Sculpt a Baby Orangutan Face with Paper Mache

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This easy baby orangutan portrait was inspired by one of the first projects I created for this site – a mamma orangutan face made with paper mache.

That old post is still one of the most popular projects, too, because it’s easy enough for kids.

This baby orangutan is made almost the same way as the one in the original post, but I was able to make him faster because I made two major changes:

  • I used foil and hot glue instead of crumpled paper and masking tape. The only reason that it’s faster is because it takes time to pull the masking tape off the roll. If you’re making this baby ‘rang with kids, use crumpled paper instead of foil so nobody gets burned by the glue gun. I’ve made  hundreds of sculptures with crumpled paper, so I know it works just fine.
  • I used a fringe of heavy brown paper for the hair, instead of a new cotton mop dyed orange. I didn’t have a new cotton mop, and I didn’t have any orange dye. The paper is much less expensive, and easier (but the mop ‘do looks nice on the mamma orangutan).

Be sure to watch the video for the full instructions, but if you’re in a hurry, here’s some highlights:

Step 1 – Draw the outlines of a baby orangutan face

Draw the outlines of the baby orangutan

Find a piece of cardboard that’s at least as big as you want your baby orangutan to be when it’s finished. Do a Google image search for baby orangutan photos, and draw the outlines of your favorite baby ‘rang.

The face of an orangutan has really simple shapes. It’s a large oval, with a round ball at the bottom. The ball is the baby’s muzzle, and it’s slightly pointed at the top, where the nose will be.

Draw the eyes so you’ll know where to put them when you start sculpting. And remember to add ears (I forgot to do that, and had to add them later.)

You can make as many changes and scribbles on the drawings as you need to, because it will be completely hidden when the baby orangutan is finished. You can see that I didn’t like the mouth I drew on first, so I just drew another one.

When you’re happy with your drawing, cut it out.

Step 2 – Add the eyes

Add eyes to the paper mache orangutan

I made the eyes with 1″ Styrofoam balls. You could also make the eyes with crumpled foil, or with crumpled paper and masking tape like I did when I made the mamma orangutan.

Use hot glue or tape to attach the balls to the drawing.

Step 3 – Start adding crumpled foil or paper to create the rounded shapes

Add foil or paper to your baby orangutan drawing.

Start adding crumpled foil with hot glue to create the rounded shapes of your baby orangutan. Or use crumpled paper and masking tape.

The forehead and cheeks are about the same height as the Styrofoam balls. There’s a ring of bone all around the eyes that’s thicker. The muzzle is the thickest part, and will stick out the most.

Be sure to build the muzzle in two pieces so you have a upper and lower lip. It’s best to watch the video to see how this is done, or look at your favorite baby orangutan photo and copy the shapes you see.

Step 4 – Cover the foil or paper with masking tape

Cover the baby orangutan with masking tape

Use masking tape to cover the foil or paper. This makes the paper mache stick better, and it also makes it easier to see the shapes. As you’ll see in the video I changed a few of the shapes on my baby orangutan after adding the tape.

Then get out a plastic bag to put on the table so your paper mache won’t stick to it.

Step 5 – Add one layer of paper strips and paste

Add one layer of paper mache to your orangutan

You only need one layer of paper mache (although I added another one, which you’ll see below). I used torn newspaper and raw flour and water paste. You can find the recipe here.

I also have a video that shows you 5 easy tips for smooth paper mache.

Step 6 – Add one layer of torn paper towels (optional)

Add second layer of paper mache

I added one more layer, using torn strips from a paper towel. I thought the bumps on the towel would make an interesting texture, and I wanted the soft paper for the wrinkles under the eyes and for the eyelids.

I didn’t use paper towels on the mamma orangutan, so her skin is much smoother. If you first layer of paper mache looks the way you want it to, you don’t need to add the second layer with the paper towels. It’s totally up to you.

When the paper mache is done, put the baby orangutan in a warm place or in front of a fan, and let it dry completely before painting it.

Step 7 – Paint the hair

Painting heavy paper for baby orangutan hair

I mixed Burnt Sienna acrylic craft paint with water and brushed it over both sides of some heavy brown paper. This is the kind of paper that paper bags are made with. Do this while the paper mache is drying on your baby orangutan.

Step 8 – Paint your baby orangutan

Brushing acrylic gesso over the baby orangutan
Painting the base coat on the baby orangutan
Painting the skin color on the muzzle and around the eyes.
Painting the baby orangutan's eyes
Painting the baby orangutan's wrinkles.

Note: The Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid is totally optional. It actually works better on a smoother paper.

White reflection in the baby orangutan's eyes.

Step 9 – Adding the hair

Adding hair to the paper mache orangutan

While the paint is drying, cut the heavy brown paper into a fringe. Then use hot glue to attache it to the back of the head, all the way around the sides. I had enough paper fringe for two layers or ‘hair.”

Just as soon as this post is finished I’ll go back and add a coat or two of matte acrylic varnish. I may even use some clear fingernail polish to bring out the shine in his eyes. 

The baby orangutan is finished:

Baby orangutan face made with paper mache

And now the baby orangutan is done. I started this project at around 7:30 am, and finished him at 4:30 that afternoon.

If you’d like to use this project for an art class at school, be sure to make on ahead of time to see how long each step will take. That way, you can estimate how many class sessions your students will need to finish him.

If you make a baby orangutan, please come back to the Daily Sculptors page and show him off. We have a new, easy way to share photos, and I’d love to see how your little ‘rang turns out. 🙂

If you liked this post, share it with your friends.

Some of the Baby Orangutans Made by Readers:

Sculpt a baby orangutan face with paper mache

17 thoughts on “Sculpt a Baby Orangutan Face with Paper Mache”

  1. Jonni, I want that baby orangutan and every other sculpture behind you. All are just outstanding! Will probably attempt some of them if I ever get settled in a different location. And as many people have mentioned, you make some of the most entertaining and informative videos out there. So bright and cheerful. Sincerest thanks for all that you do.

  2. He is sweet Jonni! I loved the way you did his hair as well. When I formally did costumes for the middle school productions, one year we did portions of the “Lion King”. They wanted the masks to look a lot like the Broadway production. The male lion had theses spikes that fanned out all along the perimeter, sort of like a mini whisk brooms. I wound up using ordinary twine cut, twisted and dipped into a glue/water mix, let them dry on waxed paper and then affixed them to the mask. It worked perfectly and held up beautifully! You could also add paint to the mixture if you wanted a different color than the twine color. To get a less stiff look, you could re-wet the strands, place how you like, let dry again.
    Boy aren’t you sorry you asked for our input on how we would make the hair?!?
    Do you still have the momma?

    • Hi Eileen. I love your idea of using the twine dipped in a glue and water mix. I wonder if laundry starch would work, too? And no, I am not sorry I asked for input! 🙂

      I don’t still have the original orangutan. I must have given her away, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember what happened to her.

  3. Mam – Thank you for sharing this. This is very cute and I find this doable. Will surely take this up adding little bit of my way. Will shortly update you with my experience.


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