The recipe for paper mache clay:
- 1 1/2 cups damp toilet paper
- 1 cup drywall 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)
Ten years ago I became frustrated with traditional paper strips and paste. 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 uses common ingredients that you can find at your local DIY store or Walmart.
And anyone can use it to create beautiful sculptures that we 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.
You use a knife to apply paper mache clay in a really thin layer over your armature, almost like frosting a cake. It dries hard and strong, so sculptures made with it can be treasured for years.
This is the recipe I used for all the projects in my book Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.
How to make paper mache clay:
You’ll need several large bowls, some measuring cups, a spoon and an electric mixer.
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.
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.
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.
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.