Basic Papier-Mâché (Paper Mache)


Petroleum jelly

Plate or bowl for mould


PVA or wallpaper glue

Smooth sandpaper
White emulsion paint
Clear varnish


When most people think of papier-mâché, which literally means ‘chewed-up paper’, they think of messy school craft projects with questionable results. But the craft has a lot more to offer than that and, with a little time and practice, you’ll be amazed at what you can make with old newspapers and some glue!

The most common papier-mâché technique involves layering strips of newspaper on a mould to create a replica item. Use quality glues, paints and varnishes to make your item more durable and personalize them with the decoration of your choice.

In this project, you will learn to make a plate, but you can implement the basic principles to create the item of your choice. You can make bowls, toys, jewelry, seasonal decorations or anything else that takes your fancy! We’d love to hear about your ideas so feel free to send us pictures of your creations.


Before you begin, prepare the papier-mâché glue my mixing one part water to two parts glue. You can also use wallpaper glue – prepare it according to the package instructions. It is essential that you make sure that the glue is smoothly blended to prevent lumps.

Using your fingers (or a paintbrush if you prefer), spread an even layer of petroleum jelly over your plate or mould of your choice. Be careful not to create a layer that’s too thick – it only needs to be thick enough to prevent the finished product from sticking to the mould.

Cut strips of newspaper about 30 cm/12” long. To keep track of the number of layers while making your project, try and keep pages with bright colors separate from pages with no color at all. You can also alternate vertical and horizontal layering, but this is not feasible with every kind of project.

Take a strip of paper and run it through the bowl of glue and then between two fingers to remove excess glue. Beginning at one side of the plate, lay the strips vertically, overlapping them by about 6mm/¼” and securing them firmly. Don’t worry about the strips of paper that hang over the edge of the plate – those will be taken care of later!

Add another layer horizontally across the plate, using strips of paper which are shaded differently from the colors of the first layer. Smooth out any air bubbles of bumps after adding each strip and when you have completed each layer.

Repeat this process until your plate has at least five or six layers.

Leave the project to dry for at least 5 hours. If you can, leave it overnight.

When the plate is completely dry, turn it over, together with the mould and draw the outline of the plate on the back of the papier-mâché using a pencil.

Separate the papier-mâché from the plate and remove any excess petroleum jelly. Cut carefully along the pencil line to tidy the edge of your creation.

Take a strip of newspaper and cover it with glue. Lay it over the edge of the plate and tear it off. Repeat this process, overlapping the small strips of paper, until you have sealed and bound all the way around the plate. Leave the plate to dry and then gently smooth it down with sandpaper.

Apply two coats of emulsion to both sides of the plate, waiting for each layer and each side to dry.

Now your plate is ready to be decorated however you like. Make sure to seal it with clear varnish when you are done, and don’t forget so send us a picture!


You can make your own papier-mâché glue using one part water to one part flour. You can also add fragrances to your home-made glue, such as cinnamon or fragrant oils. This is particularly nice for making small potpourri bowls.