Getting Reacquainted With Paper Mache

You can make all kinds of crafty items with paper mache (not just the school volcano project): Decorative masks, bowls, ornaments, Halloween & Christmas decorations, you name it–you can likely make it. It’s a very economical craft and with a little practice, you can create some pretty amazing pieces! Here’s a bunch of info to get you started…

Flour Paste Recipe:

1 cup Flour (2 parts)
1 1/2 cups Water (3 parts)
1/2 TBS salt (optional)
1/4 cup white glue (optional)


  • Mix the flour and water together with a wire whisk or fork until it is smooth and you have the consistency you want, should be similar to a heavy cream or a cream soup. If you want to thicken the paste, add flour. If you want to thin it, add a bit of water.
  • Mix in the salt.
  • Mix in the glue (if adding).
  • The salt will help preserve the paste and prevent it from mold while the glue will help strengthen the paste.


  • You can make as much (or as little) paper mache paste you need by using the basic ratio of 2 parts flour to 3 parts water.
  • If you’re working on a large project or need to take a break, cover the paste well with plastic wrap or seal with a lid and store in the refrigerator, should keep for a couple days. Let the paste come to room temperature before using again, stir well before using.

Glue Paste Recipe

White glue (2 parts)
Water (1 part)


  • Mix the glue and water together until thoroughly mixed. Use popsicle sticks or wooden chopsticks to stir the recipe, they can be thrown out when done.


  • Watch the paste while building your project, the glue and water can separate during the process and may need to be stirred again.
  • Mix in old plastic containers with lids, you can pop the lid on and the glue will keep for a few days.

What You Can Use

  • Newspaper (most common)
  • Tissue paper
  • Paper towels
  • Printer paper (or any sheets of regular paper)
  • Magazine & catalogue pages (the glossy paper can be more tricky to work with)

Tip: Tear the paper into strips of all shapes and sizes, they don’t need to be uniform in size.

Base Material Ideas

Before you can begin applying your strips of paper with paste, you need a basic form or base to build on. Here are some materials that work well:

  • Balloons (can attach balloons together with masking tape to get the basic form you want)
  • Aluminum Foil (crumple and shape as needed)
  • Chicken Wire (shape as needed, mostly used for large projects like school volcanoes)
  • Crumpled Newspaper (basic shape secured with masking tape)
  • Small cardboard boxes (for square or rectangular projects)

Tip: To remove the base material from inside the dried project, make a slit at the back and remove materials (or pop the balloon). Then cover the slit with a fresh layer of paper mache and allow to dry before proceeding with paint and varnish or sealant.


The process couldn’t be simpler to make a paper mache object, the hardest part is creating the shape the way you want it. After choosing your base, here are the steps involved

  • Dip a strip of paper in the paste covering it completely with the paste, then remove the excess glue/paste by running the strip between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Lay the strip on the base and smooth it out so that there are no air bubbles and the strip of paper is flat against the form, smooth out the edges with your fingers.
  • Add the next strip, overlapping some on the previous strip. This helps build strength to the object as well as prevents any part of the base from being uncovered.
  • Cover the base completely with one layer, then leave to dry before adding the next layer. Three to four layers are usually more than enough.
  • When the piece has dried completely, you can remove the base materials (see tip above) and stuff it well with plastic bags or crumpled newspaper to give the object some weight. This will help make it stable as well as add some strength (so a bump or drop won’t dent it).

The project is now ready for paint and embellishment!


  • Before starting your project, clear a large area and cover with garbage bags or several sheets of newspaper. Paper mache is a very messy project!
  • Allow each layer to dry completely before adding another layer, will keep the layers strong as well as prevent mold growth.
  • Add a bit of salt to your recipe if it’s a project you plan on keeping for awhile. The salt will help prevent mold growth.
  • Adding a small amount of white glue to a basic flour & water paste will give the paste some strength.
  • Acrylic paints are a good choice for painting dried projects, for best results make sure each coat of paint is fully dry before painting another coat.
  • Make sure the item is completely dry before painting or spraying with varnish or a sealant, the paper material may bubble a bit underneath if you don’t.

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    • Rose

    Vaseline is good for if you want the base to come out without damaging the form.

    • Marsha

    If I have a project that will take a day or two to complete. Will the paste last or do I have to make a new patch?

    • ben

    is it possible to make a large planter for indoor use? i’m thinking of using cardboard boxes, duct-taped together and then p-m’ing overtop of that.. do you think it’s strong enough to lift up with heavy plants and soil inside?? and would i line it with plastic bags?

      • Julie

      I made a rock planter using a mix I found at the hardware store to put faux bricks on plywood for a heat resistant wall behind a woodstove. I used small gravel in the mix, patted it into a stainless steel bowl. It dried away from the bowl and made a great stone planter.

      • Kris

      I’ve seen projects in books using several layers of cardboard glued together for the foundation of small furniture items. You could probably build a fairly strong planter with papier mache.

    • Diana R.

    When I had Cub Scouts, we made paper mache maraccas with light bulbs. After the paper mache was dry, we broke up the light bulb inside and then painted them. They make a great sound and you can paint them in different designs. My cub scouts made them for Cinco De Miyo in May and had their own little skit for the parents and wore Sombrero’s and painted on Mustaches. Really fun and they loved it!

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