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

4,848 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay”

  1. Hi wondered if you had made any silicone moulds from your paper mache sculpture, and how did that go?
    Many thanks

    Reply
  2. Hi Jonni,
    I have a question about using your paper clay recipe. I want to do some flower relief sculpting on some panels. I made the panels by making a wooden frame then covering the frame with a 1/4” plywood that I glued down. Do I need to put masking tape on the panel to have the clay adhere to it? What might you suggest? Would I need to put the joint compound over it so as to smooth it with a damp cloth as you did? I’m excited to try using your recipes in a new way.
    Thank you. Becky

    Reply
    • Hi Becky. If you want the sculpture to stick to the wood, don’t put down masking tape first. You might want to do several small test pieces first, to see how the materials work together. You might prefer to use the smooth air dry clay recipe, instead, because it’s a thicker mixture with less texture. It isn’t as sticky, though, so you might need to use some glue on the plywood to get it to stick.

      Reply
  3. Hi! I am a student in high school I want to make a relief map of the world on one of my teacher’s walls. I really would like to emphasize the mountains, rift valleys, etc. that are on a relief map and I wanted to use something that I could make in bulk for cheap. Would this paper mache clay stick to the wall? (It is a brick texture but it has been painted over with beige paint and some sort of coating that has made it slightly smoother) Also, how would I be able to change the original recipe if I wanted it to have a more moldable consistency? This paper mache clay looks fantastic and I am so glad I found your video!

    Reply
    • Hi Olivia. Yes, the paper mache clay recipe will stick to just about anything. In fact, if will be difficult to get it off, if you ever need to do that. For a mixture that’s easier to use for sculpting, but not nearly as sticky, try the smooth air dry clay. It has almost the same ingredients but with different proportions.

      BTW, we would love to see how your relief map turns out!

      Reply
  4. Hi Jane
    Amazing tutorial s and tips…..
    Therefore because I m Italian and I don’t understand the measurement in cup …….. it s possible to have the dosage in grams?

    Reply
  5. Would it be possible to use plaster of Paris for the joint compound? I have tons of it and need a project I can use it with.

    Reply
    • Plaster of Paris could cause your paper mache clay to set up in the bowl before you get to use it. You could try a small experimental batch, just to see if you have enough time before it gets hard. If you do, please let us know what happens with your new mix.

      Reply
  6. Hi Jonni, I have excitedly made my paper clay today and covered the first halves of my small sculptures too – how do I dry them best? Just in the studio on bench? It’s summer here so no heaters on….thanks again Monica Cronulla Bch, Sydney

    Reply
    • Hi Monica. I like to put my wet pieces in front of a fan. It does dry them more quickly, but you need to watch them to make sure they don’t dry unevenly, which can cause them to warp. Just turn them occasionally, and they should be fin. But if it’s warm (I’m so jealous! We’re having a blizzard at the moment…) and not too humid, you can just leave them on the bench and let them dry naturally.

      I hope you’ll let us see your sculptures when they’re done. We have a new, easy way to share photos, so be sure to come back and let us see how they turn out. 🙂

      Reply
  7. I am very excited to learn how to paper mache. I am an artist and try many different kinds of art. I would like to see you’re how to video. How you start from the very beginning. What is the base made of, the form you put the paper mache on. Thank you for your generosity.

    Reply
    • Hi Patricia. There are a lot of different ways to make the armature for a sculpture, and once the armature is made you can add a thin layer of paper mache clay over it. The baby elephant at the beginning of the video on this page was created using one of my patterns. You can see some videos of how that was put together here.

      To see other ways to create armatures for animal sculptures, scroll through the hundreds of tutorials on this site.

      Reply
  8. Good Afternoon!

    I am an art teacher and looking to use the paper mache clay recipe in my classroom. Can I make it ahead of time and store it in an air tight container? How long can it be stored? I teach in a high school and would love to introduce my students to making their own mixtures like this rather than buying them.

    Reply
    • Hi. You can store the mixture for a week or so, or longer in the freezer. It depends on the environment, though – in some parts of the world, anything that’s damp for even a few days will start to go bad.

      Do check your school’s policy about acceptable art supplies. Some schools won’t allow the drywall joint compound because you need to wear a mask when you sand it. I never sand it myself, there is a warning label on the containers, and some schools prefer to play it safe.

      Reply
      • thank you for the reply

        I am very lucky that my principal allows for a variety of materials to be used in the classroom.

        Just to clarify, the mixture will not freeze solid in the freezer? Or will it need to thaw before use?

        Thank you! I plan on doing some tests over winter break before bringing it into the classroom next semester.

        Reply
        • Yes, it will freeze solid and would need to be thawed out. But this is only needed for long-term storage. If your class will be using it up in a day or two, it will last just fine on the shelf in an air-tight container.

          Have fun with it!

          Reply
  9. Hi! I am going to try my very first paper mache (and I’m ambitious… trying to make a dragon tree topper)… anyway, probably a silly question, but if I use my regular beaters and then dough hooks, can I clean them and still use them for baking food? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Maybe – but the ingredients for paper mache clay are not edible, and I always use a cheap mixer that I keep in my studio. Mine cost about $8 from Walmart, and it’s lasted about five years so far. I think some people do use their regular kitchen mixer for their paper mache clay, but I never do.

      Reply
    • Yes, you can do that, but large pieces of flat cardboard tend to warp when paper mache of any kind is applied on just one side. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t go out of shape.

      Reply
  10. HI Jonni,
    I’m hoping to make a mask using the paper clay over an armature made of modeling clay and then to remove the modeling clay when the paper clay dries. Do you think that would work and I would be able to remove the clay used for an armature?
    Thanks for these great tutorials!

    Reply
    • Hi Debbie. If you use an oil-based modeling clay you should be able to pull it out after the paper mache clay is dry. I’d probably put a thin coat of Vaseline over the clay, though – just to make sure.

      I don’t usually make masks that will have the paper mache clay touching the face. It dries as hard as a rock, and any minor imperfection in the surface can be really uncomfortable. You could make the inside smoother with a layer of paper strips and paste applied after the paper mache clay is dry. I haven’t tried it, but it should work. Or line you mask with felt.

      Reply
  11. I have a question: I used your paper mache paste recipe and the above paper mache clay recipe to make heads for the figures in a nativity scene. I did see where it was mentioned that the clay needs to be sealed, and I was wondering: do I seal it first and then paint it with acrylic paint, or can I paint first, and then use a clear spray to seal the paint?

    Reply
    • Hi Bridget. You can use an acrylic gesso under the paint, if you want a pure white ground to paint on. You don’t need to do that if you don’t want to. A clear varnish should be used, though, to seal the paint after it dries.

      Reply
  12. Hello! I am going to try your clay recipe to create fish puppets that are similar to these. I was wondering if you can tell me about the weight of the clay when it dries. Thank you!

    Reply
    • That’s a hard question to answer, because it depends on the thickness. It probably weighs about the same as an equal thickness of paper, and it is quite hard even when applied just an eighth of an inch – or even less. Give it a try and see if it will work for your project.

      Reply
  13. Hi Jonni! Looking for advice on how to fix this little piggy bank. She is from 1969 Holiday Fair and made of paper mâché. She has a ton of blemishes, there are a few bigger spider cracks coming from her Coin hole, and chips in her ears and snout, feet, etc… the chipped spots are extremely dry and crumbly. I’m trying to preserve her and stop any more damage. My thought is to use your paper mache recipe ( which exact one do you recommend ?) to kind of pack it inside from the bottom coin hole to brace the larger spider cracks. And hopefully add it to her ears to stop more chipping? Will it stick to these surfaces do I need glue first? ( If so which kind)

    Thank you in advance for any help you can provide! Love your site, so many fun useful projects and tips!

    Reply
    • Hi Jillian. The paper mache clay should help put the piggy together again. If you’re able to cover the inside of the pig, it shouldn’t continue to crack. The paper mache clay is really strong. You shouldn’t need to use glue first, because the paper mache clay is supposed to be sticky. It isn’t as smooth as the original surface of the pig, so you may want to let it dry and then add some of the air dry clay over it if it can be done without changing the curved shape too much. The air dry clay recipe isn’t as sticky as the pm clay, so the glue might be needed to get it to stick.

      Good luck with it. it’s a beautiful piece, and it’s worth saving.

      Reply
      • Hi Jonnie! I wanted to let you know that I have followed you for a long time. I am in the middle of making the Gnome and I thought I’d share my progress with you. Thanks for the inspiration and the “how to” video! I think you are great!

        Reply
    • I don’t know. You could try it and see. Paper towels are designed to stay strong when wet, the exact opposite of toilet paper. But it might work if you soak them long enough.

      Reply

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