Introduction: Make Paper Mache Pulp

Picture of Make Paper Mache Pulp

You can make just about anything out of paper mache. The paper mache pulp is what gives all those fantastic projects their detail and dimention. We all know how to make something out of simple paper mache (glue and water and some strips of newspaper). You make you're general form out of that stuff (as enjoyable as that stuff still is) but where do you go from there? Where are all the details and the protrusions that define a face or an animal or a halloween monster or WHATEVER!? It's basically modeling clay for paper mache. And it's the cheapest and easiest thing to make in the world!

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

Picture of Prepare Your Materials

Before you begin make sure that you have all of the following things:

1. a strainer spoon
2. a closed spoon (which isn't shown below)
3. one pot that is good for boiling and that you might not mind being a little gross, although this project isn't particularly messy.... but just in case (you never know).
4. LOTS and LOTS of Elmer's white glue. It doesn't necessarily have to be Elmer's, any white PVA glue will do. Just make sure that you don't come short of it.
5. And of course toilet paper!

Believe it or not with this project I have actually experimented with about 3 different types/brands of toilet paper and haven't come up with MUCH of difference. But after you read through this knock yourself out and see what you can come up with.

Step 2: Start to Boil

Picture of Start to Boil

Fill your pot with water, don't be concerned with how much right now, and set it to a high boil. Wait until it gets simmering and tear off a long ribbon of toilet paper and start to tear it into tiny tiny tiny shreds. Mine in the picture below probably weren't tiny enough. A good size would be about as big as your thumb. It's a long process, yeah. Now after it's started to bubble a little bit and boil a little start to throw the little pieces in and just let them sit and soon some will start to tear apart because of the heat and the boiling and the wetness. DON'T put them all in at once! You'll get much better results if you slowly feed the tiny bits into the boiling water little by little and then slowly let them sit little by little and then this process also gives you time to tear up more pieces. Keep in mind that a little bit of paper mache pulp goes a long long way. If you're making something small like a mask then you may only want to use not even half of a roll of toilet paper depending on what embellishments you plan on making.

After you have thrown in the boiling water all that you want to throw in ... keep stirring and keep it in a hard boil for a while yet. The only advice I have for this is that just take it off when it looks right to YOU. When you think it seems the right consistency (not enormous clumps of toilet paper and most of it has torn apart into even tinier bits and it looks smooth) then take it off the stove.

WARNING!: while the pot is getting full and is boiling away it really likes to spit at you! You may want to take a step back while stirring.

Step 3: Drain Out the Pulp

Picture of Drain Out the Pulp

Most of the times that I have made pulp this way I end up with a ton of water left over in the pot!! So there's a few ways that you can take care of this. I usually end up doing this the long long way with a two spoons. Scoop out a little bit at a time in your strainy spoon, let some of the water drain out, then take the back of your closed spoon and squeeze even more water out. Now put the now drained pulp into whatever container that you've chosen to keep the concoction in. Keep in mind this takes quite a while.

....and there are several other ways of doing... I, for whatever reason, just choose to do it the hard way. Other ways include:
1. Take a very large unused rag or towel and (after getting rid as much of the excess water yourself) just dump the entire mess in the middle. Now squeeze as much of the water out as you can and hang it up somewhere until the excess drips away.
2. Wait until it cools, (again get rid as much of the excess water yourself as you can) squeeze out in your hands!

Step 4: Put the Glue In!

Picture of Put the Glue In!

After you have everything drained and it's in your container put your white glue in! Contrary to what I have pictured, it's a lot easier if you just completely take the top off and just POUR the glue on because you're going to need a lot of it! For just that little amount that I had there I used more than half the bottle of glue!

Again, it's hard to really tell you how MUCH glue to really put in, except to say "a lot", but all you can really do is just judge for yourself. What I do is just feel it out.

After you put the glue in, it's time to get your hands dirty!! Just dig right in! Start kneading the pulp just like you would dough. Get all the glue worked into it. And if it isn't enough glue then put some more in. The way I usually work it is when I'm kneading the pulp, I start to add more glue when there are still dry feeling areas of pulp.

Step 5: Make a Masterpiece!

Picture of Make a Masterpiece!

Well that's it!! You're all done! So go make something! Paper mache pulp shouldn't be applied all at once because it does take a little while to dry. Apply it just as you would regular paper mache: layer by layer. And don't make the layers too thick and gooey either. Wait until each layer dries and then apply another. It's kind of a long process, but it always gets the best results and this way you don't run the risk of ruining or warping your mold underneath.

Oh! ..And one last thing you might want to do is to put salt into the mixture.. just regular table salt. Paper mache pulp takes a bit to dry and if it takes too long to dry it run the risks of molding (don't worry, I've never had this take longer than a day or two dry so no worries) But adding salt to the mixture will drive away mold or mildew.

There are several other recipes but I have a few problem with these other recipes:
1. They just don't seem to work out as well
2. They involve wheat or flour and that will eventually make your piece of art attract bugs like moths that will eat at your project (oh nooooo!!!)
3. They do store in the refrigerator but they have to be used in about 2-4 days (there abouts)

Speaking of refrigerators that is another great thing about this recipe: You can use it right away, then store it in the fridge and it stores for a long long time. I once left some in there for 3 weeks and it was still good (I don't recommend that to anyone though)

So I hope everyone enjoys and none of your roommates mistake it for mashed potatoes.


Liam T (author)2017-02-13

Old paperback book, tear the pages out making sure that you get paper only and not any of the spine or any of the glue. Put the pages through a shredder or cross shredder (even better). Put the shreds in a suitable container and cover with enough hot water to cover. Keep an eye on it because the paper will soak some of it up, just top it up with more hot water. Leave overnight or as long as it takes to turn to mush then blitz it with a hand blender. The longer you do this the finer it will get. Then line a colander with an old towel and pour the mixture in and squeeze most of the water out. Then put it back in the container and mix with plenty of pva. A tip here: Don't buy carpenters glue, go to a builders merchants and buy pva construction adhesive. Far cheaper and the same thing. How do I know? I've been a carpenter for 37 years. Store in an airtight container away from sunlight and heat. I've stored this for just under a year and used it and it was fine. I might add this won't come out as fine as using toilet paper but it's great for building up large areas.

TeresaM7 (author)2015-09-15

My office paper shredder shreds paper nearly to a powder. I'm betting it would work wonderfully for this!

lmcwilliam (author)2014-10-15

I NEVER use flour, NEVER boil paper to pulp and NEVER have bugs or mold.

Paste: Elmers White PVC glue..and water. Thats all you need for paste. I have played around with adding wallpaper paste but it is toxic so I nixed it. I also have added liquid starch which works well but it is very hard to find. Soooo...glue and water. The trick is to not add too much water and to NOT soak paper strips. I wear vinyl disposable gloves, dip my fingers in glue and coat the paper strip as I apply it. Works great..drys faster and harder and so much better lay on. Also, I tear all sides of my paper strips. Factory cut straight edges will not lay flat. After all strips are applied each layer I then dip my gloved hands in the glue/water mixture and spread a thin layer all over the project.

Clay: Cheap toilet paper..seperated to 1 ply. I buy a box of industrial rolls at stuff and roll it off the roll into a 5 gallon bucket and then tear it into smaller pieces. I then add just enough HOT HOT water to get it all thoroughly soaked and let it sit overnight. Before straining I use an Emulsion Hand Blender and mash it up really fine. Drain off excess water and then wrap in a large towel to squeeze out excess water until the paper is just wet but not holding water.

Then: Pour Elmers White PVC Glue and add Drywall Compound and mix with an old hand mixer. I add a cup of glue to start and 2 cups of Drywall Compound. The Drywall Compound makes the paste smooth and easier to shape. You want it to feel like a moist clay that holds its shape. Add a little more glue 1-2 ratio with the Drywall Compound until it gets to this consistency and BEAT like you are making whipped cream with the make the clay lighter too.

You can mix just Drywall Compound and Glue together to make a Gesso as well to smooth over your piece. I make my pieces for the Outdoors and I have never had one fail me yet...

AnnetteS3 (author)lmcwilliam2015-08-23

Thank you so much for all that you posted! I am sure that a lot of people are reading this. It's really informative! What brand of Drywall Compound do you use?

joyce.anderson.maurer (author)2015-01-22

use a piece of cheese cloth, ankle sock, rolling pin on a dish drainer, in a baggie with a small hole in one corner to release water and/or place wet mulch in a piece of Saran Wrap, then ball it up, hold it upside down with the open end over a sink and squeeze it so the water drains into the sink while evenly draining the water, and store it too.

janetsellers08 (author)2014-09-12

Salt may weaken the mixture eventually decomposing it. Try using clove oil or cinnamon oil or mint oil instead; they will deter mold, and the oil does add a smooth consistency to paper mache.

eva.stosic.1 (author)2014-09-02

I have a better way to prevent mold . As you know there is lot of humid wether around and that's bad for the projects I add to the drained pulp mint extract strait from the bottle I work with cornstarch clay and it works like magic

AnooshI (author)2014-08-25

Wow! This is so cool. I hate throwing old books away but now I have started upcycling them and this thing has turned out to be so much fun. Your post has given me a new idea too. I really liked this Book of Books as well It shares many interesting projects. Altered Upcycling also has an awesome website and lots of free ebook offers if you sign up.

AnooshI (author)2014-08-25

Wow! This is so cool. I hate throwing old books away but now I have started upcycling them and this thing has turned out to be so much fun. Your post has given me a new idea too. I really liked this Book of Books as well It shares many interesting projects. Altered Upcycling also has an awesome website and lots of free ebook offers if you sign up.

anaqvi2 (author)2012-08-25

hi doldrum.
I've gone through some two or three paper mache recipes by now and this one is quiet simple and sounds good.
I wanted to ask that if we use newsprint for that we will get a clay that is not so white so how should we paint or color our sculptors made of paper mache. And how long does it take to dry. Using this recipe?

LadyZandra2 (author)2012-07-12

For large amounts, I use 5-gallon buckets with lids-- get an extra lid and use a boring-bit to make a hole in the center of the lid to pull thru the drill's paint-mixing arm! No mess!!! You can also use carpenters glue for added strength & water resistance!

pacwoods (author)2012-06-14

I have soaked hand schredded newspapers in a big bucket, let them
soak for a day or so. A handful of salt helps discourage mold while the pulp is wet. Then I used one of those paint stirrers (long metal things you attach to an electric drill) to pulpify the mess.

Then I use nylon net to strain out most of the water.

Add your water friendly adhesive of choice (white glue, flour paste or cement) and model away.

** Be careful when using the "drill mixer". A slow or variable speed drill is best. A one speed drill will sling water & pulp everywhere! Pulsing the drill helped to keep the drill from overheating. Go slow! Stop frequently. Clear the pulp from the
metal stirrer frequently. I don't need to mention you should do this outside, right?
and wear old clothes.

donnadidit (author)2011-12-28

I am wondering if I can use Gesso instead of the white glue for this step ? I don't have any white glue now and i have a boat load of gesso .. so do you think that might work instead of the white glue ?

rick.leasure (author)2011-12-15

A few tidbits from my experience: Office copy paper works well too. I used to take a two liter bottle, fill it 2/3 with hot water and stuff full of crumpled trashed copy paper (hence recycled instead of repurposed). Then I'd put the lid on and shake it up and down until it went to pulp. Good cardio & no need for those shake weights they show on tv! From there, I would pour the pulp out and into an old pair of my wife's pantyhose to drain. Same idea as yours, different approach. One year, as a matter of fact, I didn't use the glue. Instead I pressed the pulp around an inverted plastic bowl (heat resistant) about 1/2" thick and put in the oven to dry over low heat. That was about 10 years ago & I still have the paper bowl. (After it dried, I laid strips of colored tissue paper across it and painted it with water-based polyurethane finish, which acted like a glue to hold the paper on. Did that for the outside and inside of the paper mache bowl. Makes a great popcorn bowl).

jannaaikadeja (author)2011-07-05

Is that something that we can mold? Mold in a way like how we mold clays.

thank you :)

raniekta (author)2011-04-12

thank you so much.......i was striving hard to know about the preservative used in paper there any preservative used? let me know..
thanks a lot

nail face (author)2010-01-23

 hey instead of soaking the newspaper or toilet paper you could put the paper threw a paper shredder and throw it in a blender with some water thats what i do

Bobblob (author)2009-02-09

Very interesting Instructable, thank you! I wonder if finely cut ( maybe shredded ) newsprint or old newspaper could be used instead of toilet paper? Anyone every try that, Doldrum?

Doldrum (author)Bobblob2009-02-21

yep, newsprint will work just as well! Whenever I've used newsprint i've let the shredded pieces soak in some warm water for a long while before starting on all the above steps though... but you're right... newsprint is great too!

mrfoltz (author)Doldrum2010-01-03

I'm glad you mentioned this because I was going to ask anyone if I could use paper I shredded [like old bills, letters and personal info that could be used for identity theft] to recycle, because I have a few garbage bags full so far...
So... I think I'm going to soak the shredded paper for a day in a container, with a cap of bleach, and then blend it... And then start from there...
Great ideals!

Bobblob (author)mrfoltz2010-01-05

I now have successfully used newspaper to make paper mache clay and the paper used makes a real difference. 

The tissue paper mentioned in this instructable makes a very "creamy" and smooth clay while the newspaper clay, that I mostly use is less "creamy".  You can add wall board compound to the mix  as well. 

I have even used the treated and ground up paper insulation sold in the large  DIY stores and found it makes a clay that has "sharp" little points in it because it uses all kinds of paper.   Glossy paper will soften and breakdown differently than newspaper.  

I current have a bag of collected dryer "lint" waiting to be used as the binder in another version of paper mache clay.   The adventure continues.  See some of my stuff here:

ANDY! (author)2009-12-28

I made something similar by soaking bits of paper in warm water and putting them in a blender.

deafman214 (author)2009-11-02

lol by the by nice instuctable

bullykai (author)2009-10-28

Awesome info, thank you.  When should detailing start ? Just curious if you dont need the water really why boil toilet paper does this help break down the small strips to almost powder like size?

Buy U A Bev (author)2009-08-26

What is a good amount of materials (even for the regular paper mache) to make 8 of the Slipknot masks... the only one we are excluding is Craig jones. If you think it makes a difference were doing the masks from All Hope Is Gone

Doldrum (author)Buy U A Bev2009-08-27

You could start off with a cast of your face to use as a base, or you could cheat and buy one of those plastic mardi gras masks from a craft store ;) Then just keep building up the layers. I usually stick to paper bags for my bottom layers and then use softer materials like tissue for textures. For 8 masks I think if you invested in some yard bags you'd be okay :)
Depending on what you want to stick it all together with... . one bottle of white elmers should last just fine.
If you want to build up appendages you might want to have some newspaper and masking tape around...... take a look at this blog, (some things are easier explained visually)
I hope that this helps! good luck!

coolguy26 (author)2009-08-19

Thank you If I put it on paper Will it harden the paper? What is paper mache anyway?

Doldrum (author)coolguy262009-08-19

Since the paste is moist when you are working with it would moist likely seep into the paper and harden it. Usually you apply it to some kind of armature, a shape that you want the material to form to. Paper mache is a construction material usually made up of shredded pieces of paper that is made stronger by any number of ingredients: glue, flour, combinations. Wouldn't want to pave my driveway with it, but end results can be really strong!

murielwpo (author)2009-04-07

I tried to make a comment, but was told it was 'not formatted correctly'. Have NO idea what that means.

Guardians38 (author)2009-01-26

lol you said by the by... = )

idance38 (author)2009-01-09

Thank you so much, I am definitely going to try this procedure and it seems very well thought out and thorough. x

darlenek (author)2008-10-01

I'm definitely going to give this a shot. Found your information very thorough and informative. Thank you. -darlenek

explosivemaker (author)2008-08-08

good project for kids (them molding with it) long as they know it is NOT mashed potatoes....he he he

Doldrum (author)explosivemaker2008-08-08

hahahaha not minutes ago my brother was standing over it with a fork and pepper. Thanks so much for the nice comment!

About This Instructable




More by Doldrum:Dad's Spaghetti PieHow to make a Tunnel BookMake paper mache pulp
Add instructable to: