This shows how I made my papier mache skeletons in the style of Dia de los Muertos for Halloween. Expect to take at up to a week to make this due to the drying required between steps (to avoid mildew growth when stored).

Step 1: First the ingredients

Items required.
  • Drill and a 7/64" bit (used after dried and base gesso coats applied)

Papier Mache body, head, legs, arms:
  • Newspapers - about a weeks worth.
  • ** Precut some pages into 1" strips
  • ** This is easiest if done on one-three full sheets at a time, folded in half horizontally, then torn from the creased side down.
  • ** Store the strips in a plastic see-through bin, Sterilite 15qt #1906 (DVD size) is great for this.
  • 1" Masking tape, 1 roll
  • 12 yards of drapery cord or 3mm (from sewing store)
  • Water balloons (small for head)
  • Large balloons (for body)
  • Corrugated cardboard scrap - about 8" x 6"
  • Large trash bag(s) - for covering your papier mache/paint work surface.
  • ** I actually used several layers of newspaper and just turned my work frequently while wet to prevent sticking.

Hangar/Paper Clip contraption:

  • 3 Tubular plastic hangars - for drying arm and leg pieces.
  • Masking or duct tape.
  • 30 large paper clips - for taping onto hangars to hold drying arm & leg pieces.

Papier Mache Paste recipe (two to three batches):
Single batch of papier mache paste - recipe is from:
In a Rubbermaid or similar throw-away container with lid (669ml/2.9 cups).

  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 oz cup glue (1 school sized bottle)

Papier mache decoration:

  • White Gesso (8 oz).
  • Art acrylic paint (ASTM) 4oz bottles: white, black and various other BRIGHT colors you like.
  • ** Don't use drab or pastel colors as that is not in the spirit of Dia De Los Muertos.
  • ** The intent of Dia De Los Muertos is to celebrate your ancestor's lives, like a party, so think fun party colors.
  • Glitter.
  • Hot glue gun & sticks - or carpenter's glue.
  • Shiny (metallic) confetti or small shaped "spangles.
  • Mod podge and/or clear acrylic sealer.
  • Bristle paint brushes, various sizes.
  • ** Don't use foam brushes as they will disintegrate due to the rough surface of the papier mache.
  • ** 1" bristle brush is good for priming the work with gesso and large swaths of paint.
  • ** Small detail brushes are good for 'drawing' the circles and other borders.
I am trying to figure out next how to make reindeer in this style - for next Christmas :). I am stuck on the the frame, how to make it so that a) it stands up, b) can take the wind, c) is durable (rain, etc). I have a large porch so I can put it on that instead of the lawn.
I would recommend using chicken wire or other wire mesh to form the body and legs - it will be much more sturdy. After you've added the papier mache and paint you can use a spray shellac (clear-coat) to keep rain out. That should be sufficient if it's on a protected area like your porch.
Chicken wire will clearly make the project more costly and harder for small kids.<br /> Don't rule out baloons. Fragile, but so cheap for just an evening or a WE (and easy to store -blow them up!! and send everything to the compost pile).<br /> if your project is one-day-only, go for baloons.<br /> <br /> When i was a kid (i haven't done papier mach&eacute; in twenty (thirty!!) years), i used wallpaper glue. It's a cheap powder and it makes papier mach&eacute; more like wood than a spongious material. But it is hard to get the right plasticity like putty.<br /> I used to let newspaper in water and wall paper glue for days (yes days-i had batches and i made little moldings ... or bricks that i could cut and shape easily with my father's tools).<br /> <br />

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