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”
I am planning to do a paper mache activity with my elementary school art class. I only have this grade once a week, so I am wondering if there is a good way to preserve the paper mache so that I don’t need to make a new batch each week. Does one recipe “keep” better than others?
The Elmer’s Art Paste was perfect for schools, because it never went bad. But they don’t’ sell it anymore. Any paste that contains flour will start to go bad pretty fast, because there’s yeast in the air, and it tries to turn the paste into sourdough bread batter. As soon as it gets in, the paste starts to go sour, and it isn’t as sticky anymore. The cooked flour and water paste will last for two days, if you keep it in the fridge, and you might be able to keep it for much longer in the freezer. The Art Paste was made with Methylcellulose, which is still available for use by librarians and artists, but it is more expensive than the Elmer’s product was. But it lasts for a very long time, so it might be worth the extra expense, just because it would save so much time. I haven’t tried that version myself, though.
i have found out that i accidentally used cake flour for paper mache will it be okay?
It will probably be just fine – you can test it with a few strips of paper, let them dry, and see if they’re still stuck together. I think they will be, but you can test it to make sure. 🙂
Hey there, Im a performance artist making a rather large pinata to break on stage, I need a very sturdy paper mache recipe, however my question is, could I still break my sculpture if i use wood glue?
Hi Soph. You’d need to test it. You might be able to break it if you only use one or two layers, but this stuff is really strong. If you get too many layers, it could be similar to working with thin plywood. The traditional flour and water paste might be a better choice, but be sure to experiment to see which one works better for you.
Hello. I have been looking for a strong and stiff mixture to make free standing shapes with doilies. Think vases, balloons, wall art, ect…
I have used Elmer’s craft, Elmer’s and water, wood glue and water, fabric starch (sta flo), starch and Elmer’s mixed….all to no avail. The piece just isn’t strong enough. It starts sagging once hung. Is there a strong fabric paste that I haven’t found yet? Any help would be appreciated.
Hi Melanie. I don’t use fabric very often, so I have no suggestions for you. However, several of my readers use a product called Paverpol for their projects. I haven’t tried it myself, but Eileen Galagher wrote a nice tutorial for us using the product. You can see it here. She might still be watching her post for comments, if you’d like to ask her for advice. And if you leave your comment on the Daily Sculptors page, you might get some other suggestions from our readers.
Hi thank you for showing your work/ looking for the most current waterproof paper mache receipe for the toad. Can’t see it here on the site. Thank you
Hi Angela. I haven’t put that recipe here on the recipe page yet, because we haven’t had time to fully test it in winter weather. But you can find it here.
can you store the cooked recipe or must it be used right away?
Even though the cooked flour and water paste has been heated, it will still attract yeast from the air, and yeast will try to turn it into sourdough bread dough. That process makes the paste less sticky, and it can smell sour. I recommend making up just as much as you need that day, and throw away the leftover paste so you can start with new paste in the morning.
I’ve read that adding some salt will take care of the mold problem. Have you tried it? I’d guess about one Tbs. per quart of paste? An inexpensive fix if true.
The very best way to avoid mold is to make sure your paper mache sculpture dries as fast as possible, and then seal it so it can’t absorb moisture from the air. The wet paste in the bowl needs to be thrown out at the end of the day and a new one made the next day, to start fresh. I think the salt will slow down mold, but all bread contains salt but it will still mold if left out too long. Even if you put salt in your paste, you still need to make sure the piece dries quickly, and seal it.
Hello! Firstly, your masks are amazing you have to much talent! I am trying to make a much similar projects and was google searching for recipes and trying to figure out a recipe that would be safe to use as a lampshade or if it was safe to use paper pulp for such a purpose. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Cheers x
Hi KC. I know there are quite a few YouTube videos showing how to make beautiful lampshades with paper pulp. I don’t know if they have been tested to make sure they’re safe. You might want to do a search on YouTube to find a tutorial that you like, and then read through the comments to see what they say about safety.
Thank you, to you tube I go 🙂
Why not to include salt as a preservative to the recepy with flour?
You can do that if you want to. But the best way to prevent mold in any form of paper mache is to use thin layers and get them to dry quickly. Mold can’t grow without water.
I would like to make some small japanese vase-like vessels, and wonder is there a recipe that looks like porcelain? I know they won’t be water proof, but that’s okay…they are more decorative.
The smooth air dry clay is the recipe that comes closest to porcelain. Be sure to read Rex’s post to see how he makes the air dry clay really smooth.
Starch plus Elmer glue. Starch plus glass glue will be waterproof
I don’t know what glass glue is – perhaps it isn’t available here in the US? Even if the glue itself is waterproof, you would still have paper, which will absorb water if there are any gaps in the waterproof coating.
Any clear waterproof glue plus starch. Yes, usual paper will absorb water, so it is unwanted in the fake porcelain. But if to use dry paper and then soak it with the waterproof glue … Probably it will not absorb water. For instance, onduline (https://www.onduline.com/en/corporate/our-solutions/opaque-roofing/onduline-systems) is made of cardboard and bitumen for roofing
Have you ever tried this? How did your experiments turn out?
Almost … I did not experimented with modern adhesives. I soaked dry toilet paper with diy casein glue (cottage cheese plus lime) and mixed with dolomite dust. Then I formed something like a small vessel. It absorbed water but at the same time it was not destroyed and it did not become soften. I would say it was like a paper limestone
Thanks so much for this. I gave up on paper mache in my teen years due to it always staying mushy or going mouldy before it dried. I live in Australia in the tropics/subtropics, and the humidity is just too high most of the year, plus we have plenty of bugs that love to eat food based paper mache. I have been using your paper mache clay and air dry clay recipes, but am now keen to try traditional paper mache to make larger sculptures. I have got a hold of the cellulose based wall paper glue and will be starting my Halloween decorations soon. Thank you!
could you just make this paste with just Elmers glue and water? if not what could i use that i fnd in everyday kitchen stuff?
The easiest recipe is just white flour and water. You can find the paste recipes here. I don’t like using Elmer’s glue, but only because it’s slick and the paper strips slide around while you’re working – but many people like it a lot. When I use glue with paper strips, I use Titebond wood glue, instead.
This was really helpful thank you a whole lot
You’re welcome. 🙂
Will basic mod podge (the gloss or the matte ones) work in place of elmer’s glue? Have you ever had success trying mod podge in any recipes?
I have never used Mod Podge in anything, so I can’t tell you if it will work or not. If it’s a PVA glue, it should work – but you’ll have to try it to see. If it does, please let us know.
Basic Modge Podge is just a type of PVA glue, so it would work if you wanted to use it, but it’s expensive. Modge Podge is better for some applications, but in this instance, I would say spend $5 on some PVA glue… Unless you just need to use up some old Modge Podge.
Hmmm… no salt or sugar? Anyway, I want to make a bowl with a layer of tissue paper, then yarn scraps. I want this bowl to be hand washable in that it will be used for dry snacks such as nuts, etc. Also, I’d like to seal it. Any suggestions? Many thanks for these recipes and any help you might offer me!
Hi Sally. There are a few food-safe sealers used for cutting boards and wooden bowls. I think they’re wax-based, and I don’t know if they would seal paper mache well enough to be washed. I don’t think any varnish would work, either – they all seem to be slightly porous. Some people use Flexseal for outdoor sculptures, but you’d have to read the label to see if it’s food safe or not. I never make paper mache bowels, though, so I’m probably the wrong person to ask. The people who made this video might have better advice than I do. Good luck with it!
Mod Podge makes a dishwasher safe, food grade sealer that should work well. Just make sure your project is fully dry, use their sealer on top as directed. Do be aware That it takes a month to fully cure for the dishwasher, but in my experience it’s dry to the touch in a few days.
Thanks for the tip, Dash. I hadn’t heard of that product. It sounds like something we should experiment with – have you ever made an outdoor sculpture with it?
Hey Sally, if you’re still working on this project, I’d recommend a food safe epoxy resin (though all epoxy is pretty safe once set if not used with hot food). It does take a little extra work but gives a really professional finish that will last ages, and can be polished if it gets scratched. You might have to look at a specialist art supply place for a good clear and UV stable resin (perhaps look for a jewellery resin) and there are countless youtube tutorials on resin coating items.
Depending on the size and shape of your piñata you could insert a wire clothes hanger into the body. I’ve used them and shaped the hanger into a round to fit in round shaped piñatas. You can shape the hanger into just about any shape I start the piñata from the bottom up so when it’s halfway I insert the hanger and continue up the form. I end up curling the hook around a rod or dowel that leaves enough room for the rope to pass through it. I basically creat a “spring” and feed the rope through it and use a bunch of knots to secure the rope. If your making little piñatas as decorations just use a fine wire.
How do I attach the string to the piñata To hang it. once it is complete?
HI Ruth. I’ve never made a piñata, so I don’t know how it would be done. You might want to ask your question on the Daily Sculptors page – a lot more people would see it, and one of my other readers might have an idea for you.
Hi, I think the easiest way is to use a balloon, especially if you want a round piñata. I start at the bottom with my strips and glue them on. My uncle used plain brown wrapping paper for the first two layers, after it dried he would use gesso applying it thinly but hiding the brown color. After it dried he would begin with the tissue paper. If you are making an animal add legs or arms out of the brown paper, place/glue them where they need to be. Then use the gesso or white acrylic paint over all of it. My first attempts were almost un breakable for young kids-I added on too many layers of the brown paper. Paper grocery bags work well too. I work in wire or a metal coat hanger to creat a loop to tie rope to it. If it’s decorative fine wire is all you need but if it hold tons of candy the coat hanger is very strong