Paper Mache Clay

Play Video

The recipe for paper mache clay

  • 1 1/4 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.

4

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

4,895 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay”

  1. Would this paper mache clay be suitable as a final layer on a piñata? I’ve used flour water and newspaper for three coats now. I was hoping you had an opinion on this.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Meredith. I don’t think the paper mache clay would be a good idea, but I haven’t actually tried it. A piñata is made to break apart, but the paper mache clay dries really hard. It will shatter if it’s hit hard enough, but the pieces could go flying through the air and hit someone. Some of the shards could be quite sharp.

      I just did a search for how to make a piñata, and found this site. The author thinks that three or four layers of paper is all you need, so you may not need to add any more. Is your paper mache dry yet? When it’s dry, you should be able to tell if it will hold its shape.

      Reply
      • Thank you so very much for your response.

        I’ve made piñatas with just newspaper/flour but was just looking to try something new so to get a smoother more controlled surface.

        I definitely let it dry a few days between applications until it’s sturdy and hard.

        I’ll just stick to the traditional route.

        You have been so very helpful.. I couldn’t find any information regarding PMclay/piñatas online so thank you again for your response.

        Reply
  2. Hi Jonni. My daughter is making a sculpture of herself and we were wondering if the clay would stick onto a plait of wool made to look like hair? After it dries she would like to stick a thin paper layer over this so the words are visible. Do you think we could paper mache over the top of the clay?

    Reply
    • The paper mache clay may be too thick to do what I think you’re trying to do. But if you leave out the paper and just make the DIY gesso (pre-mixed drywall joint compound and Elmer’s Glue-All) and then dip the wool into it, that could work. If the mass is too thick, though, it may not dry all the way through. If you’re going to put paper strips and paste over it anyway, the wool is going to be completely hidden. Your daughter might want to consider sculpting the hair with crumpled foil and hot glue. Then she can cover the foil with masking tape and put a layer or two of paper strips and paste over that. It would reduce the number of steps and the finished result would probably look the same. We would love to see her sculpture when it’s done. Let her know that she can share a photo on the Daily Sculptors page. 🙂

      Reply
  3. I’m so happy I came across your page and videos! I would like to make a tRex head for my son’s room (to mount on the wall). Which paper mache clay recipe should I use- original or silky smooth? And if I use the silky smooth recipe, can I smooth the mixture directly onto the armature or do I have to apply a layer of masking tape and plaster strips first?

    Reply
  4. Love your creations!! I am especially interested in making the chicken heads at the beginning of this article…. Any pattern or instructions available? TIA. TIA ?

    Reply
    • Hi Marcia. Is it possible that you saw the chicken heads in a comment on the site? Several years ago an Etsy.com artist posted some chicken or rooster heads, but it was before we got our new system so I can’t search for them. In any case, she didn’t give us instructions for making them, because they were for sale. However, you could make them yourself using the armature method shown in my Blue Hippo videos, but the shapes would obviously need to be different. Good luck with it!

      Reply
  5. Hi Jonni, is this recipe waterproof? I’d like to make some fairie houses and other sculptures for my garden, for the grand kids. Im in the uk too so not sure if I can get all the same ingredients here.
    Thanks, Alison

    Reply
  6. Alguien que hable español y me pueda decir qué ingrediente es cuál, o por qué se puede sustituir? Hay una masilla que le queda súper linda y fina para las decoraciones

    Reply
  7. Hi Jonni, and thanks again for the helpful tips you gave me via email. Just found this public spot so I’m sharing my problems and results for everyone here. I just submitted my first completed project on the daily sculptor page. Here is what I learned after making 2 batches:

    For the first batch I used homemade glue and polyfilla powder because I did not have enough PVA or drywall compound. I used newspaper pulp which I had cut into tiny pieces and soaked for a few days, then used a hand blender to mash smooth. The glue was a huge sticky mucky mess even after I added about double the flour and also cornstarch. It was hard to work with but I managed to cover a plastic water bottle and made a few small embellishments for some napkin rings I am making. I forgot to refrigerate though, and it went moldy. The texture however was quite smooth.

    For the second batch I followed the recipe with the exception that I used newspaper pulp instead of the tp. I was dismayed that it was again a huge sticky mess. Jonni suggested that there was too much moisture and to add flour or cornstarch. I opted for the cornstarch, but it remained very sticky. So this is what I deduced:

    The brand of PVA glue I used is a lot more viscious than Elmer’s or other brands. I will be making more clay and will experiment with thinning out or adding a bit less to the mixture.

    When I want to use it I take some out of the container and dust with cornstarch, then leave it to dry out for a while before using. I also sometimes put a couple of drops of baby oil on my fingers before handling the clay.

    Then, oddly enough, when I add to existing sculpture I join wet to dry with a brush of homemade glue, then add water on my fingers and or with a brush to shape and mold the wet clay, just as you would with traditional clay. The clay is amazingly smooth and easier to work with this way. The oil does not inhibit the clay from sticking to wet or dry clay, or to any surface.

    I am making more clay today using white office paper mash which I have squeezed more water out of, and I will post an update when it is ready.

    Reply
      • Hi Jonni,

        I made my new batch of clay today. Success! I used white heavyweight office paper which i had cut in small pieces and soaked for a few days before pulverizing with my hand blender. I squeezed even more water out than I had previously done and let it sit for a couple of days. I reduced the glue from 3/4 cup to about 2/3 and as I added the flour I actually got the dough consistency. It was still sticky even with all the flour so I dusted my counter with cornstarch and took about half, dusted again with the cornstarch and kneaded for a couple of minutes and it worked! Repeated for the other half and done!

        My next experiment will be combining the paper maché clay with air dry clay. I have some very small things I want to make to put in my Santa’s bag, and ditto for my next snow-woman. Pics to follow!

        Cate

        Reply
  8. Hi Jonni! Just wondering if the recipe would still work with Elmers school glue? I realized I bought the wrong kind AFTER coming back home from the store and would hate to wait in line again. Thanks!

    Reply
    • I’m not sure, Viviana. There is a way to find out, though – but you’d have to use a little bit of the school glue in your experiment so you wouldn’t be able to return it. To see if it works, mix about a tablespoon of the glue with an equal amount of the joint compound. (Don’t bother to measure – the amounts aren’t that important.) If the mixture works, it will be just a little softer than the joint compound was when you started, like you’d expect. If it doesn’t work, it will be thicker than you would expect, and might even get thick or rubbery.

      Good luck – and let us know what you found out.

      Reply
    • You can make the traditional paper pulp. Which is paper that’s been soaked and then mixed to separate the fibers, and the water squeezed out. Add some form of paste or glue, and mix again. It won’t be exactly like the paper mache clay, but it’s been used for hundreds of years and many people enjoy using it. You can find a lot of tutorials using the traditional paper pulp recipe at http://www.papiermache.co.uk/

      Reply
  9. My 14 year old son and I are going to attempt to use this recipe tomorrow to create a sculpture of Gon from hunter x hunter for his freshman year art project. We are creating the form first, then we will apply a few layers of regular paper mache to bind everything together and get rid of seams. Then once all that is dry we plan to go over the form with the clay recipe before covering the statue with other mixed media. He has 6 weeks to work on it so it’s not something we need to rush. We have to make a study form for this character so that part is going to take a good chunk as I work full time as an essential employee and can only work with him on the weekends and one day a week during the week. Wish us luck.

    Reply
  10. Hello!

    Thanks for all the tips!

    I was wondering – can you use anything to add color to the paper mache clay?

    All the best,
    Ryan

    Reply
    • I Ryan. I think any pigment could be added without causing problems, but the drywall joint compound is white, so any colors added will become pastel. The strongest colors might be the ones that you get at the DIY store for coloring concrete, but I haven’t tried them yet. They don’t have many color choices, though.

      Reply
      • Thanks Jonni!!

        RIT Dye worked out great!

        The mixture seems to be taking a long time to dry and has a fluffy texture (not hard as rock) do you think this was from too much water left in the toilet paper?

        All the best,
        Ryan

        Reply
  11. Hi Jonni,
    I’m so excited to try your clay recipe! I am making a diorama for children to work with. Your clay recipe is just what I need to make it look more “realistic!” Question: Have you ever had any issues with any of your projects molding over time using this recipe? Do you recommend adding salt for this reason (someone else had recommended using salt to prevent mold- what’s your opinion on this?)
    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Bonnie. If you make sure the pieces in your diorama dry as soon as possible after you apply the paper mache clay, and then seal them with acrylic varnish after painting them, you should get any mold. At least I never have, and here in Minnesota it gets quite humid in the summer. I never add salt.

      Reply
  12. Hi Jonni,

    I absolutely LOVE this recipe and I am using it quite often now, including on a relatively big project that I am in the middle of. Unfortunately with the Covid-19 pandemic, toilet paper is in limited supply. I really want to keep crafting while we are on lock down, is there another type of paper pulp I could use? Maybe tissue paper from gift wrapping?

    Thank you so much for this recipe, your awesome site, and any suggestions you could make now!

    Reply
    • Hi Mackenzie. I think all of us will be using recycled paper instead of TP, at least until things get back to normal. Newspaper would probably work just as well as gift wrapping. If you soak it long enough and then run it through a blender (with plenty of water) the fibers will come apart. Many people have always used the recipe with recycled paper, and I’ve tried it, too. As long as you’re patient and make sure to mix long enough so the fibers are evenly distributed, it works just as well as TP. It’s just a little more work.

      I hope we can see some of the things you’ve made. You can show them off on the Daily Sculptors page. 🙂

      Reply
      • Thank you Jonni, I will give that a try! I also plan to post photos as soon as I’ve completed the project. I have made a mask using one of your patterns as well, I’ll post that too.

        Have a great and healthy weekend 🙂

        Reply
    • During this difficult time if the Pandemic – and being under lockdown.
      – we experiment? We can only buy food and medicines not even glue. Try soaking cardboard egg boxes. It takes longer to brake down but works very well. I use my husbands drill with a paint mixing fitting. And it helps to break it down into small fine pieces. Good Luck. Jude South Africa

      Reply
    • I havne’t tried any blue joint compound. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. But it will probably work because it doesn’t look like it’s made by the DAP company. I don’t know for sure, though – you’d need to try it. Do they have a small quantity you could get to test? I buy my drywall joint compound at Walmart, often in the quart-sized containers. It’s cheap, and it works just fine.

      Reply
  13. Would like to use this for ‘seed bombs’ which would need to degrade in damp environment. Others recommend using dry potter’s clay in the mixture but it makes the balls too solid, they don’t degrade quickly enough to release the seeds for sprouting.

    What tweek would you recommend to accomplish that need?

    Reply
    • This recipe creates a material that dries as hard as a rock. It will eventually degrade in water, but it takes a very long time, and the ingredients are not organic. I can’t think of any way to change this recipe to make it melt faster in water. I think clay is the best thing to use. Even though it takes time to turn back into mud, it is actual mud and shouldn’t hurt the baby plants. Or you might add some compost or dried cow manure to the clay to loosen it up and help it disintegrate faster, while adding nutrients to the soil.

      Reply
        • Yes, you can. I’ve made several hollow sculptures, but so far I’ve used a layer of plaster cloth first, then cut it in half, remove the “innards,” and then put it back together with more plaster cloth. Then I finish the sculpture with the paper mache clay. I don’t know if one has to do that or not, but the paper mache clay dries as hard as a rock. I think it would be difficult to cut it apart. That’s how I made my rhino – you can see me cutting the poor beast in half in this video.

          One comment about the foil – once it’s crumpled tight and glued together, it’s pretty hard to pull it apart. You might want to use something softer on the inside, like crumpled paper, and use the foil for the final sculpting. A thinner layer of foil will be easier to pull out than a solid lump of foil.

          Reply
      • I would like to make a line design with paper clay using a squeeze bottle. To compare, it’s like making a design out of chocolate drizzle for a cake decoration on wax paper. Can I use this recipe for something like this? What should I apply it to so that I can lift it off when it is dry? Thank you. I love your site and amazing talent!

        Reply
        • I don’t know if this recipe would work for that or not. It’s intended to be used in a thin layer over an armature, so it could crack if it’s made into very thin lines without support. It also won’t ‘drizzle’ unless you make it a lot thinner than the usual recipe, perhaps by adding more glue and leaving out the flour. But then it wouldn’t hold its shape… You’d need to try it to see if you can get the result you want. If you put in on waxed paper it should come off when dry.

          Reply
  14. Hi! I’m planning to make this today, and had a question about the “premixed” joint compound. My understanding is that the premixed kind is already wet, but in the photos, it looks like powder. Could you clarify which to use? Thank you!

    Reply
  15. H? Jonni! Thanks so much for sharing your wealth of talent! About how long does this recipe need to dry and be ready for paint?

    Reply
    • Opal, it’s really hard to say because it depends on how thickly it was applied, the temperature and humidity in the air… You will need to give it at least two days, though, because it will feel dry on the outside before the inside is totally dry, and you don’t want to trap moisture inside with your paint. You can tell if it’s dry all the way through by pressing on it. If there’s absolutely no ‘give’ at all, it should be dry enough for you to paint.

      Reply
  16. Just wondering how you do clean up….I live in an apartment, so I’m not so sure about rinsing glue and compound down the sink.

    Reply
    • Hi Lacy. I scrape the left-over clay into the garbage, and use a paper towel to get any that didn’t come out easily. Then I just wash up with soap and water.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to Mackenzie Cancel reply

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.

Heads up! You are attempting to upload a file that's too large. Please try a smaller file smaller than 250KB.

Note that images greater than 250KB will not be uploaded.