How to Make Paper Mache People

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Use glue as a binder to create paper mache dolls and figurines.
Use glue as a binder to create paper mache dolls and figurines. (Image: glue bottle image by Bruce MacQueen from Fotolia.com)

The French term for "chewed paper," the term papier mache (more commonly known as paper mache) involves a crafting technique in which paper is finely shredded into small pieces and mixed with paste to form sculptures and other creations. Get crafty with old magazines, newspapers and other paper products to create people figurines or dolls with the papier mache technique. Make paper mache people out of molds or construct one with a wire frame. Each technique has its own look, so experiment to see which method you like best.

Things You'll Need

  • 10 gauge wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Old newspaper
  • Thin cardboard
  • Masking tape
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Medium-sized saucepan
  • Mixing spoon
  • Mixing bowl
  • Paintbrush
  • Acrylic paint
  • Blender
  • Metal or plastic figurine molds
  • Mold clips or rubber bands
  • Butter knife
  • Scissors
  • Buttons, beads or glitter
  • Plastic gloves

Wire Framed Paper Mache

Create a wire frame. Bend and cut 10 gauge wire into a stick figure to resemble a person. Make circular loop and twist it onto a straight piece of wire to form the head and the body. Wind another piece horizontally around the middle of the body piece to create arms. Wrap another length of wire around the end of the body piece to create legs. Bend the end of the two leg pieces at right angles to form feet.

Wrap the frame. Use thin cardboard and paper to create a rounded and realistic body shape. Wrap the cardboard around the body piece of wire and secure with masking tape. Use the paper to construct a round head shape winding masking tape around the paper to secure. Repeat the process with the arms and legs, securing the paper with masking tape. Bend the figure into a pose according to taste.

Make the paper mache paste. Pour 3 cups of water and 1 cup of flour into a saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil. Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes over low heat until it thickens to a paste. Allow the mixture to cool.

Mix the paste into the pulp. Fill a mixing bowl with small torn pieces from old newspapers or magazines. Fill the bowl with lukewarm water until all the pieces are completely covered. Let the mixture sit over night to absorb the water. Strain off the excess water and add the paste. Mix the pulp and paste through to form a clay-like material.

Create your paper-mache figure. Sculpt with your hands, taking small portions of the pulp mixture and forming onto the wire and paper sculpture. Squeeze the pulp around the arms and legs. Plaster the head using your fingers to create a nose, mouth and ear shapes. Cover your wire frame thoroughly.

Let the figurine dry. Allow 24 hours to let the pulp dry on the figure. Use medium-grit sandpaper to smooth rough spots in the paper-mache. Paint clothing and facial features on the figure with acrylic paint.

Molded Paper Mache

Blend the pulp into a smooth paste. Mix the homemade paste and pulp mixture together in a mixing bowl. Pour the mixture into a blender and process to create a fine pulp.

Fill your mold. Scoop 1 tsp. of paper mache into a metal or plastic mold. Press the pulp into the details of the figure to avoid air pockets. Continue to fill each half of the mold with the pulp to the rim. Work quickly to prevent the pulp from setting before you have pressed the shapes together. Line up both halves of the mold and press together. Seal with mold clips or rubber bands and allow the pulp to dry in the mold for 48 hours.

Remove the mold. Use butter knife to gently peel the molded figure out of the mold. Work gently to avoid damaging the figure. Twist the mold lightly to release the mold from the figure.

Trim away the excess paper with scissors around the molded figurine. Paint the paper mache person with acrylic paint.

Tips & Warnings

  • Embellish your figurine further by gluing buttons, glitter or beads to the finished surface.
  • Wear gloves and old clothing when working with paste and paint to avoid staining your skin.
  • Store unused paper mache paste in an airtight container. Remix paste before using.

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