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.
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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.
If 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
My Lion King Mask Patterns for Paper Mache:
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. 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.Save
More Lion King Mask Patterns for Paper Mache:
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.
2,377 thoughts on “Paper Mache Paste Recipes – Including No-Flour, Mold-Free Options”
Very nice recipes really good job. Thank you.
If you want check my website https://www.paperjustpaper.com
hi. i am start learn paper mache, i find your channel , i learn so much from you. in my country the towel paper is expensive, for drywall.. and glue recipe, i have to use towel paper? can i replace it with newspaper or eggbox?
and in flour and water recipe, can i use your gesso recipe for the last layer? or i have to use cooked flour recipe only?
Hi Eli. The drywall joint compound and glue recipe really only works with the paper shop towels. For any other kind of paper, the flour and water recipe is much better as a paste. The gesso recipe (which also works as a paste with shop towels) can be used as the final layer to get a smoother look. I hope this helps. Have fun! 🙂
very very help,, kiss you from Asia, Iran..
I’m glad it was helpful. 🙂
Does the Elmer’s Art Paste work on Styrofoam? I have a large styrofoam Moon that I need to create an outer shell for and paper mache’ seemed to be the answer. I live in Oklahoma where things get very hot and humid. This moon is a photo prop so I want it to last and yet be able to store it. Thanks for what ever help or advise you can share.
I haven’t tried it. You might have to brush some Elmer’s Glue or some other PVA glue over the foam and let it dry before trying to add the Elmer’s Art Paste and paper. But try it first – it might stick just fine without any preparation at all.
Just discovered this website, sooo much I can learn here 😀 thank you so so so so so much!
What if I used newspaper Mache to make a mask instead of paper towel Mache?
And will there be a funny PVA glue smell from all this paper mache-ing?
I’m thinking of applying some sort of wax layer on both sides of a finished mask to make sure it’s biologically safe. Kind of scared that the joint compound gesso mixture might give it small particles that can be inhale see. And just waterproofing it
Hi Lee. You certainly can use newspaper instead of paper towels to make a mask. Don’t use the paste with joint compound or plaster with newspaper, though. It only works with the shop towels. I haven’t noticed any smell from the glue after it dries, but if it concerns you, just use one of the flour and water pastes, or the Elmer’s Art Paste, instead.
I just discovered this website it’s great!
I am making paper mache floor vases for a party decoration. I have the elders are paste but what is the best paper to use that will give these cases strength. They will be displayed with artificial flowers.
Hi Jewell. You might like to try the heavy brown paper that’s used for paper bags. It’s stronger than newspaper, so you don’t need as many layers.
Can I use a gray paint in toilet paper with glue and apply it over bandage type mesh onto my balsaa wood airplane?
I have no idea – you’d need to do some experiments. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone try that before.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jonni! You really are my paper mache guru. I started using the air-dry recipe last winter and now have opened my Etsy store with my paper mache animal dolls!
Hi Leanne. Your dolls are wonderful – creative, quirky, and fun! I hope your Etsy store is a huge success.
And one other thing – you might want to also put a comment on the Daily Sculptors page. A lot more people see that page every day, and I know our regular readers would love to see your dolls. 🙂
Can you use the Elmer paper machet art paste with the wet blue shop towels?
I don’t know if it would work or not. I always use the joint compound and glue recipe, or one made with plaster of Paris and glue. I’ve tried flour and water paste with the towels, and the paper mache never stiffens up. It might work better with the Art Paste, but you’d need to try it to find out.
Hi Jonni! Love your blog, so much useful information! I’m trying to take some cheap plastic bowls of various sizes, and turn them into whimsical serving dishes for a forest-themed birthday party. Like, a paper mache boulder where the bowl sets down into a ledge, or a log with three small bowls set into it. I’ve figured out how to support the bowls from underneath inside the armature, but I wonder if you could tell me how to best account for shrinkage. If I leave the bowls in place while the paper mache dries, will it crack? If I take the bowls out while it dries, will I be able to fit them back in? Ideally, I’d like to be able to pop the bowls out after the party to use again. How would you do it? Also, is one recipe better than another if I plan to make some of these 5-6 months in advance? Thanks so much!
Hi Kit. If you keep paper mache items dry and sealed, they’ll last for years. That includes any recipe – the secret is keeping them dry. You will probably want to keep the plastic bowls in place as the paper mache dries, but that will only work if there is a way for the water to get out – the water will obviously be trapped by the plastic bowls, but if there is air underneath the paper mache can dry. If it does develop small cracks they can always be repaired. Add another strip of paper and paste, or smear on a little paper mache clay if that’s what you decide to use. If the paper mache wouldn’t be able to dry, you won’t be able to leave the plastic bowls in place. All paper mache will shrink a little as the water evaporates, and I’m not sure what would be the best way to keep the dip in the right shape and size. Perhaps one of our other readers would have a good suggestion. More people would see your question if you put another comment on the Daily Sculptors page.
Hi, I just found your site and love all of your information. I am a Kindergarten and First-grade art educator. I have my first-grade artists for an extra art period every week for half of the school year, we devote this time to creating a paper mache animal of their choice. It is my favorite project and a favorite for the students as well. They use newspaper, recycled cardboard tubes and egg cartons as the armature and lots of tape! We have always used Elmers Art Paste, due to gluten sensitivities, and I agree it works really well. I am hoping to experiment with the paper mache clay recipe for my own work this summer.
Thank you for sharing all of your amazing work!
Hi Emily. It sounds like you have a really fun job! 🙂
Hello. I have a quick question or two. When you speak of ‘joint compound’ do you mean the powdered joint compound or the pre-mixed type?
And just how strong is strong? (I work building theatre sets…I probably don’t need to say more. Actors are notoriously hard on sets and props)
Thank you so much.
Hi Painterchick. The joint compound is the pre-mixed kind that comes in a plastic tub. Any brand except DAP. When I first developed the recipe I put a 1/4″ thick layer on a crumpled ball of paper and masking tape, about tennis ball sized. When it dried I took it outside and dropped it on the sidewalk. It didn’t crack. However, my cat managed to break the ear off my little spotted pig when she knocked him on the floor. Extended ears, arms, tails, etc., will always be easiest to break at the joint. Other than that, it’s pretty darned strong. I never use more than 1/8″ for any of my sculptures, but you might want to beef up some of your props with a second layer.
Hi Jonni! Love your videos! Just in need of some help… I am trying to make a huge paper mache sphere (1.5m diameter) to use as a party decoration to hang in a gumtree. I have purchased balloons big enough to sculpt on, but are in need of a few tips. Should I use flour and water paste or glue to hold something of this size together? Also how many layers do you think the whole thing would need? And do I need to apply something to the balloon to stop the paper mache from sticking? Any tips and tricks would be hugely appreciated! THANK YOU JONNI!!
Hi Anna. First, the good news – paper mache won’t stick to rubber, so you don’t need a release. The bad news is that balloons are really hard to work with – I know they make first-graders use them with paper mache, but I’m not the only one who hates them. The problem is that they change shape while you’re working on them, and after the wet paper mache is added they shrink as the air inside cools, leaving wrinkles on your nice smooth ball.
I did a video about balloons and paper mache when I made my Humpty Dumpty, and found a good solution to the problems. You can see the video here. My Humpty is smaller than the ball you want to make, and it’s hollow, so the weight is not a problem. For something as big as 1.5m even plain paper mache will be fairly heavy. If you want to use the Plaster cloth, like I did for Humpty, just use one or two layers to keep the balloon from changing shape, then add one layer of paper mache (using the flour and water paste) to give a smooth surface. If you don’t want to use the plaster cloth, you’ll need four or five coats of paper mache, and expect cracks or wrinkles as the balloon expands and contracts. Good luck with it!
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.
Hi Joanna – that is an adorable stork, but it’s another artist’s design. If I told you how to duplicate it I would be violating Lisa’s copyright. Why not contact her and ask her to make one for you? There’s a contact link at the top of her website.
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.
Yes, thank you. I did also email her last night after I sent the etsy message.
Hopefully she responds
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.
Thank you! I’ll never cook my paper mache pastes again!
You’re welcome! 🙂
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
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.
Hi. I’m making a menaki neko and I need it to be hallowed, how would I do this? Thanks!
Hi Nikki. You might be able to do it the same way I make my doll heads. Watch the video here to see if you can use the same basic method, with a different shape, of course, to make your sculpture. And let us know if it works!
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!
Hi Kristi. Yes, I still make paper mache sculptures. And I have a horse in my book, Make Animal Sculptures With Paper Mache Clay. Which recipe are you going to use for your horse? And how big is it?
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!
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!
Thank you Jonni!
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.)
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!!
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
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…
Hi Alison. I agree – if the paper is that squishy, you probably should stuff some more inside. The shapes on your sphinx are really nice – love the feet!