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Paper Mache Clay Recipe

The recipe for paper mache clay

  • 1 1/4 cups damp toilet paper
  • 1 cup premixed drywall joint compound in a plastic tub
  • 3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue-All or any PVA glue (or Gorilla Wood Glue if you’re using DAP brand joint compound. Elmer’s Glue won’t work with DAP
  • 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.

You can also make colored paper mache clay – click the link to see how.

What does it look like when it’s dry?

Paper Mache Clay Deer Head

If you’d like to see what your sculpture might look like when you use this recipe, I finished many of my sculpture and mask patterns with paper mache clay, 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, like the wire used for bird legs or tiny animal sculptures.

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:

Over 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, because 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 alternative recipes, and many people actually prefer them. Go ahead and try them all, and see which one you like best.

  1. 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.
  2. If you need a recipe that can be used for outdoor sculptures, check out the paper cement clay recipe. It’s only been tested for a little over a year so far, so consider it experimental – but many people have had very good luck with it.

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 instead. In fact, ever since the toilet paper shortage in early 2020, more and more people have made the recipe with old newspapers or the brown paper that Amazon.com uses inside it’s cartons. The texture of the final mix may be slightly different, but recycled paper works just fine. To see a video about using recycled paper in paper mache clay, click here.

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

More Lion King mask patterns for paper mache:

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.

Paper Mache Clay Recipe

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.

Paper Mache Clay Recipe

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

5,241 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Recipe”

  1. I found dry wall plaster in a tub in South Africa and I’m going to try it, the only worry I have is that it says that it’s dangerous to get on your skin? Is it marked toxic anywhere else? Have you ever had a problem or needed to wear gloves. I’m also worried to use my food mixer then…

    Reply
    • I don’t live in South Africa so I can’t tell you if the drywall joint compound sold there is toxic. Paper mache clay is not intended to be used with hands – it’s spread on an armature with a knife or other tool. Talk to the people at your local DIY store – they’ll know what’s in the product available there and whether or not it’s safe to use.

      Reply
  2. Well, I did it. 95 lbs of portland cement. It’s baking in the oven. No, Jonni doesn’t say bake it in the over. LOL. I’m impatient. I used the outdoor formula. I thought I was following the recipe, but I started improvising with more glue and more portland cement, so I can deal with failure. I have an insight into someone saying they weren’t getting the clay like consistency. I had that problem. The mix is too dry. Add water. If you add too much water it has the consistency of frosting. If you get the water just right, the batter will crawl up the beater just like Jonni said in one of her videos. I was very pleased with the clay like consistency. If I invent anything, I’ll let you know. Oh, one last thing, I found out that borax, and probably other chemicals, will cause PVA glue to clump. DAP might be adding borax to their premix joint compound to retard mold growth. I tried to confirm by looking at the label, but I didn’t see a list of ingredients. By for now.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Sharon! I just now updated the written recipe to let more people know, and I added this information in the description of the video on YouTube. Thanks for letting us know. 🙂

      Reply
      • Hi Marcie. I have two elephants – the one on the wall is made with a pattern that you can find here. The face for the standing elephant is sculpted over a flat pattern, using crumpled paper and masking tape. Paper mache clay will take several days to dry, and it depends on the temperature in the room, the air circulation, and how thickly it’s applied. There’s no way to say exactly how long it will take, but make sure it’s completely dry, all the way through, before painting it. Have fun!

        Reply
    • Yup! I bought this instead of Dap, made my rubbery clay and then saw the updated post!

      Does anyone know if Sheetrock use brand joint compound is ok? I can’t find small buckets of proform brand anywhere!

      Reply
  3. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong but I cannot get my clay to come out smooth. I have tried everything I can think of, soaking the tp overnight, soaking/breaking up/re-soaking, using a blender, and I even put it through a meat grinder. The last batch included all of these plus breaking it up into pieces smaller than rice before adding the glue and joint compound, and mixing for almost a half hour. Still, there are noticeable pieces of paper, the mix is lumpy, and they tend to ball up when I try to smooth with a wet spatula. Putting the armature together with your pattern was a piece of cake, but I fear the project will be sunk if I don’t figure this out. Help!

    Reply
      • Hi Jonni! It is not DAP, it is USG brand. I also tried the gram measurement recipe, and two different kinds of toilet paper, the cheapo single ply and regular Angel Soft. Is there a particular brand you use? It seems like no matter what I do to it, the paper will just not break down. I think I will try a different brand of joint compound, just in case.

        Reply
        • Your USG drywall joint compound should work just fine. I have no idea why your mix isn’t working – I just use whatever brand is cheapest. Are you soaking the paper in hot water?

          Reply
          • Yes, and today I tried a new batch, after boiling the pulp in a pot for an hour. It improved the texture somewhat, but is still not even close to the way yours is. Thanks so much for taking the time to help, I appreciate it! Your work is just beautiful and I had hoped to at least imitate it.

            Reply
  4. Hi Jonni, I just attempted my first batch of your paper mache clay and while I was able to use it the texture seemed off to me. Not very spreadable and almost rubbery. I think it could be the joint compound brand I purchased and perhaps you could verify if that might be the cause, as I’m assuming you’ve done a fair amount of research on the best ones. The brand I picked up is “Wurth Ready-To-Use Lightweight Joint Compound”.
    Thank you in advance!

    Reply
      • I also just tried using the wulf brand, which I bought at Walmart. I had the same experience. when I added the glue, it turned into rubbery strands. It says it is “lightweight” compound. I wonder if whatever substance they use for the lightweight effect causes the problem. I may try it with the “DAP” recipe you gave on a recent You tube video where you made the homemade glue.

        Reply
        • Thanks for letting us know. I’ll add that brand to the post, but we might have to all start using the homemade glue version, because it’s getting so hard to find joint compound that works with the original recipe. 🙁

          Reply
          • Coincidentally came to comment that I just tried it with the Wurth brand about 5 minutes ago and it turned to rubber. 1 day too late apparently ?? going to try the home made glue since all we have here is Wurth and DAP

            Reply
  5. I stumbled onto your site last winter and it has changed my life! It has opened my eyes to a whole new art form (sculpting) that I never imagined I could do! Your paper mache clay is so easy to make and easy to use, and your videos are so helpful and inspirational! I’m a 2nd grade teacher, and after finding your site I knew I had to do a project with my students! They were studying rainforest animals and so they each made a foil armature and then used your PM clay to create their animals. The kids loved it and they turned out great! Now I’m working on a larger project for myself and I have a question for you. I’m making a stool out of a Home Depot 5 gallon bucket that has been turned upside down. When it’s done it will look like a faux tree stump and (hopefully) be a functional stool that I could sit on. I added foil pieces for bark/texture and stubs of branches around the bucket. So my question is this: what method or recipe do you think would be the strongest and be able to withstand the weight of an adult without cracking or breaking? I was thinking of doing strips of paper with either flour or glue for the first 2 layers. Then I was thinking 2 layers of PM clay. But I keep thinking that I’ll need more layers than that to make it strong enough to hold adult weight. Should I consider the cement recipe? I’d love any suggestions if you have any tips for me. Thank you for all your wisdom and creativity that you share with the world!

    Reply
    • What a nice comment! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the site and all your projects.

      I’m not sure you need to worry that much about the strength of your stool. Those buckets are really strong all by themselves. If you compress the foil pieces, that will make it even stronger. Then you could just think of the paper mache as a final skin, and not as a structural element. That’s really the best way to use it. Paper mache clay over crumpled foil is very strong, though, because it keys into the dips and crannies of the foil, which act as reinforcement. If you’re looking for strength, I’d leave out the first two layers of paper strips and paste. When you get it done, remember to come show it off on the Daily Sculptors page. There’s a link to that page at the top of the site. Have fun! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Help!
    My clay is the consistency of sticky bread dough….. this is my second attempt….. What should I do? It is not spreadable. I put 1/2 cup of flour….. should I use more?

    Reply
    • You can use as much flour as you need to, in order to get the consistency that you want. I sometimes use less than the recipe calls for, in order to spread it very thin with a damp knife, and sometimes I add more flour so I can sculpt little details.

      Reply
  7. Do you think drywall glue would also work for this? I use it when I paper mache with paper strips but not sure if it would work or not for this recipe.

    Reply
    • I’ve never heard of drywall glue – and I couldn’t find it when I did a search online. Is it like the construction adhesive that comes in a big tube? In any case, since I don’t know what it is, I can’t tell you if it would work or not. If you try it, please let us know how it comes out.

      Reply
  8. Hi Jonni,
    I want to use this recipe for a very large project but I don’t understand how I’d spread a thin layer over my chicken wire armature. Should I use masking tape first over my armature? I’m new to paper mache and winging this.

    Reply
  9. Goodmorning Jonni, I was curious to use this paper mache clay recipe in a mold. I have a hard plastic mold (it’s used for plaster wall art casting). Have you used your mixture in a mold before? Is there a release agent you suggest?

    Reply
    • Hi Brittany. I think that castings that will dry hard should be made in a flexible mold, like silicone, while castings that would be flexible can be made in a hard mold. If your mold has any undercuts at all, you won’t be able to get the casting out. The paper mache clay doesn’t usually stick to plastic, but you might do a small test first, and brush on a thin layer of petroleum jelly as a release. I have tried making castings with this recipe, in a silicone mold, and it didn’t work very well. The texture kept it from making a good casting, and as it dried it started to shrink, which pulled it away from the walls of the mold and distorted the shape. I have done some castings in silicone molds that were much better, with a different recipe. You can see that post here.

      Reply
  10. Hi Jonni. This looks amazing and I can’t wait to have a go at it! I want to make a decorative pot or bowl for my table. Would the recipe work for that and how many layers do you think I would need to apply?

    Reply
    • Yes, this recipe will work for a bowl. It’s very hard when it dries, so it shouldn’t need to be any thicker than a porcelain bowl. If you need it to be smooth, you might want to make up a small batch of this recipe for the first thin layer, and then use the Smooth Air Dry Clay, a variation of this recipe, for a thin the outer layer.

      Reply
  11. Hi,
    Just wondering if the joint compound you use is the premixed kind (ready to spread drywall compound) or is it a powder? (Sorry if you’ve mentioned this somewhere already and I missed it)

    Reply
  12. Hello! I’m making a paper mache bust inspired by Greek sculpture for a school project. I wanted to honor my body by making it a replica of my own. Is it safe on skin? Thank you!

    Reply
    • No, it can’t be used that way. You wouldn’t be able to move for 24 hours or more, while it dries. Even if that was possible, it would dry out your skin, and it might be really hard to get it off without injuring yourself. It’s a really bad idea.

      Do a YouTube search for body casting with plaster bandages. This is a good one. But don’t even do that unless you have someone to help, and don’t trap any parts, like an arm, that you won’t be able to get out of the dried plaster – it gets hard really fast.

      Reply
      • You can use plaster bandages and cover yourself with Vaseline first to release the plaster. I have done this on faces

        Reply
        • That’s true – but be sure you don’t get any hairs, especially eyelashes or eyebrows, caught in the plaster. It really hurts when you rip them off with the plaster. And having someone to help is a really good idea.

          Reply
  13. Hi Jonni!
    I’m thinking about using this recipe for a work project, however I’m wondering if the finished product is “heavy”?

    I would be using this to make a fish around a grabby tool for kids to pull things off of walls, so I can’t have it too heavy or else the kids won’t be able to lift it! I recognize that it’s dependant on the size of the fish I make, and also that this is a silly and odd question.

    Regardless, I look forward to your response!

    Reply
    • Hi Cassidy. It’s not an odd question, but it’s a little hard to answer. The armature that you use to create the form of your fish will almost always be heavier than any form of paper mache you put over it. The weight of the paper mache clay is more than just paper strips and paste, though, because it can’t be spread as thinly. I try to keep my layers around 1/8″, but if needed I add another layer on top of it. The only sculptures I’ve made that felt heavy were quite large, and were made with crumpled paper inside instead of crumpled foil. I suggest making a small item with the same materials you intend to use, but without putting any effort into adding details or anything. Just a blob-shaped thing – and then let it dry. That will be the best way to know if it will be light enough, and strong enough. for you kids. Have fun with it! 🙂

      Reply
  14. Hey Jonni! I have used this recipe a few times. I love the way it dries and really protects the under structure. I’m a theatre artist who usually carves from foam and will do a top coat of this. Every time i have made it run into the same issue of it almost seems gloopy? Its like my paper doesn’t completely break down. I have tried letting it sit in water longer, drying it out a bit more, leaving it a bit wet. Mixing for loooong periods etc. I just cant seem to get the texture right.

    When i go to apply it doesn’t smooth on, it kind grabs itself and rolls leaving a slug trail of gluey water behind if that makes sense? It doesn’t give a full coverage. Wondering what else i should try next time i make it.

    Reply
    • Hi Jessica. I haven’t had this specific issue, but I have a few questions for you. First, do you think it’s possible that you aren’t squeezing out enough water from the wet paper, or that you may need more flour? Or, more importantly, is it possible that you’re using DAP drywall joint compound?

      Reply
      • Hey there! definitely not using DAP. I may need to add more flour… But when i watched your video, the stage before adding the flower mine looks different and not as smooth. I have a batch made up I can send a video/photo of. I do notice if I do two coats it’ll give full coverage, but never on the first.

        Reply
        • If you have a video or photo, how about posting them on the Daily Sculptors page? It’s possible that someone else has had the same problem, and they figured out a way to fix it. A video would need to be posted first on YouTube, though – the form won’t accept a video file, just images.

          Reply
          • I tried to post and I keep getting an error message that the “request entity is too large”. Is there a character count i need to stick to for the body?

            Reply
            • Hi Jessica. That’s an automatic message, and I know it doesn’t make much sense because it’s worded so strangely. Unfortunately, I can’t change the wording, but it’s trying to say that your image file sizes are too big. The maximum upload amount is 256 MB for a WordPress website, and that includes the form itself. If you have image editing software, you can edit the images to about 600 pixels wide and at 96 DPI, and that should make them small enough. It’s actually easier to reduce the file size of your images, without making them look smaller, using a free online service like this one. I hope you try again! 🙂

  15. Oh my gosh! You animals are gorgeous. I’m an artist as well as crafter. I do my crafts for a charity supporting our local Children’s Hospital. Since it’s a charity, I look for any affordable options. My paintings been in juried art shows. I have seen animals sculptures made out of recycled cardboard.. I wonder if you entered your animals Art shows (they are beautiful)
    I so appreciate your sharing this recipe. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Teresa. I’m so glad you found the site, and that you like the sculptures. Long ago, (a really long time ago!) I sold art prints at juried art shows, and I loved it. But I don’t live in the city anymore, and this website and the pattern designs take up all of my time. I do miss it sometimes, though. 🙂

      Reply
    • Sorry, Teresa, but this is for Joni. I was unable to find a way to reach you (Joni) without replying to a random post.

      I’ve never worked with paper mache before, and am wondering if I should let the layers dry between each application or just add them all at once? I live in a very dry climate, and above a mile in altitude, so mold is less of a problem, although not non-existent.

      And thank you for an inspiring and informative website! I don’t know if I would have had the guts to try something so out of my comfort zone if it wasn’t for you (and Pinata Boy, from whose website I discovered you.

      Reply
      • Hi Lynn. Did you try scrolling down to the bottom of the post? There should be a comment form down there, in case you want to comment again. I don’t let all the layers dry before adding more, because every time you add another layer, the water in the paste seeps into the lower layers anyway, and they all end up getting wet again.

        I’ll have to go check out the Pinata Boy’s website – we get a lot of questions about making Pinatas, and I’ve never done it myself. Thanks for the mention!

        Reply
        • Thank you Joni! I’ve learned so much from you already. Not having to let the layers dry overnight will certainly speed up my progress.

          Reply
    • I usually add it when I mix the paper, glu and joint compound, but it really doesn’t matter. A lot of people leave out the oil, and the recipe still works just fine. Have fun! 🙂

      Reply
  16. Wow! I’m so glad I came across your post. You’re a fantastic artist and your tutorial is very well written. Thank you for sharing your impressive talent!

    Reply
  17. Thank you very much for sharing this knowledge,it looks like great fun,looking forward to having a go.Your sculptures are so gorgeous

    Reply

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