How to Make Paper Mache for Canvases

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Paint over both the paper mache and the canvas to blend the materials.
Paint over both the paper mache and the canvas to blend the materials. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Paper mache is an art form that traditionally uses paper and glue to build sturdy three-dimensional objects. You'll need to make just a few adjustments when creating paper mache for canvas. Then you can create a mixed media work of art that has textured shapes and patterns coming off of the material.

Things You'll Need

  • Flour
  • Pan
  • Bowl
  • Lightweight paper
  • Canvas
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint

Mix 1 cup of cold water with 1/4 cup of flour. Stir the ingredients together until they have a smooth texture similar to custard.

Bring to a boil 5 cups water in a pan. When the water is gently boiling, pour the flour mixture into the pan. Constantly stir the mixture for 2 or 3 minutes, until it becomes thick. Remove the pan from the stove and allow it to cool. Pour it into a bowl. This will create a lightweight, runny glue for paper mache on canvas that won't sag the material.

Cut strips of paper to make the paper mache creation with. These strips should be about 1 inch wide and 6 inches long, although the exact shape doesn't matter. Use a lightweight material, such as tissue paper or newspaper, which will easily stick to the canvas and won't weigh it down.

Lay the canvas material you want to build the paper mache upon on a flat surface. Ensure that the canvas is taut.

Use a paintbrush to apply a thin layer of the paper mache glue to one of the paper strips. Don't use to much glue while creating this first layer -- you'll later be able to build a sturdy layer upon it. Place the strip in a desired location on the canvas. Continue the process until the first layer of the paper mache creation is complete. Allow the glue to dry completely.

Dip a strip of paper into the paper mache mixture, completely submerging the strip. Remove the strip from the bowl. Holding it in one hand over the bowl, run the strip between two fingers to remove any excess drips of glue. Adhere the paper to the canvas, building on top of the shape of the first layer. Continue this process until the entire second layer is adhered. Allow the glue to dry completely before adding the third layer. Do not exceed three layers.

Paint over the paper mache and the canvas using any paint you desire. A water-based acrylic paint will be able to effectively cover any print on the paper without adding too much weight to the project.

Tips & Warnings

  • Create three-dimensional shapes on the canvas before adding the paper mache strips. Shape a piece of chicken wire into any design you choose and glue it to the canvas. Or blow up a balloon for a rounded surface and tape it to the canvas before paper macheing over it. These items will be hidden under the paper mache once the project is finished.

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