How to Make Paper Mache Animals

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Papier maché is a tried and true method for creating animal statuettes, although the key is to first find a flexible foundation. One easy way to start is by using balloons. You can twist or tape them together to form any kind of creature your imagination desires, and then use the papier maché to make them permanent. This process is especially great if you’re looking for an entertaining afternoon with your kids.

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper
  • Balloons (different shapes)
  • Large glass or stainless-steel bowl
  • All purpose flour
  • Measuring cup
  • Scissors
  • Paper towels
  • Water
  • Long sewing needle
  • Paint and paint brush
  • Cardboard
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Glue
  • Masking tape
  • Colored felt

Prepare the work area. Paper mache is fun, but messy. Cover the table with newspaper, and have a damp rag or paper towels handy to wipe up flour blobs and sticky fingers.

Decide on your animal or creature. Choose the balloons you will need to make it happen, and then blow up your balloons. Make the animal out of balloons by either taping or twisting the balloons together.

Tear the newspaper into long strips. It's best to keep them organized so they don't get tangled up when you're working with them.

Make the feet. Cut the cardboard into short strips, and fold them in half. Tape two or four of these to one side of the balloon. These will be your animal's feet. Place the balloon on a flat surface to make sure it's balanced evenly on its legs.

Mix 1 cup of all-purpose flour and 2 cups of water in the bowl. If it's a large project, make more. Stir until you get a sticky batter, adding more water and flour as needed. It should be the consistency of pancake or waffle batter.

Dip a newspaper strip into mixture. Pull it between two fingers to remove the excess, then place the strip onto your balloon starting at one end of the strip, and smoothing it down so there are no air bubbles or wrinkled paper. Do this until the entire balloon and cardboard feet are covered evenly.

Make the neck. If you have taped or twisted balloons together, and your animal will have a neck, follow the same steps as in Step 6, stretching the strips between balloons to create the neck. But this time leave a little looseness in the strip, because you are going to be shaping it in Step 8.

Allow your animal to dry a bit. If you do have a neck, when the neck strips are slightly stiff, gently push or pinch them inward so that you narrow and shape the animal's neck. Don't push too hard or you may tear them. If that happens, add another strip and repeat this step.

Allow your animal to dry completely. Once it is dry, use the long sewing needle to pop the balloon(s).

Paint your animal. Make it as real or as fanciful as you please. Let the paint dry.

Cut and shape the ears, tail and any other features from the felt, and glue them onto your animal.

Make whiskers, antennae, tails and any other features with the pipe cleaners. Poke a small hole into your creature where you will attach these, push them in gently, and glue in place.

Tips & Warnings

  • For a textured outer layer of the animal, you can take paper towels or tissue, wet them and scrunch them up, then dip them in the paper mache and attach to the outside of the animal. This will allow you to add shapes, knobs, ridges (think dragons) and more to your animal.
  • On a warm day, paper mache tends to dry quickly, so keep water handy to thin the mixture.
  • During cooler weather, place the paper mache animal near a heater or in the sunlight to help it dry quickly.
  • Young children sometimes will try to eat paper mache. Keep an eye on them.

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