Paper Mache Paste with No Flour. Easy, Gluten-Free, and Cheap!

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An inexpensive paper mache paste that never attracts mold!

I confess that I  like using the traditional paper mache paste recipe, with plain old flour and water – but I don’t live in a super-humid environment, either. In some areas, the threat of mold is the biggest reason why people avoid creating sculptures with paper mache.

Fortunately, there is an alternative paper mache paste that doesn’t attract mold.

Yeast doesn’t like it, either. Wild yeast makes traditional paper mache paste turn dark and smell icky a few days after it’s made, because the paste is trying to turn into sourdough pancake mix.

That’s not a bad thing if you want pancakes. But it’s not good if you’re making a paper mache sculpture or mask.

So – Elmer’s Art Paste to the rescue. My local Walmart doesn’t sell it, so I ordered mine from Amazon.com. I paid a little over $5 for a tiny carton that makes up a gallon of paste.

That’s a lot of paste.

And it seems to be indestructible, even when left on the kitchen counter for months. Guess how I know… 🙂

And just in case you’re wondering – yes, you can use this paste with any of my mask and sculpture patterns.

Making this paste couldn’t be easier, and the total hands-on time is less than 30 seconds.

Step 1: Measure the powder if you need less than a gallon.

Measuring the Elmer's Art Paste to make just a quart of paper mache paste.

Because I wanted just one quart instead of the full gallon, I needed one quarter of the 2 oz box, or .5 oz.

I pulled out the kitchen scale this time because you were watching over my shoulder, but the last timeI just guessed. And it still worked just fine.

If you have a really big project, or if you’re making up a lot of paste for a class or workshop, you can use the entire carton with one gallon of water.

Don’t worry about making too much. Elmer’s Art Paste is made with Methyl Cellulose, and it seems to last forever.

Step 2: Mix.

Add your Elmer’s Art Paste to cold water and stir.

Step 3: Wait.

Let the mixture sit for fifteen minutes. When you come back, it will be slightly thicker and ready to use for your next paper mache sculpture or mask.

Mixed Elmer's art paste.

The mixed Elmer’s Art Paste doesn’t feel the same as the flour and water paste. It’s slick, and looks like Elmer’s Clear glue.

Step 4: Use your paste for your next sculpture or mask.

See this post for 5 Tips for Adding Paper Strips and Paste.

Other no-flour options for paper mache:

Some people like to use white glue mixed with water instead of paste. I don’t like the way it feels on my hands, but that’s just a personal thing. I also found that the paper doesn’t get wet enough to lay down smoothly on my armature, but that might be a personal thing, too.

Wood glue mixed with water dries faster than ordinary paste. It also dries on your fingers and it’s hard to wash off. But if you’re in a hurry and if your armature is solid enough so you can get away with just using one or two layers, try Titebond glue (and wear gloves to keep it from drying on your hands).

Some people recommend using corn starch instead of flour to make a gluten-free paper mache paste. When I tried it, the paste took a long time to dry because the corn starch pulled water out of the air. Other people swear by it, though.

If you know of a paste recipe that doesn’t attract mold, yeast, insects (or cats), and that’s gluten free, let us know in the comments below.

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no-flour paper mache paste

19 thoughts on “Paper Mache Paste with No Flour. Easy, Gluten-Free, and Cheap!”

  1. Regarding the mache waterproofer. I am looking at their catalog and the name of the product is Paverpol / Paverplast. There are two other product below it that seem to be similar in nature called Paverpol Art stone decoration powder and Paverpol Josefine Varnish. the last is really just a UV type varnish. The first two are for addition to clay plaster or paper mache. Hope this helps.

  2. I went to my Dick Blick catalog to price Elmers Art Paste, Just a little over $2.00 for the 2oz package. I was also reading the artist reviews of the product and mostly art teachers and others give it high marks. They also mentioned a Nori ( seaweed) glue used with Japanese work with fragile rice papers that they like because it doesn’t wrinkle and warp as it dries. Perhaps this might be an alternative for a more fragile mache piece? Not very pricey either. They also have a waterproofer for ” outdoor paper mache. Just thought you might find some interest in this.

    • Thanks, Tom. Great suggestions. I went to their site and tried to find the waterproofer, but I must not have used the right keywords. Do you happen to have a direct link to that page?

  3. Thank you for sharing this!

    I came across an article that mentioned methyl cellulose a few weeks ago and currently have some art paste in my eBay cart awaiting the extra cash to buy it.

    Like you, I’m not fond of glue and water but I’m planning to do some strength comparisons using different paste and clay formulations.

    • I hope you’ll share the results of your experiments! Did you see that I tried the Elmer’s Art Paste as a substitute for the glue in the paper mache clay recipe? I mentioned it in my latest video. It didn’t work – it just acted like water, and the dried “pm clay” broke apart with no effort at all. A lot of people were hoping it would work because it’s so much less expensive than glue, but it didn’t. At least, it didn’t for me. If you get different results, be sure to let us know. 🙂

  4. Hi Jonni…have to try this…my hobbit house molded before I could paint and seal it. Can it be saved? It’s so beautiful and took so much time to make…any thoughts would be appreciated.
    Thanks
    Ayla

    • Hi Ayla. You might be able to save it if the damage is not too great. However, I have to admit I don’t have any experience with mold. I don’t live in an area that’s really humid, and I dry my sculptures really fast. Do you know why your hobbit house got moldy? Did it take a long time to dry? If so, for your next project be sure to put it in front of a fan so it will dry faster.

      I assume it’s dry now. If it’s solid, with no soft spots caused by mold, you might be able to kill the mold and any remaining spores by leaving it in the oven at the lowest setting for several hours. When it cools, brush off any powdery residue, if there is any. The piece will be bone dry after baking it, so even if there are live spores inside they won’t ‘sprout’ without water. As soon as your hobbit house cools down, seal the piece with acrylic gesso or a spray primer. But remember that I haven’t had a chance to try out this advice myself – I would let it sit after sealing for several weeks, just to see if it worked, before spending hours painting it.

  5. I have a couple of her in the making but I can’t seem to find the one of her all together, once I figure out how to send these pics I will be glad to show you.

  6. Thanks for the info Jonni, I wish I had known about this a couple years ago when I made a life size person. The only part I was able to save for some crazy reason was the head. The rest of the body became one big mold container. I live in Texas where it gets very humid. Always enjoy your videos. You’re a great teacher.

    • Oh – that is sad! You put so much work into that figure sculpture. I don’t suppose you have a photo so we could see what it looked like, before it’s demise?

  7. Hi Jonni,
    So have you tried it on a project yet? I wonder how easy it is to sand and whether it accepts paint well? If you try it, will you let us know? This would be good for classes as I have to put a disclaimer in my course description about the flour.

    • I’ve had a lot of people ask about sanding – and some people want to know if it works in paper mache clay. It looks like I have some work to do. Can anyone think of a fast, easy project that they’d like me to do, using this paste? I’ve got a whole bunch of it now, and I should use it for something! (But maybe not a project that’s big enough to use half a gallon of paste. 🙂 )

      • Well, Rex is doing a piggy bank, why not issue a piggy bank challenge using this paste? There is always a child in our lives who may need a bank!

  8. That is so neat. Thanks for sharing it Joni. Now I know something I can use for another aspect of creating. Blessings to you.

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