Paper Mache Recipes


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.


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.


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


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.

Note: Drywall joint compound is produced for the construction industry and is not edible! Do not use this recipe if you’re working with small children who may put the paste in their mouths, and don’t use it to make toys for babies. It’s also 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.

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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2,305 thoughts on “Paper Mache Recipes”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.)

  7. 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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