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

4,817 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay”

  1. Hello Ms. Jonni,

    I have a question, can i use any of the recipes to put on a balloon? I am trying to make a space helmet for a college class but I don’t want lumps or any weird surface on my helmet. Also can it work on cardboard ? Would really appreciate it if you can answer me 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Rebeca. Yes to the cardboard – my lion mask has a thin layer of paper mache clay over it. The PM clay will stick to the cardboard, and it dries very hard. As for the balloon, I hate using them for paper mache forms, no matter what recipe I use. You almost always get cracks or wrinkles as the air inside the balloon changes temperature and shrinks or expands the rubber. I did make something with a balloon, but I used a layer of plaster cloth under the paper mache so I’d have a solid surface to work with. The final layer of paper mache was just to make the surface smooth so I’d have something nice to paint on.

      Reply
  2. Hi Jonni,

    I’m making lion head pieces for my daughters theater group. I am using a milk jug for the base and covered with plaster cloth followed with the paper mache clay and finally gelee. Do you think the milk just is okay to use? I have to make 10 so the cardboard would be too time consuming. Also, I noticed when I take my toilet paper for the clay and soak it for about 30 minutes in hot water I can use a mashed potato masher and the paper completely breaks up. I drain it and it saves me from putting it through a blender or tearing it up.
    Nikki

    Reply
    • Nikki, the potato masher it a great idea! Thanks for sharing it. I don’t see any reason why a milk jug wouldn’t be a good choice for the base of your lion heads, if that’s the shape that works. It would certainly save time. We would love to see your lions when they’re finished. I hope you’ll share a photo with us.

      Reply
  3. What’s the material in the dry wall joint compound? Does it raise any health concerns for being exposed to it long term?

    Reply
    • Hi Jenny. I think the primary ingredient is calcium carbonate, but I don’t know what else they put in it. You don’t want to sand it without wearing a mask, and there are warnings on the label to keep people from doing that. The problem with sanding is the very fine dust that ends up in your lungs. Some people have mentioned that it might dry out your skin, the way powdered clay would do, but I always use a knife to spread the paper mache clay, so that isn’t really a problem. And of course it isn’t edible, so you wouldn’t want kids to think you were making cookie dough. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Used this to make Charlie Brown heads for Christmas parade. They where awesome.
    Light weight, only thing we were unsure about was fitting.
    But the compound was easy to use and I will definitely use it again.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  5. I want to make a Christmas tree topper. It must be a bull head for an investment broker’ s office, ( like Wall Street). Is this project possible. Would I need to use wire to make it hollow, in order to fit down over the tree top?

    Reply
    • Hi Jean. It’s totally doable – but I don’t think I’d use wire to make it hollow. I’d do it the same way I make heads for my dolls. They’re hollow, and very lightweight. I made a video showing how the doll heads were made, and you can see it hereSculpt Nouveau site. Their paint has real bronze powder in it, and when dry it looks like the real thing, but without adding any weight.

      Have fun!

      Reply
  6. Love your helpful Blog & you! I”ve finally decided on my first paper mache
    clay project, The egyptian hippo looks simple enough for a beginner…
    I want to know if I could use this cardboard dust material that from a box co.left from box making in place of the toliet paper as long as I wet & wring first?The consistency looks just like the cellulose insulation as I just seen on youtube. Fluffy & dusty. Thanks

    Reply
  7. Hi Jonni!
    I wanted to write Paper Mache Clay)))
    sorry
    I live in Azerbaijan
    I speak English badly))

    Cheap Toilet Paper 1 1/4 cups
    1 cup Drywall Joint compound
    3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue-all
    1/2 cup White Flour
    2 tablespoons Mineral Oil

    this recipe is in grams
    Please, write
    if it’s not hard for you
    I will be very happy
    thank you very much

    Reply
  8. hi Jonnni,
    I just found your website and it is fabulous!
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!
    Question:
    could you write a Paper Mache recipe in grams
    thank!

    Reply
    • Hi Samira. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. I hope to someday get around to adding the metric measurements. In the meantime, this website might help. For some recipes, like the raw flour and water paste, I never measure anything. I just put some flour in a bowl and add enough hot water from the tap to get the consistency I want.

      Have fun!

      Reply
      • hallo Jonni ich verfolge seit längerem deine Seite und habe dich auch abboniert um zu lernen . Ich habe eine Baumfrau aus Paper mache gemacht und mit Powertex angemalt. Zusätzlich noch mit Acryllack lackiert . Die Figur war bei Wind und Regen draußen ohne die Form zu verlieren . Vielleicht ist das für euch auch einen Versuch wert . Lieben Gruß aus Deutschland und danke für deine tollen Ideen

        Reply
  9. Hi Jonni!
    I just found your website and it is fabulous!
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!
    Question:
    Can I replace the white flour with something else? Or just omit it?
    I’m afraid that mold might develop during humid summer time indoors.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Ina. If you leave it out it will still work as a thin layer over your armature. I haven’t done it that way, but today Suzan left a comment on the Daily Sculptors page explaining how she uses the paper mache clay recipe without the flour, and her sculptures are really nice. You can see the comment here. The recipe in my book is the same as the one on this page.

      Reply
      • Jonni,
        thanks a lot for a quick response!
        Time to get started, you inspired me create in paper mache, thank you!

        Reply
  10. Hello Jonni,
    I just happened across your video/work on Pinterest and then hopped over to your blog; thank you so much for the thorough explanations while clarifying others questions. Impressive teacher and artist!

    Reply
  11. Hey Jonni,

    For this clay recipe, is there an alternative to flour to prevent warping and bending based on room temperature, and what is it? Will crushed chalk work (will any chalk brand work?), or something else?

    Additionally, I wanted to make this into a wearable mask that would not warp due to sweat as well. I gathered a quick tip off one of your videos to use use epoxy clay to waterproof, so is that recommended on the mask interior that would be near my face? I plan on putting soft material padding over it, so much of the mask’s shell will not touch my face. Thank you for reading this and I look forward to your tips!

    Reply
    • Jennifer, when I use epoxy clay I don’t use any paper mache clay along with it. You could make your entire max using Apoxie Sculpt or some other brand of epoxy clay. In fact, I first heard about using the product when I took a course in mask aking on the Stan Winston School of Character Arts. I don’t know if using chalk or powdered marble would make the change in my original recipe that you’re hoping for. The only way to find out is to try it and see what happens.

      Reply
  12. Hey Jonni, I’d just like to say thank you for creating and sharing such an amazing product! Here’s a picture of something I have created with it!

    Reply
    • Hi Chris. Your log is so realistic – that bark texture is really amazing. Can you tell us a bit about this sculpture? What will you be using it for? And what technique did you use to get that nice texture?

      Reply
  13. Hi Jonni,

    I’ve been doing artsy stuff for decades, I stumbled on your site while researching my latest Halloween project and I love it! You’re great!

    Normally, I sculpt in clay, mold, and then create the finished product with one of Smooth-On’s products. This year I’m doing something bigger and decided to do it in paper mache to cut down on the cost.

    Anyway, I haven’t worked with PM clay and I’m wondering how much shrinkage to account for. I probably won’t make the entire head out of PM clay as it would take too long to dry, so If I use the clay to cover a semi-rigid form, how much shrinkage should I expect? If the form is more rigid, will the clay crack when drying?

    Thanks,
    Tal

    Reply
    • Hi Tal. The pm clay does need to be used almost the same way you would use traditional paper strips and paste. That means you need an armature underneath, at least until the pm clay dries. And it needs to be applied thinly, so it can dry all the way through. When it’s used over an armature there is some shrinkage, although I’ve never tested it to find out the exact percentage. A form that can shrink slightly with the pm clay is the kind I normally use. Crumpled foil held together with hot glue works really well. So does crumpled paper and masking tape. However, you can use a rigid form, like a mask form. I haven’t had a problem with cracking, but if you do get small cracks you can always repair them with a little more paper mache clay.

      Reply
  14. Hi. I make primitive folk art signs. If I sculpt a silhouette and make a relief out of paper mache clay, and use a wood plaque as the base, will the paper mache clay stick to the wood? Do I have to pick it up once it’s dried, and apply additional glue? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Aly. I think the paper mache clay will stick, because it’s made out of glue and joint compound, plus flour – all of them are sticky. But I don’t know how well it will stick over time. I do know the sign will always have to stay inside, because the clay isn’t waterproof. Do your signs usually go outside? If so, you might want to consider epoxy clay, instead.

      Reply
  15. Hello Jonni,
    I have been a fan of yours for several years now. I started out trying to sculpt with paper mache and paste only…then I stumbled upon your recipe. I have been sculpting on and off since! So, I want to say thank you and invite you to be a part of my life now too. I am putting together a blog and want to link you to it and welcome you to stop by and check out my stuff now and again.

    ?

    Reply
    • Hi Jamie. I’m so glad you’re enjoying your new art form. And thanks for offering to link to my site – all links are welcome. Speaking of links, do you have a web address that you’d like to share, so we can see your new blog?

      Reply
  16. Hi, jonni
    I read your recipe and must try it, after our holiday,because I have to buy the joint compound.
    Mostly i’m not working with paper clay, but I tried to make clay that can stand outside.I took toilet paper and instead white glue I added Powertex, that it a textile hardener .Only 2 marerials, but it stands outside, already,more than 5 years.
    I’m sure that you can make a better clay, with your experience, but it works.
    I’m the Powertex distributor in Israel ,and mostly I work with fabric.I told some paper mashed artists about my experience and they begun to use powertex for sculptures that they want to keep outside.
    I hope that it will help you ,too.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Hasia. I haven’t tried the product yet, but I have heard good things about it. I do hope to give it a try someday. I looked online to see if we could get it here in the US, and I found two products – Powertex Fabric Hardener, and Powertex Stone. Can you tell us what the difference is? Is only one of them waterproof? Do you think one of them could be used on the outside of a paper mache clay sculpture to completely seal against the weather?

      Reply
      • In an email, Hasia told me that she was talking about the fabric softener, not the stone product. Eileen’s been trying to get me to try Paverpol, too. One of these days!

        Reply
  17. Hey Jonni! I’m going to start teaching art at a community center next month, and I thought papier mache would be a fun and inexpensive activity to do there. However, it’s not very easy to find premixed joint compound in my country unless it’s those huge tubs used in construction, which are super expensive. Are there any ways to make pmc without this ingredient that don’t end up too papery or easy to break?

    Reply
    • Hi Angelo. The paper mache clay recipe does require the pre-mixed joint compound. Or you could buy the powdered kind (one that takes a long time to harden) and mix it yourself. I haven’t actually tried that, but I’ve been told it works. I don’t know of any other product that will produce a mixture that works the same way as the original paper mache clay recipe. For many years people used paper pulp mixed with some kind of paste. It doesn’t give you the same results, but many people love working with it. You can find a lot of tutorials and projects using this material at http://www.papiermache.co.uk/

      And paper strips and paste can also be used to create beautiful works of art. It takes more time and patience, but the traditional methods shouldn’t be discounted.

      Good luck with your class!

      Reply
  18. oi jonni
    meu nome é laecio
    moro no brasil,a muito tempo vejo suas obras de ARTES.
    Parabéns pelo seu belo trabalho
    Admiro muito esculturas papel mache,já fiz algunhas ,mas não com
    essa perfeição.

    Reply
  19. want to try to use your Paper Mache Clay recipe in a 2 part ceramic mold any pointers you could give me thanks in advance…it looks like the one in the picture

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin. The paper mache clay will stick to plaster if you don’t use a very good release. It will stick so hard that you’d never be able to get it out. To get the pm clay to work in a plaster mold you would want to seal the mold with shellac, and then use a very good release. Smooth-on makes a good universal release that should work, although it could leave an oil residue on the surface of the casting. Needless to say, you’d never be able to use your mold for ceramics again.

      But there’s also one additional problem. Paper mache clay doesn’t work very well in any kind of mold, even silicon. The high paper content causes air to get trapped next to the mold, and the surface of the casting will be pitted. Many people do use the smooth air dry clay recipe in silicone molds, though, and they say it works well. It’s essentially the same ingredients but with a much lower paper content. I have not tried it myself, though. It will shrink, about as much as ceramic slip.

      Reply
  20. Hi Jonni,
    I have been browsing through your website and I think that your work is fabulous. Is there any way to order your books except through Amazon? I don’t feel comfortable using credit card , paypal, etc over the Internet. Would you accept American Postal Money Orders As payment? I live in Regina Saskatchewan.
    Cheers, Marielle

    Reply
    • Hi Marielle. I don’t carry an inventory of books because they’re all sold through Amazon. They print and sell them for me, and ship them directly to you. I’m not able to accept orders myself. I’m afraid you’ll need to use the link to the amazon.ca page I gave you before. Perhaps one of your family members has an amazon account, and they’d be willing to order it for you.

      Reply

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