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How To Make Paper Mache

How To Make Paper Mache

Paper mache is a popular paper craft that is inexpensive, fun to make, and suitable for kids of all ages. It’s a great way to teach kids about three-dimensional art, while allowing them to create their own sculptures. Though it’s a great craft for any time of year, getting messy in the paper mache paste can also double as a cooling summertime activity.

Invented by the Chinese, this centuries-old craft gets its name from the French term for “chewed paper.” That’s exactly what the moistened strips of paper mixed with a glue adhesive look like. Strips of recycled paper combined with simple paste make paper mache the perfect budget-friendly craft for kids. If you and your children love creative hands-on art projects that can be molded into cool stuff like pinatas, Halloween masks, a life-sized animal sculpture, a volcano, and even jewelry boxes, you should definitely give paper mache a try. 

Paper Mache Ideas

My kid’s favorite project to make with paper mache is their own homemade piñata. After the glue dries, the piñata is painted and decorated, then we fill it with treats and prizes. Then we hang it up outside. Their friends take turns trying to break it open by hitting it with a stick while blindfolded.  

Paper Mache Paste Recipes

Choosing what to make is probably the hardest part about paper mache, but once you decide on a project, the next step is to pick the type of paste to use for your project. 

Standard Flour & Water Recipe

This recipe is for an inexpensive, non-toxic, kid-friendly, paste that uses readily available household supplies.  

  • Whisk together one part all-purpose flour to two parts hot tap water and a dash of salt, until all the lumps are gone.  
  • Add more flour if the paste is too runny. Note that this type of paste will leave a floury residue on the outside of your sculpture.  

Liquid Starch Paper Mache Paste Recipe

You can use liquid starch as is or add a few drops of water to thin it out if you want a runnier paste. Adult supervision is recommended for children using this recipe

Cooked Paste Recipe

For a paste that is smoother, dries almost clear, and is more durable, you will want to follow this recipe.

  • In a small pot bring one cup of water to a boil.
  • In a separate bowl, briskly stir together ¼ cup of flour, ¼ cup of hot tap water and a dash of salt, stirring to break up the lumps.
  • Once the water in the pan is boiling, slowly pour the flour mixture into the boiling water, stirring continuously. Reduce the heat to medium, and allow the mixture to cook at a steady boil for three minutes. Continue to whisk the mixture until it looks like heavy cream.
  • Once it has cooled completely, the paste is ready to be used. This paste will not store well so be sure to discard after using.

School Glue Paste Recipe

This watered-down glue recipe is easy to make, but it can cost a bit more than flour paste recipes.  

  • Mix one four-ounce bottle of school glue (PVA glue) with ¼ cup of water. Clear school glue will work just as well as the white school glue, but you will want to reduce the water amount to three tablespoons. 

Resin Paste Recipe

If you want your paper mache project to be strong, durable, and last a long time, using resin paste is the way to go. Use inexpensive pots and utensils when you make this, since this recipe should not be made in cooking equipment you use to prepare food.  

  • Boil three cups of water in a pot.  
  • In a separate container, thoroughly mix a half-cup of resin glue powder with one cup of flour and one cup of very hot water.  
  • Slowly pour the flour mixture into the boiling pot of water and stir well, allowing the paste to boil for three minutes, or until it is clear and smooth.  
  • Once the paste is cooled, you can use it to make your project.  

Step-by-step Paper Mache Instructions

It’s handy if you can set up an arts and crafts station or rolling cart for your crafts but all you really need  is a large table to spread out and work on.

  1. Prepare the paper mache paste from one of the options listed above, and pour it into a large bowl. 
  2. Tear newspaper, magazine pages or even brown paper bags into small one-to-two-inch strips. Torn paper is best and will lay smoother on your paper mache project than paper that is cut with scissors.
  3. Next, prepare the form you will be using to create your project. Balloons, empty cereal boxes, bowls covered in saran wrap, and even a chicken wire frame bent into a specific shape all make good paper mache forms. 
  4. Dip a strip of paper into the paste until it is fully saturated, then pull it through your fingers to squeeze off any extra paste. Apply the strip to the form, smoothing it down as you go. Completely cover the form with the glue-soaked paper strips in an overlapping pattern, until the entire form is covered. Let this layer dry completely. Repeat this step two more times, until your form is covered in a total of three layers. If you’re doing something like a bowl, make sure both the top and bottom are covered.
  5. Once the paper is dry and the outer shell is hardened, add details with paint or paint markers. Decorate your paper mache creation with plastic gems, glitter, shells and other items of your choosing.  

For decorations, life-size animals, or pretty bowls, paper mache is a versatile and fun craft for kids. Paper mache gives kids complete artistic freedom to express themselves with their imaginative creations and sculptures. And if they like this, they can explore a number of other paper crafts as well.

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About The Author

Erin Evans

Erin Evans is a seasoned homeschooling mom of four from West Michigan. Her blog, Mommy Suburbia is about family, faith, food and fun with some life adventures sprinkled in. If you are looking for a simple kid’s craft project, homeschool advice, parenting tips or a delicious recipe you are in the right neighborhood!

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