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

Paper mache paste

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.

Paint the wolf mask

Note: If you’re looking for a faster, easier project, be sure to check out my new mask and sculpture patterns. They create all the shapes for you, so they’re lots of fun to make but take much less time.

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.

See my patterns for paper mache wall sculptures and masks:

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.

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.

Elmer’s Glue-All (Methylcellulose)

Methylcellulose paste – In the past I often recommend Elmer’s Art Paste for school classes, because you can make up a gallon of the paste in advance, and it never gets moldy. It’s also gluten-free, so you don’t have to worry about your students’ allergies.

Unfortunately, they don’t sell it anymore. However, you can easily make your own with food-grade methylcellulose. It’s really the same thing as the Elmer’s product, and you can easily buy it online. Watch this video to see how to make it.

Lion King Jr Mask Pattern Templates for Paper Mache

Looking for an easy way to make headdress-style masks for your school’s production of The Lion King Jr? I have patterns for all the major characters – the patterns create the shapes, and you bring them to life with acrylic paint. See the Lion King Jr mask patterns here.

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 often use Titebond III wood glue with masks that need to be light and strong. You can see a video about that here.

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.

Paper Mache Paste Recipes - Including No-Flour, Mold-Free Options

You do still need to handle the paper carefully, of course. You can see how the gel medium worked with tissue paper on a bullfrog sculpture here.

Wood Glue for Paper Mache

I use Titebond II wood glue for all of my Lion King masks, because it’s strong enough that you can use just one layer over the cardboard patterns. (Click here to see a video that shows how I use it.) It’s also what I use when I use paper mache inside a silicone mold.

You can find the wood glue online or in any hardware store or Walmart. It isn’t cheap, but you don’t need many layers and it dries much faster than any water-based paste.

2,390 thoughts on “Paper Mache Paste Recipes – Including No-Flour, Mold-Free Options”

  1. Hi, I could not upload my photo but here is a link to the page http://i352.photobucket.com/albums/r351/DeathKing83/dragonpriestmaskreferences.png
    I am attempting to make this mask for my boyfriend. I was hoping you could give me some tips because your stuff is so amazing. I already started sculpting the form onto a regular plastic mask I bought at a craft store; I am using sculpey because it was the only clay I had laying around. Then, I was planning on paper macheing over that with toilet paper (because I want it to be flexible and really make every edge stand out and fit into all the dips) using a paste mix of flour and water with a little bit of Elmers glue mixed in to hopefully make it a bit stronger. I am hoping that using a really soft paper like this will make my mask smooth and without bumps (I also made a paper mache easter egg using news paper but it came out quite bumpy). I was also planning on putting something in between the clay and the paper mache so I could pull it off when it was dried. I was thinking about using plastic wrap or tin foil or maybe both. Could you give me some tips of whether you think this will work the way I want it to or maybe some ways I could improve it to make it work better? Also, does the clay need to be baked before I start paper macheing? Thank you so much, I can’t wait to hear a response!

    Reply
    • Hi Kayla. The process you’re describing is almost exactly the same as the methods I teach in my new book about how to make a mask. If you rub a bit of petroleum jelly over your Super Sculpey, you won’t need anything else to keep the paper mache from sticking.

      You can see the recipes for the fast-setting paper mache I use in these videos about how to make a Pantalone mask. When you use just two layers of paper mache, the mask stays really light. You don’t need to bake the sculpey, so you’ll be able to use it again to make another mask.

      Enjoy!

      Reply
  2. Hellooo! I”m making a project over George Segal and was wondering if you had any advice. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his work but he used plaster and medical bandages to make castings. I’m using paper mache because it’s the cheapest alternative I’ve found. Do you have any suggestions of how I could mimic the texture and of his work? And also to get the paper mache white?

    Reply
    • Hi Arlene. The only thing I can think of is to make the basic shape with aluminum foil or crumpled paper and masking tape, and cover it with paper mache. But the tail is mostly gas, isn’t it? (I know nothing whatsoever about comets. Could you guess?)

      Reply
  3. Hi, I am making a very large (5-6 foot) sculpture for a parade float. My underlying structure is a combo of exercise balls, bubble wrap and some duct tape to hold it together. My concern is shrinkage, will these have enough give to compensate? This is my 1st BIG project and any advice would be wonderful. Thanks ^_^

    Reply
    • Jill, I have never made any paper mache sculptures over exercise balls, but a lot of people have done it quite successfully. If you’re using paper strips and paste, I’d suggest that you use the biggest pieces that you can, and let them dry between layers. The air in the balls and bubble wrap should be able to expand and contract enough to allow for the small amount of shrinkage.

      I hope you’ll let us see the float when it’s done.

      Reply
      • Fantasic! Thanks for ALL the great info on your site and being available for our questions! I will do my best to share photos as they become available. ^_^

        Reply
  4. I made my first batchand it looked good, but it spreads like butter icing you see on red velvet cake. After three days it was still wet. I need it to dry faster than that. I think maybe I didn’t squeeze the water out of the TP after I soaked it in hot water. Is there something I can do to thicken it up, or should I just try again?

    Reply
    • If you applied it thinly, you may be able to get it dry by putting it in front of a fan or over a furnace vent. Moving air will help a lot. If it is on rather thick, and there is too much water in it, you might need to start over.

      Reply
  5. I’m constructing a toy weapon of sorts from a video game series I play. I’m making a 3-dimentional base out of cardboard, ducktaped together from the inside and filled with tightly compressed layers of computer paper. The barrel of the sword is an old wrapping paper tube. To support this, I’ve taken paper towel and toilet tissue rolls, cut them in half and lined an uncut paper towel roll, then cram these down the opening of the wrapping paper tube. When I’ve finished filling this, I plan to put a few insulation wires in for added support. If I covered the entire structure in your paper mache clay, and a layer or two of gesso, would the entire thing be sturdy enough to take several footpounds of pressure from hitting objects, or should I keep it as a ‘for show only’ piece?

    Reply
    • You will probably want to do a small test piece and see if it’s strong enough. The paper mache clay is not indestructible, but it does dry really hard. But I’m not enough of a scientist to know if it will do what you need it to do. When you find out, please let us know.

      Reply
  6. Hi there! I’m trying to create a sword. This is also my very first project and I have no clue what sort of paste would be best for this project ( I am painting it ). So two questions, which paste would be best and should i like make two segments ( the blade and the gripping part ), should I make them seperatly and connect them later( if so how )? Thanks

    Reply
    • Will, since you need something that’s really smooth and metalic-looking, maybe you’d want to use the watered-down white glue for paste. I don’t know of any way to get a good connection between the blade and handle without making the sword in one piece. That would be much stronger. If you cut out a sword shape from heavy cardboard and then extend the paper mache beyond the blade just a little, you could probably get a realistic-looking edge. You might want to flatten the edges of the cardboard first so there is a smooth curve towards the blade.

      Reply
  7. Hi There!
    I am wondering if anyone has used or had success with RICE FLOUR. i know that traditionally, paper makers of China used rice as their binding element. it is super-sticky (the rice flour) but i am wondering if it tends to mold more or if anyone has tried it.

    thanks!

    Reply
  8. Hii,
    Your website it such a great help!
    I was just wondering if you had any ideas on how to make a paper mache cake – have the structure of my cake – but I’m not sure how to give it that icing kind of look? Like the texture – does that make sense…? :/
    Any help or ideas would really be appreciated!

    Reply
  9. Hello I am a begginer in paper I just want to say your work is amazing. I was wondering if the glue in the paper mache has to be white I have this elmers glue but it a different color I’m sculpting a frog the color is going to be yellow and the glue is yellow will it affect the paper mache

    Reply
    • No problem – I fixed it. The system does weird things, sometimes. If I could find a better plugin, I’d be very excited. Until then, we just have to put up with an occasional glitch.

      Reply
  10. hi there Jonni,!heres the mama and baby T-rex i told you about! and a mask i made using cardboard news paper tape and garbage bags..thanks for sharing! the questions here are really good myth-busters also!
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/MikeRooRex5.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/MikeRooRex13.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/MikeRooRex12.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/meaghanmask_003.jpg[/img]

    Reply
  11. My theater group makes giant puppets with paper mache. We always use a boiled corn starch paste. Mice and bugs seem more attracted to the flour mache and we also dislike it’s lumpy grainy feel. We use up to 10 layers on big work, alternating brown paper bags and newspaper layers- it is structurally very strong.
    Corn starch paste:
    Mix 1 1/4 cups cornstarch into 1/2 quart cold water. Separately boil 2 1/2 quarts water. When water boils, add cold/starch mixture. Stir it in. Keep heating for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. It feels good warm on your hands, keeps a few days- longer if refrigerated and reheated.

    Looking forward to trying your mache clay recipe!

    Reply
      • Here are some of our big puppets-
        Charles Darwin, Earth Mother, the Sun, and a bison from 2011 Madison Solstice Festival and the other photo shows the two headed industrialist Koch brothers and the statue of liberty.
        We learned our techniques from Vermont’s Bread and Puppet theater and Minneapolis’ Heart of the Beast.

        My first experimental mask with your clay recipe is drying as I speak. It acts like “paperclay” a product I love but find too expensive for large things. Love your cheapo clay recipe. Thanks for putting this info out there!
        [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/puppets.jpg[/img]
        [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/forwardpuppets.jpg[/img]

        Reply
  12. Hi Jonni, I was wanting to apply paper mache directly to my wall for an accent image, and i was wondering if that would work. My main concern is how it would dry and if it would be highly susceptible to mold buildup. Also I saw a post about bleach and wanted to know how that would be useful with paper mache? Thanks

    Reply
    • If you’re using paper strips and paste, they will stick to just about anything. If there’s any possibility that the wet paste won’t dry quickly, the moisture could seep into the wall and cause mold. You might want to seal the wall with varnish first. You can add just a small amount of bleach to your paste, which will kill all the mold spores that are already in it. If you live in a humid area, that’s probably a good idea. Remember, though, that if you ever get tired of that accent image, you may have to tear the wall down to get rid of it – it should be considered a permanent addition, not something you can change on a whim.

      Reply
  13. Thank you so much first coat is on and they look awesome. I am quite amazed that it was so easy. I am feeling quite confident about my 6ft volcano now

    Reply
  14. Hi there
    what a great site. I am attempting to build my son a volcano to go in his dinosaur room. My pan is to mount chicken wire to the wall and place balled pieces of paper on that then paper mache it. my son is 2.5 so i need something that is strong. will papermache be strong enough?

    How would you recommend i proceed i have never even done a balloon paper mache so a 6ft volcano has me a touch worried!

    Thanks

    Reply
    • The paper mache is quite strong if you use enough layers, so your chicken wire should work just fine. If possible, also use strong paper, like the brown paper used to make paper bags. (You can get a roll of heavy brown paper in the paint section of WalMart). The thing to worry about is making sure the armature is very firmly attached to the wall, and anything added to it is also really well attached. If your son tries to climb his volcano, we don’t want it coming loose and hurting him.

      Reply
  15. Hello, I am going to be making a paper mache Teddy Bear, with yarn as fur. My question is what could I use to form the body?? I am thinking of using gallon of milk or juice container, I am not sure what to use. I have only made puppets from ballons. Also seeing your photos encorages me to make other items as well.
    Thanks

    Reply

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