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Wood Glue or Paste for Paper Mache – Which One is Best?

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Choosing the Right Paste for Your Paper Mache Project

Lately, I’ve been using both cooked flour and water paste and Titebond III wood glue for traditional paper mache. But which one is best for your next project?

Cooked Flour and Water Paste: My Go-To for Most Projects

Cooked flour and water paste has become my favorite choice for several reasons. First, it feels nice on my hands. I also dries transparent and without the floury texture that you can get when you use the raw flour paste instead.

I also think the cooked paste also helps ‘melt’ the edges of the torn paper strips. If you use soft paper like newspaper (or brown paper from Amazon boxes) and get the paper wet enough with the paste, the edges almost disappear. For a few tips on applying the paper strips so they’re as smooth as possible, check out this other post. And for a super-smooth surface, on any kind of paper mache, you can use a paper-thin layer of drywall joint compound.

For projects that don’t get much handling, like sculptures used in your decor or masks that will only be used once, cooked flour and water paste is my usual choice. It doesn’t cost much, but it sticks paper to paper – and that’s really all you need it to do. Just make sure you dry your sculpture or masks as quickly as possible, don’t paint it until it’s dry, and seal it so it won’t absorb moisture from the air. If you live in a place where drying anything is a major challenge because of the constant humidity, you might want to use the wood glue instead.

Titebond Wood Glue: Ideal for Theater Masks and Heavy-Duty Use

Titebond III wood glue costs a lot more than flour and water paste, but there are times when I think it’s worth the extra expense. I primarily use the wood glue for theater masks, like the mask patterns I made for the Lion King Jr. play. While it may not melt edges of the torn paper as well as the cooked paste, layering paper with wood glue on cardboard can create a sturdy yet lightweight material. And you only need one layer, so you can make your masks faster – a big help when you’ve volunteered to do a whole lot of them, and they need to get done on time.

So, the choice between cooked flour and water paste and wood glue depends on what you’re making. The cooked flour and water paste is cheap, it’s easy to work with, and it works really well for most sculptures that won’t be constantly handled – and even for masks that will only be used once. But I think the wood glue is worth the extra money when you’re creating a theater mask that will be used several times, or even saved to be used again next year.

Do you have a favorite paper mache paste recipe? Let us know in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “Wood Glue or Paste for Paper Mache – Which One is Best?”

  1. I also like the cooked flour and water paste. I don’t like the texture and smell of the raw mix. The cooked paste is lovely to work with and after applying all layers I “massage” the wet paste that is on the project and all edges get flattened nicely so that I get a pretty smooth finish. It is also very nice to work with when it is warm.

    Reply
  2. Ho Jonni,
    I would like to know if the drywall compound you use for papier-mâché paste is not toxic to the skin. Thank you.

    Reply
    • The paste only contains flour and water – but we do use drywall joint compound in other recipes. You don’t want to sand it without a mask, because it contains silica. That’s a mineral, and isn’t toxic, but you don’t want the fine powder in your lungs. You would want to use as mask when sanding anything, really.

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  3. Hi Jonni,

    I would like to make very large pumpkins but I want them to be hollow. I was planning on making a “shell” around a real pumpkin with kraft paper and this wood glue suggestion. Would 2-3 layers of paper and glue hold some paper mache clay on top without the shape collapsing? Just so I can smooth the surface with the clay before painting. I have never made anything with this technique so I am unsure of how sturdy it is and how much weight it can carry.

    Thanks for all the content you share!

    Reply
    • Hi Diana. If you don’t think anyone will sit on the hollow pumpkin after it’s done, your idea should work. The paper mache clay is really hard, too, and that will help. You’ll need to use a release of some kind to get it off the pumpkin, or cover it with plastic wrap before adding the paper mache. And because of all the dips in the pumpkin’s shape, you’ll need to cut it apart in more than just two pieces to get the dried paper mache off the form. Have you seen Rex’s pumpkin tutorial? That might be an easier way to do it.

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  4. Hi Jonni, I am new to paper Mache and just purchased your animal 4 pack. I am currently working on the wolf. This mask will be used/worn at a festival for a client of mine and I am wondering how many layers of paper Mache should I use? I am using the flour paste and newspapers. I am really hoping to finish this and post/send you photos to show you how I’ve done. Thank you for taking the time to share your gift with all of us.

    Reply
    • Hi Krista. One or two layers is usually all you’ll need when adding paper strips and paste over the cereal box cardboard. If there are areas where you’d like to add some details, you can add more. I can’t wait to see how they turn out! 🙂

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  5. Hoi Jonni ik maak papier-maché met behangplaksel en stukjes krantenpapier,nu vraag ik wat is het beste met bloem of behangplaksel..

    Reply
    • Hi Corrie. Do you mean what type of paper is best with paste made with flour? I use newspaper, or the brown paper that comes in amazon.com boxes – it’s just unbleached newspaper, I think.

      Reply

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