Paper Mache Tips and Hints

Craft Essentials

Paper Mache Balloon
Erin Patrice O'Brien/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Making crafts out of paper mache can be a fun activity for the whole family. If you want to make your next paper mache project more successful by using these tips and hints. 

Paper Mache Tips

  • Paper mache is a very messy craft! Prepare by covering your work surface. Even better, do it outside if weather permits. Make sure you cover yourself as well using smocks or old clothes.
  • Some creations can take several days to finish, so remind kids that they have to be patient! Sometimes you will have to work on it a little each day, adding new layers to your project.
  • Make sure your paper mache project is completely dry before you paint and decorate it.
  • Always tear your newspaper into strips instead of cutting them. The torn paper lays better on a paper mache creation.
  • To help your creation last longer, seal it with varnish or acrylic sealing spray when you're done painting it.
  • For a natural look, use brown paper towels for the final layer of your creation.
  • When you lay the newspaper strips onto your paper mache project, place the strips in as many different directions as possible. It will make your finished project stronger and let it hold together better.
  • If you live in a humid climate, assemble you paper mache project using glue rather than a flour and water mixture or try using a little less water in your recipe.
  • When working with a round object, set it on top of a bowl or large-mouthed cup while you are working so it sits still.
  • To remove the base from inside your dried project, make a slit at the back and take out the material. If it's a balloon, you can simply pop it. Cover the slit with another layer of paper mache and let it dry.
  • If you don't like the smell of your flour and water mixture, try adding a touch of cinnamon to sweeten it up. You can add any aromatherapy scent you find pleasing. 
  • Use acrylic paints for painting dried projects.
  • Colored tissue paper can be glued on to add decoration and texture to your creation.
  • Base material ideas: Balloons; aluminum foil (crumple it shape as needed); chicken wire (mold it as needed; usually used for large science projects a volcano); crumpled newspaper (use masking tape to hold it in place for basic shapes); small cardboard boxes (for square or rectangular creations).
  • If you choose to boil your newspaper pieces to make paper mache pulp you may find your pot smeared with newspaper ink. While you'll have a hard time removing the ink with soap just wipe the sides with a paper towl and some vegetable oil.  Once you have the ink completely loosened just wash with soap and water as you would normally. 
  • If you are making a pinata remember that you will need to leave a small hole or flap that you can use to stuff it with candy and small toys once it has dried.