Paper Mache Elephant Skin with Crackle Glaze

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You probably recognize this elephant, because I designed the baby African elephant wall sculpture pattern way back in 2015. I can’t believe it’s been that long!

I gave my first elephant to the Habitat for Humanity’s annual art auction, and I always intended to make another one. I finally got around to it this week, and it was a lot of fun.

This is one of the four patterns I made using a three-D computer program. That was fun, too – I enjoyed learning how to do it, because I’m always looking for a challenge. But I don’t make my patterns with a computer now. I enjoy sculpting because it’s exciting to see the creature coming to life in my hands. Seeing it on a screen it’s just not the same…

But back to the elephant skin – this was really easy, because I used the clear crackle glaze from Deco Art. Of course, I always try doing things the cheapest way first, so I did a fast test using Elmer’s glue and acrylic paint. It cracks, but not in an elephant-skin way, so I ordered the glaze, instead.

Step 1: Apply the glaze thickly.

Applying the crackle glaze thickly.

The instructions say to apply the material thickly, and without over-brushing. I did that. On a few vertical spots it started to run, but it’s really thick so it was easy to go back and smooth it out before the glaze got dry.

It’s important to let the crackle glaze dry naturally. If you hit it with a heat gun or hair dryer, the glaze won’t be able to shrink and create the cracks. My elephant was dry to the touch in a couple of hours.

This is how it looked after it dried, and before I added the brown paint to make the cracks easier to see.

Paper Mache Elephant Skin with Crackle Glaze

Step 2: Add another glaze to make the cracks easier to see.

I intended to do this part in just one step, but I wasn’t happy with the dark brown color I used the first time.

For the first color I used Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, and lots of the Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid.

The glazing liquid slows down the drying time of the acrylic paint, and it makes it transparent. It would be possible to use water to dilute the paint, but only on a much smaller project. On something as big as the elephant, a water glaze would leave lines where wet paint was brushed over paint that was already dry.

Paper Mache Elephant Skin with Crackle Glaze

I waited until the brown glaze was completely dry. This can take several hours, or even overnight.

Then I mixed a lighter color, using more blue to make it cooler, and adding white to make it grey and less transparent. I liked it much better:

The crackle glaze after it was toned down a little with lighter grey.

But as I mentioned in the video, I don’t think I’d use the crackle glaze again over the textured paper towels. I would make the wrinkles with tissue paper, instead.

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What do you think? Was it worth the twelve bucks for the crackle glaze?

Have you used this product, (or another brand), for any of your own projects? If you have, we would love to see how they came out!

Elephant skin on paper mache with crackle glaze

23 thoughts on “Paper Mache Elephant Skin with Crackle Glaze”

  1. Love your new elephant, he’s / she’s beautiful ? I still can’t get over the incredible job you’ve done with the skin wrinkles & overall texture. Very realistic. Can’t wait til I have enough time off from work to make my own. Have also decided I want to make 3 of your small baby elephant pattern with the entire body. I plan on purchasing both of those design templates in the near future.

    As I said, I think your elephant is beautiful, but I’m unfortunately not a fan of the crackle glaze on this second one. To my eye, it looks like a cheaper finish that has aged, yellowed & cracked, although it’s not actually yellow in tone. That’s just what the end texture brings to mind for some reason.

    Thanks so much for allowing us to see the results of your experiments, as well as making your templates available to all of us at such a great price. Although I imagine it’s not great for your own wallet, it helps me personally decide in advance which techniques & products I want to use, which will save me time, money & frustration with this new medium.

    Enjoy your day ?

    • Just this morning I was looking at the new elephant and thinking that it looked like an old sculpture because of the crackled finish. I liked it, but I can see how it might not work for everyone. Experiments are fun – and didn’t someone say that the best experiments (or mistakes) to learn from are the ones made by someone else? :)

      I hope you have time soon to make your elephants. And that you show them to us when they’re done!

  2. I had a delightful time watching this. I couldn’t stop thinking how thankful I am that you think outside of the box (because I don’t!) and experiment. I love it. The paper towels and the crackle did not bother me. I liked them both, even together. I think you did the right thing with the lighter glaze at the very end. Seemed to brighten up this little guy.

    If you ever need eye lashes, let me know. I can get them at the corner store for $1 a pair. They would probably fit in an envelope, also.

    Please pardon me if this is a little brash, but I wanted to show you a detail shot of my rhino. Your book on making animals opened my mind’s eye to looking around (everywhere) to see what I can use on my projects. One day while walking my dog, I found this weird plastic thing in the desert and picked it up. (I later found out it was a container for .22 shells!) I used it make the round texture on the rhino. Because I could only work on a few square inches at a time, the beast took me about four months to do.

    I love your elephant, and it looks like you have the perfect spot for it. Thanks.

    • Rex, the finish on your rhino is amazing – I could easily imagine it being made eons ago by a master Chinese sculptor who worked with clay. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I think it’s very effective – looks like random cracks, etc., so realistic in nature. I am just beginning in papier mache after a long time. Your work is so well done and detailed! Glad I found you on your site – I’m guessing you’re a very valuable resource to many! I’ll be following.
    Also – I am particularly interested in discovering the various types of armature I can use. It’s all just fascinating because the sky’s the limit – it’s not only about artistic ability but tapping creativity. Thanks for sharing your artistic gifts with your many followers.

    • Hi Janice. Welcome. And you’re right – so much of art is finding a new way to do something, or being open to possibilities. We’re all talented in our own way!

  4. Hi Jonni,
    I love your elephant, he is so lifelike. I love the eyes! How do you get them to look so real? I think the crackle glaze effect adds to the realistic look of the elephants skin. It gives the skin depth.
    Thanks for the emails, love love love your projects!

    • Thanks, Pauline. I have some of the crackle glaze left, and now I’m trying to think up a project so I can use it again. I always enjoy like using a method that includes some variation – or even the opportunity for a surprise. For the eyes I open up as many images on Googel image search as I can find, and then start painting. I try to get the colors as close as I can to the photos, but every photo shows the eyes a different color – so I just pick one. :)

  5. I think I agree with you. I would use either the crackle glaze by itself or the towels. Have you tried crumpling newspaper before applying it? I don’t know if the wrinkles would stay but it’s worth a try. Your work is always beautiful, no matter the technique!

    • Hi Patricia. I don’t think I’ve ever tried making wrinkles with newspaper. I have used tissue paper, and it works well if you don’t overdo the pushing – it tends to tear easily. I have to use acrylic medium as paste with tissue because it’s so fragile. I’m sure the newspaper would work, but wrinkles would be sharper – which would be perfect for some projects. I’ll keep your idea in mind. :)

  6. Hi Jonni, I’ve just recently started on your elephant head, I had trouble with ears…not used to doing patterns. I live in Tasmania Australia & I don’t seem to be able to buy the same products your using the first compound I bought was more like cement, the second is so sticky I don’t seem to be able to smooth it as much as I’d like. I have been doing paper mach’e for many years & I always used a mix of wood glue & whitting [calcium carbonate]some of my figures are very old & seem fine, BUT if you drop or bump them they can crack….my question have you ever used this or know of people who have ??? love your clips Wishes

    • I know it’s possible to create a very nice DIY gesso with glue and calcium carbonate. It does dry very hard. I have done it with white glue, but I haven’t tried it with wood glue. My cat has thrown a few of my pieces on the floor, and they can chip or crack. And I haven’t tried using the mixture as a paste, but I can see that it would work well. In some areas, the products used in the paper mache clay recipe are very hard to find.

      When I put my elephant together again this week I had to spend some time looking at those ears – the way that one piece curves around and attaches to the other pieces confused me for a bit – and I designed the thing! But as soon as I caught on, it worked just fine. I hope you were able to get your elephant’s ears to look the way you wanted them to.

  7. I think the baby elephant turned out beautifully. I think the wrinkles made with the paper towels really help make the skin more realistic. Maybe use a paper towel without the bumpy texture next time if you think the bumps are too much, but I think it looks great!

    • That’s a great idea. And it’s funny – I have some non-bumpy paper towels in the house, but I made a special trip to the store to buy another roll with bumps. But that was before I got the idea to add the cracks… :)

  8. You are so inspiring Jonni!!! Thanks so much for another wonderful and instructive video. It is so helpful to see different ways of finishing the elephant skin. I do agree that I would do the paper towels OR the crackle finish. I have used Kroma crackle in the past. I think it results in a larger crackle but it dries white, so would need to me painted.
    I made your wolf mask for one of my grandchildren for Halloween and it was a great success. I am working up my courage to try the baby elephant as a cold winter project.

  9. Awesome! I used to do a lot of faux finishes int he 90s and used the crackle glaze a lot, mostly on furniture. What an effective use on the elephant! He looks incredibly realistic . Bravo!

  10. I like it and yes, I think it’s worth the money you paid. I agree that tissue paper would work better than the paper towels, as you can see the texture of the paper towel.
    Love you emails and videos!


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