Question about Foam and Paper Mache, and My First “Review”

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This will be a quick post this morning. First, I received a question from a reader that I can’t answer, but if someone else out there has some experience and can shed some light on this issue, I would like to know, too. Here’s the email:

Hello from Cape Town, South Africa Jonni!

I just wanted to thank you for a fantastic website.  Yours is by far the nicest papier mache sites I’ve found to date and I’m very excited about trying out your paper clay recipe.  I was hoping you might have some tips for me on getting papier mache to adhere to polystyrene/styrofoam.  I’ve found it to be a great material to shape for a base structure, but my paper always wants to peel away from it. I use a standard wallpaper glue, though I mix it to a slightly stronger concentrate.  Any advice will be most appreciated J

Kind regards,


Suggestions, anyone?

Next, it’s time to show you the working draft of my new mask book’s cover. I don’t believe anyone voted for the duck, but he does add some nice color. The other masks were high on the list of responses I received on previous posts – I want to thank everyone who offered their ideas and input. And now, what do you think about the cover? (I made the image small because that’s the size it will be seen in Amazon.com’s search results).

And finally, I wanted to share my very first “review.” I sent the first few chapters out to a few friends, and Sharon Moreno sent back the following comment. I got such a kick out of it, I just had to share it with you. (I love it when people get my jokes!)

How to Make Masks 2
Page 12 from How to Make Masks

Hi Jonni,
Your book is GREAT. I must tell you my favorite images are on page 12. When I came to the picture of your face covered in foil I started chuckling. When I got to the picture of you taking the mask off that was stuck to your hair I was roaring with laughter. Had to step away from the computer a bit to get myself under control. That was awhile ago and writing this brings it all back and I can’t stop laughing. I want you to know I love having fun with our artistic endeavors. Thank you for the fun and the honor of your trust in forwarding on to me these portions of your up-coming, sure to be best seller, paper mache book.

The page Sharon referred to is this one, where I show how to make a simple mask form using aluminum foil and duct tape. That was a fun page to write, but, for obvious reasons, I felt a bit weird doing it in my living room in front of my picture window (the best light in the house for pictures). Some of my neighbors probably think I’m getting a bit old for such foolishness…

That’s all for today. Anyone have an answer for Mieke?

53 thoughts on “Question about Foam and Paper Mache, and My First “Review””

  1. Jonni I adore your work! Quick question please, for our VBS we are making large train with cardboard, should we use paper mache clay or will joint compound only be enough to cover seams of the cardboard?

    • Hi Emily. The joint compound has no structural strength at all, but if the cardboard won’t be flexed at all, and if you use the webbing for seams that you find right next to the drywall joint compound at the store, it might work. There is still the possibility that it will crack, so do a small experiment first to see if it will work for you. Another option is to use some brown paper and wood glue to paper mache just the seams, to reinforce the structure, and then spray paint the train. There would be a slight difference in texture where the paper covers the corrugation ridges at the seam lines, but if the train won’t be seen very close up, it should work OK. That’s probably how I’d do it. Have fun with it!

  2. Hi Mieke, The problem with paper mache is that it shrinks when it drys and this will overcome the bond between the foam and the paper mache no matter how well it is stuck together. You can overcome this challenge by completely encapsulating the foam in paper mache. It might crack as it dries, make sure the corners and such have plenty of thickness and try and predict were it is likely to crack (usually inside corners and thin spots). Depending on the design you can repair the crack with additional paper mache. I have added additional coats and used a variety of skins, this allows plenty of opportunity to repair cracks. Hope this helps!

  3. Mieke, I have cut/sanded/hot glued Styrofoam for years and then adherred small tissue paper (cut into strips and then cut into small squares) pieces onto the Styrofoam ‘armature’ figure with Elmer’s Glue (thinned a bit with water) and a brush. Dry with a floor fan and then adhere another layer. Sanding at the last will give a nice finish for acrylic paints. I stick knitting needles through pre-drilled holes in a thick wooden base and then when sculpture figure painted, I push the legs onto the needles (pre-cut to the length of legs) and epoxy/hot glue just the feet to stay on the wooden base. Very sturdy and very light as one might imagine.

    • Hey Judith, ya boy MJizzy here believes that the real tip to “Papier Maching” is all in the paste. When you get a nice thick paste going, that’s when you know you got a bomb mask! Me and the homies have been up in the trap house lately making some dank masks. The real key is in the paste!

      Sincerely, MJizzy-

  4. Hello! This is probably a stupid question, but, In chapter 4, why do you cover your mask with plastic? Do I need to do this step? (I’m making the plague doctor mask). Sorry, it’s probably really obvious haha. And when you’re completely done, should the mask ( the part that goes over your face) be just two layers of the shop towels?
    So far it’s been really fun! I’m excited to finish it. Thanks!

    Carrie Ross

    • Hi Carrie. You don’t have to put the thin plastic over the mask form, but I thought it helped me get the mask off the form after it dried. I usually make my masks with just two layers, but some people have mentioned that they like to make theirs thicker.

      I hope you have great fun with your masks. Be sure to post a photo of them here so we can all see how they turn out.

  5. I love your book, but before i got it, i bought a venetian carnival mask for halloween. I’ve never been able to wear it because it is too small. If i cut the chin a bit it would fit. Do you have any advice about cutting finished paper mache? I dont want to ruin the mask, just neatly trim the chin a bit. The material seems much stiffer than what i make at home. Thank you so much!

    • Hi Rodney. Is the paper soft enough so you can use an X-acto knife? If so, you could carefully cut out the bit around the chin, and then use very fine sandpaper to smooth out the edge. It might also be possible to do the same thing with some very sharp scissors.


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