Jonni’s Paper Mache Paste Recipe

Get a fast start on your next paper mache project or hand-made gift with Jonni’s easy downloadable patterns for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts. The patterns help you create a beautiful work of art, even if you’ve never sculpted anything before.

paper mache paste

This paper mache paste is a lot faster to make than the boiled version, and I think it works just as good. In my tests the raw paste was just as strong as the cooked version, and it dried just as hard. If you prefer the boiled version, I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments on this post

The “recipe” is just flour and water. The video shows the quick way I mix the paste to make it nice and smooth – it takes just a few seconds, much less time than it takes to actually watch the video.

I hadn’t made any paper mache paste for several years, because most of the sculptures I’d been making used the paper mache clay, the smoother air-dry clay, or the fast-setting paste made with glue and plaster that I use for my masks. But I’ve been making a lot of it lately, since I’m working on a series of 25 little dogs for my next book, and I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s messy, of course, but there’s something almost meditative about placing those little pieces of wet newspaper over a form, and having such simple products turn into something with a character of it’s own.

On a completely different note, I’ve had two emails this week from two different set designers who need full-sized elephants for stage productions, and both people need their elephants to be strong enough to hold someone on their backs (four people in one case!) and they have to move across the stage. The one with four riders needs to walk rather than roll or glide. I have no idea how someone would design the innards for a project like this. They would have to be light enough to move, strong enough for the riders, and balanced well enough so it couldn’t possibly tip over. To fall from that height could really hurt someone.

Do you have any advice for these folks? (And don’t the jobs of set designer and scene artist sound like fun? Why did I spend my “working” life typing and answering the phone???)


102 thoughts on “Jonni’s Paper Mache Paste Recipe”

  1. hi Jonni,
    i just wanted to say that I love your videos. You and your awesome tutorials always make me smile.
    warm regards, Thalien

  2. I was thinking if you could suggest some techniques that would produce a smooth and matte look.

  3. Im trying to make a cat bed/hide spot for the house I’m making would regular papier leche around a ball work?? and be strong enough to assemble to a piece of wood to attach other pieces of the house ?

    • It will be strong enough if you add enough layers. Whether it’s a good idea or not depends on your cat. My new cat has been nibbling on the end of my elephant’s tail for no apparent reason, and some cats might use the paper mache area for a scratching post.

  4. Hi, thank you for posting all of this. I am looking at your paper-clay and other recipes. What function does the oil perform? you are mixing in oils with no emulsifiers, you are making no distinction between oils which will oxidise and harden (linseed oils) or oils which will evaporate (mineral oil) and other vegetable oils which will turn rancid. I want to know why the oil is there and why it doesn’t matter to you if the oil is one that will harden or turn rancid.

    • Hi Karl. The oil gives the wet clay a slightly different ‘feel,’ and makes it just slightly easier to use. You don’t need to use any oil if you don’t want to.

  5. Jonni …you are awesome! I have a problem….our Hillsboro Junior high school has lost their dragon head mascot. I have checked the mascot stores online and they are much more money than we can spend. So, I was just wondering if you make items for people and if so perhaps you could give us a quote on a Green Dragon head to be worn on a student’s head? (not too scary) Our season starts toward the end of September…is that doable?
    Thank you so very much!!!! Brenda (untalented dragon grandma)

    • Hi Brenda. I suspect that a custom-made mask would end up being quite a bit more expensive than a mass-produced product. That’s usually the case, anyway. In any case, I don’t do commissions (I work too many hours on my writing and other projects, so I just don’t have time) but I have an easy solution for you. Grab a copy of my mask book and take it to your art teacher. There is no dragon in the book (I should have thought of that!) but your art teacher can sculpt a great dragon with oil based clay, using the methods I show in the book, and then cover the sculpted dragon with the shop-towel mache. Tell your teacher to use three layers of paper towels, instead of two, if a lot of kids will be handling the mask.

  6. Will your flour paste work on Chicken wire with newspaper strips?
    Advice from one person said cornstarch works best… Well, I have had the worst Lucy McGuilicudy experience with strips that don’t stick, then masking tape over that… What a frousy red headed mess.

  7. Hi Jonny,

    I emailed you a couple days ago about making the paper mache clay that was too sticky for my classroom’s armature. Would this above recipe (flour and water) work with the shop towels that you were using with the plaster? I like this idea because it would be less harmful to the students who are in 6th grade, and are a little too immature to use plaster (…and are also very messy). Thank you so much for all of your advice. We are making elephants inspired by Salvador Dali, and the skinny legs make it hard to use the clay without it falling off of the armature. Best!

    • Hi Beth. I tried the flour and water paste with the shop towels, and it didn’t work. It won’t soak into the towels, so you end up with a sculpture that is made out of floppy towels instead of paper mache.

      The gesso recipe, with joint compound and white glue, works really well with the shop towels if you use enough to really saturate the towels, and then add more as a final layer on top. Some school systems won’t let you use the joint compound in a classroom, though.

      The flour and water paste works really well with brown paper. You can get a roll of it at the hardware store, or save up a lot of bags. The brown paper is not stretchy like the shop towels, but it’s strong, and you don’t need as many layers.

  8. Hello Joni,
    Thanks for all the info on your site. I teach art and craft to kids and find paper mache balls and animals really go down well with them. I have one problem which doesn’t seem to have been mentioned before. I’m in a tropical country, and find that cockroaches really love the flour paste and they munch through the tempera paint and newspaper underneath.
    Do you have any ideas on how to repel this vermin? Would using a coat of acrylic varnish provide an effective sealant?

    • I don’t know if acrylic varnish would work or not, because it’s possible the bugs could still smell the food underneath. You could try a few small experimental pieces, and find out.

    • I know this is long after the fact, but it is widely thought that peppermint is repellant to bugs. So maybe a little peppermint oil added to the paste? Also I have read less often that citronella and citrus are repellent as well. Perhaps the outsides could be sprayed with a light coating but I think the staying power of the peppermint in the paste would have the most longevity, don’t you? And you could try the peppermint flavoring for baking although possibly a shorter lifespan of the scent.

      • Thanks, Melissa. It might help. I don’t live in an area where bugs are a problem, but I hope someone who does will experiment with your idea, and let us know how it turns out.

  9. Hello, I’m currently trying to recreate the set piece from Star Wars where Hans solo is “frozen” in carbonite only I am making it a cow “frozen” in carbonite. (It’s a gag on the event it’s for). It has to be life size so it will be about 8ft tall. I’ve started with the head made of chicken wire and paper mâché consisting of newspaper/brown paper layers with the wall paper paste and white glue combination. It’s going well but I want to be able to make it have a smoother look and I feel like I’m constantly fighting the corners and valleys of the paper mâché process, as well as it’s just taking forever. Would it be possible to use your pm clay over the chicken wire and 2 layers of paper mâché? Would it be fairly strong? How heavy do you think it would end up if I used that process for the whole sculpture? I mean essentially it would be hollow because of using the chicken wire as a base. I was planning on using the large foam sheets to create the base structure for the box around him. Any advise on this endeavor is greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Kristie. What a fun project! I do hope you’ll show it to us when it’s done.

      But for your questions – yes, my original paper mache clay recipe should be plenty strong. It dries hard as a rock, so you don’t need a very thick layer. If the cow will be moved around a lot and possibly whanged into the sides of doorways, etc., (hey, it’s been known to happen at my house…) then you might give it a slightly thicker coat than I usually do. I try to make my first layer of pm clay about 1/8″, but if that doesn’t seem to be enough you can always add more later. As for weight, that’s kind of hard to say. The paper mache isn’t much heavier than an equal thickness of paper mache. But with something that large, anything can add up. Keep your layers as thin as you can, and you should be fine.

  10. Jonni,

    Thank you so much for this great paper mach paste recipe. My best friend and I made Kentucky Derby hats with it and won first and second in the best hat contest here in Denver! I included a picture of my swan hat which won first place!

    • That hat is amazing! I can see why it won first place. Do you have a place to display it, now that the Kentucky Derby is over? (And by the way – did you get to watch the race?)

      • Thanks! The swans name is Odette and she is proudly on display in my room! The race was on a big TV screen but I was not able to pay much attention, people kept wanting to take our pictures! haha Here is a picture of me and my friend Kevlyn who won as well with her gorgeous wave and dolphins paper mache hat!

        • Wow – both hats are fabulous. Great job, Sarah. Since more people visit the Daily Sculptors page, why don’t you post your photos there, too? Might as well show them off to as many people as possible, don’t you think? 🙂

          And you have a great website, too, by the way.

  11. Hello!

    I’ve made majority of my project by using foam (this one that fills gaps between windows etc.). However hardened foam has a lot of holes and is not paintable due to its surface. Which kind of paper mache would be fine for filling holes and covering entire project in order to paint it?

  12. Hiya Jonni. I found your site when I viewed one of your youtube videos. I’m going to purchase a book or two and get started soon.. but I have a question.

    In the video you have a HUGE jug of glue and I was wondering where I would find something like that and what price ranges are good?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Anna. I buy my glue at the local hardware store, or Lowes or Home Depot. It costs about $13 for the gallon jug – way less expensive per ounce than buying in the little bottles.

    • If it needs to be really round, you could start with a beach ball and make a brim with cardboard. Then cover it with paper mache. Is that kind of what you had in mind?

  13. Hello Jonni! My question will show my ignorance in paper mache. If I want to add a paper mache surface to an old plastic lampshade, will this raw flour + water recipe be strong enough to keep the paper stuck to the plastic, or should I use glue?

  14. Hi Jonni. Ive just inherited a beautiful papier mache sculpture from a very talented friend of mine who sadly passed away last year. Unfortunately it has become infested with insects (little brown bugs) which are leaving woodworm-like holes in the sculpture. I have no idea how to kill them. Can you suggest anything that I can do as I would like to kill off the bugs without damaging the sculpture. Many thanks

    • Hi Steph. Dust your sculpture with diatomaceous earth — that will kill the bugs. When they are all dead you need to seal the sculpture to prevent that from happening again. This is the problem with traditional papier mache recipes that only use flour and water. It also happens with traditional cold porcelain.. this is why additives or sealing projects are an absolute must.

      • Hi Anna

        Thanks very much for the advice – I will try it once I get the diatomaceous earth. Any recommendations regarding sealant as I have no idea what to use on papier mache. Thanks again

        • Steph what size is it? I haven’t sealed any ‘traditional’ Papier mache in a long time but what I usually use depends on the size of the project, how intricate it is, and what I have on hand. My fav thing to use is a spray called PMC II (pmc 2). It’s like a spray varathane that lets me get into every nook and cranny with very little mess. You need a couple of coats to make sure it’s all sealed up and make sure you let each coat dry before adding the new one (it’s quick).

          Other things you can use are paint on varathanes and you can try future floor wax (called pledge with future now). That’s a polyurathane that works great with a bunch of crafts and it’s dead cheap. I have not tried it on traditional Papier mache so test a small corner. I have used it on paper crafts and air dry clays and it works fine. It can soak in a little on the first coat so use paint on with a paint brush and let it drip onto tray(make sure it’s not sitting in a puddle.. then use the drippings to paint back on for a second coat 🙂

          Hope that helps and good luck. I know those little bugs are a pain in the tush but you can beat them 😉

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