How to get started with papier-mâché

how to make paper mache
How to make papier-mâchéLiudmila Chernetska - Getty Images

Papier-mâché, or what's more commonly searched for as paper mache, is the perfect crafting activity for children and the whole family to get involved in. If you're wanting to learn how to make paper mache, we have all you need to know to get started with our easy step-by-step guide.

It's the perfect craft project for children – especially over the long summer holidays. Paper mache is an easy-to-make material that sets hard overnight and can be used to create fun art projects such as kids' birthday party pinatas, paper mache Easter eggs, masks, pumpkin lanterns for Halloween, paper mache bowls, lampshades, vases and even striking jewellery.

Plus, it's a great way to reuse and recycle unwanted or discarded magazines, comics, newspapers or wrapping paper. It's also an affordable activity, as it only requires three to four items to get you going: paper, plain flour and water (or PVA glue). If you don't have newspaper to hand, you can substitute it with loo roll, tissue paper or cardboard.

how to make paper mache
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Paper mache is made from strips of paper stuck together with the surprisingly strong mache glue mixture. Cover a balloon, cardboard or mould and you have a 3D model that can be painted with acrylic paint or decorated with swatches of fabric or patterned paper.

Making paper mache is one of the great crafts for kids, with little ones turning their creations into imaginative art projects, like a paper mache volcano or animal.

Simply follow our paper mache recipe below to get started. We've used flour and water to make a strong, natural adhesive, but if you're in a hurry PVA glue works just as well on smaller items, while wallpaper paste is brilliant for larger makes.

how to make paper mache
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Glue-based paper mache is also unlikely to rot or become mouldy – plus glue can also create a better base to paint on.

Be sure to cover any surfaces and clothes so they don't stain!

We'd also recommend adding a few tablespoons of salt to your flour and water recipe if you're planning to keep your creation for a while, as it will protect your paper mache from mould growth.

Here's your step-by-step guide on how to make paper mache.

What do you need for paper mache?

You will need:

How to make paper mache

  1. Tear or cut 3-inch long strips of newspaper and put them to one side.

  2. Make up the glue paste in a large bowl by mixing the flour with equal parts water e.g. one cup of water to one cup of flour. Grab a wooden spoon or metal whisk and give the flour mixture a good stir to get out any lumps. Add a splash more water little by little until the consistency is thick and glue-like. Sprinkle in a few tablespoons of salt to prevent mould.

  3. If using PVA glue, decant a small amount into a dish, add a little water and mix well. If using wallpaper paste, follow the instructions on the back of the packet to make up the required amount.

  4. Next, take the item you're covering and put it on a flat surface. If you're using a bowl or reusable mold, smear a fine layer of Vaseline onto the part you'll be covering. This will protect it and make removing the paper mache much easier at the end. If you are using a balloon, you can sit it in a bowl to stop it from rolling around the table and make it a lot easier to apply the newspaper strips.

  5. Use a paintbrush to apply glue to both sides of your newspaper strips then place them onto the mould, removing any air bubbles with your paintbrush as you go.

  6. Continue to add more and more layers until the item is completely covered. We suggest applying at least three layers (allowing them to dry slightly in between each layer before applying more).

  7. Leave to dry overnight.

  8. Once your paper mache creation is completely dried, carefully remove it from the mould. If you've covered a balloon, pop it and remove it from your paper mache creation.

  9. Paint with two coats of emulsion paint to seal the paper mache. Leave to dry, then decorate as you wish before applying a clear varnish to set everything in place and add a glossy finish.

What can you make with paper mache?

Now you know how to make paper mache; you can get as creative as you want. Paper mache is so versatile. Use it to create paper mache bowls to keep your jewellery safe, kids' party pinatas, paper mache lampshades and paper mache animals.

How to make a paper mache pinata

Pinatas are a great addition to a party and are simple enough to make that the kids can join in as a fun craft activity.

Using a balloon as your base for a paper mache pinata is a great idea as it's easy to make a large 'shell' with a small opening.

  1. Cover a balloon with paper mache strips, making sure to cover it as close to the knotted end as possible. You only need to give yourself enough room to burst the balloon and pull it out once the paper mache is dry.

  2. Once your paper mache is dry and the balloon has been removed, you can go in with some scissors and make the opening slightly bigger if needed.

  3. Fill your pinata with treats and carefully cover the hole. This can be done with a sticker or with a few more strips of paper mache; just be careful not to drip any glue inside the pinata – we don't want sticky sweets!

  4. Once your pinata is filled and sealed, it's time to decorate it. Traditionally, pinatas are covered in brightly colour strips of tissue paper that have been cut (at regular intervals along the length of the strip) to make ruffles. To get a traditional-looking pinata, layer your tissue paper ruffles in an overlapping pattern with your colours grouped together to make a striped effect.

how to make paper mache
Liudmila Chernetska - Getty Images

How do you make paper mache balloons?

how to make paper mache balloon
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Inflated balloons make great moulds for circular items because you simply pop the balloon and remove it once the paper mache is dry. They can be great fun in spring when you can make giant paper mache Easter egg shapes to fill or decorate.

Have you made a craft project out of paper mache? Share it with us by tagging us on Instagram!

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