In my studio we make paper-mâché pulp by using shredded office waste paper and used egg cartons, combined with liquid antibacterial soap (for home use), hot water, and white craft glue. Any paper can be used to make paper-mâché, but it is best not to use newspapers because the printed ink tends to run and leave black stains on the paper pulp.

Shredded office paper makes a light-color pulp (almost white in color and delicate), and egg cartons make a strong gray pulp. Both types of pulp can be kneaded together to form a marbled pulp that is also quite strong and almost resembles granite. The soap stops the egg cartons from fermenting and developing bad odors, especially in the summer.

Quantities and ratios: Normally for every 2 cups of paper or carton crumbs (after squeezing out excess water) you will need 1.5 cups of white craft glue. Depending on your work environment and the weather, you might need to add a little more glue. 

How to make white paper-mâché pulp from shredded office paper

  1. Place the shredded paper in a bucket or big bowl and pour one cup of hot water and one cup of antibacterial soap. No need to soak the mixture.
  2. Mix the paper, water, and soap well, and add one additional cup of hot water if needed. The mixture should be damp but not dripping. Squeeze any excess water out if needed.
  3. Add the white craft glue to the crumbs one cup at a time, kneading and smoothing the mixture as you go. Keep adding glue until you get a smooth, soft pulp without lumps. 

How to make gray paper-mâché from egg cartons

  1. Shred the egg cartons to small pieces and place in a bucket or large bowl.
  2. Pour boiling water to cover the pieces and add 1 cup of antibacterial soap. 
  3. Soak the mixture for 3-4 hours. 
  4. After the egg cartons finished soaking the water has soaked, squeeze the excess water out of the cartons (using a strainer, cheesecloth, or a pillowcase). 
  5. Using your hands, crumble the paper into small cornflake-sized crumbs.
  6. Add the white craft glue to the crumbs one cup at a time, kneading and smoothing the mixture as you go. Keep adding glue until you get a smooth, soft pulp without lumps. 

How to make marbled paper-mâché pulp

  1. Prepare one batch of gray pulp from egg cartons and one batch of white pulp from shredded office paper.
  2. Mix both pulps roughly in a separate bowl until you get a veined pulp that shows both the gray and white pulps. Do not overmix! I prefer to mix a ratio of 2:1 of white and gray pulp.
  3. You can use the gray pulp as-is and decorate it so that the unpainted texture shows through.

No matter what type of pulp you make, you should have a smooth and uniform pulp that doesn’t stick to your hands, but is still soft and pliable. If the pulp is hard and crumbly, add more glue. If the pulp is too sticky, add more paper crumbs. A soft and smooth pulp will help you create artwork that is durable and easy to paint.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between white glue and wallpaper paste/glue?

Wallpaper paste is a smoother glue, but has a tendency to yellow over time and give the finished work a yellowish color. As an adhesive, it is inferior to white glue and resulting sculptures are weaker and more fragile. 

White glue helps strengthen the finished construction, making it more reliable without any discoloration, which is why so many people prefer it. For those of you who wish to try using wallpaper paste, I recommend that you combine both glues in a 1:1 ratio.

Why can’t I use starch glue (made from rice/ flour/ corn starch) or any other edible substance?

Edible substances attract insects, and would require us to use poisonous chemicals in order to repel them. There is no gain in using starch glue, and this would also demand more maintenance of our artwork in the long run. 

Can I add Plaster of Paris to the paper-mâché pulp?

You can add Plaster of Paris to the pulp, but keep in mind that it absorbs water and hardens much faster (around 20-30 minutes) than white glue. If you want to use construction materials, I suggest that you use cellulite, poly-filler, or joint-compound (“American plaster”) instead, as these materials will allow you to create a heavier pulp that is subtle and easier to sand, and has a much longer drying time than Plaster.

Can I dry my paper-mâché artwork in a home oven?

Yes you can, just make sure that the temperature is no higher than 50 degrees Celsius. Keep in mind that the drying process might take several hours, depending on the thickness of the artwork.

Which paint types can I use to decorate paper-mâché artwork?

You can use any paint that you use to paint paper! Pencils, markers, pens, watercolor, acrylic, and even oil paints are appropriate. Don’t forget to varnish to seal the paints afterwards.

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