Learning the basics of how to make paper mache will ensure you can accomplish multiple projects with ease and confidence. Of course, practice makes perfect, so make sure you keep in mind the guide we’ll detail below. You’ll find the instructions for paper mache methods using paper strips and paper pulp or clay dough.
How to Make Paper Mache - Paper Strip Method
The general steps that you need to take when making paper mache crafts using paper strips are as follows:
Step #1 - Prepare Your Working Area
Having your own crafting table would be great, but you can choose to work on any table in your home or a workbench in your garage. Either way, it’s best to protect it from any drip and mess that usually happens while accomplishing your paper mache project.
First, ensure that the surface is clear of any other objects and clean. Then, place a cover. You can use an old table cloth or fabric, a plastic cover, newspaper, or any scrap pieces of paper.
Step #2 - Prepare Your Materials
The things you would need for this method on how to make paper mache are as follows:
- Container or Large Bowl: This item should be large and deep enough to hold the other materials and more. It will ensure you won’t make too much mess.
- Adhesive: Whatever type of adhesive you choose, ensure that you prepare the amount that suits the size of your project. The best adhesive is PVA glue because it’s safe, free of mold and rot, dries quickly, clearly, and evenly, and has excellent strength and smoother texture. Nonetheless, you can opt for the following:
- Regular Wood Glue: Being water-soluble, non-toxic, and strong, this is a good alternative. However, once it dries, it’s no longer flexible. You can also opt for type 1 yellow or carpenter glue.
- Mod Podge: This easy-to-clean, toxic-free, and water-soluble option is perfect for the finishing stage of the how to make paper mache process. Just note that it dries quickly.
- School Glue: This adhesive is the most affordable and easily accessible commercially available glue that is versatile and strong. The issue you’ll encounter is that it softens when exposed to water. You also won’t be able to sand it.
- Wallpaper Paste: The last adhesive you should opt for is wallpaper paste because it has toxic ingredients. You also need to experiment with the ratio when diluting it. But if you have this at home already or use it in your other craftworks, then go for it, making the process more cost-effective.
- Homemade Flour Mixture: Making your own adhesive using plain flour is the most affordable, and it also works great! You can opt for the simple flour-based or resin-flour homemade adhesive found here.
- Water: For how to make paper mache methods, you will use water to dilute your adhesive, giving it a smoother consistency and making it more convenient to use.
- Molder: This item will help you achieve the shape and design you’re going for, so first-timers should choose the most basic ones.
- Paintbrush (Optional): Choose a soft-bristled, fine paintbrush. You can have two, one for smoothening out the adhesive and prevent air bubbles, and another for painting your project.
- Paper: Aptly named, paper will be the main material for this project. Some of the best types of craft paper that you can use are:
- Strips of Newspaper: Used newspaper is the most common and affordable paper that you can utilize. It also holds well, so it’s the perfect base.
- Kraft Paper or Brown Paper Bag: Similar to the newsprint, this is an affordable option, especially for practicing how to make paper mache. However, it’s a little thicker.
- Construction Paper: You can choose from light to medium thickness, depending on your project. The problem is that it won’t work for most projects because it has a rough texture.
- Printer Paper: Like the construction paper, you can choose from several thickness levels. This type of paper also has a smooth surface, unlike the newsprint.
- Crepe Paper: Yes, this is very thin paper, so it’s best used for creating the finer details of your paper mache project. The best thing about it is it comes in various colors, so you can skip the painting step. Plus, it’s rough or wrinkled, adding texture to your finished design.
- Tissue Paper or Paper Towel: An alternative to crepe paper, this is more readily available at your home.
Step #3 - Make Paper Strips
Create plenty of long paper strips using your hands or scissors. The ideal thickness is 2.5 centimeters or one inch, but feel free to choose the strips’ size. They don’t need to be perfect; in fact, you can even create strips of different widths to add more volume to your mache project.
Step #4 - Dilute Your Adhesive Mixture
For this paper mache recipe, you would need to place the adhesive and water in your container, following these recommended adhesives to water ratios:
- PVA, Modge Podge, School Glue: 2:1 or 1:1 (Using the 1:1 ratio will give a stronger glue but you may need to experiment to get the right consistency.)
- Homemade: 1:1 (1 cup flour to 1 cup water)
- Wallpaper: 1:1 (1 part wallpaper glue to 1 part water)
Next, blend them using your paintbrush or a spoon until you reach a smooth consistency. You can add a little water if it’s too thick or adhesive if it’s too thin. You don't want any bumps in your mixture.
Adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of salt will make your mixture last longer if you plan on storing excess paste for later.
Step #5 - Dip the Strips in the Solution
Place a few strips of paper in the bowl or container with your adhesive solution. Ensure you don’t put a lot to cover both sides of the paper strips. That said, you must also ensure that you don't saturate them too much.
Step #6 - Layer Your Soaked Strips
Take one of the soaked paper strips, and carefully slide from top to bottom two of your fingers to help remove any excess adhesive. Hold it for a while and let the adhesive drip in the container. Slowly lay it on the surface of your molder, and then smooth it out. You can do so with your paintbrush or fingers.
Repeat the process, but make sure you achieve the shape and design you want while laying the rest of the strips. Make sure you also achieve your desired texture, volume, and details.
If you run out of strips, repeat steps five to six of the paper strip procedure.
Step #7 - Let It Dry and Apply Finishing Touches
Leave your project to dry for at least 24 hours. Once dry, you can start painting it or add any details or embellishments that you want.
Step #8 - Demold From the Molder
Once you’re done, you can slowly start demolding or removing the dried and pre-formed design from its base model.
Step #9 - Coat
Apply a clear coat, such as varnish, all over the project to seal it properly, And you’re done!
How To Make Paper Mache - The Paper Pulp Method
For this method on how to make paper mache, you won’t really need a molder. That’s because you can already mold the paper pulp or clay dough you made according to your preferred design. Still, you can do so if that’s more convenient for you.
Follow steps one and two as above, then, do the following:
- Place the right amount of pulp or clay dough in a container or bowl.
- Add a good amount of adhesive, and combine using a kneading motion.
- Place the pulp or dough on the surface of your molder, or simply mold it into your design's shape. Ensure you achieve the right thickness that you want.
- Follow steps number seven and eight of the above how to make a paper mache procedure.
How to Make Paper Mache - Ideas & Projects
If you’re unsure what kind of project to accomplish, below are some great paper mache ideas that you can start with, from the most basic to the most complicated.
Paper Mache Balloon
The process of making a paper mache balloon is simple. All you have to do is inflate the balloon (your molder), and follow the instructions above. The demolding part involves popping the balloon.
Paper Mache Globe
The how to make paper mache globe procedure is almost the same as the balloon’s, except for the finishing part. You would need to paint it blue, create outlines that you should paint with green, create smaller details or outlines that you need to paint with brown, and then apply the final coat.
Another option is placing a battery-operated candle inside the globe. Before painting, punch holes on selected areas, paint as above, and apply the topcoat. Lastly, place a battery-operated tea candle inside.
Paper Mache Pumpkin
Perfect for Halloween, another paper mache project where you can use a balloon as a molder is a pumpkin. All you need to add to the steps is to wrap twine around the inflated balloon to create the pumpkin’s lines, leaving some excess that you can use to create the stalk. Then, decorate it, whether you want the traditional, contemporary, kid’s room, or centerpiece pumpkin decor.
Paper Mache Pinata
In making a pinata paper mache, your molder will depend on the design that you want to achieve. You can use a balloon for a round or face and strawberry pinatas, while a cardboard box for a traditional pinata. For the former, make sure you decorate them with tissue to achieve the design that you want. Oh! Don’t forget the candies, coins, and more!
Paper Mache Volcano
A more complicated project that you can jump into after a few practices is how to make paper mache volcano. For this, you would need an empty bottle instead of a balloon. You will also need a cardboard box to create a base for your volcano. You may also create a volcanic eruption by placing sodium bicarbonate solution inside the volcano using a paper funnel and then adding a diluted red dye solution. Lastly, add a glass of vinegar to witness the short period of volcanic eruption!
Paper Mache Bowl
You can make a paper mache bowl by using either paper strips or paper pulp. Just use any sized bowl as your molder and follow the standard steps we discussed.
Paper Mache Mask
There are three different ways of how to make paper mache masks: using a mesh wire, a balloon, and paper pulp. The most challenging part is adding the details, such as the eyes, and ensuring the final product has the shape of a face.
How to Make Paper Mache - In Conclusion
Making paper mache involves simple steps. It's the design you choose that will make it complicated. Thus, it’s best to start from the simple ones and then progress as you practice. Also, make sure you choose the adhesive and paper you’re comfortable working with. Have fun!