Papier Mache
May 5th, 2010 by Craftylocks

papier mache hatWhat is Papier Mache, or Paper Mache?

Papier Mache is French for chewed paper as that is the appearance that the papier mache pulp has before it is worked with. Papier Mache is a form of construction or sculpture where bits of paper are stuck together with paste. When the paste dries the construction is hard and can be painted or varnished.

Newspaper is commonly used for papier mache sculpture as it is readily available and works well with the paste, able to be molded readily. Although any adhesive can be used, wallpaper paste or home-made paste are most suitable as they are easy to work with and are not too expensive.

There are two papier mache methods – layering and papier mache pulp.

Papier Mache Layering

This technique involves layering strips of paper with paste to build up the layers. It is often used over a mold such as a bowl to form the initial shape. The basic steps are below or follow the Papier Mache Layers Tutorial.

  1. In this case the first step is to cover the mold with clingwrap plastic or waterproof gel so that the mold is easy to remove once the sculpture is dry.
  2. Then start layering on the strips of paper. They can be coated in the paste first by dunking them in a container of paste, or the paste can be applied to the layers of paper on the mold. Whichever you use you will have lots of paste on your hands! You will need at least six layers of paper to make a solid shape.
  3. Leave the piece to dry and then carefully remove from the mold and leave to dry some more on the inside.
  4. Once it is dry trim or sand any rough bits and paint.
  5. A final layer of varnish will help protect and waterproof the sculpture.

Papier Mache Pulp

This is a pulp made from soaked paper and paste. It forms a substance a little like clay and will be the ‘chewed paper’ form that gave papier mache it’s French name. The basic steps are below or follow the Papier Mache Pulp Tutorial.

  1. Fill a bucket or bowl with torn bits of paper and cover it with warm water.
  2. Leave the paper to soak for 24 hours.
  3. Pour off the water, add paste and mix well. The resulting material should have the texture of a soft clay.
  4. Sculpt the pulp onto a mold or into a shape and leave it to dry.
  5. Once completely dry it needs to be painted or varnished to seal it.

Home-made Paste

This is a cheap alternative to purchased paste. I usually use wallpaper paste as it is cheap anyway and I am usually in too much of a rush, but it is quite cool to use this and it has a really nice texture. However you do need to take a little care if you want the final sculpture to last a long time. To keep bugs away from the sculpture ensure it is completely sealed with pain or vanish. And to prevent the paste ever growing mold you can add oil of cloves or some wallpaper paste.

You need one cup of flour and three cups of water. Mix the flour to a smooth paste in a saucepan with a little bit of the water. Gradually add the rest of the water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring all the time. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until it is thick. Use it once it has cooled down.


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6 Responses  
Craftylocks writes:
July 25th, 2013 at 2:58 am

Hi Liz,
I am not sure exactly how long to recomend for keeping it, but I would think that using it up over a few weeks would be fine. I would certainly keep it over the few days it takes to make a papier mache project. I keep it for even longer sometimes, but I expect it will go off faster if it gets contaminated.
I hope that helps and that you have fun with your creation!
Happy crafting,

liz writes:
July 24th, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I was wondering how long the unused paste lasts for, do you have to use it on the day and then throw it away?

Craftylocks writes:
July 12th, 2012 at 2:29 am

Hi Tran,
This one I can answer for sure – any general white flour, all purpose would be fine.

Craftylocks writes:
July 12th, 2012 at 2:27 am

Hi Tran,
I believe that it is the cloves in the oil of cloves that acts as the preservative. I don’t think that olive oil would work. It is a tricky one to test as you would have to wait a long time to see what would go moldy and what would not. But the witches hat pictured in the post was made with wallpaper paste and is now over 13 years old. I have just dragged it out of the garage for a fancy dress and all I can see on it is a bit of the varnish lifting – no mold. So I suggest for something you really want to last to use wallpaper paste.

Tran writes:
July 5th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

plus what kind of flour is it suppose to be?? all purpose flour??

Tran writes:
July 5th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Can you use olive oil instead of cloves oil???

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