Super-Strong Paper Mache that Dries Really Fast

Need a strong, lightweight mask that dries quickly?

Here’s a way to make super-strong paper mache that only needs one layer – and it dries in 12 hours or less.

But yeah, it’s expensive — so only use this method if you need a mask that’s almost indestructible, or if you need to get it done from start to finish in two days or less.

The Titebond III glue is perfect for this project. Unfortunately, my local hardware store only carries tiny bottles of it, and I have many more patterns to design for the Lion King characters. It would cost too much to pay for the little bottles.

So I ordered my glue online from — the larger bottles are a much better value than the small ones. If you live near one of the big DIY stores, they’ll have this glue in stock in the bigger containers. My 32 oz bottle cost about $15, and I think it will be enough for four lion headdress masks.

When I have all the patterns done for the lions from the Lion King play I’ll put a link to them here. In the meantime, if you’d like to make one of the animal sculptures that are on the wall behind me in the video, you can find the patterns here.

But do remember …

Strong paper mache that dries fast.

The Titebond III glue is very strong, so use a throw-away container. I ruined one of my bowls by letting the glue dry in it overnight. I couldn’t get it out, no matter how hard I scrubbed. I just made a temporary bowl out of an old yogurt container

Why Titebond III instead of Elmer’s?

Using Titebond III glue for paper mache

Titebond III grabs onto the paper instead of letting it slide around, and in my experience it dries faster than Elmer’s Wood Glue. I tried them both, but the Titebond product worked much better for me. It is expensive, I know. But for a project like this, where you really need the mask to hold up even under a bit of abuse, it’s worth the extra cost.

Mix a small amount of water with the glue..

Mixing water with Titebond 3 glue for paper mache.

You only need enough water to make the glue thin enough to brush. You don’t want it so wet that it will saturate the cardboard. If you’re using it over another kind of armature, you’ll still want to have more glue than water in the mix, to get the strongest bond.

Brush on the glue…

Brushing the glue onto the paper mache lion mask.

OK, I admit that I gave up on the brush after I’d been working for about an hour, but the brush will help you apply only as much glue as you really need.

It really helps if you put one hand on the inside of your mask, to support the cardboard when you press down on the glued paper. To see some tips on applying paper mache strips and paste smoothly, click here.

Let the paper mache dry overnight…

Paper mache lion mask drying overnight.

I put my mask on a piece of waxed paper and let it dry overnight. You can see that I didn’t put paper mache on the inside of my mask’s cap, because I didn’t think it would be needed. For a normal face mask, you might want to put paper mache on both the inside and outside of the mask, to make sure it’s nice and strong.

It’s ready to paint after drying overnight …

Paper mache lion king mask before painting.

As you saw in the video, one area inside an ear was still damp the next morning. The glue was applied too thickly, and it pooled in the ear while it sat upside down. It’s a good idea to look over the wet mask and use a paper towel to remove any excess glue, so the entire mask will dry at the same time.

The mask cap is still flexible, but every seam is reinforced with the strong glue and paper. This mask should hold up well, even when worn by middle-school kids during rehearsals and during the Lion King play.

All it needs now is a coat of spray primer, some acrylic paint, and the mane. I’ll use the raffia table skirt, like I did for the wall mask in the video behind me.

If you’ve used wood glue with paper mache before, please let us know about your experiences with it. Did you like it? And if you have any ideas for other projects that would benefit from this method, please tell us about them.

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Super-strong fast-drying paper mache.

16 thoughts on “Super-Strong Paper Mache that Dries Really Fast”

  1. I am working on some birds that will be hung from the ceiling. I thought it would be a good idea to try the Titebond III with blue shop towels on the wings so they would be light in weight and thin. I also added wire for the vanes on the feathers and I wanted the “vanes” to be visible. So far it seems to be working well. The feathers are not rock hard but probably stiff enough for my purposes. Would another layer of Titebond make then stiffer?

    • Hi Kelly. I haven’t used the wood glue with shop towels, but I know that when I use the joint compound and glue mixture with the shop towels they stay floppy unless the paper is completely saturated. That may be true with wood glue, too.

  2. Sorry Jonni this is about clay NOT glue…….we made your favorite FLOUR clay but used TALC instead of flour…………’s wonderful!
    No more mold………..hooray!

    • HI! I am an art consultant looking to partner with a paper mache artist on a project for a hotel. I would like to chat with you and, per your instructions, connection with you here in comments is better than an email. Please email me at your earliest convenience! Thank you!

      • Thanks for asking, but I don’t have time to do any commission work, so I won’t be able to help you with it. You might want to contact someone in the art department of your local university – they might know of someone who would be able to help you.

        Good luck with your project! And be sure to post the results on my blog – it sounds like the kind of project that would be exciting to see when it’s finished.

  3. P.S. The blob was built up with aluminum foil. Then your paper mache clay was used. For last year’s test, I used a thin cover of either exterior acquadere or Titebond 3. That was covered with bitumen.

    • Ah – so the Titebond test has already been done by you, and it didn’t work, even when covered with the bitumin. Dang.

      These people cover their giant pumpkins with flexible tile mortar, like the ‘thin set’ product that Jackie used on her outdoor sculpture, and that Dan used for his fish. We haven’t received updates from either one of them, and we don’t know how long those big pumpkins held up, either. But maybe the thin set over a crumpled foil armature, without any paper at all, would hold up well enough for long-term outdoor use. The pumpkin people start with foam and then cover it with plaster, and then the thin set. Maybe the mortar won’t stick to foam. Or maybe it needs a more solid base to keep it from cracking. For those of us who don’t live in Australia and can’t get the product you used for your latest experiment. If you think it’s worth a try, I have a giant rabbit I’ve been thinking about making to hide under my rose hedge. What do you think?

  4. Jonni
    Last year, I covered a head (blob) with bitumen and dropped it into a pail of water. After a week, it started to soften. Last week, I covered the head with Selley’s Durabond. It was recommended to me at a hardware shop for an outdoor wood sculpture. I applied one coating of Durabond to the head. From the piccy, you can see some places are white where it made a thickish covering. Other places are black where the bitumen shows through. I dropped that into my bucket and 8 days later took it out. The white pieces remained hard as rock. The black areas are softer. So Durabond is a possible answer to waterproofing. 460ml costs $30 in Aus. I don’t know what area it would cover.

    N.B: Wear gloves if used.

    • Hi Barry. This is a great experiment. The Durabond sold here is a powdered drywall joint compound, and that isn’t at all the same as the Selley’s Durabond that you used. When I did a search to see if your product is available here, I found an article that says Titebond III would be a reasonable substitute in the US. Dan Reeder used wood glue with his cloth mache for an outdoor dragon, so maybe that is the answer. I have some Titebond III, so I’ll do an experiment like yours and see if I get the same results. What was your original ‘blob’ made with? Is it traditional paper strips and paste?

  5. Well we have 1 more performance of Lion King to go.We did it!5 Paper mache masks ,5 plastic molds paper mache wall Paste on outside to be smooth.The glue I used was regular Elmers.They were mounted on the head hat to head connection.The Lioness mask were affixed to modified ball caps.Pic of main character masks.

  6. Jonni
    I think I put a post here last year using Titebond III on alumium foil together with your paper mache clay. A ball dropped in a bucket of water lasted a week before staring to soften. I’ve just discovered a glue called Durabond. I’m using it for an outdoor wood sculpture. I’m thinking it’s time for another paper mache clay experiment.

    P.S: If you try Durabond, always wear gloves. I haven’t found a solvent to remove it.

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