5 Paper Mache Recipes – Including No-Flour, Mold-Free Options

paper mache paste recipe

Paper mache (or papier-mâché, if you prefer) can be made with many different paste recipes.

To go straight to your favorite recipe, click on one of the links below.

The recipes listed on this page are for use with paper strips and paste. You’ll find my paper mache clay recipe on a separate page.

how to make a maskIf you’re looking for a fast start on your next paper mache project, any of the recipes on this page will work with my new downloadable patterns for sculptures and masks.

Keep these recipes handy for your next project. Download my free recipe guide, The 5 Best Recipes for Paper Mache. It includes the recipe for my famous paper mache clay. To get your copy, click here.

Fast and Easy Raw Flour and Water Paste

This has been my favorite paper mache paste for years. It’s also the paste our friend Dan Reeder uses to make his wonderful dragons and monsters. However, keep reading to see when it might not be the best option for your next project.

Paper mache paste is easy to make, and it doesn’t really need a recipe. The most important tip is to use hot water (from the tap, not boiling) to make a nice smooth paste.

Ingredients for easy paper mache paste:

  • Flour
  • Hot Water from the Tap

To make the paste, just pour some white flour in a bowl. Add hot water gradually until you have a consistency that will work well. Mix with a spoon or whisk. If you have one, an immersion blender works great).

Watch this video to see how to apply paper strips and paste to an armature.

How thick should you make your paste?  You want it thin enough so it looks more like white glue than pancake batter – although thicker paste will work OK, too, if that’s the way you like it. You really can’t make it wrong.

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.

Tips: This paste is easy and strong, but it will leave a floury residue on the outside of your sculpture. If you want the last layer of paper to be seen on the finished sculpture, you’ll need one of the clear paste alternatives below.

And if you have a gluten allergy, you’ll want to use one of the gluten-free alternatives.

How to Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay Learn the secret techniques that have already helped thousands of people create beautiful, original animal sculptures … even if they’ve never sculpted anything before. 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

Cooked Flour and Water Paste:

Cooked paper mache paste will dry almost clear, unlike the raw paste, and the surface of your paper mache sculpture will be slightly smoother.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons of white flour
  • 1 cup of cold water

Mix the white flour and water in a small saucepan. Stir until there are no lumps. A whisk works really well for this.

Put the pan on the stove at medium heat and slowly bring it 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. Stir with a silicone spatula if you have one. As soon as it starts to bubble, remove the pan from the heat and allow the paste to cool.

The paste will be somewhat runny when it’s hot, but it will gel slightly as it cools. You’ll obviously want to keep your hands out of it while it’s still hot enough to burn.

Tips: This is an excellent choice if you need a paste that dries clear. However, if you have a gluten allergy, you’ll need one of the options below.

Elmer’s Art Paste:

A 2 oz carton ofGluten-free paper mache paste Elmer’s Art Paste mixes up into a full gallon of gluten-free paste that doesn’t attract mold.

Elmer’s Art Paste is made with methyl-cellulose, the product often considered the ‘gold standard’ for professional paper mache artists who want their work to last a lifetime.

It’s non-toxic, safe for kids, and it’s a great paste for people who live in hot, humid climates where mold and insects are a big problem.

If you need a paste that doesn’t use flour, I can’t think of a better option. Watch the video below to see how easy it is to mix.

Play Video

Tips: If you need to mix up a large batch of paper mache paste in advance for a class or workshop, this is a great choice. You can make this paste weeks ahead of time if you want, and it won’t spoil.

Elmer’s Art Paste won’t go moldy, no matter how long it takes to dry.

And you don’t have to worry about gluten allergies.

More Gluten-Free Options

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.

I don’t personally like using glue with my paper mache sculptures because I don’t like the way it feels when it dries on my hands. However, many people really like it, and never use anything else. It is quite a lot more expensive than Elmer’s Art Paste.

Acrylic Gel can be used as paste. This is the product that I use when I add colored tissue paper as a final layer over a paper mache sculpture. You do need to make sure the paper mache underneath is completely dry, because the acrylic medium could dry first and seal moisture inside. .

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 quite as fast as water-based paste does. You do still need to handle the paper carefully, of course.

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.Save

Paste for Shop Towel Mache

how to make a maskI use one of these recipes whenever I make a mask or sculpture with blue shop towels. The paste is too heavy to use with newspaper, but it’s perfect with the thick absorbent shop towels. In fact, this is how I made all of the masks in my book How to Make Masks!

Just two or three layers of the heavy shop towel paper, held together with one of these paste recipes, will make a strong, hard skin for a sculpture or mask. The towels need to be completely saturated with the paste, so they’ll dry hard and strong. If you don’t use enough paste with the towels, they will never get hard.

To make the paste with glue and joint compound, create a mixture of:

After you’ve mixed it thoroughly, add:

  • Just enough water to make it thin enough to brush over your armature.

Watch this video to see how I made a Halloween portrait mask with this recipe and blue shop towels over a clay form. 

Use any joint compound except Dap brand, which doesn’t work. I buy my joint compound at Walmart.

I also use this recipe as gesso, to create a nice white ground for the final paint on my sculptures.

Note: Drywall joint compound is produced for the construction industry. It’s important to wear a mask if you sand your paper mache after it dries, because the calcium carbonate in the joint compound is mined in areas that also contain silica, and fine silica dust is not good for your lungs.

Glue and Plaster of Paris Paste: This is the paste I used with shop towels before I found out that the joint compound version dries just as strong. You won’t have as much working time with the plaster version, because it hardens quickly. That’s good if you need a mask in a hurry, but not if you want time to add details.

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.

To make the 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’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 or a one-ply kitchen paper towel that doesn’t have bumps, like these Viva towels.

In my experience, neither recipe will work well with other types of paper.

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Paper mache paste recipes

2,313 thoughts on “5 Paper Mache Recipes – Including No-Flour, Mold-Free Options”

  1. Hi Jonni! Love your blog, so much useful information! I’m trying to take some cheap plastic bowls of various sizes, and turn them into whimsical serving dishes for a forest-themed birthday party. Like, a paper mache boulder where the bowl sets down into a ledge, or a log with three small bowls set into it. I’ve figured out how to support the bowls from underneath inside the armature, but I wonder if you could tell me how to best account for shrinkage. If I leave the bowls in place while the paper mache dries, will it crack? If I take the bowls out while it dries, will I be able to fit them back in? Ideally, I’d like to be able to pop the bowls out after the party to use again. How would you do it? Also, is one recipe better than another if I plan to make some of these 5-6 months in advance? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Kit. If you keep paper mache items dry and sealed, they’ll last for years. That includes any recipe – the secret is keeping them dry. You will probably want to keep the plastic bowls in place as the paper mache dries, but that will only work if there is a way for the water to get out – the water will obviously be trapped by the plastic bowls, but if there is air underneath the paper mache can dry. If it does develop small cracks they can always be repaired. Add another strip of paper and paste, or smear on a little paper mache clay if that’s what you decide to use. If the paper mache wouldn’t be able to dry, you won’t be able to leave the plastic bowls in place. All paper mache will shrink a little as the water evaporates, and I’m not sure what would be the best way to keep the dip in the right shape and size. Perhaps one of our other readers would have a good suggestion. More people would see your question if you put another comment on the Daily Sculptors page.

  2. Hi, I just found your site and love all of your information. I am a Kindergarten and First-grade art educator. I have my first-grade artists for an extra art period every week for half of the school year, we devote this time to creating a paper mache animal of their choice. It is my favorite project and a favorite for the students as well. They use newspaper, recycled cardboard tubes and egg cartons as the armature and lots of tape! We have always used Elmers Art Paste, due to gluten sensitivities, and I agree it works really well. I am hoping to experiment with the paper mache clay recipe for my own work this summer.
    Thank you for sharing all of your amazing work!

  3. Hello. I have a quick question or two. When you speak of ‘joint compound’ do you mean the powdered joint compound or the pre-mixed type?
    And just how strong is strong? (I work building theatre sets…I probably don’t need to say more. Actors are notoriously hard on sets and props)
    Thank you so much.

    • Hi Painterchick. The joint compound is the pre-mixed kind that comes in a plastic tub. Any brand except DAP. When I first developed the recipe I put a 1/4″ thick layer on a crumpled ball of paper and masking tape, about tennis ball sized. When it dried I took it outside and dropped it on the sidewalk. It didn’t crack. However, my cat managed to break the ear off my little spotted pig when she knocked him on the floor. Extended ears, arms, tails, etc., will always be easiest to break at the joint. Other than that, it’s pretty darned strong. I never use more than 1/8″ for any of my sculptures, but you might want to beef up some of your props with a second layer.

  4. Hi Jonni! Love your videos! Just in need of some help… I am trying to make a huge paper mache sphere (1.5m diameter) to use as a party decoration to hang in a gumtree. I have purchased balloons big enough to sculpt on, but are in need of a few tips. Should I use flour and water paste or glue to hold something of this size together? Also how many layers do you think the whole thing would need? And do I need to apply something to the balloon to stop the paper mache from sticking? Any tips and tricks would be hugely appreciated! THANK YOU JONNI!!

    • Hi Anna. First, the good news – paper mache won’t stick to rubber, so you don’t need a release. The bad news is that balloons are really hard to work with – I know they make first-graders use them with paper mache, but I’m not the only one who hates them. The problem is that they change shape while you’re working on them, and after the wet paper mache is added they shrink as the air inside cools, leaving wrinkles on your nice smooth ball.

      I did a video about balloons and paper mache when I made my Humpty Dumpty, and found a good solution to the problems. You can see the video here. My Humpty is smaller than the ball you want to make, and it’s hollow, so the weight is not a problem. For something as big as 1.5m even plain paper mache will be fairly heavy. If you want to use the Plaster cloth, like I did for Humpty, just use one or two layers to keep the balloon from changing shape, then add one layer of paper mache (using the flour and water paste) to give a smooth surface. If you don’t want to use the plaster cloth, you’ll need four or five coats of paper mache, and expect cracks or wrinkles as the balloon expands and contracts. Good luck with it!

  5. Hello Jonni,
    I found your site when I was searching for advice for paper mache recipes. I have never made anything paper mache. I found an adorable paper mache stork on a blog post and I would love to make him for my sister in law’s baby shower. if I attach photos from the post, could you give me your opinion as to what recipe would be best for my project?

    I do not have a nursery rhyme book to tear up for the final layer, so I plan to print out nursery rhymes on ivory copy paper and use that.

      • I have already clicked on her link. It takes you to her etsy profile but her actual etsy shop appears to be closed and it does not seem that she is selling and making storks any longer.

        • A lot of people try to sell on etsy, but don’t make enough money to keep it going. But she still might either make one for you, or tell you how she did it. If she isn’t working on etsy now, she might not see your message. You might have better luck using her email.

      • best I can tell her blog post is from 2013, from the date at the bottom of the post. So, I am going to say maybe she is not making the storks for sale. then when I scroll down the post to the part where she talks about the stork, there is a link for her etsy shop to purchase. https://www.etsy.com/people/MaloneStreetStudios but there are no items for sale, it is simply her profile.

      • I just sent her a message on etsy to ask whether or not she is selling any items any longer.. ie. the stork. hopefully she checks etsy messages.

  6. Hi Jonny, recently I discovered your site and your YouTube channel, I love them. I am Jorge from Chile, my mother tongue is not English, I apologize for any mistakes. Some time ago I’ve been doing marionettes and their heads are carved in papier-mâché clay, obviously to give a smoother finish, I’ve always used boiled paper mache paste. I would like to ask you how many layers do you think is convenient. I ask this question because I acquired your Lion Mask Pattern, which I will start to do within the next few days which I hope will be good for me
    Thank you very much in advance for your response
    Jorge

    • Hi Jorge. The lion mask should only need one or two layers of paper mache, because the cardboard provides so much support. I do hope you’ll show us how it comes out. And if you’d like to show us your marionettes, we’d love to see them.

  7. Hi Jonni
    Are you still creating paper mache sculpture?
    I’m attempting a paper mache horse.
    I have the armature made of wire, cardboard and lots of masking tape. This will be my very first!
    Thx for your recipes!
    Kristi

  8. Hi Jonni, I am making a mask for Halloween . I saw your video of the Pantalone Mask mask you did with plaster of paris and the blue shop towels. I have a question, is there a certain type of plaster of paris you use? I noticed in the joint compound recipe you say do not use the Dap brand and the only plaster of paris I have been finding is that brand, would that be ok to use?

    • Hi Janet. The DAP plaster of Paris won’t cause the same problems that their joint compound does. Their joint compound contains a product that reacts badly with the glue. The plaster doesn’t do that. I must admit, though, that the joint compound and glue (gesso) mix is easier to use than the plaster and glue mix, simply because it doesn’t harden in the bowl if you don’t work fast enough. If you can find some non-Dap joint compound, you might have more fun using the gesso recipe instead. I get my joint compound in the paint department at Walmart.

      However, hundreds of people have used the plaster recipe to make beautiful masks because it first appeared in my book on how to make masks, so go ahead and use it if it’s easier to find the ingredients. And have fun!

  9. Hello, thanks so much for all the info and recipes. I really like your boiled water and flour mixture. I’m working on a project that I don’t want to paint over. Do you know how well it. will keep? Does it yellow over time?

    • Hi Rhiannon. I’m pretty sure it will yellow. I know it does when used with newspaper, but I haven’t tried it with acid-free paper. I often use colored tissue paper to “paint” my sculptures, and I use a acrylic gel medium for the paste. I also seal them with a matte acrylic varnish. So far, the colors have not changed. They would fade in sunlight, of course, but the acrylic medium and varnish haven’t yellowed at all.

      Of course, it’s possible that you’ll have different results with the paste if you use a different paper, so do some experiments to find out. The flour is a whole lot less expensive than acrylics!

  10. Jonni, I love your site – so informative! I’m planning to make a nearly life size paper mache elephant for our VBS next year, and I’m wondering about the best option to make sure it’s good and strong. My first thought was the blue shop towels with joint compound and PVA glue, but that could be cost prohibitive. Do you have a recommendation? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Rebecca. The least expensive product you could use for the skin is large sheets of newspaper held on with flour and water paste. If you use eight or more layers, it will be quite strong.

      For something that large I’d definitely make a wooden armature, like the one I used for my baby elephant. A lot of people have used that video to make life-sized elephants. But if you want the least expensive “skin” for your elephant and you don’t want to use newspaper and paste, you might could try a combination of torn bed sheets and Monster Mud. The mixture is 5 gallons of drywall joint compound, any brand, and 1 gallon of latex paint. Most paint stores occasionally mix the wrong colors, and they sell the paint cheap. It’s used for Halloween decorations, and often by theater prop-makers. It’s also less expensive than my recipes that use Elmer’s Glue-All, like the one I use with shop towels. If you can find some cheap old sheets at a junk store, or beg some from your friends, the skin on your elephant won’t cost much. Putting the Monster-Mud-dipped sheets on the elephant will be messy, though, and gravity will take over when you try to cover the belly. (Note – I haven’t actually tried this on a large sculpture, but a lot of people swear by the stuff.)

  11. Hi! Thank you so much for your wonderful how to videos!! Excellent information and I wish that I had found it sooner!
    I am in the process of trying to make a sphinx that a small child can sit on the back of. I created the armature out of plywood (body and all 4 legs). I created the headdress off of the head part of the plywood w cardboard using several cardboard supports along he inside.
    My question and problem is with the density of the paper itself. I am not sure I crumpled the paper under my tape enough. When I push on the tape the paper under does give. Will this matter when I put the skin of pm on it? Will the pm be hard enough to allow a child to sit on it??
    THANK YOU so very much for your help and guidance!!
    Alison

    • Hi Alison. If I was a child sitting on a paper mache sphinx, The first thing I’d do is kick it to make it go faster. For that reason, I highly recommend a very firm armature to support your paper mache. One thing you might do is go to WalMart and get the cheapest, biggest cartons of aluminum foil they have, and add a layer of crumpled foil over your crumpled paper. The easiest way to do that is to use a hot glue gun, but masking tape will work, too. Then use a flat piece of wood as a tool to squish the foil really tight. You could even tap on it with a piece of wood to smash the crumpled foil. The foil will create a very strong structure, and then you wouldn’t need to worry about the paper mache itself being strong enough to stand up to abuse playful kids.

      • Thank you again for your help. I went back over a section with crumpled foil and placed it over top of my paper and tape. It still has lots of give since the paper under isn’t stiff. I am thinking I need to cut slits in sections and really stuff the paper inside (almost as if I was stuffing a turkey… haha). Does that sound right? Or if I just keep adding the foil to the entire body it will stiffen up overall?
        I’m including a photo for reference…

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