How to Make a Mountain Out of Paper Mache

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Models can be expensive, especially if you are looking for a large-scale element such as a mountain. If you are a hobbyist or student who needs a mountain for your model, you can save a lot of money by making a mountain yourself. All you need to make a beautiful mountain form are scraps and supplies you probably have lying around your kitchen right now. With some paint and accessories you can give it a finishing touch to make it look authentic.

How to Make a Mountain Out of Paper Mache
(Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Wood or heavy cardboard base
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paper packing tape
  • Gallon of warm water
  • Large plastic bin
  • Newspapers
  • Scissors
  • Blender
  • Large bowl
  • Sieve
  • White craft glue
  • 1/4 cup table salt
  • Plastic bag
  • Acrylic craft paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Elements from nature (twigs, pebbles, etc.)
  • Hot glue gun
Step 1

Find a sturdy base made of wood or cardboard that is wider than the size you want your finished mountain to be.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 2

Sketch a rough image of the mountain you have in mind. Think about how steep you want it, how many peaks you want, and estimate the overall height and width.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 3

Crumple large sheets of aluminum foil loosely to create an armature. Shape them the way you want your mountain to be shaped, making peaks and valleys. Let it taper off so it spreads out naturally. Glue the foil structure to the base, molding it and forming it, adding more foil to it if necessary, until you are satisfied with the shape.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 4

Cover the entire foil mountain armature with a layer of paper packing tape. This will help hold the shape and provide a smooth, absorbent surface for the paper mache to adhere to.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 5

Pour a gallon of warm water into a large plastic bin. Begin cutting or tearing newspaper into 1-inch to 2-inch squares. Add enough newspaper scraps to the water until you have a soupy mixture.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 6

Pour 2 to 3 cups of the mixture into a blender and puree the paper. Add more water if the mixture is too thick. Pour the pureed mix into a fine sieve to drain away excess water, then place the paper mache pulp into a large bowl.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 7

Puree the rest of the paper into pulp in 2- to 3-cup increments and add the pulp to the bowl. Mix the paper mache pulp with white craft glue and 1/4 cup of table salt until it is thick, wet and pasty, like the consistency of creamy oatmeal.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 8

Scoop some of the pulp in your hand and begin spreading it over the mountain shape. Start from the bottom at the base and work your way up the mountain peaks. Make the paper pulp layer as thin as possible so it will dry well. Leave it to dry overnight. Preserve the leftover paper pulp in a sealed plastic storage bag in the refrigerator.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 9

Add details to the mountain with the paper pulp if desired. Create ridges by making a thin line of pulp and pinching it. Put two ridges next to each other and it will look like a stream. Make small foil balls and cover them to create boulders. Allow the structure to dry once you are satisfied with it.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 10

Paint the mountain with acrylic paints. Think about which direction the light would hit it, and use a lighter color on that side. Paint the other side with a color that is two or three shades darker to indicate shadows. Paint details, such as blue streams and a white snow cap.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media
Step 11

Hot-glue miniature evergreen branches, pebbles and twigs around on the mountain if you want to add trees and realistic natural details.

Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media

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Tips & Warnings

  • Be sure to use paper packing tape, as paper mache pulp will not adhere well to duct tape, rubber or clear plastic tape.

References

  • "Rediscovering Papier Mache"; Susanne Haines; 1993
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