Introduction: Lizard Man Papier Mache Figure

Hi Everyone,

This is my first attempt at an Instructable and I hope you enjoy it.

It has been on my mind for a number of years to try making things from papier mache. After the summer was over this year I started making lawn characters to add to my Halloween display. After having made a number of characters I decided to poke around the Web for lizard-type ideas. While doing this I discovered the front and side view of a 3d sculpture on On doing the research to write this up, I discovered that the artist Mr. Ralph Sutter has a Web presence at:

Step 1: Materials & Tools Used and Mix Design.




White Wood Glue

Liquid Starch

Cellulose Insulation

Masking Tape

Glue Sticks

Corrugated Cardboard ~1/4”

Paperboard Cardboard


Plastic Grocery Bags

Spray Paint

Acrylic Artist’s Paints

Plastic Beads (Assorted Sizes)

Sculpey Clay




Hot Melt Glue Gun


Drill Paint Mixer

5-Gallon Bucket with Top

Small Container with Top

Various Paint Brushes

Various Drill Bits

Wood Dowels

16, 14 & 9 Gauge Wires

Thin Copper Wire


Tape Measure



Surform Pocket Plane

Various Files


Utility Knife


Mix Designs

The recipe can be found for papier mache and paper clay on a number of websites. I used a cup of liquid starch, a cup of white wood glue, a half-gallon of water, and eight cups of flour for the papier mache liquid. The paper clay was made by adding cellulose insulation until the consistency was such that it spread smoothly. One thing I learned is that you can’t mix it too much .

Step 2: Scaling the Project

To begin with I printed out the two views mentioned in Step 1 above. After determining how large I wanted the sculpture to be (350% larger than of the original), the images were converted to .pdf file files. After they were in this format I was able to enlarge the images to print using the poster selection for my printer to the size desired and printed both views. This gave me guides to make my templates from and refer to while constructing my figure.

Step 3: Torso

The torso section was made from a stuffed plastic shopping bag with newspaper and shopping bags stuffed into it. Newspaper works well for bulk, however, unless squeezed a great deal will have very stiff angles and sides. Having some arthritis in my wrist and thumbs, the plastic bags make a smoother surface with less manipulation. To separate the large and small sections, I squeezed the bag into the proportions I wanted and then put masking tape around it to hold the shape. A layer of paper was used to cover the piece and papier mache was then wrapped around the entire piece. After drying it was then covered with paper clay. The picture shows the piece with the clay just applied.

Step 4: Torso Oriented to the Picture.

Note: My intent for this project was not to make an exact copy of the pictures, but to use it as a base. I added some of my own touches such as thickening the legs, making it more squat and bringing the tail to the ground for better support. Keeping one arm in the back position to help balance the figure and some other cosmetic changes.

Step 5: Adding the Bulk Head Shape

I discovered that a cut off 1 gallon milk container would give the approximate shape of the head. The container was cut with excess material and then scribed to fit the torso piece. The plastic “head” piece was then hot glued into place.

Step 6: Head Templates

The plastic gave me a starting point for the head, however, I didn't want to have to use deep layers of “clay” to get it to the required shape as it takes a good deal of time to dry, so I used cardboard templates. The templates were made using sections at right angles to each other. The templates allowed the final layer of paper clay to be as thin as possible because each one provided the requisite shape for that particular area. The templates are taken from the side and front views.

Step 7: Adding the Templates to the Head

As you can see in the pictures, the templates were scribed around the milk container. The templates were made from corrugated cardboard and applied to provide a 2D shape.

Step 8: Chin and Back Templates

Templates were also made for the back and chin to produce the curvature of each area.

Step 9: Making the Head Full 3D

The next step is to produce a 3 dimensional shape. This is done by wrapping thin strips of pasteboard cardboard around the applied templates. I used hot glue to secure almost everything as I wanted to make certain that it would have the rigidity and strength desired.

Step 10: Adding Papier Mache to the Torso and Head

Upon completion of the pasteboard application papier mache was applied.

Step 11: Adding the Eyes

After drying, eyes were attached to the head. The eyes were made from the halves of a small ball that was made from crumpled newspaper and covered with papier mache.

Step 12: Leg Templates

The legs and tail were the first appendages to be made. Once again templates were made based on the original shapes.

Step 13: Adjusting the Leg Templates

A center line was drawn on the profile of the legs to indicate where the front view templates were to be affixed. The template was cut in half and material was removed on the inside of each to make up for the thickness of the leg cardboard. This is probably not an important thing, but it helps maintain the proportions; especially on smaller parts.

Step 14: Toes

The toes were made by rolling newspaper around a small wadded bit of same and making an elongated cone shape. These were adjusted for shape and size and had an additional layer of newspaper applied over them and glued and taped to the profile cardboard legs.

Step 15: Making the Toe Joints

Rubber bands were used to hold the “toe joints” in the desired shape. The toes were wrapped in newspaper again prior to the paper clay being applied. Putting a layer of newspaper on prior to applying the papier mache was done to provide a surface that the papier mache would stick to. I have found that the papier mache does not adhere well to the glossy surface of pasteboard or masking tape.

Step 16: Perpendicular Templates Added to Legs.

The front view (rear in this picture) leg templates were adhered to the leg profiles.

Step 17: Making the Legs 3D

The leg templates received pasteboard strips. I also put a “U shaped” piece of 9 gauge wire down the length of the leg as I was concerned with support of the upper body. After this a layer of newspaper is wrapped around the legs in preparation for the papier mache.

Step 18: Tail Construction

The tail was made in the same way the toes were with the exception of a piece of 14 gauge wire down the center of the member. This was done mainly so the tail could be bent and would stay in the required position.

Step 19: Alignment of Tail and Legs

I don’t have a picture showing the alignment of the tail and legs prior to adding them to the torso, however, it is basically the same as an earlier alignment check. The legs and tail were matched up to the torso and marks were made to indicate where they should be adhered.

Step 20: Adding Tail and Legs to Torso

The tail and legs were glued subsequent to the alignment. Desiring increased stability, I opted to drop the tip of the tail to the ground.

Step 21: Papier Mache on Tail and Legs

After gluing the tail and legs were given a coat of papier mache.

Step 22: Arm Templates

The arm templates were made in the same way as the legs. Similar to the legs a piece of 9 gauge wire was installed down the center of the profile view template.

Step 23: Bendable Fingers

Wire (14 gauge) was stuck through to be used for fingers. The fingers received a piece of backer rod (soft foam used to fill gaps) to provide a base shape. The fingers were later covered with paper and bent to the positions I wanted. The arms and hands received a coat of papier mache.

Step 24: 3D Arms

The arms were subsequently wrapped with small strips of pasteboard and then wrapped with newspaper. The picture also shows the legs which were done at the same time.

Step 25: Arms Added to Figure

The arms were applied to the body and received a coat of papier mache at the joints just as the legs and tail had.

Step 26: Avoiding a Potential Problem

I had some issues with previous standing characters I made as they needed to be strengthened at the joints after I had completed them. This was not very easy as it made the areas thicker and I had to match in the texture and paint to the existing. Attempting to avoid this situation, I decided to add cloth mache directly to the joints to reinforce them. This consists of submerging pieces of cloth in glue and placing them over the areas to be strengthened.

Step 27: Adding Paper Clay to the Figure

After completing the reinforcing step, the paper clay was applied to entire figure. I periodically used files, a Surform tool, and sandpaper to smooth out bumps, lumps, and overflow areas. The nice thing about using paper clay is that it can be filed and sanded after hardening.

Step 28: Smoothing the Paper Clay

The paper clay can be somewhat lumpy after being applied, so a paint brush and the papier mache liquid was used to smooth out the clay. You can see the difference in the surface by looking at the previous pictures.

Step 29: Tilting Problem

At this point I developed a problem with the position of the figure. As can be seen by looking at the tail in the picture, the figure had started leaning forward. Although the figure was sitting well balanced prior to the paper clay being applied, there was more on the front then the back and when wet it added a considerable amount of weight on the front. This caused the figure to lean forward and the tail to raise off the ground. I relied on the wire in the legs to hold the weight, which it did, but I didn't tie it into the feet and it bent forward at the ankles.

Step 30: Tilting Problem Solution

To remedy the leaning I tilted the figure back to the desired position which caused some cracking at the front of the ankles. I mixed some epoxy and put it in the cracks. To reinforce the joints I added cloth mache as I did with the upper joints. I set it to dry with a ratchet strap to hold it back in the position I wanted while it dried.

Step 31: Covering the Reinforcement

Paper clay was applied once the clothe mache was dry and the strap was used as it was previously was to hold the position while drying.

Step 32: Making Accessories

During the periodic drying times, claws and spikes were made using Sculpey Clay.

Step 33: Adding Details

Details were added after the main figure had been completed with the paper clay. Double chins were added along with the basic mouth location.

Step 34: Accessorizing With Spikes

The Sculpey spikes were added to the appropriate locations. This was done by drilling into the paper clay at measured out positions. The holes were made from ¼” to ½” deep depending on the size of the spike or claw. The eyes were done in similar manner by drilling out a 1 ¼” hole to accept the Sculpey eyes.

Step 35: Accessorizing With Beads

The beads were also added using the hole drilling method. The holes were drilled to a depth of approximately half the diameter. This was done to better ensure that the beads would stay in place and because they had a hole through them. By embedding them a bit over half way deep the holes on both sides of the beads were covered.

Step 36: Feet of Paper Clay

It was necessary to add paper clay to the bottom of the feet. Prior to painting an additional layer of paper clay was added to the bottom of the feet (thicker under the toes) to readjust the tilt of the figure. If you notice later in the pictures after paint has been applied the tail goes back to touching the supporting surface.

Step 37: Eye Details

Bags were added under the eyes.

Step 38: Custom Tools

After wracking my brain for a few days and searching for solutions online, I finally had the idea to make my own tools to make the texture for the skin. This was done by taking dowels of various diameters and drilling into the ends of each. The drill bits had a slightly smaller diameter than the dowels. This produced a cupped shape in the end with a thin wall around at the edge at the end.

Step 39: Adding Texture

I did a sample of the texture on the legs first. Starting with the largest dowel, I pushed the end into a thin coat of paper clay added for the purpose. Trying not to make any distinct patterns, the dowels were used going from largest to the smallest diameter. I then took a step back to get an overall view to determine any areas that looked sparse and added the size and number required to provide an irregular pattern.

Step 40: Painting the Figure

It was now time to paint the figure. I started out with a high quality primer used for covering knots and stains. I had some difficulties in the next stage settling on a color. After painting it two times with different colors I finally settled on the third and final one, an exterior spray paint.

Step 41: Painting the Details

I then painted the details; including the spikes, claws, eyes, and the beads with acrylic paints.

Step 42: Highlighting the Textured Area

I wanted to differentiate the textured areas from the plain areas and tried to do it with separate colors. However, I wasn't happy with the results, so I turned to an aqua colored glitter paint over the main color which worked for me.

Step 43: Detail Around Eyes

After looking at it for a day or so, I decided to add beads around the eyes. This was done as explained before by drilling holes at measured intervals. I ran into a problem because the dry paper clay was crumbling somewhat because of the close proximity of the holes. I ended up connecting all the holes to make a circular depression the same width and about half the diameter of the beads. To prevent frustration of controlling individual beads they were threaded on a thin copper wire and the ends were connected making a circle and then painted gold. I then used clear silicone to make a bed to stick the bead circles in. Because they were pre-painted only a small amount of touchup was necessary after drying.

Step 44: Completion

The project is complete until summer when it will receive two coats of exterior polyurethane, so it can be exhibited outside next Halloween with the rest of the characters I made this fall.

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