey, thanks for the recipe. I was wondering if this recipe actually did create a product that was hard enough to drill through without cracking?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Rahul. I believe you could drill a hole without cracking the surface of the piece. I haven’t tried it with a power tool, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. It may actually be easier to make the hole before the clay is completely dry – then you could use a Phillips-head screwdriver to make a hole, and there would be no possibility of cracking.

      If you do some experiments with the clay, to see how well it holds up to various tools, please let us know.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I have been a papermaker for some time and have taught classes on it. I love to use various fibers for my work…but, wanted a less expensive clay form of the paper to use in more detailed work. Your recipe sounds like the answer. I will try it out as soon as I can get back home from my trip to visit family. And, I will post my creation. Thank you again, Pepper Mentz

    • I Pepper — we look forward to seeing what you come up with. After checking your website, I know we can expect something colorful and lovely.

      I tried to find your blog, by the way. Is it not up yet? The blog link didn’t work.

  11. What is the durability of your paper mache recipe? If I were to use it to texture something that would be used regulary (such as a piece of terrain) how would it hold up?

    • I don’t build sets for model trains, if that’s the type of terrain you’re talking about, so I don’t have any experience with the clay used that way. If you experiment with it, please let us know how it holds up.

  12. Hi, Could you tell me, is the joint compound you use a powder or a paste?
    In Australia it is called something different, I want to be sure it is the same product. -the one I can get here is a paste called joint finish.

    Thanks.

    • Interesting–it’s called joint filler in the UK and joint compound in the US.

      The material is mixed already, and is usually sold in a plastic tub. It looks a lot like plaster that has just been mixed with water, although it won’t get hard if you keep the lid on it. The powdered kind won’t work for this recipe. Also, don’t get the “fast setting” product, since it contains Portland cement and will harden in the bowl.

  13. Hello Jonni!

    Wonderful reading all the different questions and possible solutions! I teach high school art and do paper mache with my students. I am wondering if your recipe would work with shredded newspaper instead of toilet paper?

    Thanks! and all the best always, Karena

    • The toilet paper is especially manufactured to instantly fall apart when it gets wet. This keeps our public sewers from getting clogged up. On the other hand, newspaper is manufactured to stay together with fairly rough handling, and it won’t fall apart into tiny bits without soaking it for a long time, or boiling it.

      If you can get the paper turned into pulp, it would be worth trying it with this recipe. However, your finished clay will probably not be as smooth. If you do try it, please let us know how it turns out.

  14. Hi Jennifer,

    Was wondering if I could use the paper mache clay for the details only and use newspaper strips over chicken wire for the base?

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