Paper Mache Clay

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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’s affordable.

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:

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!

4,707 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay”

  1. I am excited to try your recipe for clay that I saw from another artist in youbtube that referred to you and said this clay recipe is like polymer clay. I have used that before and bake it in the oven on a low heat. Could your recipe for you clay also be baked in an oven to be sure it is dried instead of air dry to prevent any mold? I’m trying to create a candle holder for my daughters wedding using flameless candles with wire INSIDE of the clay to shape it in different angles and wondered if it could be baked or ONLY air dry ???

    • Hi Linda. The paper mache clay can be dried in an oven. I do this often. I use the lowest temperature setting (on my oven it’s 170° F) and turn on the fan. If your oven doesn’t have a fan, it will still work. The glue in the mixture doesn’t smell very good if you cook it, so keep the temperature low. Also, remember that this mixture was first created as a replacement for the layers of paper strips and paste over an armature. I haven’t tried it in a solid lump, but I think it would crack as it dries. It could also dry hard on the outside and trap moisture inside, which could lead to mold.

      Your idea of making candle holders is interesting – I hope you’ll show them to us when they’re done.

  2. Jonni, thank you so much for this lovely present; my kids are very crafty and I can’t wait to share your recipe and website with them. XO Arzu

  3. It would be difficult to imagine one other thing that has made my life more fun, changed the creative process, and a bunch of other stuff than you paper mache clay recipe. I can’t think of anything you have left out. I did buy a paint beater when I bought a drill, and it has worked great for larger batches.

    My only comment would be to add a weight recipe. (I can give you mine, if you wish — I keep it pasted on my kitchen cupboard door!) The reason I say this is I struggled for a year making clay and could never really tell what the clay was going to turn into. After I got on this website and heard people make comments about how to make different clays with different textures, I began weighing the ingredients. When I found the clay I love to work with (which is your recipe turned into weight), I know that every time I make clay it is going to be perfect, or close to it. I do the same with the smooth clay.

    On the other side, I’m not sure you’d want to confuse all this with a “double choice.” Thanks for all your creativity, imagination, and clay!

    • Rex, I would very much like to see your weight measurements. I did put together a recipe with weights for the air dry clay, but not for the original – and it really would help. If you’re willing to share, I would be grateful, as I’m sure many others would be, too.

      • JONNI GOOD’s PAPER MACHE CLAY RECIPES
        For more information go to UltimatePaperMache.com

        Jonni’s Paper Mache Clay

        1 roll of toilet paper 72 grams dry; 330 grams wet
        3/4 cup Elmers Glue-All 195 grams (Glues may differ)
        1 cup drywall joint compound 440 grams (Not DAP, does not work)
        ½ cup white flour 70 grams
        2 T Linseed Oil (I use baby oil) 25 grams esp. with kids

        Air-Dry Smooth Clay

        ½ c toilet paper 24 grams dry, 110 grams wet
        ½ c Elmer’s glue 130 grams
        ½ c joint compound 200 grams (NOT DAP)
        ½ c corn starch 70 grams
        3 T mineral oil (baby oil) 34 grams
        ½ c flour 70 grams
        Knead in up to another ½ c flour (70 grams) to the consistency you like.

        Hope I got this right.

        • Jonni, this is a bit scrambled, so perhaps you could “fix” the mess. I’ll email my file to you because this isn’t fun to read!

        • Thank you, Rex! I will try this as soon as I get a chance. It would remove the biggest questions – exactly how much paper do I need, and how much water do I press out? It was so kind of you to share your measurements.

  4. Hi Joni, I just wanted to thank you for the hard work you have put into the PM clay recipe. I have made it many times now and it is always very successful. I made a slight change this morning and made up some filler from it’s powder form a then used that in place of the ready made. It occurred to me that there seemed to be no mention on the dry powder pack of all the chemical additives that are in the ready made stuff. (Probably necessary to stop it going ‘off’ on the shelf). I use the clay with elderly folks so I want to minimise any health risks. I’ll see how it goes!. We have made fairy houses over pop bottles in the past and little Christmas trees. One very effective use is to simply emboss patterns into the clay and cut into squares or circles for tree decoration or as tiles mounted on a frame as an art piece. They are very lovely when painted a single colour then rubbed over with gilding cream.
    Quirky cats and such are next on the list… I am never without possibilities with this wonderful recipe. It brings joy to the old folks when the create something fun and also to visitors to the centre who admire the artwork. We have had some lovely comments. Thanks once again.??

    • Hi Lynn – it sounds like you have lots of ideas to keep you busy! As for the warnings, the only ones on my container of pre-mixed joint compound from Walmart seem to be referring to the silica that’s picked up as part of the mining process when they collect the calcium carbonate or gypsum. They want us to wear a mask if we sand the dry joint compound. Silica is a very hard mineral, so you wouldn’t want the fine powder in your lungs when you sand it. I don’t ever sand paper mache clay anyway, because it dries so hard. In case anyone missed it, you can see my video about making paper mache clay without sanding here.

      I wonder if they leave off those warnings on the bagged dry product because it’s usually sold to professional contractors who should already know about the mask situation? Interesting ….

  5. Hi Jonni,
    What fabulous product you’ve created. I tried this recipe for paper clay today. I teach Art to grades 2-8 and have stayed away from paper mâché because of the mess. Last year I decided to try it again and a grade 7 student accidentally knocked a gallon of paper mâché paste upside down on the floor. ?
    It reminded me WHY I do not want to do it anymore. Today just opened up a whole new world. This stuff is AMAZING.
    I needed to keep my finders and knife moistened continually but all in all it was so clean. I want to make pop bottle hobbit houses with Grades 5&6 and did a test run today myself. ?????? so much fun to use. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I think I shall tattoo this recipe on me somewhere so I always have it. The possibilities of its use will be endless for me. Here today’s beginner hobbit house. Can’t wait until it’s dry to paint it.

    • Tracy, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the PM clay. And we would love to see those pop bottle hobbit houses. In fact, if you happen to take photos while you’re building them, would you have any interest in writing a how-to article as a guest post for the blog? It would be a fun project for a lot of us, if we could see how you do it. If that sounds like something you’d like to do, just let me know.

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