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How to Create Papier Mâché

Two Parts:Preparing the Papier MâchéCreating the Papier Mâché

Papier-mâché (pap-yay mash-ay) or paper mâché (paper mash-ay) is an easy to make, hard material that can be used to cover various surfaces. It is often used in arts and crafts to make various sculptures, fruit bowls, puppets, dolls and much more. The surface is easy to paint, allowing you to add patterns, bright colors, and interesting designs to your finished product. This article details how to make the basic papier mâché that can be used for any project that you have in mind.

Part 1
Preparing the Papier Mâché

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    Clear an area. Papier-mâché can get a bit messy (what good DIY project doesn't?), so to protect your grandma's beloved dining table, lay down a few newspapers or other scrap material to keep clean up at a minimum. While you are grabbing newspaper, also get a hold of:
    • A bowl or large container
    • Flour, wallpaper powder/paste, or white glue
    • Water
    • Your base structure
    • Paintbrush
    • Newspaper (for your project -- not for clean-up duty)
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    Tear the newspaper into long strips. The ideal width would be around one inch (2.5 cm) thick, but each project requires different shapes and sizes. In addition, you will want to go around your project three times, so tear quite a pile. Don't opt for the scissors -- a torn edge blends better than a cut edge.
    • There is no wrong size your strips could be. In fact, if you want to add volume to your structure by molding the strips, you will need different sizes. So tear away freely.
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    Choose your method to make papier mâché. A few slight variations will result in the same product. Use what you have at your disposal.
    • Glue mixture: Pour 2 parts white glue and one part water into a mixing bowl. These quantities can be changed to suit the size of your project. Or, if you have a stronger bonding glue, 1 part white glue and 1 part water will do the trick.
    • Flour mixture: Combine 1 part flour with 1 part water. Easy as pie!
      • For super large and intense projects, you may want to substitute white glue for the water.
    • Wallpaper powder: Pour 2 parts wallpaper powder and one part water into a mixing bowl. This method is good if you're thinking seriously long-term -- it can last years.
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    Blend your choice of mixture. Do this using a paintbrush, a mixing spoon or mixing stick. Blend until it forms a smooth consistency.
    • If it's too thin or thick, adjust accordingly. Add more adhesive base if it's too thin, water if it's too thick.
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    Find a surface you want to papier-mâché. Examples include a balloon, cardboard or a molded figure. In addition, you can papier-mâché two objects together to form a creation! The mixture will take to anything.
    • If you're using a balloon, consider painting it with cooking oil beforehand -- that way, when it's dry, you can slide it out easily.

Part 2
Creating the Papier Mâché

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    Dip a strip of newspaper into the mixture. You're going to get your fingers messy! The messier you get, the better job you're doing.
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    Remove any excess mixture. Do this by lightly sliding two fingers from the top to the bottom of the strip of paper. Hold it over the bowl so it drips back into the container.
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    Lay the strip over the surface or figure. Smooth it out, using either your fingers or a paintbrush. Be sure to get as many of the creases and bumps out as you can. You are aiming to get a very smooth surface for painting and decorating.
    • If you'd like to create a shape (a face, say), bunch the strip into the form you want, place it on your surface, and then layer another strip on top to smooth it out. This can create volume, texture, and detail quite easily.
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    Repeat laying strips. Do this until the entire surface or figure is covered three times over. This is especially important if you're removing the base when it's dry -- it needs to be sturdy and hold its own.
    • Put your first layer on horizontally, the second vertically, and so forth. It will help show you where you have been before and strengthen the piece.
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    Place the object on a covered surface to dry. It will need a day or so to completely dry, depending on the size of your piece. Leave it untouched until tomorrow, then see if it's ready for painting.
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    Start coloring. Paint or decorate as desired. Enjoy! (And be sure to tell everyone you did it yourself.)
    • Some schools of thought say to start with a white primer. If you're using a light color on the piece, you may want to use this method (otherwise some print may stick out). Make sure not to cover to top part in order to take the balloon out.


  • Always put enough glue to cover the whole piece of paper that you are using or it may result in it coming apart when dry.
  • Your pieces of paper do not necessarily have to be strips. Any small piece of paper, regardless of the shape will do, so long as you can handle it easily.
  • Make sure to have extra newspaper. Running out halfway through is not fun.
  • Hairspray or vanish paint makes the paper mâché resistant to water. Only add this once you have painted over/completed your project.
  • In addition, tearing the paper roughly, as opposed to cutting with scissors, will result in a smoother final appearance.
  • It will take more than 40 minutes to dry.
  • If you are using the flour-water method, white flour makes for a smoother finish than does wheat flour.
  • The flour mixture is better for piñatas, as it breaks easier. If you're looking for a stronger hold (like for cosplay) use the glue one.
  • You can paint over the top of the papier-mâché with acrylic paint after it has completely dried. It sometimes helps to spray a couple of layers of matte spray between the papier-mâché and the paint to prevent the paint from chipping.
  • If you want a simple white finish to your project, use plain white paper (instead of primer) for the last two layers.
  • Using thinner strips of paper will result in a smoother, less bumpy finish. Similarly, smaller pieces of other shapes will work better also.
  • Have all of your materials out before you start.
  • Try using different types of paper instead of newspaper - kitchen paper towel works particularly well.
  • Wait for the papier mâché to fully dry before painting it.
  • To make masks you can cut the circle in half and remove the balloon to make two masks.
  • To keep your papier-mâché from rolling over twist some news paper and make the papier-mâché a little nest.
  • You can papier-mâché virtually anything: picture frames, old CDs, etc.
  • Papier mâché is not waterproof or water resistant unless you seal it or use an additive in the mix. If you intend the item to be near water or outside, you will need to finish it with such sealants as tempera paint for children's craft items, to marine varnish for an outdoor sculpture.
  • To keep your fingers from getting sticky, wear latex gloves.
  • If you are making a piñata, put the paper clip in whatever you are making before you do the newspaper
  • If you are doing a large project and need a lot of paper you can get a lot from a local newspaper headquarter or recycling centre.
  • Add arrowroot powder to the papier mache mix to make it more firm.


  • If you're making a piñata using a balloon, make sure you use enough layers (at least 3 or more) or replace the newspaper with thicker paper (like normal white paper) and be sure to let it dry completely before removing the balloon. If not, the balloon may drag the paper inward and create dents when it's popped.
  • The glue mixture may be hard to clean off your work surface once it is set. If you are worried about getting glue on your work surface, put some newspaper down before you get started.

Things You'll Need

  • Glue/flour/wallpaper powder
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Mixing spoon/stick
  • Newspaper (for surface and structure)
  • Base structure
  • Paintbrush
  • Cooking oil (optional)

Article Info

Categories: Papier Mache