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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 have a question. I am making a large scale paper mache project and I feel a bit lost. I am trying to mimic something that I saw on a TV Show. I am making 3-4ft tall angel wings that can be hung on either side of my fireplace in my living room. Can you recommend something to make the wings with that I can then cover in paper mache? At first I thought maybe chicken wire, but then thought that I could get better detail from using rolled newspaper to form it first.

    I am planning on covering it with the paper mache clay afterwards to get a smoother finish at the end. How many layers of paper mache would you recommend to go on the frame for them?

    Reply
    • Hi Liz. I think I would probably cut each feather out of light cardboard, tape all the feathers onto a cardboard or wire wing shape, and then cover it with the paper mache clay or paper strips and paste. If you use the clay recipe you only need one layer, thinly applied (about 1/8″). If you use paper strips and paste you will probably need four layers or more.

      We would love to see the wings when they’re done!

      Reply
  2. Trying to make a lampshade for my grandson’s Star Wars room. He wants an R2D2 lamp. Thought I could make a paper mache one, still haven’t figured our all details. We covered a balloon with a layer of paper mache; but the balloon popped during the night and the ball deflated. My next thought is to put a plastic bag over a plastic garbage can which is the shape I want, then cover that with the mache. Now, would I be able to remove the garbage can without cracking? Could I attach a wire stand to hold up the shade after the shape is dry? And, would it be a fire hazard? I thought about drilling some small holes in the top to let heat escape, and form some patterns on the wall, and using a low heat bulb too. Your opinion please?

    Reply
  3. Hi,

    Im thinking of making some paper mâché eggs as a part of my friends birthday present. I would like them The same size as an egg so that I can also place them into an egg carton. Also, I will be writing messages on the eggs. How should I make it a good egg shape? Would it be ok if I used a half blown up balloon (it can easily be squished out of an egg shape) ? And I’ve tried paper mâché with balloons before but they shrank and broke my paper mâché. How do I avoid this?

    Thanks very much and this is brilliant website :)

    Reply
    • Hi Carmen. I never use balloons myself, for exactly the reasons you mention. They’re just too soft, even when they’re fully blown up. And changes in air temperature change the shape, as well.

      I would probably “cheat” and use a real egg. You could put some petroleum jelly on an egg, cover it with three or four layers of paper mache, and when it’s dry you could cut the paper mache into two halves and pull it off the egg. If you use a smaller-than-normal egg, the final paper mache egg will be about the right size. You could then put the paper mache egg back together again – and even use it as the mold for the rest of your eggs.

      Or you might use a plastic Easter egg for your molds, if you can still find some in the stores. They’re pretty cheap, and you could leave the plastic inside. Just two layers of paper mache would give you a nice surfact to paint and write on.

      Enjoy!

      Reply
  4. Hi there,
    I am looking at doing paper mache for a uni assessment on sustainability is schools. I would like to know if you have any suggestions on how to waterproof/ weatherproof the paper mache items in order to use them outdoors? Also what is the best type of paint to use for colour? I was thinking acrylic?
    Thank you,

    Erin

    Reply
    • I’m doing an experiment now in waterproofing paper mache. The consensus seems to be that the paper mache itself should be sealed with spar varnish or a solvent-based acrylic varnish with anti-UV properties. (That’s not quite how I did my rabbit, but if I did it again that’s what I’d do). Then the piece can be painted (either acrylic or latex paint, I think) and then the piece should be sealed again. Rich uses deck sealer for the final coat. I would use the UV-absorbing varnish that I used for the rabbit, but the deck sealer works well, too. My experience with spar varnish as a top coat is that sunlight will crack the varnish and destroy the finish, although some people have good luck with it.

      Reply
  5. I’m a new teacher wanting to get my students to make paper mache animals and then use recycled bits they’ve collected to stick all over the surface of the animal, such as bottle tops, toys, material, cardboard, basically anything they have at home that’s unwanted.
    Would it be best for all the students to paint the animals before applying the objects or can they be glued directly on to the final newspaper layer? We intend to use hot glue guns as well as standard clear glues – but if you had a suggestion for this too, that would be great. The image below is obviously done with drilling holes which we are not doing.
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ToySculpture.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ToySculpture-1.jpg[/img]

    Reply
    • It would be easier to make sure the pieces were completely sealed (to protect against future mold) if the paper mache has a coat of paint before adding the bits and pieces. If the kids want any special features to be painted, it would also be easier to do it before gluing things on, which would get in the way of the brushes. Let us know how the projects turn out. This sounds like fun.

      Reply
    • Have you looked at the paper mache tutorials? There aren’t any instructions specifically for mushrooms, but the methods for making shapes and adding paper mache are pretty much the same, no matter what shape you’re making. If you have some specific questions about the methods, please let us know.

      Reply
  6. Hello,
    For my art project I have to make a bag, shoe or hat that has something to do with an artistic movement and we are allowed to use a real one as a base and then change it completely.
    I was thinking of using a canvas bag I bought and paper mâché it.
    Is this possible?
    If so, what recipe(s) should I use and what type of paper/other fabric??
    Thank you,
    Hannah Johnston

    Reply
    • Hannah, if you’re adding paper mache to canvas, you can use ordinary flour and water paste with torn newspaper. That will stick to canvas. However, you may need to put something inside the bag to make it stand up before you start adding the paper mache. Wet paper mache gets heavy, and it will try to change the shape of your bag.

      Reply
    • I think some people do use corn flour instead of wheat, and it should work just fine. You might want to experiment with it to see which one you prefer.

      Reply
  7. I am learning so much from this site but am just wanting to clarify what you mean by ‘white glue’ stated for some of the paste recipes. Are you meaning the white wood glue, or fabric glue or something different?

    Reply
    • I use Elmer’s Glue-All. If you live outside the US, this brand isn’t available. For most recipes on this site that call for “white glue” you can ask at the hardware store for a “PVA” glue, and they’ll find you a product that works. The PVA is a type of plastic that the glue is made with.

      Reply
  8. I am going to be attempting to make space helmets from paper mache this evening. I’ve got very large balloons that we will be using as a form. Hope it all turns out! Great site!

    Reply
  9. Hi – I have a question. I am making a nose using paper mache. A large one but need to figure out what to use to create the form of a nose. Any suggestions? It is for a kids carnival – nose picking game:)

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Erika. If you mean really large like a foot or more across, you might be able to make a form using a plastic bag stuffed with crumpled paper. Then use masking tape to tame the shape so it looks nose-like. That’s the easiest way to make a form. If you make the paper mache strong enough, you can then remove the form and leave the nose hollow, if that works for the game.

      Reply
  10. Hello,

    Great site! I was so happy when I stumbled across it. I am hoping to be able to construct big paper mache mushrooms for a Willy Wonka themed party I am having. I was just curious what types of materials you would use to get started. Like maybe the framework to put the paper mache on. I have 2 months to complete them but I really just have no clue where to begin.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Mitzy. If your paper mache mushrooms will just be for show (and nobody will be sitting on them) you could make the innards with plastic bags stuffed with crumpled paper. If they will be used as stools, you’ll probably need to use something more solid. They make big cardboard tubes for concrete forms – if they were cut into short sections they would make a good base for a mushroom. The top could be formed over a section of an exercise ball.

      Reply
  11. I just want to let everyone know that the new Daily Sculptors page is now live. If you’d like to join our challenge, and work on your craft every single day (any medium, any size, any subject) you’re more than welcome to come join us.

    Reply
  12. Hi! This might be a strange question, but I was planning on putting paper mache over a motorcross/paintball armor vest. The end goal is to make roman or medieval armor using the modern pieces as the base. Would there be any problems with mold soaking into the pre-existing “armor”? Also, if using this tactic how much punishment could this outside layer of paper mache stand up against hardened foamed weapons for battle reinactments?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Two questions about paper mache armor in one week! I think that’s a first. Have you met Alan? Check the answers to his question, especially GhoulishCop’s idea about using leather instead.

      I don’t know what your vest is made out of, but there shouldn’t be a problem with mold if you dry the paper mache fast enough. Or add a few drops of household bleach to the paste. Laminated paper strips and paste are about as strong as an equal thickness of plywood – but it takes a lot of layers of paper to get even 1/4 inch thick. Maybe paper mache over molded foam would work. But I’m not an expert when it comes to any sort of armor.

      You might want to ask your question again, as a response to Alan’s question. Then you can both kind of put your heads together, and come up with a solution that will work for both of you. No matter what you decide, be sure to do a small experimental piece first, and see if it can stand up to what you want it to do. That’s really the only way to know if it will really work for you.

      Reply
  13. I was wondering if there is a way to make paper mache a little flexible.. I was thinking of making some small doll shoes for an 18 ” doll and the shoes need to have a bit of flex to fit over her feet. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks

    Reply
  14. Hello. I have somewhat of a dilemma that I am hoping you can help with. I am engaged in a theatre project which involves applying paper mache to the entire proscenium arch across the stage. This involves applying the paper mache across chicken wire, which has worked fine on the vertical bits. The problem I am having is on the horizontal parts. Gravity is working against me as the chicken wire rolls under the top part of the arch and I am trying to apply the paper mache to the bottom part of that roll. Needless to say, it falls straight off. Do you have any suggestions which may help? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Is there any paper mache on the top of the horizontal chicken wire? If there is, it might be possible to use joint compound on the underside, since it will stick to paper even on the ceiling. That’s what it’s made for, after all. You wouldn’t want to use much – just enough to coat the wire and give any additional coating something to stick to. If it’s just the wire hanging in thin air, then I think you’d have to put something over it, on the top side.

      One other option, maybe, would be to cut a piece of wire the same size as the one you’re working on, and apply several coats of paper mache to both sides of the wire, as it sits on a table. You need both sides covered so they will stick together through the holes in the wire. Then, before the paper mache stiffens up too much but after it’s fairly solid, you could bend it into an arch and wire it to the original piece.

      Good luck with this. I hope someone else chimes in with more suggestions – I’m just making this up, as I’m sure you can guess.

      Reply
      • [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0088.JPG[/img]
        Hello, again, and thank you for your assistance to my request. As you may be able to see in the attached photo, we achieved some measure of success in applying the paper upside down. Where we could, we did apply paper to the back of the wire and where we couldn’t reach behind, we started with small pieces wrapped around individual wires to provide an anchor for larger pieces to follow. The entire stage is about 16 meters across. We created two vertical or outward leaning walls and joined them across the top of the proscenium arch to create the effect of looking into a cave. (Parts of the play Batboy are set inside of a cave.) After the first layer of paper, applied with wheat paste, we applied a paper pulp mixed with water to create texture and then papered over the top of that to give the cave walls an undulating effect. We will paint the paper walls with an undercoat of brick red (applied with a sprayer) and follow it with a charcoal gray and then apply localized color effects.
        On behalf of the Kuwait Little Theatre, thank you again.

        Reply
  15. Hello,
    Thank you for the wonderful site. I am in the middle of a project and have a problem that I have not found a solution for. Project: I have a very large world war II bomb. It is 10′ in length. I have cut the nose off and removed the fins. I am using the bomb as a mold and have covered it in many many layers of recycled child art. I am using white elmers glue and water 50/50. Everything is going well and I am able to get the art down very flat and wrinkle free for the most part. The issue is I cant remove the piece from the mold due to the paper shrinking without cutting it. In the end it will be a freestanding bomb sculpture consisting of 500-700 pieces of child art. Im stuck..any ideas?

    Reply
    • Cody, I don’t know of any way to get the paper mache off a solid form like that without cutting it. Did you use a release so the paper and glue didn’t stick to the metal? If you cut it, you should be able to repair the wound with more paper mache, and then cover that with more artwork. If you used enough layers of paper mache to create a strong skin, the piece should hold it’s shape when you cut it apart and then put it back together.

      Good luck with it.

      Reply
  16. I’m making a paper mache “golden calf” for a Sunday School prop by covering a bull pinata with paper mache. After the first coat of regular paper mache and a couple days drying time, I tried adding a skin layer like you suggested using a mix of flour, water, and wood glue. The skin layer cracked all over as it dried and some large pieces are flaking off. Did I use too much glue? Not enough? Maybe I put it on too thick?

    Reply
    • Hi Annabeth. It sounds like the mixture dried too fast or it was too thick, or there was too much flour. I haven’t actually used that mixture for quite some time, because the gesso mixes that I now use are much easier. If possible, I suggest that you brush off all the loose flakes, and use one of the gesso mixes instead. The one that uses glue and joint compound seems to work for most people (although a few people have said that it cracks, too.) Or, after brushing off the flakes, brush on a mixture of glue diluted with water, but without the flour. That will hold everything together and give you a nice surface to paint on.

      Reply
      • Thanks, Jonni. Your website has been SO helpful. I hadn’t done paper mache in years. I have some store-bought Gesso left over from something else, maybe I’ll just use that for the final coat. Do you think that would work OK?

        Reply
        • Yes, the gesso should work beautifully. And you already have it on hand, which is another plus.

          I hope you’ll let us see your creation when it’s done.

          Reply
  17. Dear Jonni-

    I am interested in making a life-sized figure of a person. Would I use the same type of armature that you use for your animal sculptures?
    It will be a seated figure, so I don’t think it’ll need a structure that will enable it to stand, although I may try that next. Have you ever tried that type of armature? How would I go about it? Would I then “flesh it out” with paper and masking tape, and then use the paper mache clay to add detail? Thanks for any help you can give me….
    Andrea

    Reply
    • Hi Andrea. I haven’t tried a full-sized figure sculpture yet, so I’m probably not the right person to ask. I have tried making a figure sculpture using a pattern, like I do with my animals, but I wasn’t happy with the result. That isn’t to say it can’t work, but it really didn’t work well for me. The crumpled paper and masking tape will work, though.

      That wasn’t very helpful, was it? Maybe a more experienced figure sculptor will see your question and offer more useful advice…

      Reply

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