Paper Mache Paste 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.

This is a reader-supported site. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for your support! 🙂

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.

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.


  • 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:

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. .

Paper Mache Paste Recipes - Including No-Flour, Mold-Free OptionsI 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

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.

Paper mache paste recipes

2,367 thoughts on “Paper Mache Paste Recipes – Including No-Flour, Mold-Free Options”

  1. My first thought is that if you want something to be waterproof, you probably shouldn’t start with something that _absorbs_ water — paper products are going to do that, especially if they are being pressed down into several inches of water. Even before the paper mache starts to come apart from the moisture, you’d just be wicking the water right up into the things you are trying to save!

    Actual bricks might be a better bet, or cinderblocks, if you want something that will remain sturdy even if they are partially submerged in water. Now, I know that water can wick up through brick as well, but I’m wondering if Tyvek wrap could act as a moisture barrier. You can test Tyvek for this purpose by getting a brick, putting a Tyvek mailing envelope on top of it, and sitting the brick in a pan of water for a little while. See if the things you put on top of the Tyvek stay dry. [You may be able to find rolls of Tyvek more cheaply than buying endless stacks of envelopes, but to do the testing, start with a small thing!]

  2. I have a kind of strange question…I want to use papier mache to make what would essentially be “bricks.” BUT…they must be waterproof and made that way with a non-toxic product.

    This is the reason…I live in a place that floods. We’ve flooded into the house, and let’s just say it’s not pleasant or pretty.

    Before it might flood again, I’d really like to have a way to prop things up more or less permanently. I only need to prop things up a maximum of four inches. Flooding definitely doesn’t get any higher than three inches, so I merely want to be cautious.

    I’d originally thought of putting important items up on stacked newspapers, which would allow the bottoms of the items to still get wet, but if it’s a piece of furniture, only the very bottom of it would be wet as the water wicked up. (A couple of shorter shelves and a four-legged cabinet come to mind.)

    The problem with that is it would make flood cleanup so much more difficult. Newspaper sticks to everything.

    I then thought of papier mache to make the “bricks,” perhaps in small layered pieces, where the small pieces are left out to dry and then somehow adhered together or built on top of already-dry “stacks” of papier mache. (Obviously, I can get fairly unlimited supplies of newspapers, at least enough for the project at hand. I figured a “stack” of newspaper would be fairly sturdy, if it were somehow held together well.) I was disappointed to find out that papier mache is not waterproof.

    I know varnish would make the items waterproof, but I have a cat. I’d be worried she’d try to lick the dry varnish or that any floodwater would put very toxic materials into the flooring, perhaps causing an unwanted chemical reaction with the bleach/water mixture or Pine Sol/water mixture used for flood cleanup. I’m not a chemist, so maybe I’m off base here, but I do want to protect my little one, and she’s mighty curious.

    So whatever materials I use for this must be readily available, somehow waterproof and non-toxic. They also must, in combination, be able to hold the weight of heavy pieces of furniture. As mentioned before, I know plain old stacked up newspapers will work, allowing for the very bottoms of the items getting wet from wicking, but I’d rather avoid newspaper stuck to the flooring.

    Is there a solution to this?

    Thanks for any insight!

    • Hi Rose. I don’t think that any form of paper mache will work for what you have in mind. However, I recently found a site that shows how to make sun-dried bricks. With all the paper content, these bricks will probably soak up water, but they might hold up longer than plain paper mache.

      The other option is to use sandbags. That’s the traditional method, and I think it might be the easiest way to go.

  3. Does anyone know how to make papier mache that is completely water-tight? The Victorians seemed to do it so well that up until people started using plastic in the middle of the last century people carried on using papier mache washing up bowls to wash the pots. Agatha Christie frequently refers to them in her books.


    • Hi Elaine. We don’t know exactly how those waterproof papers were made. There were boats made out of paper back then, too. Copper was involved, to prevent rotting, but I don’t know anything farther than that. In Japan they use a plum-based product called Kakishibu, which might meet your needs. If you have access to any of the original papers explaining how the Victorians made their bowls, and if you try to reproduce their results, we sure would appreciate it if you share your results.

      I just did a really fast search of the online catalog at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, using “papier mache.” The books it turned up in the first few pages are too new for our purposes, but we might find what we need if we take a bit longer. The text won’t be available, of course, but they do link to the Google books search , and that might be another way to research this issue. Google has scanned a lot of books, so we might get lucky. Does anyone want to take on this project?

      • I just did a little bit of research and it appears the linseed oil was used in part as a waterproofing element in Victorian times. Laminated paper panels were treated with linseed oil and used for coach door panels where they were exposed to the weather. As far as the “paper” boats went, with machine produced paper “a layer of thick, dampened paper was placed over a hull mold and tacked down at the edges. A layer of glue was added, allowed to dry, and sanded down. Additional layers of paper and glue could be added to achieve the desired thickness, and cloth could be added as well to provide additional strength and stiffness. The final product was trimmed, reinforced with wooden strips at the keel and gunwales to provide stiffness, and waterproofed. During World War Two, papier-mâché auxiliary fuel tanks were constructed out of plastic impregnated paper.” from Wikipedia

        • Yes – I think linseed oil was helpful in waterproofing. I also found this page which said that paper mache soaked in oil (I assume linseed oil) was then dried.

          The hardness of oiled papier mâché is comparable to hardboard.

  4. Hey, I am doing a school project now and I intend to use paper mache. But, about 3-4 years ago, my art teacher just mixed Elmer’s glue and water and that was it. Is that still reliable to use for my school project?

  5. I don’t see the link for the clay, did it get removed? And I was wondering if there is a type of mold relase to use if I use a pre-made mask as a mold to make a replica mask. Rather than a face, as I have done before. My Mom used dish soap as a release on my face, and my eyebrows always stuck, and this time I used vegatable oil, but is there a better mold relase?

    • The paper mache clay page is still there. I’ve never made a face mask using plaster gauze, which is, I think, what you intend to do. I have read that people use Vaseline to keep the plaster from sticking to the skin. It might also keep your skin from drying out – plaster can be very drying. I’m not sure what people do about the eyebrows, but you might do a google search, using terms like “plaster face mask” or something like that. I’m sure you’ll find some good advice.

      Please let us see your mask when you get it finished. And by the way, you can also make a mold using aluminum foil. use a double or triple sheet, and carefully mold it to your face. Then lay it down on something soft, like crumpled paper towels, so it won’t lose it’s shape when you cover it with the paper mache clay. You do need to be careful to keep the shape from being distorted, and it won’t make a perfect duplicate of your face, but it’s very much easier than the plaster routine. It might be worth a try.

  6. hi im trying to make the nightmare before christmas hill for a school project and i would like to know how to go about and start making such hill

  7. Hi
    I got my 2 year old son some construction vehicles for Christmas, and would like to build him a little worksite to drive them around in–nothing fancy, but some little hills to drive up and around would be fun. Is paper mache sturdy enough to hold up to that kind of play? How thick would I need to make it?

    • Hi Anna. Yes, paper mache is often used to make hills and houses for model railroads. 6 or 8 layers should be very strong after all layers are dry.

  8. So, I”m getting married next October and had the bright idea that I could make paper lanterns rather than buy them, plus it could be a fun project for my finace and I. We decided to use balloons and the glue/water paste with purple and white tissue paper. I did only one layer and let it dry so far. I thought I would go ahead and pop one of the balloons with the purple to make sure the little lights could still shine thru…. but the balloon stuck to the paper and crinkled the whole thing up! I don’t know why….any ideas what to do different? Could it be the paper was the problem? Or perhaps it’s just that I need more layers… no idea. I’m going to try flour instead to see if maybe that won’t adhere to the balloon so badly.

    • Hi Jennifer. You might want to do some fast experiments to see if your flour and water paste sticks to the rubber balloon. One layer of tissue paper is going to be very fragile, so that might be the problem, too.

      • Could you also try covering the balloon in a thin layer of petroleum jelly to help the balloon release itself without pulling at/crinkling the paper mache?

        • Sure, that would be a good thing to try. If only one layer of paper is used, I wonder if the oil would soak into the paper and cause spots? There’s only one way to find out, of course – experiment.

      • My Cub Scout Den is also making paper mache lanterns. I used the balloons, water/flour paste, and tissue paper; but the paste dries white not clear. Is there something I can coat the lantern with to get rid of the white? Sand it?

        Last year we made astronaut helmets with balloons, water/flour paste, and newspaper strips. Worked great because we spray-painted them silver. P.S. The balloons did not stick at all.

  9. In my family, there’s someone whos from south korea.
    she saw this web and notes that the paper clay (aka paper MACHE clay) has been in korea for a long time now….. you can now purchase them developed, such as some of them turns paper light, or it turns heavy, more textury, no breaks in the dought (if u know what i mean)….etc,etc,etc.
    You should order some… 😀
    they are called like this… ???. They also come in different colors and its not that expensive…. Students need to buy them, so they sell them cheap. about 70 cents for three and a half times more amount than u’ve got on ur picture….
    but thanks about the differences betweeen boiled paste and raw… really appreciated it!

  10. Hi again.. I just left a message .. but not sure it got through..

    Here is the link to my son’s mask.. this is him working on it last night!
    We used a food grade glycerin rather than the linseed oil… it was very fun to make, and easy to work with .. easy to make too!!

    We dried the mask laying down, and moisture built up under it, and I think that is what caused the mask to curl a bit.. but he is happy with it so far!

    we did buy a plain white mask to use as a starting point, and fit it into a pizza box.. cut in the shape needed..

    thank you again Jonni!

    paper mache mask

  11. Hi Jonni,

    Thank you for the tutorials. Our fourth grade class did a paper mache land forms of California and encountered some problems that we hope you can help us. We used an Elmer’s glue and water paste that has resulted in the paper cracking as it dried. Granted, the kids did their best to smooth out the paper but there are lots of “bumps”. We would like to salvage the project but not sure how to proceed? What do you think of sanding it first and then laying down another layer like the “skin” you mentioned in the recipe? What is the ratio of flour, water and carpenter’s glue? And do we just paint this mixture on the sanded land form or do you put more paper on?
    Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. The kids are anxious to proceed but we understand that it is important to take the time to do it right.

    • Hi Kathy. The fastest, easiest, and least expensive way to smooth out those lumps is with joint compound. Apply with a knife, let it dry until it’s nice and hard, and then you can “sand” it with a slightly damp sponge. I don’t recommend using sandpaper because of the dust. (and be sure to read the label – this product was made for the construction industry, so it isn’t edible, and I don’t recommend applying it with hands.)

      You would wand to use as thin a layer as possible, because a thick layer of joint compound will also crack. If some parts have very big cavities that need to be filled, go ahead and fill them with the joint compound, let it dry, and if it cracks you can use the joint compound again, or add one final layer of paper mache.

      • Hi Jonni,

        Thank you for the suggestion. I will probably have to get a parent to fix the cracks with joint compound.

        Do you recommend that the final layer of paper mache be a mixture of carpenter’s glue, flour and water to have a smooth finish for painting? Do we just paint the mixture without putting paper down? I am not so clear on the instructions from your tutorials. What is the ratio of flour, water and glue? Sorry, for so many questions. The students and I are novice at this paper mache business 🙂

        • Hi Kathy. One of the nice things about paper mache paste is that you don’t really need to worry a lot about proportions. You don’t need glue at all (and you can use Elmer’s if you want) but adding glue will help prevent cracking. If you have a nice smooth finish after the joint compound has fixed your cracks, you can paint it without doing anything else to the sculpture at all. You might want to give it a coat of white paint first, just to seal it a bit and make the next paint colors stand out more.

          I’m not an art teacher, so I don’t really have great answers – I tend to mess around and do a lot experiments until I find something that works. That obviously won’t work when you have 40 kids watching… 🙂 Good luck with your project.

  12. Hi Jonni,

    I’m trying to make a snowman for a photography prop. I’m wondering if it’s ok to use my everyday pots and mixer to make the clay. I just don’t want to ruin my good cookware!

    • I use my everyday pots and mixer – just be sure to wash them thoroughly before using them again. You can also replace the linseed oil with glycerin, if you prefer, because it’s non-toxic and easier to wash out.

  13. hello ~
    i am a newbie to this whole paper mache thing…i wanted to make trees for my wedding. I want a large one – about 5-6 feet tall. and then several small one (maybe 1-2 feet tall) for other uses. do you have any tips for making trees. like what could i use for the base. i was told chicken wire. have you ever done this before?

    • Hi Alex. I’ve never made paper mache trees myself, but several of our readers have done a wonderful job. Check this guest post to see some paper mache trees made for a wedding. Also, use the search doohicky at the top right corner to find comments left by readers – you’ll find some great ideas.

      Chicken wire seems to be the choice for most people. You’ll want to weight the bottom so the trees don’t fall over, of course. A bag of sand inside the base would probably work well for that.

  14. Hi.. Well, am I missing something.. I was actually looking for the recipe for the paper mache clay!? not just the paste.. or do I have to buy the book??

    anyway, my son just came home and needs to make King Tut’s Death Mask..
    and I think the clay will work best.. thanks Jonni

  15. I think I have found a source of knowledge for my endevours. With your indulgence please, how durable is raw flour and water when exposed to the elements? Would my clients be better served with a polymer based glue instead? Short of “I don’t know” and “good luck with that” any suggestions (comments, ideas, experiance, common horse sense)?

    • Hi Mark. That’s an easy question – the water and flour paste will simply melt back into it’s liquid state if you put it out where it can be rained on. Or if there’s fog, or mist….

      We have not yet found a foolproof way to weatherproof paper mache. But we are still working on it. Some people have had good luck with a final finish of spar varnish, although my own experiment with this product failed.

      • I wonder if Paverpol is the solution to this problem.
        It looks and smells like a polymer glue (i.e. elmers) but waterproofs anything natural so is suitable for weatherization. I think it plasticizes the material. Since newspaper, toilet paper, etc. is wood pulp & the glue, when made of flour and water is natural, the Pavorpol should work as a weatherproofing agent.

        Two problems exist with paverpol, one is it cannot be shipped in it’s liquid form in freezing temps and the other is extremely hot weather causes the plasticized item to ‘wilt’ although it is temporary. It mostly affects fabrics that have been permeated with it and made to look draped. I’m thinking that if the underlying sculpture is very strong/rigid, plasticizing the surface should waterproof it & high outdoor temps would have little effect.

        • Hi Josie. The Paverpol has been suggested before, but I don’t know if anyone has actually tried it. My concern is that you already have plastic covering your paper mache item if you paint it with acrylics, and I don’t know if the Paverpol product would sink into the paper underneath, or if it would just sit on top of the acrylic paint. Unless someone does some reasonably scientific studies, we won’t know.

          Someone actually did this type of study and found that spar varnish worked, and one of our readers has said he had good results. But when I tried it, the finish flaked off in the sun. I think maybe it’s time to consider using a more traditional medium for outside art, like concrete or mortar mix.

          • I’m sorry, I should have indicated that you would seal it with Paverpol before painting. In fact, I’m wondering if you couldn’t use the Paverpol AS your paste. Then you would be painting the already waterproofed creation. Maybe the acrylic paint would bond more tenaciously to the paverpoled surface. You’d still have to seal the painted surface but your actual creation should be able to withstand the elements, especially if in a somewhat sheltered area.

  16. Hi Jonni!

    I used a few different recipes and materials in a large project (you’ve seen some of my other posts here) and wanted to share my experience here and ask some questions, if I may. When I did paper mache as a child, I seem to remember the strips of paper becoming a bit more stretchy and taking a very long time to dry and cure. What I don’t remember is *shrinkage*.

    I recently tried a basic mache recipe using strips of newsprint for the dry medium and varied the wet mix thus:

    1. all-purpose flour and water – this mixture dried and shrank the paper so much that it pulled the flexible armature and in some ungiving areas actually cracked when cured.

    2. all-purpose flour, Elmer’s glue, water – this mixture dried with quite a bit of shrinkage leading the mache to pull away from the edges of the armature but dried a little more flexible than just flour and water.

    3. all-purpose flour, water, wallpaper paste – this mixture took FOREVER to dry, but flexed well once dry (no shrinkage, no cracking).

    I worked with paper mache on parade floats and theater pieces in the 80’s and never saw the cracking and shrinkage, but I don’t know the recipe we used. Some lay artists I know have the same recollection and we’ve assumed that the advent of greener publishing practices have probably affected the make-up of the paper and inks and thus we now have shrinkage.


    • Hmm. I do know that paper mache will shrink, but now that you mention it, I don’t recall paper mache shrinking when I was a kid. But maybe I just wasn’t paying that much attention…

      It’s interesting that your mixture with Elmer’s glue didn’t help the shrinkage problem. I don’t know what’s in wallpaper paste – do you?

      The paper mache clay recipe also shrinks slightly. Since my armatures are always made with crumpled paper and masking tape, I have never encountered any cracking. The armature is soft enough to give way to the slight amount of shrinking. Since I also use the same type of armature when using paper strips and paste, I don’t get any cracking then, either.

  17. I know this is kind of a newbish question, but what all does Linseed oil do for paper mache clay? Ive been using a few mache recipe’s and i just add it because …. i dont know why. i just always have.


    • Heh – I added the linseed oil to the paper mache clay recipe because I saw that other people were using it with various types of home-made clays. I don’t know exactly what it does, although it helps make the clay smoother. If it was used in a paste recipe, it might help the drying. Not sure. I do know that glycerin works nicely as a substitute for the linseed oil in the clay recipe.

      • Perhaps it helps cure the mixture – linseed oil is also used as a medium for oil painting. It dilutes the pigment for wash techniques without sacrificing paint “body” as a solvent would do. It dries a little glossy when used in paintings.

      • linseed oil is sometimes used in tempera painting and has the effect of creating gloss. It should also make the dried surface more water tolerant. Egg is used as a binding agent in tempera. Boiled linseed oil dries faster than raw linseed oil and I have used it to water-proof plain paper after it is drawn or printed on. I should think that tempera can be another source of mache recipes.

  18. Thank you! I’m in CT, so its not typically humid. The fan is a great suggestion. I purchased a small container (about a cup) of Model Magic Fusion to shape ears, eyes & snout details…it sounds similar to your special blend. I’ll let you know if it works! Thanks for your wonderful tips and advice!

  19. I found your wonderful site doing research on paper mache. A customer needs a specific gift and the idea came to me, although I’ve never tried paper mache. I did read that salt added to the flour & water mix will inhibit mold…any thoughts. I’m so worried now about the thorough drying process…how long will that take? How will I know its done? Could a plastic container (like milk jug or bleach bottle) be used for a starting base for the structure? Is it better to stick with breathable materials?
    I can’t wait to get started! I love trying something new! 🙂

    • Hi Robin. You can use just about anything for the base structure. If you use plastic, the paper mache will take a little longer to dry. Salt is a traditional addition to the paste to keep it from molding, but I don’t think it’s foolproof. The best way to avoid mold is to make sure your piece dries quickly and completely, all the way through, before you paint it. If you live in a humid area, it might go faster if you put the piece in front of a fan.


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