4 Best DIY paper mache clay recipes for home decor & kids crafts! Easy to make with pulp, flour paste, or glue, some without joint compound.
What is the difference between paper mache and paper clay? Paper mache ( aka Papier Mâché ) usually refers to layering strips of paper dipped in glue or paper mache paste ( a flour mixture of 1 part flour mixed with 2 parts water) over a mold or structure.
Paper clay (aka paper mache clay) is a mixture of paper pulp with a few simple ingredients like flour or school glue. It works very much like clay and dries very hard.
Paper clay is less time consuming to use than adding layers of paper mache, therefore great for projects that require more thickness or sculpture details.
For example, in the photo above you can see our DIY vintage paper clay bowl tutorial here! Most paper-mache bowls are thin walls made of newspaper strip layers over a balloon. If you want something like a hand made clay bowl, paper mache clay is a better choice.
There are many different recipes for homemade paper clay. These 4 recipes worked really well, and 3 of them are made without joint compound. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each. SPOILER: recipe number 2 and 3 are my favorite! 🙂 Check out this video tutorial or skip to recipes below!
You can buy pre-made paper clay such as CelluClay which comes in a dry powder to be mixed with water, and Creative Paperclay which is already moistened into clay form and much finer like actual clay. But homemade paper clay is easy and fun to make.
To make paper mache clay from scratch, all recipes start with paper pulp.
How much paper do you need to make paper clay?
Paper clay recipes are much more forgiving than baking recipes!
You will need 3 cups ( 400 to 500 grams) of squeezed but still damp paper pulp to make about 4 to 5 cups of paper mache clay. We will use this measurement in the recipes here. You can adjust it to the size of your project.
To make 3 cups of squeezed paper pulp, you will need ONE of the following:
- 1/2 a roll or about 100 grams of toilet paper (the easiest to turn into paper pulp)
- 2 one-dozen egg cartons. 20 sheets of 8.5 x 11 letter size office paper
- 40 sheets of letter size newsprint paper such as phone book pages.
How to make paper pulp
If you are using toilet paper, just soak it in water for an hour and tear the paper into tiny pieces of pulp.
Other types of paper or egg carton will need a little more work. First tear them into small pieces or cut them into paper strips and put the piece in a bowl. Fill the bowl with water until all the paper pieces are completely submerged in the water.
Let paper strips and / or egg carton pieces soak for at least an hour. Use an immersion hand blender or a regular blender (mush faster) and blend the paper into pulp. You may need to add extra water to make it easier to blend, because the pulp can thicken a lot as it blends.
Next scoop the paper pulp into a piece of thin fabric such as cheesecloth.
TIP: I have learned that it’s better to not squeeze too hard because when the paper pulp is too dense it is very hard to mix the paper clay dough later! Just strain the paper pulp and squeeze out most of the water, but the pulp should be easy to break up into smaller pieces.
Now we are ready to make paper mache clay. Before we start, here’s a very helpful trick: get a dough scraper like this, and it will be so much easier to mix the paper clay dough and break up the little lumps of paper pulp with this simple tool! I figured this out the hard way so you don’t have to! 🙂
Paper mache clay recipe 1: paper pulp + flour
This recipe is the easiest to make. The dried paper clay is quite strong and durable. Although the paper clay from recipes 2, 3 and 4 is even stronger.
- 3 cups (400 to 500 grams) damp paper pulp
- 2 cups flour (240 grams) , 1/2 cup water (112 grams)
- 1 tablespoon of salt (20 grams) or vinegar (as a preservative)
Mix 1 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of water and the salt or vinegar into a batter, add to paper pulp and knead until everything is well mixed together. You will still have little lumps of paper pulp, but try to break up the lumps as much as possible.
Add the rest of the flour in stages as you knead the paper clay dough. If the dough feels too wet and sticky, add more flour until it reaches a nice consistency like play dough.
This paper mache clay pot above is made with recipe 1. It is a little more fragile to work with compared to the other 3 recipes. But it becomes quite strong after the paper clay dries completely.
Paper mache clay recipe 2: paper pulp, flour, and glue
I love this recipe and recipe 3. They are my favorite because the ingredients are all very simple, non-toxic and kids friendly. The dried paper clay is super strong.
- 3 cups (400 to 500 grams) damp paper pulp
- 1 cup(120 grams) flour, 1 cup(300 grams) glue
- 1 tablespoon salt or vinegar (as a preservative)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or mineral oil (to make the dough smooth and less sticky)
Mix all the ingredients together. Use the dough scraper to break up the lumps as much as possible. It is so much easier than mixing the sticky dough just with our hands! 🙂
If the dough feels too wet, add more flour until it reaches a nice consistency like play dough.
Paper mache clay recipe 3: paper pulp and cooked flour paste
Like recipe 2, this is also my favorite recipe. The only difference is instead of glue, we are using a cooked flour paste here, which is basically homemade glue. 🙂
To make the cook flour paste glue, mix 1/2 cup flour with 1 cup cold water in a saucepan until there are no lumps. Heat the mixture on the stove. Turn the heat to low as soon as it boils. Keep stirring as the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise. Remove from heat, let cool and store the flour paste glue in a sealed container.
Next, gather all the ingredients in recipe 2 except for the glue.
Replace the 1 cup glue in recipe 2 with 1 cup flour paste we just made, and follow the rest of recipe 2 to make the paper mache clay dough.
Again instead of kneading the sticky dough, I find it much easier to use a dough scraper to break up the lumps. Check out the video tutorial at the beginning to see it in action. 🙂
Paper mache clay recipe 4: with joint compound
This recipe originally came from Jonni at Ultimate Paper Mache. Jonni likes to use toilet paper because the pulp is smoother and easier to mix, with the addition of joint compound which makes the paper clay extra smooth and great for fine details in paper mache sculptures.
(I have seen variations of this recipe with more or less joint compound, flour, etc. It is quite forgiving and you can experiment with slightly different proportions.)
3 cups (400 to 500 grams) damp paper pulp, 1 cup(120 grams) flour, 1 cup(300 grams) glue, 1 1/2 cup (500 to 600 grams) pre-mixed joint compound, 2 tablespoons vegetable or mineral oil (to make the dough smooth and less sticky)
Mix all the ingredients together. Use the dough scraper or a hand mixer to break up the lumps as much as possible until everything is nicely incorporated. As in all the recipes, you can always add more flour if the dough feels too wet, and add water or glue if the dough feels too dry.
How long can you store homemade paper clay dough?
You can store your homemade paper clay dough in the fridge, wrapped airtight in plastic wrap or plastic bag for 2 to 3 weeks. You can also store the paper mache clay dough in the freezer for much longer.
Comparison of the 4 recipes
The paper mache clay recipes 1, 2 and 3 are made without joint compound, and very safe to use on craft projects for kids. Recipe 1 is the most simple to mix and pretty strong when dried. The main difference is that paper mache made with glue (or cooked flour glue) is stronger than paper mache made with just a water and flour mixture.
Recipe 2, 3, and 4 are stronger when the clay dries, because the addition of glue or cooked flour paste.
The test piece above is made with recipe 3. It is super durable, and dries very hard with no cracks. This paper mache clay pedestal bowl below (tutorial here) is also made with recipe 3!
Recipe 4 has joint compound, which produces a very smooth paper clay great for detailed work. The con is that not everyone can get premixed joint compound, and there are debates about the safety of its ingredients.
Personally I really like recipe 2 and 3, and can’t wait to show you some projects I am making! 🙂
Love paper and glue? You will love these super easy Anthropologie inspired DIY oyster shell dishes with free designs for you to download!
Happy Creating, see you soon!