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Getting Started with Papier Mache

Getting Started with Papier Mache by Jackie Hall

The basics you need to know to get started with this art form.

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  • Date addedAdded: September 12, 2002
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Getting started

Papier mache is really easy to do, and there are very few requirements.

You will need...

- Paper (newsprint is ideal)
- Adhesive
- Paintbrush
- Plastic table covering
- Paints
- Patience!

It is advisable to prepare everything before starting. Firstly, tear the newspaper into strips about an inch wide by 4 inches long. This is only approximate. Tear the paper with the grain.

Make your adhesive. There are many different recipes but below you will find the most common.

Papier mache recipes for adhesive

Note: all adhesives can be used with both layering and pulp methods of papier mache. I personally recommend wallpaper paste.

1 - Flour and water glue:

To make a flour and water glue follow these instructions:

Boil 5 cups of water in a saucepan.

In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup of sieved flour with a cup of cold water. Mix to a smooth consistency (a bit like making custard). When completely free of lumps, add the mixture to the water in the saucepan. Gently boil, stirring constantly for two or three minutes until the mixture thickens.

Allow to cool before using.

This will make a runny glue. If you prefer a very thick glue (or if you are in a hurry for it to dry) use this recipe instead:

Thick flour and water glue:

Use 1 whole cup of flour to three cups of water. Make using the same method as above.

2 - Wallpaper paste glue:

Make up a bowl according to the manufacturer�s instructions. Use a little less water than recommended if preferred. Keep in an airtight container. It will keep for several days in a fridge or a cool place. Wallpaper paste has the advantage of containing a fungicide to prevent mould.

Note: It is not a good idea to let children use wallpaper paste in case they put their fingers in their mouths.

3 - White (pva) glue

Slightly water down the glue in a bowl and use straight away.

When you have decided which glue to use, the next thing to do is to decide what to make. To start is it advisable to use something to mould on.


Cheap and indispensable. No release agent needed. The balloon will tear itself away from your dried papier mache easily when burst.

Bowls and plates
These will need to have a release agent applied first to stop the papier mache sticking to them.

Release agents

These all must be applied very thinly. They may leave a small residue, which you may not like.

- Vaseline
- Cooking oil
- Washing up liquid

- Cling film (this will not leave any residue but may leave a slightly crinkled texture on the papier mache)

- Wet paper (another method is to use strips of wet paper (just wetted with water and no glue) for the first layer only)