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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”

    • Hi! If you cover someone’s torso with a garbage bag (cut out room for head and arms) then wrap them tightly with duck tape with a last layer of masking tape. Do a couple of layers keeping it tight to stay as close to your body shape and size as possible. Then cut straight up the back and slide it off. Once off, re-tape along the cut to join it together again. You can fill it with paper for stability or foam…. Then cover with your papermache strips.

      Reply
      • Duct tape is the ‘traditional’ approach for this, but actually duct tape is cloth based and not rigid, and is b*tch to tear if you’re tearing 50-75+ pieces. (ask me how I know!) … A newer approach is to use clear packing tape – which is much more rigid, and often you can get away with fewer layers (2-3 vs 4 of duct tape). You do have to use scissors, tho. But having a partner who can cut the tape and help makes everything go much faster.

        Lately I’ve been using paper packing tape (adhesive, not gummed, and without the fiberglas reinforcement), which is by far my favorite. It’s actually a little thicker than the clear tape (as evidenced by the size of the 55 yard rolls), and therefore a little more rigid. And, since it’s paper it tears easily by hand. I use Uhaul’s brand (there’s a Uhaul 4 blocks from my house).

        http://www.uhaul.com/MovingSupplies/Tape/Box-Packaging-Paper-Tape?mid=143

        Stiltbeast did a couple of great video tutorials on this … here’s one:

        http://youtu.be/NHYHbjqA08k

        Once you have the form, paper mache it, and you can decide whether to leave the tape mannequin inside (so you make it once), or cut the paper mache off, and use the tape form to make a bunch of them.

        I used this technique when I needed to duplicate some skulls for my $20 prop contest entry (scroll down to post 6 & 7):
        http://www.hauntforum.com/showthread.php?t=31051

        Reply
  1. Great site, glad i found it.
    My daughter has to make a pirate boat, i was thinking of helping her paper mache an orange juice carton. It wont have to be in water long so would normal mache be okay, painted, or will it need to be sealed to prevent it coming apart?

    many thanks.

    Reply
    • Paper mache by itself will melt in water – it’s just paper held together with wheat paste. However, if you seal it, it should hold up for a few minutes.

      Reply
    • Do you mean using joint compound instead of the glue and joint compound mix? You can if you want. The joint compound is quite soft when it dries, though, if you don’t use the glue. If the piece won’t be in an area where chipping is a problem, it would work. It works OK on our walls, after all. 🙂

      Reply
  2. I’m currently making a paper mache dragon with my 3 year old son, thanks for the inspiration! Its a very simple design (no arms or legs) and will be hung from his bedroom ceiling when finished. He adores it already. Great tip using cardboard tubes to rest it on, I’ve got 2 supporting rather large wings while it all dries.
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/jericho.jpg[/img]

    Reply
  3. Amazon brown paper(UK) from inside packaging is ideal for paper mache (and box for bases!). I put tea tree oil into a 1:1 flour:cold water mix to help prevent mould. As I was making a model pump track layout I didn’t want the flour mix drying on the outside so I only ‘wet’ one side of the paper on the top layer. Great result using household leftovers and a track layout from the internet. Only purchase was ‘grass’ and a few trees from a train model shop. Silver mirror card for lake and stones from garden enhanced it but not necessary. Grandson delighted with result and pretends it’s Whistler.

    Reply
  4. Hi Jonni,
    I just LOVE your site and paper mache clay recipe but need to know
    1. do I need a separate electric mixer – will it spoil my one I use for food normally?
    2. Will the end result be waterproof?
    We usually use wallpaper paste with tissue paper (I don’t know how that translates into American!) but I’m keen to try your recipe it will give a completely different result.
    Kind regards from Australia,
    Cathy Miers

    Reply
    • Hi Cathy. I tend to use a separate mixer, but I bought the cheapest one I could find. I’m not a chemist, so I don’t know if a thorough washing would completely remove all the clay ingredients or not. Then again, I don’t bake much, so I don’t really need a mixer very often for cooking. The linseed oil does contain chemicals.

      The clay is not waterproof. Rich has suggested that you can use deck sealer or the sealer that you buy for waterproofing a basement, over the dried clay and under your paint. I haven’t tried that yet, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work, as long as the item isn’t actually sitting in water.

      Reply
  5. Hi Jonni. I haven’t used paper mache since elementary school some 35 odd years ago, so I was thankful to find your blog. (HURRAY FOR THE INTERNET!) I have an idea for a wall sculpture type thing that my daughter (age 2) and I can make together. I decided paper mache would be our medium so she can help out. Hopefully it will work and we’ll have something of “us” to hang on our wall. If this works I may be on to something and will attempt something larger (5′ x 3′-ish). Thanks again for sharing your recipes!

    Reply
  6. Wonderful site; thanks for everything. I’m wondering how scale-able paper mache is? I’m considering creating a giant (20’x20′) cloud using the flour recipe. My thought is I could make a rough square frame with mounting brackets (the cloud will be suspended in the air) and fill in the rest of the space with balloons. I’ll then cover the entire surface with paper mache and paint it white when dry. If the balloons deflate I’m thinking that will be fine as the paper mache will hold the shape. Does this sound accurate? It’s for a one-time event (I work in the production industry). Thanks!

    Reply
    • Yes, this should work. You may need to add some interior supports so the cloud can be suspended, because the paper and paste will be pretty heavy. I don’t think it will be able to support it’s own weight if it’s that big, but I could be wrong.

      I think Monique Robert would be the right person to ask about this – she’s done a number of large paper mache installations, and she has some unique methods. You can find her email address by clicking on that link.

      Reply
      • Jonty’s site is still up as well, (he died last year, but his blogger site is still up) and he’s got great info about using balloons
        http://darksidecreations.blogspot.com/2009/08/30-things-to-know-about-balloons.html

        I find them a little too tempermental depending on the weather shifts, as they expand and contract based on temperature. If you use balloons make sure you let it dry in a place where the temperature is relatively stable. I use beach balls instead as they tend to hold their shape a bit better than balloons during day/night temperature changes. Also beach balls are reusable.

        I’d think you might want some support within your 20’x20′ frame. And are you building this in place? For transportation you might think of it in 4 10’x10′ sections or 8 5×10 sections. Construct it like a puzzle to be fitted together, with each section supported. ?

        But it’s definitely scalable.

        Reply
        • Thanks for all the advice! I’m still debating on whether or not to start this project. It seems like a big task to take on for a first-time paper-mache-er….

          Reply
        • Now that I’m seeing all those balloons or balls spread out, would it also be possible to just use chicken wire (supported as you suggest) and skip the balls and balloons? If only the underside of the installation will be seen, the balloons or balls would only be there for the rounded shapes, right? And, if the chicken wire was used, then the old sheet and monster mud method would also work, but a whole lot faster than paper mache. I think, maybe… I’ve never done anything like this though.

          Reply
  7. I am planning to paper mache a beach ball for my wedding. This will be my first time working with paper mache. I tried gluing items to the vinyl or plastic ball itself with no success; the hot glue and other adhesives have eaten away at the material and burst the ball; therefore I am researching other options. Is it okay to use hot glue or liquid nails adhesive to adhere rhinestones, ribbon, and other decorative elements to the finished product?

    Thanks for your expertise and assistance. You are truly a gifted artist.

    Reply
    • Yes, the hot glue should stick to the paper mache. I use it to attach ribbons to my masks, which are made with a glue and plaster paste. And I think the liquid nails will stick to just about anything.

      Reply
    • Em, paper macheing the beach ball will work fine. I use it as my basis for my jack-o-lanterns. (You can see the multi-colored beach ball through the face) …
      [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/papermache021sm-1.jpg[/img]

      Try tearing your paper strips into triangles to minimize the bumps and folds and get a smoother surface. If you look close you can see the shapes of the paper strips I used.
      [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/papermache024sm-1.jpg[/img] You can also cover it with clay (which is what I did with this form) if you want it to be sturdier, or have a fancy inlay or decorative pattern, like lace or something.

      Reply
  8. Hi! I love your work and this site. I have been saving the type of paper/cardboard that is egg cartons and the layer between apple cases because I saw that paper mache can be made with this. Could your recipe also work with the paper/cardboard? I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it!!

    Reply
  9. Thank you so much for this! My child failed to tell me that she had to make a paper mache model that is due Mon. (It’s Friday night!) I am going to use your recipe. I have all of the items on hand thankfully. You don’t know how much you have helped, thanks a million!!!
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/IMG0027.jpg[/img]

    Reply
    • Kym, it will take time for the piece to dry. To speed it up, put the piece in front of a fan. And good luck – with a deadline like that, you’ll probably need it.

      Reply
  10. reCaptcha SUX !!! Takes too many trys to get through. Google owns it and doesn’t give a damn whether it takes 1 or 10 times to get through. And their “Contact Us” link doesn’t work. What a pain. I usually click away from sites that use reCaptcha now… too much work ! Maybe they will listen to you… it’s BAD !

    Reply
  11. Thank you so much for the good ideas! I have been an artsy person all my life, but I’ve always wanted to pull my creations out of the paper. This was really helpful.
    Thanks,
    Sophie

    Reply
  12. Hi there,
    Ive been making a minotaur head for a project and ive nearly come to finish it but ive noticed theres a little bit of mould inside. Has anyone got any ideas how to fix it?? I think it wasn’t able to dry because there was tin foil in the way….really need some help on this one.

    Thanks,

    jen xx

    Reply
    • Jenni, can you spray the area with household bleach, or even soak the area (but not enough to actually cause it to fall apart)? That would kill the mold. You would then need to dry it as quickly as possible, perhaps in front of a fan.

      I haven’t actually tried this myself, so it’s only a possible solution. Good luck! (And we’d love to see your minotaur when it’s done!)

      Reply
  13. Hi, I was wondering with your paper mache clay from your book on animal sculptures, you say in the book that a batch will last for about 1 week. What happens to the clay after 1 week. Can’t you continue to use it and it starts to dry up, like a few weeks?

    Thanks, Ann – I really am glad to have found your book.

    Reply
    • Hi Ann. The biggest problem that people have with keeping the wet clay for longer amounts of time is mold. If you add a teaspoon of household bleach to the water used to soak the paper, that will slow the mold down. If you keep it really well covered, it shouldn’t dry out. I think it might also be possible to freeze leftover clay, but I’ve never tried that.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. 🙂

      Reply
  14. Which paste is best for a translucent lamp? Boiled dries clear, but unboiled requires fewer layers of paper, so which is overall better?

    Reply
    • Unboiled paste won’t dry translucent. And it will leave a white film on the paper. The boiled would be better, or use diluted white glue.

      Reply
  15. Hi Jonni,
    I’ve just watched your video for the new clay recipes. I shall experiment with this but am still loyal to the method of newspaper strips and paste, for detail I rip the paper up into teeny tiny peices but it does take a long time and creates a lot of dust. By the way ‘joint compound’ is known as polly filler in the UK
    Best wishes
    Hazel

    Reply
  16. So glad to have found this site!

    I’m have trouble with sealants. I have tried Hodge Podge, Liquitex Matte Varnish and Golden Soft Matte Gel. Several of my sculptures have been ruined by the results. There is a white film that forms on the piece and not always visibly right away. Do you know why this is happening? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Pamela. I don’t know what is causing the problems, but it sounds like moisture. I know that some sealers will get milky if they’re outside and it rains, so maybe your paper mache sculptures aren’t getting dry enough before they’re sealed. They usually feel dry on the outside before they are really dry on the inside.

      You have a lovely site, by the way. I hope you get your sealer problem figured out. One of our other visitors may have a better idea for fixing it than I did.

      Reply

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