Pepakura + Paper Mache Clay

Looking for great ideas for your next paper mache project or a gift idea? Check out my patterns and videos for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts.

In my last post I included several photos that showed sculptures made with a paper mache clay skin over an armature created by a computer design program called Pepakura. I mentioned in the post that I would love to know more. Simon, the creator of the sculptures, was kind enough to write a very detailed explanation of how he uses paper mache clay with his models, and I was so impressed with his comments that I asked him if I could use them in a new post. He was kind enough to agree, so the following description is by our guest blogger, Simon Doyon.

Since he included a sentence written in French in one of his recent comments, I’m going to guess that Simon lives in France – I’m sure he’ll let us know if I guessed wrong… 🙂

I know many of us, especially those of a certain age like myself, have never even considered the idea of using a computer to help us create the armature for a paper mache sculpture, and much of this tutorial will be over our heads. However there are lots of folks out there who already know how use this design program to create 3D objects. Now, thanks to Simon, they’ll soon know how to make a hard, paint-able shell over their paper sculptures, and turn them into permanent works of art. (For the rest of us, there’s a lot of tutorials on YouTube that explain how to make the models with the Pepakura program).

And now – here’s Simon…


Hi Jonni, hi everyone!
I’m glad that you are interested in my computer assisted technique mixed with pm clay. I will assume here that you have a basic understanding of computer modeling.

First, you must have a 3D model that you want create in real life. I suggest that this model is under, let’s say, 400 polygons. You can modelized yourself or take a model already made. I prefer modeling myself because I can create it with the Pepakura part in mind.

Second, you need to unfold the model in a software called Pepakura Designer. Basically what this software allow you to unfold or decomposed your 3D model in 2D pieces with reference number.

Third, you have to print, cut and score your 2D pieces in sheet material, in this case cardboard. The more precision you can get on this part (and on the following part) the greater the final model will be.

Fourth, you have to put all the piece together in order to build the real life model. This can be hard and long process (2-5 hours depending pn the complexity of the cpu model).

Fifth. You must prepare the completed model to receive the Pm clay. Since there’s a lot of water in the clay, you have to waterproof the paper. I found out that you can do that even before you cut your pieces, just laminate the sheet of cardboard with clear box tape. But you can apply the clear box tape after building the model, just be careful to follow all the model’s details and grooves.

Finally, once the model is waterproofed, you can apply the pm clay with a wet knife. Since the cardboard model is a hollow shell, you will perhaps have to temporary fill the interior void with some kind of material to allow you to put some pressure on the shell without bumping/scraping/breaking it. I suggest expandable foam (apply it close to the shell, do not attempt to fill all the void with that, it’s kind of expensive). Let it dry for a couple of days and when the exterior is dry, you can remove all the paper and foam inside since the pm clay do not permanently stick to the box tape. With all the interior stuff removed, the sculpture will completely dry within a few more days.

It took me several months to discover and mastering this technique and it’s workflow. Yet there’s more to experiment. The pm clay recipe was the final touch on this and allow me to give strength and smooth on my sculpture with reasonably cost. Hope it will help you and give you some ideas. Just ask if you have any question.

I’m done (!).

Simon Doyon

Helmet, Pepakura Model + Paper Mache Clay, in progress
Helmet, Pepakura Model + Paper Mache Clay, in progress

Thanks, Simon! I can’t wait to see what sort of comments and questions we get for this post. By the way, we’ve received a lot of questions about making masks and helmets, and I usually refer them to an old post I wrote about making a ceremonial African mask over a cardboard armature. Simon’s idea of using plastic tape over the cardboard to keep the damp clay from getting the cardboard wet, (which could cause the piece to warp while drying), is an excellent idea to use even if you don’t make your model using a computer aided design program.

9 thoughts on “Pepakura + Paper Mache Clay

  1. We’re a group of volunteers and opening a new sccheme in our community.

    Your site provided us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive job
    and our entire community will be grateful too you.

  2. I think this 3d program is pretty fantastic, ive made a few helmets since i read this and they really turned out. my question is, for instance when you do your own face, is it a 3d of your entire head or just a 3d of your face with out the backside. if it is the entire head, how do you do that? Ive found 3d models of the entire object (most are helmets and armor from certain games) but i dont understand how you actualy make a surround 3d of any object. Id like to try my dog but am not sure how to procceed.

    thanks

    mike

    • I made myself a couple of 3D heads with different modelizing technics. The first one is to scan the real head of the person with David Laser Scan software. Since I only have the trial version, I have to merge all the scans files (you cannot make an entire head with one single scan) with an opensource 3D software called Mesh Lab.

      The second methode is to generate a 3D head from pictures with a software called FaceGen. A lot more easier but less ressembling result.

      You will have anyway to retopologize the 3D result in ZBrush in order to have a Pepakurisable (!) 3D file. But we are off subject for this blog… You can ask Jonni to have my email and I will answer futher more to your question.

      Pepakura Model Head

      • Whew – I work on computers all day long, but I’ve never learned how to use any art programs beyond Photoshop. I think it’s fantastic what you’re able to do with the 3D programs. Thanks for letting us know it’s possible.

  3. Wow – I’m impressed and no chicken wire! But it went straight over my head – where do I go to learn more and perhaps get the hang of this technique?

    Also, I love the fact that your art is hollow – it makes the piece more valuable.

  4. WOW, so generous of you to share, and thanks Jonni for bringing it to us. Great techniques. Of course I have no time for this at present, but my mind is working overtime with ideas bubbling

  5. Wow! This is truly an honnor for me to have this type of showcase! It give motivation and proud to continue my projects.

    Yes, my native language is french, but I live Québec city/Canada. So forgive me if I do some mispelling or gramatically strange sentences!

    I’m a graphic designer who learned by himself (thanks to the world wide web) how to modelise 3D object by usign state of the art CGI software (Rhino 3D, 3D Studio Max, ZBrush, etc.). I am also interested by the process of recreating numeric art (in this case numeric sculpture) in the real world. Since CNC multi axes miling machine are completely beyond my reach and my budget, I was forced to find another way to reach my goal. With countless hours of web research I finally found that Pepakura software could give me pretty much what I wanted. After many paper sculpture, I was tired to get a fragile and squary resuly (the jonction of the paper pieces was never smooth enough to me). Then begin the search of a cheap and effective paste/clay/putty that will give me the result that I want. Thanks to Jonni, I foud it and I begin to experiment (still!) with this product.

    Because the web give me so much knowledge, I have no choice but share with others. So if you have any question, let me know.

    Simon

    • Hi Simon. I don’t know if you still read these messages. I’m also from Quebec city in Canada and find out your post really interesting. I’m doing the same with fiberglass and resin and bondo and it can be very messy.

      COuld the paste only be used to harden a Pepakura model if I apply it in very thin amount and let dry? Would it be hard as fiberglass can be and not that heavy?

      • Hi Francois. It has been a long time since Simon wrote this post, but I have a suggestion, if you don’t mind me jumping in. The squirrel I made recently has a very thin skin of epoxy clay. I haven’t tried it over a pepakura form (for a papercraft form with a paper mache or paper mache clay skin, see this page). However, after playing with the Free Form Sculpt with my squirrel, I can’t see why it couldn’t be used very successfully over a paper or card stock pattern, without the paper mache reinforcement. I think you’ll find it much less messy than fiberglass (and no fumes) and much easier to work with than Bondo because it’s smoother and has a much longer working time. I don’t know if it’s hard as fiberglass, but it would be worth a try. The paper itself will help reinforce it. Personally, I think it would be worth a try.

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