Learn How to Make a Paper Mache Statue with Step-by-Step Photos

I will show you how create a paper mache statue. This tutorial will give you the basics, so you can create anything you desire with this incredibly diverse craft. Like French fries, Paper Mache is not actually French. Paper Mache literally translates to chewed-up paper due to the appearance of the paper pulp. Despite the French name, paper mache has a long history in Asia where it was famously used to make lacquered boxes.

I used plastic bottles, cereal boxes, and duck tape, mostly items that would have done in the trash. Paper Mache is a wonderful medium, it's free, non-toxic, and great to do with kids. No fancy equipment required! Paper Mache is so fun and so easy! You probably already have everything you need to get started.

The materials are free and every week you get more in the mail! Everyone has their own methods and these instructions are more like guidelines. There are NO rules. Just creativity and fun. Start saving those newspapers!

*All images and designs are my own.

Materials and Supplies

Everything you need for a paper mache project

white glue, paper mache paste From the Kitchen

Flour
Water
Cornstarch or Liquid Starch
Old Bowls and utensils
Bamboo skewers optional

From the Tool Box

Old Scissors
Utility knife
Dremel or drill
Tape, duct tape and masking tape.
Glue gun (optional I don’t use one)

From around the House

White glue
Bleach
Fan (helpful for drying but not necessary)
Plastic and Styrofoam containers
Cardboard
Lots of newspaper

Paper Mache Paste Recipe

Next to paper strips, the paper mache paste is the most important ingredient for a successful project. This kid-friendly paper mache paste recipe uses non-toxic ingredients that you probably already have at home. Good quality paper mache paste is slippery and chunk-free. Click here for my recipe.

Paper Mache Paste

To make any quantity of paper paste, use a ratio of one part flour to four parts water.

I use 1/4 C measurements to create a decent amount of paste that I can use before it spoils.

Mix a small amount of water with four. Boil remaining water, add flour and cook until transparent.

The Armature

sub-structure for your statue.

An armature is a simple frame used support a sculpture. The armature defines the shape of the finished statue. The armature also gives the newspaper strips something to stick to.

For this example I’m making a gargoyle. The beauty of gargoyles is they can be any combination of animals, in other words, they don’t have to like any real animal. If you already have an idea in your head, great, just make a quick sketch. If not, begin by looking at inspiration pictures like I did. I looked at photos of the gargoyles on the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I also looked at pictures of lions, because I wanted the stature to have a similar to feel to marble “guarding” lions placed on the sides of driveways and stairways.


Before making the armature look at your rough sketch to establish the body shape. In my case this was an S-shape.


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For the Armature I used several kinds of injection-molded coffee containers, half gallon milk containers, coke bottles, and cardboard. The curvy shape of plastic coke bottles made great “muscular” arms, some paper mache artists sweat by the thin foam used in food and meat containers. By all means, materials you have on hand. Part of the fun is being resourceful and finding the perfect material for the desired effect.

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I started by establishing the “S” shaped body. The top of a two liter soda bottle fit perfectly into the handle of the coffee container, so I taped that together. Hot glue can also be used during construction, instead of or with tape. I started off with masking tape, but ended up using duck tape, because it is stickier and the woven fiber makes the structure stronger.

armature sculpture

In general it is good to weight down the base of your sculpture. Play with the features, come back to it later and see if everything look well proportioned. For the example I had to totally redo the upper body and neck (the latter was non existent!)


One skewer runs vertically through the armature, like a spine. Holes were drilled through all of the plastic bottles.


Skewers are very handy for making shoulders. Ideally use a rubber band or a paper ring to draw a level horizontal line where the shoulders should be. Mark two points directly across from each other to drill.

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Once your armature is ready you can begin applying the paper mache strips. Check out my Easy Paper Mache Paste Tutorial for the recipe!

The Head

Bringing out the Features

The easiest way to add features is to draw the shape on copy paper, cut out the shape and drape it over the armature to test the fit. The best materials to make features are cardboard and plastic milk containers.

I cut slits into the milk container and then taped the ears in place. I shortened the head by cutting it in half and then pushing the portions inside each other, like a box, until it was the correct length.


The horns are made from cones of newspaper taped and bent into curves. I made two plus-shaped cuts into the skull where the horns will poke out from and then taped them in place. A pocket knife or other utility blade works well for cutting plastic.

gargoyle head paper mache



Plastic is very slippery, making it very easy to lose control of your blade. Never underestimate the danger of tools. Even that pair of dull craft scissors could send you to the ER. Always supervise your children during paper mache projects and do all of the cutting yourself.

Paper Mache Pulp

Learn how to make paper pulp.

Paper pulp is a great way to add features. I used pulp to build up the gargoyle’s muscles and features. Paper pulp can be mixed with paste and molded like clay. Making the pulp was the messiest part of this project. I filled a mop bucket with small squares of newspaper and poured hot water over it to soak overnight . As the paper soaks, the ink separates from the paper and floats on the surface, waiting to stain anything it touches. Rather than ruin a cooking dish, I elected to soak the pulp for another 12 hours in more hot water until the paper fibers were sufficiently broken apart.


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The next step is to drain off the water from the pulp. I used an out-of-service sheer curtain that I didn’t mind ruining.



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I used the pulp to slowly build up the back and shoulder muscles, ear and horn cartilage, haunches, paws, ribs, fangs, eyes lids, and nose.


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I outlined the eyes for extra definition, (not that it needs it.)


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The paper pulp mixture is quite dense and takes a long time to dry.



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I built up the paw bones with paper pulp. For the claws I rolled up a 4″-6″ strip of paper into a cone-shape, taped it together, and curved it.


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More paper.

Troubleshooting

Potential Problems and How to Fix Them

Mold

Thick layers of paper and pulp can take a long time to dry. In combination with rainy weather and high humidity your creation may start to smell sour. Although, mold isn’t visible the sour smell is the first indication of mold or mildew can be easily fixed by spraying the structure with undiluted laundry bleach. It’s best to do this outside, to avoid the fumes.

Creative Finishes

Ways to complete your project.

There are a multitude of ways to color your paper mache project, the fastest way spray paint or stain. These are all self-explanatory. I will be sharing a natural earth finish that gives the gives the statue a rock-like appearance.


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I wish I could take the credit for this idea, but I was inspired by a wonderful tutorial, on the Paper Mache Resource Page UK, that briefly mentioned soil, sand, and clay finishes. (See Resources for Link)


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I gathered some nice loose earth from outside and placed it in a 1 quart Ziplock bag bto break apart the clods to make a powder. I sieved the dirt through a makeshift sifter made from the bottom of a 2L soda bottle with holes drilled into it.

paper mache gargoyle

Resources

Paper Mache on the Web

The Paper Mache Resource Page UK Papier Mache UK is a great resource for artists and aspiring paper mache artists. Anyone can contribute and share the paper mache projects and ready tutorials from the experts. There are literally paper mache artists from all over the world registered on this interactive site.

Les Cartonnistes An amazing group of French paper mache artists who make incredibly funky furniture. A must see!

Stolloween Paper Mache Halloween Crafts This amazing paper mache artist and blogger is known for creating unparalleled Halloween displays along with posts that include extremely helpful advice. Great for crafty paper mache guys and anyone in search of ghoulish paper mache inspiration.

My Easy Paper Mache Paste RecipeThis is my personal paper mache paste recipe designed to produce consistent results every time.

Paper Mache: Can You Do It?

Have you ever made a serious paper mache project?

  Show the poll results

Bonus Material

Paper Mache Bugs

In the comments there have been some request to see other paper machine projects. So here is one of my other projects that illustrate the same armature construction and techniques.

Just to show you how easy it is to turn any object or idea into a paper mache statue, I’m adding photos of my giant “scare bug” project. These creatures were inspired by the frightening bugs in my garden and my hopes to scare them off by showing them a large-scale version of themselves. Although it didn’t work, it was a fun project that shows how versatile paper mache is.

 photo ww004.jpgFor example, the third sketch from the left is an evil, evil Colorado potato bug inspired by the photo above.

First, I created a simple sketch to capture the important shapes that make each bug look like itself. You don’t need to create a polished anatomical drawing, we just need to capture the basic shapes. Here I have sketched four bugs, although I only created three in the end.

Giant Bug Armature

Find or build a bug-like foundation to begin your armature. This packing carton was perfect for creating an elongated body with room for all of those legs.  photo bugs009.jpg

Gradually build up the bug’s body and arching exoskeleton using a combination of soft materials that can be packed into shape.

 photo bugs011.jpg

Add wings, legs, antennas and ancillary details that represent each bug. Consider using cloths, plastic and transparent materials to create super-unique features.

 photo bugs014.jpg

Legs are one of the most challenging part of this project because there are so many. Use bamboo skewers to create sturdy axles that like each pair of legs.

 photo bugs013.jpg

Once your armature is secure, cover the form with strips of paper mache and embellish as desired.

 photo bugs012.jpg

Super Paper Mache Books

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The Finished Bugs

My first bug is the one featuring the overlapping cereal/snack box scales in the earlier photos. The wings are large cardboard flaps decorated with clothesline rope veins that are glued on. The blue/purple wings were created with a combination of stain and spray paint.

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Here is my completed Colorado potato bug. The antennas are all created from wire covered with paper mache strips.

 photo giantbugs005.jpg

My final bug is the boll weevil. Although I don’t grow cotton or have weevils in my cotton bolls, I just had to create a paper mache version of this iconic Southern bug.
 photo giantbugs003.jpg

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I really enjoyed sharing my paper mache project and I hope you learned something new or something to inspire you in creating something artistic with your hands.

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Questions and Comments

Share your questions, comments, and projects

If you have questions or comments I will answer them here. Feel free to post your previous paper mache projects, or projects you made from this tutorial. We would love to see them. Happy crafting!
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  • Upon-Request Jun 01, 2014 @ 10:56 pm
    cool projects. pinned
  • CosmeticMom Apr 08, 2014 @ 11:26 am
    These paper mache figures are so cool! It has been years since I did some fun paper mache projects.
  • oddobjective Apr 06, 2014 @ 3:47 pm
    I have been wanting to do paper mache for a long time. I want to make Santa's and Reindeer in paper mache. You have re-inspired me to do it this year. Great lens.
  • nelchee Apr 06, 2014 @ 12:48 pm
    Wow, these are some really ambitious projects! I never tried doing anything that large with papier mache, really. Both the gargoyle and the bugs are fantastic!

    I do have a lens on papier mache home decor where I shared some of my work, if you want to check it out :)
  • LindaJM Apr 05, 2014 @ 11:22 am
    Wow... that's different! I've used paper maché before but didn't create something permanent. Of course, what is really permanent? Not much! Native Americans say that only earth and sky last forever. Anyhow, I celebrate your creativity and thank you for sharing your process with us!
  • kysy1404 Apr 05, 2014 @ 10:02 am
    It is the same for us Irish when we go to Europe, the USA or Canada as we have to reverse everything we do. T
  • Queen-Elizabeth Apr 05, 2014 @ 2:31 am
    Wow, and I thought paper mâché on a balloon in grade school was difficult... This is incredible!
  • DeniseMcGill Apr 04, 2014 @ 11:25 pm
    I love paper mache. These are great projects. I've made some large things before but then I have the problem of may family saying "What are you going to do with THAT?" Art critics! Congrats on LOTD.
  • Pastiche Apr 04, 2014 @ 3:42 pm
    Congrats of LOTD - I really like your techniques for building a paper mache armature. Nasty bugs there!
  • QuiltFinger Apr 10, 2014 @ 11:45 am
    Thanks, Pastiche. I know you're the craft master!
  • LindaWhite Apr 04, 2014 @ 7:19 am
    Very nice lens. You have me thinking about getting into it
  • QuiltFinger Apr 04, 2014 @ 9:52 am
    You should definitely give it a try! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!
  • Apr 04, 2014 @ 1:11 am
    I came to you lens and forgot everything. Such a creative and artistic work I have ever seen with such simplicity and less budget. Everything is looking so real . You are really an extremely talented person. I can not express your talent in terms of words. This art in your instincts will make you billionaire if you keep working like that.
  • QuiltFinger Apr 04, 2014 @ 9:40 am
    You're tremendously kind. Thanks for your comment and immense confidence. I'm not sure about billionaire status, but we can all dream. Right?
  • VanessaPrieto Apr 03, 2014 @ 10:22 pm
    Congratulations on LOTD!!! I've actually been thinking about creating some paper mache busts for displaying my jewelry, so coming across this lens was timely. :)
  • QuiltFinger Apr 04, 2014 @ 9:50 am
    That sounds like a really great, unique idea! Everyone will be jealous of your kick-ass displays!
  • nancycarol Apr 03, 2014 @ 9:49 pm
    Fascinating art form. This is such a fun thing to do with kids or grandkids too. There are so many ways to go with this they'd have a ball doing it! Congratulations on LOTD, great tutorial and photos! Well done!
  • demetriusPop Apr 03, 2014 @ 7:28 pm
    These are great. Ironically, we were just talking about Mache the other day. When we were kids, this is how we would make are Halloween costumes. Thanks for a reminiscent lens.
  • Colonel2013 Apr 03, 2014 @ 7:15 pm
    Great lens! Congrats on LoTD!!
  • poetvix Apr 03, 2014 @ 6:25 pm
    Absolutely awesome project! Your finished creations are really impressive.
  • artyfax Apr 03, 2014 @ 5:27 pm
    I have worked with papier mache but not this size of sculpture. I reckon this might just be something I need to have a go at. Thanks for the lens and the inspiration.
  • QuiltFinger Apr 04, 2014 @ 10:00 am
    Definitely give it another try! There are so many possibilities for creating both functional and artful pieces. Good luck!
  • MoshiMonsterFan Apr 03, 2014 @ 2:36 pm
    One I just read this lens and now I already like papier mache! Now I know how to make papier mache using any tools I want! thanks!
  • QuiltFinger Apr 04, 2014 @ 10:01 am
    Thanks for visiting my lens my lens and commenting. I hope you give it a try!
  • Marke-ting Apr 03, 2014 @ 2:21 pm
    Wow love the art work!! In our house we have to save the toilet paper rolls for art projects. I think you just gave us another idea to try out. Great work!

    Cool beans.

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