How To: Paper Mache

Collection of 29 Horses Teeth, Louis Auzoux (1797-1880), Papier Mache

Download the ‘how-to’ instructions and my favorite paper mache recipes!


paper-maché directions

Paper-maché is cheap, easy to use, works for details or large sculptures, is light, but it takes a long to time to dry. The lifespan of paper mache sculpture is rather short, it can get damaged, be food for insects, and take on mold if not properly stored. There are many ways to make paper mache paste and to create an armature. You will first need to decide which type you are making and gather those materials. In addition you will need: a whisk or a wooden spoon, newspaper, a bucket and a fan.

Start with an armature. You will need some kind of supportive form, called an armature. Depending on your project, this might be your box, a form like a bowl or balloon, a carved piece of foam or wood, molded wire or chicken wire, bubble wrap, or even just cardboard tubes or cardboard taped together into a shape. Or basically anything that holds its shape.. even soda or yogurt containers or shipping tubes.

Molds: For a form that you plan to use as a mold and remove, you will need to use liquid soap or Vaseline as a release agent. Simply cover the object with the Vaseline and then when completely dry you can carefully separate the two.

Chicken wire:  You will need a pair of wire cutters and your gloves to work with chicken wire. Cut the shape you need, referring to your drawing. Use the edges of the chicken wire to secure it to itself. Chicken wire should be used for small to medium works, as if will not hold the form as it gets heavier. For larger items, use an additional support underneath such as a rolled up piece of cardboard or wood. Large flat areas of chicken wire are usually weaker than curvy areas. If you have a small area or want to create a new surface shape, you may chose to use wire that is simply attached to a piece of wood or other surface.

Mixing the paper mache paste. To decide on what method you want to use. Follow recipe and mix to a creamy consistency. You may want to use a whisk to remove lumps. Tear strips of newspaper and place in bucket. You can leave several in so they become more like pulp or just dunk them into the bucket when ready.

Tear paper. Paper should be torn not cut, so that the edges blend and hold one another. Use newspaper, gift wrap, old phone books, or any paper that is not highly printed or smooth. Facial tissue is good for adding features to an item. Dip tissue in paste and adhere to item, then cover with mixture-soaked strips. A good source of paper is If using old phone books, you may consider . They tear easily into strips and if you keeping the white and yellow pages separate, then you can alternate layers: yellow, white, yellow. This allows you to see where you have already layered.

Protect your work area. Please lay down plastic or paper to protect the table.

Begin. Dip, then use your fingers to squeegee off some of the paper mache paste. From time to time run your hands over your sculpture to smooth out the surface. Since drying is always an issue with paper mache, make sure that you keep to a few layers and use a fan to help it dry. One option for a smoother surface is to add a final layer of tissue paper and PVA glue to smooth the surface (PVA is waterproof and won’t soften when painted.)

Finishing. After it is dry, remove the armature if needed. Trim edges, and add a layer or two of very short strips over the edge. Once completely dry gain, cover the sculpture with white paint, gesso, or acrylic clear coat. This will make it easier to paint and will help seal the surface so that it won’t become soggy.

michelle’s paper-maché recipes

Favorite Recipe
Ingredients: Flour, wallpaper paste water, salt, paper
Mix 1-1 part flour with 1/2 part wallpaper paste with a wisk. Gradually add water,  using a wisk to mix, until it is the consistency of heavy cream or runny pudding. Add a little salt to keep it from spoiling. Rip newspaper or other paper into strips. Dip in to paste making sure paper is thoroughly wet. Place onto armature or other form. Run first two fingers alongside both sides of strips to get rid of excess solution and apply to object. Use fan for faster drying. Paint. For details, last coats, and complicated areas – soak small pieces of paper in water overnight. Drain off water and add paper to paste.

Papier Maché 1
3/4 cup flour
6 cups of water divided in two
4-1/2 tablespoons sugar
Heat half of water (3 cups) in a medium/large saucepan to boil. Mix flour and other half of water (3 cups) in a medium bowl. Carefully add flour mixture to water in pan and stir gently. Bring to boil again. Remove from heat and add the sugar. Let cool. Once cooled and thickened it is ready to use.

Papier Maché 2
1/3 cup White Glue
1/3 cup Water
Mix glue and water. Tear newspaper into one by five inch strips. Brush the glue on, then place paper strip. Smooth the strip with fingers. Continue laying down 3-4 layers of strips. Let dry for 2-3 days.

Papier Maché 3
Liquid Starch
Use undiluted liquid starch with tissue paper for a transparent quality.

Papier Maché Pulp 4    (smooth, for more complicated or final coats)
Tools:  Electric Blender
Pulp (make ahead: t) Tear newspaper into small pieces to pack a small 1 quart jar. Cover with water, let soak over night.)
2 cups water
1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp. white glue
Fill blender with: 1 cup of the pulp above with excess water removed,

Fill Blender with water, flour, and glue and pulp. Blend well. Cover object with this mixture as necessary. Allow to  dry overnight. Paint.

Bonus: Paper Paste
(a modeling paste/finger paint, that hardens and holds texture)
3 cups boiling water
1 ½ cups cold water
1 ½ cups corn starch
Pour and stir like crazy
Mix with white glue, 2 parts corn starch mix, 1 part glue.

Stiffness can also be achieved by adding wheat paste to the mix. Mix the white glue (Weldbond) with water to a consistency of Half & Half. Then add wheat paste to bring it to the consistency of sour cream. Use an old mixer and add a bit of bleach and salt to retard spoilage. Use tempera paint to color.


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