Introduction: How to Make a Paper Mache (papier Mache) Pope

Ever wanted your own life sized Pope? Here's how to do it in an overly complicated time consuming way.


Lots of paper (I used newspaper).

Paste (I prefer wallpaper paste as it is cheap, easy and contains fungicide)

Cardboard tubes from carpets (carpet shops will give these away)


Plaster of Paris

Scrim (I used sacking)

Release agent (I used Vaseline)

Cling film (saran wrap)

Paints (I used acrylic)


Chicken wire

Scrap wood for body frame

Old wooden chair

Large sheet of paper for Pope's hat

Old shirt, white trousers and sheet

Papier mache hands (I had to cut this part as it was getting too long). There are various methods. The easiest is to use a wrap gaffer tape round your rubber gloved hand, snip it with scissors, reassemble, papier mache it.

Step 1: Pick a Pope

Pick a Pope with good images available to copy. I went for Paul V as he was painted by Caravaggio and sculpted by Bernini. It doesn't get much better than that...

Step 2: Sculpt the Head

Using your clay sculpt as good a likeness as you can summon.

Step 3: Splitting Head

Make a wall round the head behind the ears. You should be able to see from the picture. You can use a clay wall or brass shims. I can't go into too much detail here or this instructable will get too unwieldy, Plenty of good info is available online on 'casting a head'.

Smear the head with your release agent/Vaseline. This will enable you to get the clay out of the mould.

Step 4: Paris Is Beautiful This Time of Year

Mix up your Plaster until it gloopy and like thick cream. Either throw it or paint it on to ensure you get right in and have no bubbles. Cover one side of the head right up to the wall. Build it up until it is at least an inch and a half thick and also incorporate layers of scrim to strengthen the mould.

Let the Plaster dry very well then remove the wall from the clay. The plaster that met the wall will be the new wall. Cover that very well with the release agent/Vaseline. Use a sharpie or similar to put lots of marks along the seam so that you can find it later.

Now plaster the other side of the head.

Allow it to dry thoroughly. At least 24 hours. I did 3 days.

Crack it open along the seam. You did mark it? It can be a bit of a chore to get the clay out. You don't need the clay now so you don't need to be gentle.

You should now have a negative head as in the picture.

Step 5: Please Release Me...

Smear Vaseline inside the mould. Now cover it with as smooth a layer of cling film as you can manage. The Vaseline is there to hold it in place.

Step 6: Lets Get Papering

Make up your chosen papier mache recipe. It is important that your paper is ripped (not cut) into smallish pieces and any straight edges are torn off.

Dip each bit of paper in the paste, squeeze out the extra then apply. Ensure you overlap and do about 3 layers on each mould. Allow this to dry thoroughly (depends on how dry your place is). Then do another 3. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until you are happy. I did a dozen layers and also incorporated a layer of cheesecloth, but this isn't necessary.

I did a few different tests, as you can see. That is the beauty of a mould.

Step 7: Getting Ahead

Join the 2 halves together roughly by putting some duct tape strips inside and flopping half down. Then carefully line up one side and stick it, then close the shell and reach inside and smooth the other strips. Then PM over the join until it's gone.

Step 8: You're Looking Smooth...

Use some filler to smooth out the bumps. You can finish with gesso to get it very smooth.

Step 9: Paint

I gave my Pope a flesh tone first, then painted the details in. I gave mine a Cardinal's hat first even though he will be wearing a Pope's hat. I'm just like that.

Step 10: Framed.

I used a solid chair from a charity shop (£6) as this made the frame easier to construct.

You can get typical dimensions online, but the easiest thing is to use a model. I based the dimensions on myself and sat in the chair to figure out where the hands, knees, head etc would go.

I used pieces of timber to act as spine, shoulders and hips and screwed them to the chair..

I then created shoulders and arms out of chicken wire.

I used the carpet tubes to form legs. I taped them together and screwed them to the chair.

Step 11: Clothes Maketh the Man

Clothe your model. I used an old cushion and gaffer tape to plump him out a bit.

Step 12: Hat

'Mitre', actually...

There are lots of instructions online on how to make an origami Pope's hat. I don't want to steal the credit, so you'll need to look it up. I used a large sheet from some wallpaper lining. You could use a poster etc. I cut 2 strips of paper for the tails and glued them on.

Step 13: Tweak

That's about it. You can add some finishing touches, such as a crucifix or Papal ring.