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

2,320 thoughts on “5 Paper Mache Recipes – Including No-Flour, Mold-Free Options”

  1. Wow, This is a great site! thanks Jonni you give great advice to everyone.

    I’m making a “Where the wild things are” costume for my son’s 2 year birthday party and I’m making the “wild things” masks for my husband and I out of paper mache and I’ve started with very basic glue+water and paper strips on an excersise ball for the first layer I was wondering if the clay would be too heavy to wear on our heads? Thank you! hope to hear soon.

    Reply
    • If you put on a very thin layer of clay, it shouldn’t be too heavy. Don’t make it too thin, though, because you need enough to make the finished mask stand up on it’s own, without a permanent armature.

      Please let us see the masks when they’re done – this sounds like a wonderful project!

      Reply
  2. Hi Jonni, I’m making a T-rex paper mache model for my preschool class and I noticed that you use white flour. Is unbleached flour okay to use, too?

    Reply
  3. Hello Jonni, I need to make Cupecake Piggy bank for my cousin as a Baby Shower Gift. I thought of paper mache but now I don’t even know where to start?? Or is there something easier like making a cupecake gift box?? I am soo lost.

    Reply
    • Hi Desiree. Until I saw your comment, I’d never heard of a cupcake piggy bank. After a real fast Google search, I found one on eBay for $7.50. Call me lazy, but that’s probably how I’d do it 🙂

      You can make a bank out of paper mache, and I do have a tutorial on the blog for making a pig-shaped piggy bank. You could use the instructions, but change the shape. I’m not sure what you’d use for the hollow inside form. However, a word of caution – babies chew on things, and even if you use all non-toxic materials, I’m still not sure a paper mache ornament or bank is the best idea for tiny babies, unless it’s always kept out of reach.

      This isn’t very helpful, is it? Check out the paper mache tutorials page – you might find some hints that you would find useful.

      If y

      Reply
  4. HI! Thank you for this wonderful website. I haven’t played with paper mache in years and after reading your articles and seeing your beautiful artwork, I am inspired! My son will play football this fall, and I need to make a BIG horse head for the 4th of July float (a pick up truck – on top of the cab). I am guessing that I will use like an upside down T shaped cardboard to start, then build up the girth of the neck and head with balled up paper and masking tape. Any other ideas of how to build up the neck and head? Then raw paper mache, then skin paper mache. My guess is that the skin is applied the same way as the first layers? I thought it would be cool to put christmas lights as it’s eyes so they glow! I want to attach something that blows in the breeze for the mane. Any ideas? I will send you a pic if it turns out well! Thanks for the great website!

    Reply
    • Wow – the Fourth of July is only four days away. Your ideas will certainly work, but you’ll have to get started right away. Another possibility is to use plastic bags stuffed with crumpled paper, and taped together to form the basic horse shape. Then cover with paper mache – you’ll need to let them dry, and that’s going to be a challenge unless you can put them outside in the shade, with a nice warm breeze blowing over the head. Rope or cotton mops would make a good mane.

      Good luck – now go get started! Let us know how it turns out.

      Reply
  5. I’m 8 months pregnant and I’ve been looking into using paper mache to make a belly cast. I know many of the kits they sell use plaster based materials, but I just don’t have the extra money for that. Do you think a paper mache version would hold up? Is there anything I could do to reinforce it or make it stronger so it holds its shape?

    Reply
  6. Hi, I have been making some paper mache projects myself. I usually use flour, cornstarch and water to make my paste. And then also I was wondering if anyone had any tips for making a 3 foot dragon with expanding wings (this is going to be my next project)

    Reply
    • The expanding wings will be a challenge – have you checked out Dan Reeder’s book? He’s the go-to guy for paper mache dragons. And his technique involves cloth, so it might give you some ideas about those wings.

      Reply
      • Yeah I have checked it out, I like his dragons, but I was looking for a more fierce looking dragon. Also I was wondering what I should make the structure out of. Either wire, cardboard, or etc.? Do you have any advice for that?

        Reply
        • For larger pieces, I think Dan’s armature method is the best. That’s what I used for my snow leopard and lion cubs – you don’t have to stick with Dan’s designs to make his armatures work. The combination of heavy wire and crumpled paper, covered with masking tape, makes a strong armature. And if you need a really light dragon, you can remove the paper from inside, like he does.

          If you want specific ideas for actually sculpting your dragon, you might want to do a search on YouTube.com. They have some pretty good videos about dragons.

          Reply
  7. Thanks for this information. My 9 year old son wants to make a Spartan Helmet so I’m researching paper mache. If we manage to get it done I’ll post results.

    Reply
  8. I am making a 1993 White Power Ranger helmet and am trying to use the paper mache idea to make it. Do you have any tips for sculpting the helmet to fit the design? How thick should I make the helmet for costume play? Thanks!

    Reply
      • Thanks! That was a lot of help trying to design the shape for the helmet. Is there any way I can sand and paint to look like a fine gloss finish? Is that possible with paper mache?

        Reply
  9. hello try using mod podge for water proofing in your recipe for paper mache also add to your paint then paint your item three times no mildow and my large items have been hard as a rock for six years matt is good for realistic and shiney for ceramic look lorraine

    Reply
    • Interesting idea. Basically, you’re increasing the plastic content of the paste recipe.

      Note, I haven’t tried this, so I can’t tell you how it works. Since mold doesn’t grow on the clay I make (I don’t know why this is true, since some people experience mold…) I can’t test this to see if it works. And when I make things out of traditional paper strips and flour paste, I make sure to dry them fast and completely, and then seal them, so I don’t get mold.

      Reply
  10. Hi, I made some latex molds from my masks. My problem is I don’t know what is the best mixture to use on the latex molds.
    I want to make fine dense pulp that would have some weight to it, and would not have much sinkage or distortion. I don’t like the air-light weight of pure paper mache, but flour tends to warp too much. I am considering trying fine sand…
    I have spent weeks on each of the masks that that were carefully sanded ( I use dremel tools, dental picks and tiny files to make them) and would like to reproduce the masks to about 3/4 ” thick.
    I’m not too worried about the drying time, I just want the best possible representation of the original mask. Thanks for your website!

    Reply
  11. Jonni,
    You are truely a person that lives to teach and share your knowledge. I along with many others are greatful for your ungreediness. I wish there was a way to leave a tolken of my appreciation. I think others would agree. I may not have time to purchase ur book but I would leave my thanks in the form of a Paypal donation. Please think about making an account with paypal its easy to set up. I would like to support your amazing site! I probably will purchase your book. You have enspired me to finally make my horse sculptures that have just been waiting on the right medium!Jennifer

    Reply
    • Hi Jennifer – that’s very sweet. If you’d like to support the site, you can click on the link to amazon.com (in the sidebar) when you make online book purchases. That way I get a small donation, and you get a book you want. I know people do put up Paypal buttons, and I’ve considered it, but I think I’ll leave things as they are at the moment. But thanks for the thought 🙂

      Reply
      • Jonni,
        Have you considered a Kindle version for ‘Tiny Dogs’? I know the patterns are probably better in paperback, but I personally prefer books these days.

        Thanks,
        Jen

        Reply
        • Hi Jen. Yes, I considered it – but you would not believe how much work it takes to reformat the entire book so that it can be read in Kindle. I do have my first book, Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay, in Kindle, and quite a few people do prefer that version – so maybe I should reconsider. But not until after I get moved into my new house!

          One other reason that I put off putting my other books on Kindle is my basically messy nature – I could easily imagine getting paper mache paste all over my little Kindle reader, and I’m not sure it would like that. (I don’t actually have a Kindle reader – I read my Kindle books on my PC, which, I have to say, is not much fun). Is the messy issue a silly concern for those of you who like Kindle books?

          Reply
          • Jonni,
            I did not realize it took so much reformatting to publish an ebook. That is a bummer. I will go ahead and purchase the paperback then.

            I have a Kindle Unlimited subscription and your Animals book was available so I download and have been working from that. As far as the mess… I use my iPad with the Kindle app. I use a dish display stand to hold up my iPad while I work. I actually made the Air Dry Clay tonight while watching your video this way!! If I have to turn the page or pause a video, and my hands are messy, I use my knuckle. I think I have even used my nose in a messy ’emergency’ situation! LOL!!

            I love technology and having the ability to flip from your book and your website so easily. It works best for me.

            Now, about my first batch of clay. It was beautiful and creamy. But, it would not really stick to the masking tape covering my Vintage Chicken. The book did not mention doing anything else in between taping and the clay. With this batch, I was able to apply and mould the clay with my hands rather than the knife, which was awesome, but I am worried about the clay pulling away from the form after it is dried. Do u think this will happen? How can I get it to stick better? Would a coat of water and Glue-All adhere the clay to the tape?

            I find I have been using a ton of tape but that is how I am shaping my paper, even with the Piglet which uses the foam form. I hate to ask, but would paper and paste be a better alternative to the masking tape? I hope to get a good process working before I start my Tiny Dogs!!!
            Thanks,
            Jen

            Reply
            • Hi Jen. Are you using the original paper mache clay recipe, or the air dry clay? From your description I think you’re using the air dry clay, which isn’t very sticky. I would recommend using a mixture of white glue and water – brush it over your masking tape before adding a thin layer of the clay. That will make it stick tight to the tape. If you’re using thin “pancakes” of the clay to cover the piece, you may need to brush the same mixture over the edges of the pieces to make sure all the clay sticks together, too. You don’t need to do this with the original pm clay, because it’s quite sticky and can be spread over the armature with a knife. But you can’t get quite as much detail, so you just need to decide which one would work best for you.

  12. Hi!
    Thank you for your website, it’s very helpful! I’m working on a project where I want to make deer antlers out of paper mache. Then attach them to silk scarves or something similar so that they can be worn tied onto my head. So, they’ve gotta be life size basically, and hopefully on the bigger side. My worry is that they’ll be too heavy and fall off too easily. I need to be able to wear them for an entire evening without too much fuss. I know that paper mache is quite light, I’m just not sure if it will be light enough. If you have any suggestions about how best to go about this, I’d really appreciate it.
    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hi Maddy. You’ll have some engineering issues, in order to get the heavy antlers to stay positioned on your head the way you want them. To make them as light as possible, I’d suggest first making the shapes out of cardboard and then reinforce the antlers with wire. At that point they should be strong enough to put them on your head and see how they feel. The paper mache won’t add much weight if you only put on two or three layers. You might need to attach the antlers to a fitted cardboard cap, so you’ll have something to attach your scarves to.

      I’m always amazed by all the inventive projects people come up with. I know we’d love to see your antlers when they’re done.

      Reply
  13. Some ideas for Justin…try adding some wool….sheep. alpaca or mohair to the pulp will make it stronger and help it bounce out of the mold……I have tried this and ity has worked out really well…Cheers from Australia

    Reply
  14. Hello, Natalie. I was on the web looking for the best and strongest ways to make, Paper Mache, and i like the tips and methods you let us all see. Well, let me get to the two questions, i wanna ask. Does paper mache made with newpaper turn yellow if left in the sun for a long time? Because you know how newspaper that is left outside in the sun that you got that morning can be yellow by the end of the day. Also, i was wondering if there is some type of coat i can put over the paper mache once it has been dry to make it stronger, and clear so i can see the writting of the newspaper? If you know of any please let me know.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Justin. Yes, your paper mache will turn yellow if you put it in the sun. You would need to cover it with a clear coat of some sort of protective finish that included a UV blocker to keep that from happening. Almost anything will change color in direct sunlight. I’d suggest taking a trip to the hardware store – look for a clear finish and ask the clerk if they have one that will block out the UV rays. Let us know if you find something that would work.

      As for making your paper mache stronger, that would almost need fiberglass – and that stuff is dangerous. I don’t recommend it. It would be better to add another layer or two of paper mache to make it stronger, instead.

      Reply
  15. Hi! Stumbled upon your website looking for some good paper mache recipes for some artwork ideas that I plan on working on over the summer. I was wondering what you would reccomend for finishing your project – like a varnish or something similar? I want to leave the newspaper visible, and am not quite sure what to use to really finish the project. Any help would be appreciated!
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Natalie. I like to use either acrylic varnish from the art store, or water-based urethane from the hardware store. Verathane and Minwax are two brands I’ve used. They dry clear, they have a variety of finishes from satin to gloss, and the brushes are easy to clean. Have fun!

      Reply
  16. Thank you so much for your website, it. Has been over ten years since I have been inspired to do any kind of artwork and I think paper mache may be my next passion. I have been using your website mainly for both instuction and inspiration as I learn and I am currently working on a few birds based on your bird tutorial, as someone has already posted before me, I’ll second them- your clay rocks!

    Reply
  17. Hi Jonni,

    I was wondering if you have ever used your paper mache recipes on materials other than paper. I’m considering ribbons but I’m not sure if Elmers’ glue/water mixture will work. Do you think it would work?

    Reply
  18. Great site!! My son is making a southwest adobe house for a school project. I am looking for some ideas on what materials he should use. This is the first time we have ever tried paper mache so we would love your input.

    Thanks,
    Beth

    Reply
    • Hi Beth. I’d construct the house using pieces of cardboard and tape. When you have the house in the shape you want, and the windows are cut out and the roof is on, then cover it with two or three layers of paper mache. You can paint it clay colored after it’s dry. I hope your son has fun with it (and you, too, of course!)

      Reply

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