Paper Mache Recipes



On this page you’ll find recipes for two different home-made paper mache pastes made with white flour and water, plus several alternative paper mache paste recipes and products – including some that are gluten-free.

My favorite recipe is the easiest one, which you can see in the text and video below. If you were looking for the recipe for my famous paper mache clay recipe – click here.

Easy paper mache paste recipe:

This is the best paste to use if you’re working with a classroom of kids, because it’s both fast and inexpensive – and it’s plenty strong, too.

paper mache paste recipe
Mixing paper mache paste with an immersion blender.

To make the paste, just pour some white flour in a bowl, and add water gradually until you have a consistency that will work well. (If you want, you can use a small kitchen mixer so you don’t have any lumps. An immersion blender works great).

How thick should you make your paste?  You want it thin enough so it more closely resembles white glue than pancake batter – although thicker paste will work OK, too, if that’s the way you like it.

What kind of flour will work? You’ll need to use all-purpose white flour. Whole-wheat flour makes healthier bread, but it isn’t sticky enough to make good paste.

Make up just enough for one sculpting session. This is good advice for any paste made with wheat flour. Wild yeast is attracted to flour (that’s how sourdough bread is made.) If the paste is kept over from one session to the next, the yeast will break down the flour and make the paste less sticky (and slightly stinky). It’s best to whip up as much as you need today, throw out any paste that’s left over, and make a new batch tomorrow – or whenever you need some more. (If you need a paste that can be kept for longer periods of time, see the Elmer’s Art Paste, below.)

Be sure to clean the bowl and utensils before the paste has time to dry – it will dry very hard. That’s good for paper mache, but not so good for the person washing the dishes.


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All you need is a little time, a few dollars for “art materials” that you’ll find at your local grocery and hardware store, and the clear step-by-step instructions in How to Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay. Now available on Amazon.com


Boiled Flour and Water Paste:

Boiled paper mache paste takes a little longer to make, and it doesn’t seem to be any stronger than the raw flour and water paste shown above. However, it will dry almost clear, unlike the raw paste, and the surface of your paper mache sculpture will be slightly smoother. If you aren’t sure which recipe you’ll like better, mix up a batch of both of them and try them out.

To make boiled paste, mix two tablespoons of white flour with a cup of water in a small saucepan and stir until there are no lumps. A whisk works really well for this. Put the pan on the stove at medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When it begins to thicken, be sure to watch carefully and keep stirring, to make sure it doesn’t burn. As soon as it starts to bubble, remove from heat and allow to cool. The paste will be runny when it’s hot, but it will gel slightly as it cools.

Gluten-Free Paper Mache Paste:

Elmer’s Art Paste:

Gluten-free paper mache pasteIf you mix Elmer’s Art Paste with the amount of water specified on the package you’ll have up to four quarts of gluten-free paste that doesn’t attract mold. It feels different than the more traditional wheat paste, but it works just as well. Mix it way ahead of time, because it takes longer to absorb the water than the maker claims.

Elmer’s Art Paste is made with methyl-cellulose, the product often considered the ‘gold standard’ for professional paper mache artists. It’s non-toxic, safe for kids, and a great paste for people who live in hot, humid climates.

You can mix up the entire 2 oz package and keep it in a covered jar. It won’t spoil.

Glue-Based Paste:

If you need a paste that dries perfectly clear, you can use Elmer’s Glue-All (or any white PVA glue) mixed with just enough water to make the glue thinner and easier to spread. Many people use the glue and water to avoid the gluten in wheat-based paste. I don’t personally like using it because it’s slick, which makes the pieces of paper slide around on the armature until the glue finally ‘grabs on.’ However, some people really like it, and never use anything else.

Acrylic Gel:

This isn’t really a paste, but acrylic gel medium does a fine job of sticking paper onto an armature. This is the product that I use when I add colored tissue paper as a final layer over a paper mache sculpture. If you do this, make sure the paper mache underneath is completely dry, because the acrylic medium could dry on top, sealing moisture inside. This would lead to problems later on.

I use the gel medium with tissue paper for two reasons: It dries perfectly clear, and it doesn’t cause the fragile tissue paper to fall apart, the way a water-based paste will do.

You can use any acrylic gel medium, but the one I now use exclusively is the Acrylic Gel Medium by Rock Paint. It isn’t ‘better’ than other gels on the market, but it seems to be the least expensive product of it’s type, and it works just fine.

You can see how the gel medium worked with tissue paper on a bullfrog sculpture here.

Drywall Joint Compound and Glue Paste:

I use this recipe, or the plaster and glue recipe below, whenever I make a mask or sculpture with blue shop towels. Just just two or three layers of the heavy shop towel paper, held together with one of these paste, will make a strong, hard skin for a sculpture or mask. I also use this recipe as gesso, to create a nice white ground for the final paint on my sculptures.

To make the paste with glue and joint compound, you’ll need a mixture of about 1/3 Elmer’s Glue-All or any white PVA glue, and 2/3 joint compound. After you’ve mixed it thoroughly, add just a small amount of water to make it thin enough to brush over your armature.

Use any joint compound except Dap brand, which doesn’t work. Walmart sells non-Dap joint compound in their paint department. You can find gallon-sized bottles of Elmer’s Glue-All at most hardware stores and DIY stores. It’s much less expensive when purchased in the larger size.

This paste is too heavy to use with newspaper, but it works great with the blue shop towels. The towels need to be completely saturated with the paste, so they’ll dry hard and strong.

You can find a video showing how I make the home-made paste (called gesso in the video) here.

Glue and Plaster of Paris Paste:

This is the paste that I used for all the masks in my book How to Make Masks. It works great with the blue shop towels, but is too heavy to use with lighter papers. Unfortunately, the towels are not available in all countries, but in the US you can find them at hardware stores, DIY stores, and Walmart. You can see a three-video series of a Commedia del Arte Mask  mask made with the blue shop towels and the glue and plaster paste here.

The recipe for this fast-setting paper mache paste:

Mix together:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) white glue (Elmer’s Glue-All® or any PVA glue)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) cold water
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vinegar (it slows down the plaster to give you more time to work)

Then mix in:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) plaster of Paris

This paste will harden quickly, and may even begin to harden right in the bowl. If you will be working with children, or if you’re working on a large project, use the previous recipe for paste made with drywall joint compound and glue instead. Both recipes dry very hard when used with the blue shop towels.

Finishing Your Paper Mache Sculpture:

You can use any type of paint on your sculpture. I like to use acrylic craft paints, and I seal my sculptures with a matte acrylic varnish. If the sculpture is very dry when you paint it, and if you seal it with varnish, it should last a lifetime.

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2,271 thoughts on “Paper Mache Recipes

  1. Hi Jonni and thanks for the excellent information on your site and in videos. I’m building a near-full-sized elephant (9ft high at the shoulder) for a stage production. I’m using plywood for the base armature and chicken wire to build the body structure around it. I’m planning on paper mache with newsprint and was going to use one of the “glue” paste formulations for the paste. I also want to add a top layer of gesso (I like the looks of your joint compound recipe for this) to help smooth out the “skin” and get rid of the wire imprints left as the paper strips dry. (I’ll be painting on wrinkles etc. rather than trying to create them in the mache.) Does this sound like a reasonable plan, or do you have other suggestions for something this large? BTW – I will be building the base in a way that will support a person on top.

    • Hi David. One thing you might want to do is pad out the inside of the elephant with some big scraps of foam, like Cris did when she made her giraffe, or use crumpled paper like Tom did for his bear. Chicken wire with a few layers of paper mache won’t take much abuse because it isn’t supported, and if you have people on top of your elephant their heels will naturally want to kick the beast to make him “go faster…”

      Your ideas for finished your elephant sound good. One thing you might do, though, instead of using the drywall joint compound/glue mixture for smoothing those wire lines is to mix up some paper mache clay. It uses the same ingredients, plus paper and white flour. It dries extremely hard, and won’t crack the way the gesso mixture sometimes does. Plus, it’s thicker so you can put on enough to fill those dips. Use a knife to spread it, or make a spreader out of the lid from a yogurt container.

  2. Hello Jonni, Thanks for the recipe.
    I am working with the airdry clay recipe.
    I followed it with all of the flour and yet it continues to stay tacky.
    Yikes!
    What to do?
    Also, my beaters get gunked up with the recipe, not that I expect an answer to that one….
    THX afgain

    • Just add more flour. Sometimes, that tackiness is helpful, especially if you’re trying to add a thin layer to an armature, and you want to do it fast. But if it’s too sticky or tacky, add either flour or corn starch. As for the beaters, you’re right – I can’t do anything about it. You might want to use the dough hooks, if your mixer has them. And throw the beaters into water the minute you get done mixing. They’ll be much easier to clean if they soak awhile.

  3. Hi, I really enjoyed your page. My questions is I am making a very large ball (4-6 feet). Which kind of paste would you recommend? Also, if I leave the ball in there how many layers would you recommend if I am using the blue towels. Thank you for your time and any other helpful hints you can give to this newbie!

    • Hi Chris. The blue shop towels don’t work well with flour and water paste, so you’d need to use the DIY gesso recipe as your paste. If you totally saturate the shop towels with the paste the towels will dry very hard. Two or three layers would be plenty, if you don’t expect to bounce the ball around. If you need it to hold up to hard use you would need at least four layers.
      When I made my globe over a rubber ball I ‘cheated’ by covering it with plaster cloth instead of paper mache. When the plaster cloth was hard I added one layer of paper mache to cover the fabric texture.

  4. Hi there! I tried to make the gesso for a big project using two different kinds of non-DAP joint compound, including the brand from Walmart, and wood glue. Both turned rubbery and I had to throw the whole batch away. 🙁 I ended up using plaster of Paris, but it dries too quickly for my project, and I ran out of glue cause I had to throw so much away. I’m in a crunch to finish this project. Any suggestions?

    • I’m afraid the rubbery quality of your mixture is caused by the wood glue. Elmer’s Glue-All or any white PVA glue will work, but the yellow wood glue doesn’t. I think it contains the same product that’s in the Dap joint compound. Most DIY stores sell the Elmer’s Glue All in a gallon size. I hope you can find some and try again.

  5. HI Jonni,
    Do you have any tips for keeping the glue soft for longer periods of time? I live in a very warm part of Australia and I find I am unable to keep it usable for very long (sometimes the minute the plaster hits the water/vinegar it hardens completely)
    thanks in advance!

    • Hi Jaye. You might want to use the ‘gesso’ recipe, instead. It dries as hard as the plaster and glue mixture, but it doesn’t harden by chemical action. You can keep working with it until it dries. If you can find the drywall joint compound, just mix it with some PVA glue to a thick but creamy consistency. If you’re using it with the blue shop towels, they need to be completely saturated with the paste.

    • Some people have a severe allergic reaction to gluten. It’s rare, but it happens. The rest of us can safely ignore the gluten in the standard flour and water paste.

  6. Picture of my Bigfoot made from paper mache clay and fake fur from your recipe with the paper mache clay the whole body is done in it

    • Great job, Sammy. I wouldn’t want to run into this guy in the woods! How did you get the fake fur to stick to the paper mache clay? And what did you use for your armature?

  7. Hi Jonni

    Thank you for the tutorial, it’s going to come in very handy! I’m about to make a very large paper mache head and I’ll be covering this with paper clay for finer details. How many layers of paper mache do you recommend I use before covering these with paper clay?

    Many Thanks

    Emma

    • Hi Emma. I don’t really know the answer to that. because when I use my paper mache clay recipe I never bother with paper strips and paste at all. I just cover the armature with the pm clay. There are people who do it your way, though. If you will be leaving some areas without any paper mache clay at all, you’ll need at least 8 layers to be strong enough for a sculpture that size, if it’s hollow. If it has a firm armature that will be left inside to support it, you can use just two or three layers.

      I hope you’ll let us see your paper mache head when it’s done!

      • Hi Jonni, thank you so much for your speedy reply! I’m using a balloon as an armature to cover so I’ll take your advice and go for 8+ layers before using the PM clay. It’s going to be a giant cup and I’ll be using some aluminium mesh to sculpt a handle too…hopefully it’s not too heavy for the rest of the sculpture.

        I’m taking progress pictures so I’ll definitely keep you posted with the outcome 😀

        Thanks Again!

    • Hello, i’ve just recently started taking an interest in paper mache and I can’t wait to try it out. I deeply appreciate your wonderful and useful explanations , thank you 🙂 warmest regards, Miki

  8. Hi Jonni, I was wondering what your experience is in the type of glue to use in paper marche to ensure bugs such as cockroaches are not attracted to your finished works. Would pva (or elders I think) be better than flour based glue? Or have you found that a good seal of paint and lacquer to complete the work ensures this? Thanks, I really enjoy all your contributions, ideas, recipes, suggestions, they are very inspiring. Regards Jo in Australia

    • Hi Jo. I can’t say for sure, because I have the luxury of living in an area with no cockroaches. When I did live with the critters, years ago, I wasn’t playing with paper mache. However, many readers have said that bugs (and mice) are drawn to the flour and water paste. They might also enjoy snacking on newspaper. I don’t know if there’s any varnish or lacquer that can seal a piece so well that the scent molecules never escape. So, that said, I’d opt for PVA glue or Elmer’s Art Paste, which is made from cellulose and even mold doesn’t seem to like it.

      • Hello Jonni,

        When I made my second batch of paper mache clay I used a few drops of essential oils in it. Especially those that make them undesirable to critters. My PM clays smell like lavender, rosemary, tea tree, and cinnamon with each separate batch. I got creative after my first pm clay funk factory. How much do I use? 10 to 15 drops. Good luck.

  9. Hello,
    I wanted to know which mixture you would recommend to use on fabric. I make fabric bowls and i gwant them to be very hard once dry. I’ve tried elmers glue and stiffy but but when the bowls are set on a stand theybhaveca tendency to droop.

    • Do you want your bowls to still look like fabric? If so, I don’t think we have a recipe here that would help. The only transparent pastes are the boiled flour and the Elmer’s Art Paste, but I don’t think they’ll be as strong as you’d like because they’re normally used between many layers of paper, and not as a coating. Paverpol is highly recommended by many of my readers, but I still haven’t tried it. You can see a video here.

  10. Hi Jonni
    I made a straight square box with carboard then I started applying the water / flour paste with the newpaper strips, after the first layer dried, the box sinked in so its no longer straight. Can you please let me know what I did wrong? maybe the flour had too much water etc etc

    • Hi Paola. You didn’t do anything wrong. That’s what happens when you apply a water-based product like paper strips and paste to flat cardboard. We have a few guest posts that might help. Pedro uses flat cardboard as ‘canvas’ when he paints, and Gennifer uses cardboard for a base for her 3-D sculptures.

      Next time, you might try sealing the cardboard first with spray paint, but I don’t know if that will help. Or, it might be possible to put something heavy inside the box that will hold it in place while it dries.

    • Paola, this is an easy fix. You’ll need a long strip of cardboard that is as wide as the box is high but much longer than the width of the box. Accordian fold the strip and tape it to opposite sides inside the box. You may need more than 1 if the box is large. When you close the box, you should be able to press the top of the box without any “give”. You shouldn’t have any issues with the box sinking in on either side.

  11. Hey Jonni,

    I am a theater major at my university and have been experimenting with mask making. I have a copy of your book on masks and have followed the tutorial for your Commedia mask, which I very much enjoyed. In trying the process for myself I have come across some issues with the fast setting paste (mainly because it worked a little too fast when setting in the bowl haha!) So for this next attempt I was hoping to try the joint and glue recipe as the paste instead, but I have a couple questions.

    If I brush the paste over the super sculpey and/or the aluminum foil will the paste become attached to these materials making me unable to remove it? (The sculpey and foil are placed on the plastic wrap thats over a plaster mold of my face.)

    And also, how long typicality does it take for the joint compound/glue recipe to dry? Both in the bowl of paste when using it and when drying on the mask form?

    Thank you thank you!
    Tristan

    • Hi Tristan. Yes, the plaster and glue paste does get hard quickly. The gesso and glue mixture dries as hard, but it’s a much slower process. You’ll need to leave your masks to dry for at least two days, and it really helps if you put them in front of a fan. You would also want to use a very light film of petroleum jelly to make it easier to get the dried mask to release from your clay form.

      The joint compound and glue paste mixture won’t harden at all if you keep it really well covered in the bowl. Put some plastic wrap right on top of it to keep out the air.

      Have fun!

  12. I didn’t have enough glue all so I added modge lodge it would stick to my fingers even with extra flour so is modge lodge pva glue or usable as.clay marking glue ???

    • I don’t know what Mod Podge is made out of. Are you using it instead of the Elmer’s Glue-All in the paper mache clay recipe? the paper mache clay is supposed to be sticky, so it can hold on to an armature. I always spread mine with a knife. If you’re using it for the air dry clay recipe, try adding some corn starch and see if it helps. I don’t know if it will help or not, but it’s worth a try.

  13. So much info and help here! Thank you!

    Question: You say not to use DAP joint compound, but if I wanted to use plaster of Paris, the only brand I can find at my nearby stores is DAP. Is the DAP plaster of Paris fine, even though their joint compound is not recommended?

    Otherwise, I guess I’ll trek out to the art store for non-DAP plaster of Paris. . . .

    • Hi Kyle. You didn’t mention what recipe you’re going to be using your plaster of Paris for. If you’re making the fast-setting paste that I use in my mask book (Elmer’s glue and plaster) any brand is fine. Plaster doesn’t have the ingredient that makes the DAP joint compound react strangely in the paper mache clay recipe.

      But if you’re using plaster (of any brand) in place of the joint compound in the paper mache clay or air dry clay recipe, I don’t know if it will work or not. I’ve never tried it.

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