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I made several paper mache bowls for free using recycled paper waste from our home so I’m going to share the process here because they’re easy to make and they’re a great way to re-use paper waste.
For reference, you can find a few ready-made examples of various beautiful paper mache bowls at both McGee & Co (natural look) and Bloomist (painted bowls). I just love how these look styled on shelving!
Now, I made my paper mache completely from scratch – meaning that I created my own paper pulp because I wanted to recycle our home’s paper waste. However, this does take longer, so there are also “instant paper mache mix” options you can buy if you prefer like these: Michaels and Amazon.
However, in this tutorial, I’m sharing the homemade “from scratch” version.
Materials list (for paper mache pulp):
- Shredded paper
- Flour (any kind will do)
- Salt (to prevent the mixture from going off)
- Hot water (to soak the paper)
- 3 large mixing bowls
- Immersion blender: Amazon (this is what I used but you can probably use a food processor or stand blender or really anything that can blend stuff for this project)
- Bowls to shape your paper mache bowls around
- Paint (any house or acrylic paint, my preference is matte)
- Top coat (to seal them at the end, optional): Home Depot
Timeline: due to soaking and drying times, these bowls take several days to make because you have to wait for the paper to soak and for the bowls to dry. While the actual “active” time you’ll spend making them is short, the amount of time before they’re ready to use is long so these are not “instant” DIYs.
The following instructions are for how to make bowls with my homemade paper mache. If you use an instant paper mache mix (Michaels | Amazon) then just follow the instructions on their packaging instead.
Instructions on how to make paper mache pulp/clay:
- First you’ll need shredded paper. I just gathered up all the scrap paper in our house and ran it through our paper shredder, but you can also just cut it up finely with scissors. The end goal is just to have very finely cut up paper to make your paper mache pulp. The more finely cut, the better.
- Place your shredded paper in a large bowl and fill the bowl with hot water until the water just covers the paper. Don’t add more water than necessary because it’ll make your life harder in later steps.
- Soak hot water/paper mixture for several hours, or ideally overnight. The purpose of this step is to break down the paper so the longer you can let it soak, the better.
- Blend the paper to a fine pulp with an immersion blender. Take your time and be very thorough, don’t leave any chunks unblended. It helps to stir the mixture now and again to make sure you didn’t miss any paper strips along the bottom of the bowl.
- Set up 3 large bowls in a row: first is the bowl with your wet paper pulp, then is a bowl that will be filled with water squeezed out of the pulp, and finally an empty bowl for the now-dry pulp.
- Squeeze about 80-90% of the water out of your wet paper pulp by scooping up large handfuls and squeezing gently (like a snowball) until most of the water is gone. You don’t want them to be bone dry. I actually removed too much of the water from mine, and had to add more water back in later. Once you’ve completed this, you should now have a bowl of mostly-dry paper balls.
- Break up the little balls of paper so that they’re evenly crumbly.
- Now it’s time to turn your paper crumbles into a kind of “paper clay”. Add in about 1/3 the amount of flour as you have paper, as well as a bunch of salt. The approximate ratio is 1 part flour to 3 parts paper pulp, plus enough water to create a clay that is thick enough to mold into shapes, but that it is not sticky at all. I recommend reserving some of your paper crumbles before you begin mixing just in case you accidentally add too much water because then you’ll have a bit more paper left to add in and thicken it. You just have to play around with the ratio of paper:flour:salt:water until it feels right and paper-clay-like. The purpose of the salt is to prevent the mixture from going off so just throw in a bunch (I didn’t measure but several tablespoons). You’ll know you’re done when you can form the pulp into a shape (try a flattened triangle or a heart) and it holds its shape on its own without being sticky or crumbling apart.
- Now your paper mache pulp/clay is done. At this point, you can choose to either place your finished pulp mixture in the fridge to use later (I kept some in my fridge for a couple weeks and it stayed fresh), or immediately make your paper mache bowl.
Instructions on how to make a paper mache bowl:
- To make your paper mache bowl, you’ll need a bowl to use as a mold/frame. This can be any oven-safe bowl you like the size/shape of. The bowl will not be damaged by this project (but it must be oven-safe) so it’s only temporarily needed until your paper mache has set.
- Cover your bowl in saran wrap before starting. This will help you remove the bowl later.
- Take small handfuls of the paper mache pulp and press it onto your mold-bowl. Ideally your paper mache bowl would be approximately a 1/4 inch thick (ish). Just keep adding more until your bowl is evenly covered. Make sure to blend the seams too so that everything sticks together.
- Now you can add fun texture/dimension to your bowl. I made 5 bowls, each with slightly different designs. You can either use your finger to press indents into the pulp, or add in extra ropes of pulp. Just make sure you properly blend everything together. It’s similar in concept to working with clay or play dough. Ultimately you just have to keep molding it until you’re happy with the shape and everything is blended together.
- Next you need to dry the bowls out by placing them in your oven on the “keep warm” setting for basically a whole day (5-9 hours depending on the size and thickness) to dry it out. It’s very important you don’t have the oven any hotter than the “keep warm” setting since there is saran wrap under the paper mache but, at least on my oven, that setting is low enough that it just helps it dry out faster without baking it. —Side note: The reason you can’t just leave it out on the counter to dry is a lesson I learned the very hard way with my first bowls – I left them to dry on my counter for about 5 days but not only were they not drying anywhere near fast enough but they started to smell very sour (maybe I didn’t add enough salt?) so it was pretty gross and I hope you can learn from my mistake and just oven-dry them on keep-warm from the start. — You’ll know they’re dry when you touch them and there’s no squish.
- When your bowls are finished drying out, take them out of the oven and let them cool completely.
- Remove the “real” bowls that they’re formed around. This is MUCH easier said than done. Be VERY PATIENT because at this point you can break your bowl and all your hard work will go to waste so don’t rush this and accept that it takes a bit of time, a few prayers, and the right balance of gentle force and patience. The bowls WILL break if you’re not careful. I found the best thing was to gently but firmly pull the sides away from the bowl just the tiniest bit (like 1/32″) and rotate doing that around the bowl to loosen them, then pull gently at the cling wrap just a little at a time rotating around the bowl again, and just sloweeeely wiggle it loose. This does take a bit of time.
- Once you have freed the bowl, you’ll notice the inside is likely still a little wet in spots. If so, just put it back in your oven on “keep-warm” until it fully dried. This could take anywhere from 1-3 hours.
- Now that your bowls are formed, dry, and free, it’s time to finish them. You can either leave them their natural color or paint them. If you’re going to paint them, then pretty much just do whatever you want. I painted some of mine with random house paints I had left over from prior projects and I left others their natural color.
- When you’re finished painting them, you have the option of sealing them with a clear top coat. I sealed mine with the same poly that I used on all my woodworking projects. I’m sure this isn’t a “proper” or “official” way to do it but hey it worked!
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How many layers do you need for a paper mache bowl? ›
Apply strips of newspaper one by one, ensuring they soak up glue as you apply. Once you have a base layer, apply another layer of ModPodge, and place a layer of newspaper strips on top. Continue to repeat these steps until you have about five to six layers of paper covering all areas of your bowl.Should I use glue or flour for paper mache? ›
One of the most common, and easiest, ways to create paper mache is to use glue and water as the paste. A few different types of glue will work, but most people use wood glue or white Glue-All. Using glue is very similar to using flour, but it creates a stronger structure that is less likely to rot.Is glue or flour stronger for paper mache? ›
Is Paper Mache Better With Glue or Flour? Yes, glue is superior to flour simply because it's explicitly formulated to bond items, so it's stronger. It's also easier to achieve the right consistency needed for paper mache. It also dries more quickly than flour-based adhesive.Do you use hot or cold water for paper mache? ›
Paper mache paste is easy to make, and it doesn't really need a recipe. The most important tip is to use hot water (from the tap, not boiling) to make a nice smooth paste.How do you waterproof a paper mache bowl? ›
Mix a batch of waterproof glue and latex paint. I used black, but the color doesn't matter. Paint the entire head (including the bottom) to form a water proof seal around the paper mache.What liquid do you use for paper mache? ›
Mix one part flour with one part of water (eg, 1 cup flour and 1 cup water, or 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water) until you get a thick glue-like consistency. Add a bit more water if it's too thick. Mix well with a spoon to get rid of all the lumps.Why do you need salt for paper mache? ›
Why Do You Add Salt to Paper Mache? Some people add salt to paper mache to prevent mold. If you want extra durability, add one ½ tbsp of salt to each cup of flour that you use.What is the correct order of making a paper mache? ›
- Prepare the Paste. Decide what type of paper mache paste works best for your project, then prepare it. ...
- Tear the Newspaper. Rip the newspaper into strips—do not cut it. ...
- Dip the Newspaper. Dip one piece of newspaper at a time into the paper mache paste. ...
- Apply to the Form. ...
- Repeat the Process. ...
- Decorate the Art.
There are two main methods for preparing paper mache. The first method makes use of paper strips glued together with adhesive, and the second method makes use of paper pulp obtained by soaking or boiling paper to which glue is then added.Do you need Vaseline for paper mache? ›
You will need: Newspaper strips. Flour and salt, PVA glue or wallpaper paste. Vaseline.
What will paper mache not stick to? ›
The petroleum jelly will act as a mold release agent, keeping your paper mache from sticking.Is toilet paper or newspaper better for paper mache? ›
Newspaper is the most commonly used paper for paper mache because of its consistency and because old newspaper is basically a free material. Other papers will work too though. Some people like to use blue shop towels because they are very soft and absorbent, but also strong.What is the best paste for paper mache? ›
Yasutomo Nori Paste
This water-soluble paste is acid-free and slow drying for the most intricate of paper-mache projects. It is light enough to be used on even the thinnest and most delicate of papers and dries to a clear finish without a sticky residue.
Smoothing compounds like gesso and Flexbond are helpful to create a smooth finish on paper mache strips or clay before you paint. Flexbond is a lot like wood glue, but creates a smoother finish and can be wet-sanded after it is dry if you want an even smoother finish.How long do you soak paper for paper mache? ›
In terms of temperature, the water should be hot, but not boiling, to soften the paper faster. Let the paper soak overnight. Place the bowl somewhere that it can sit undisturbed for about 8-12 hours or overnight.Is Mod Podge good for paper mache? ›
Well, the nice thing about using Mod Podge to make paper mache is that you can use it directly from the bottle. There's no mixing. The Podge can also be used to seal the paint on the newspaper (if you choose to paint).Does flour and water paper mache go Mouldy? ›
Since we are using paper, flour and water here, it is possible for our projects to rot or mold. If they rot they will smell, or fall apart and other unpleasant things, so let's not let that happen. Most importantly, we need to let them dry completely before we paint of finish them.What kind of mold do you use for paper mache? ›
- Balloons. ...
- Cardboard. ...
- Chicken Wire. ...
- Shoeboxes. ...
- Toilet Paper Rolls and Paper Towel Rolls.
The fellow who made the video actually did some tests, and he proved that the mortar mache is waterproof. It even holds its shape when he removes the foam and leaves the sculpture completely hollow. The mortar mix is much cheaper than the commercial foam coatings that I've seen.Does paper mache get hard? ›
It dries to a very hard finish, making it ideal for when you want your finished project to be especially strong and durable.
What is the ratio of glue to water for paper mache? ›
Mix 2 parts white school glue (PVA glue) with 1 part water. This means that a 4 fl. oz bottle (118 ml) of white school glue should be mixed with ¼ cup (2 fl. oz. or 60 ml) water.What is the best material for a bowl? ›
Ceramic bowls are heavy, glass bowls can chip (and also tend to be heavy), and plastic bowls can stain and retain odors, so our ideal mixing bowl is stainless steel. Stainless steel is durable, low-maintenance, lightweight, and can step in as a double boiler.How do you make a lotus bowl? ›
- In a blender, add banana, frozen strawberries, frozen mango, and Blue Majik powder. Add milk of choice and blend until texture is a soft-serve consistency.
- Pour smoothie into bowl and add fresh star fruit, mango, coconut, and chia seeds on top.
There are three basic types of bowls: Soup Bowls (with or without handles) Finger Bowls (to rinse finger tips) Ramekins (to hold solid foods)What makes a smoothie bowl so thick? ›
Frozen ingredients are the key to creating a thick smoothie. Using fibrous, thick-fleshed fruit and vegetables can also help the texture. Adding chia seeds, avocado, yogurt, and protein powder are other thickening options.What are smoothie bowls made of? ›
A smoothie bowl is a smoothie eaten from a bowl instead of consumed from a cup. The biggest difference between a smoothie and a smoothie bowl is that smoothie bowls have toppings such as granola, seeds, and dried fruit, whereas normal smoothies don't.What can I use for paper mache instead of newspaper? ›
You can use tissue paper, toilet paper, or other similar paper if you want a detailed paper mache layer. You can also use cardboard for paper mache! Colored paper is also a good option for paper mache if you want to give your project a little bit of color and it is a lot cheaper than cotton paper.Do you let paper mache dry between layers? ›
The short answer is yes, Paper mache should dry in between layers but you don´t have to let it dry in between each individual layer. It is enough if you let it dry after every third or fourth layer before adding more layers.Does flour and water work for paper mache? ›
Stir together the flour and warm water in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Add extra tap water a little at a time to loosen. You want a smooth, batter-like paste with no lumps. You can sift the flour first for a super smooth finish.Is paper mache just paper and glue? ›
Best Paper Mache Paste Recipe EVER
The only two ingredients you need are literally glue and water! Some people have told me that they don't want to use glue because you need a lot of glue…but glue is so cheap! You can buy glue by the gallon on Amazon and have enough glue for all of your paper mache projects!
How long can paper mache last? ›
Your Papier Mache Mixture is ready for us! As mentioned, it should last in your fridge for up to around a week.. but I prefer to use it with in 2-3 days.Can you paint straight onto paper mache? ›
You can use any paint on paper mache that you can use on paper, but almost all paper mache artists use acrylic paint. It dries quickly and it's easy to find acrylic paint in any art or hobby store. But what type of acrylic paint is best? That depends on your budget and the look you want for your finished sculpture.Is paper mache just paper and water? ›
Paper mache is a cheap art and sculptural medium that uses torn pieces of paper glued together with paste made from flour and water. That sounds pretty simple, and it is. But the final artwork doesn't have to be simple – in fact, it can be just as complicated and creative as you want it to be.What does paper mache require? ›
What do you need for paper mache? You will need: Newspaper strips. Flour and salt, PVA glue or wallpaper paste.Why do you need Vaseline for paper mache? ›
If you're using a bowl or reusable mold, smear a fine layer of Vaseline onto the part you'll be covering. This will protect it and make removing the paper mache much easier at the end.Why do you add salt to paper mache? ›
Why Do You Add Salt to Paper Mache? Some people add salt to paper mache to prevent mold. If you want extra durability, add one ½ tbsp of salt to each cup of flour that you use.How do you make strong paper mache? ›
Mix a small amount of water with the glue..
You only need enough water to make the glue thin enough to brush. You don't want it so wet that it will saturate the cardboard. If you're using it over another kind of armature, you'll still want to have more glue than water in the mix, to get the strongest bond.
- Activa Celluclay Non-Toxic Instant Paper-Mache. ...
- Amaco Claycrete Paper-Mache. ...
- Elmer's Art Paste. ...
- Jovi Pat Mache Ready-To-Use Air-Hardening Paper-Mache. ...
- Yasutomo Nori Paste.
Well, the nice thing about using Mod Podge to make paper mache is that you can use it directly from the bottle. There's no mixing. The Podge can also be used to seal the paint on the newspaper (if you choose to paint).How long do you soak paper mache for? ›
In terms of temperature, the water should be hot, but not boiling, to soften the paper faster. Let the paper soak overnight. Place the bowl somewhere that it can sit undisturbed for about 8-12 hours or overnight.