Paper mache is a great way to express your artistic thoughts and play with a material that you interact with everyday: paper. You can replicate any object that you may see daily and use any sort of paper, even tissue paper! There are lots of methods and techniques of paper mache out there to learn and perhaps you could even create your own unique projects too.
One of the key components to these kinds of projects with paper mache is the glue that you use. There are many types of glue with their own specific purposes and it is quite important you select the correct one because your paper mache project may get ruined by glue that gets dried too fast and you end up ripping your layers of paper or it might be too thick and your project will end up looking very disfigured and sloppy.
What To Look For
There are certain characteristics that you need to look for in the proper paper mache glue that you use. You can’t just get any type of glue! For instance especially if you’re working with children, you should get non toxic glue. You never know where the glue may end up and it probably won’t be only on the paper.
Regardless of whatever type of glue you use, you’re going to be mixing it with cups of water. This will make sure the consistency of the glue mixture won’t disrupt the figure of the paper mache and it will place nicely onto your project. For instance, if the glue or paste is too thick, you might notice bulging or protruding in their project in paper mache. It’s quite important that you apply the glue either by dipping the pieces of paper into the water mixture, or using either your hand or a tool to apply it, like a paintbrush. It will make it easier to make layers. Normally you’d mix a cup of glue with a cup of water.
For this reason, you’re going to need glue that is reasonably able to be diluted with water. Normally getting the basic or standard types of glues will suffice. There are some glues that are more water resistant, making it much more difficult to mix with water. To avoid making your paper mache product more complicated, be sure to be on the lookout for that aspect on the glues you purchase or use.
Another criteria to focus on for these glues is the time it takes to dry. If the glue dries too fast without letting the layer of paper settle in correctly, it will ruin the aesthetic of the structure of paper. Also if drying the glue takes hours, then that “glue” is just wasting your time. In addition, excess glue should be able to get cleaned easily.
You should definitely avoid strong adhesives because they have high water resistance and dry super fast, so it will be incredibly difficult to blend. This usually refers to the more specialized glues such as wood, carpenter’s, or wallpaper paste. Remember that the glue that you’re going to use is going to be on paper strips or strips of newspaper, so the glue shouldn’t be too strong.
Best glue for paper mache
Here is a list of glues that we recommend to use on your paper mache project with some instructions on how to apply them and their advantages.
Wood Glue or Carpenters Glue
Regular wood, carpenters, or yellow glue works great in general and it can definitely work well with paper. Once it dries on your paper mache project, you can paint on it if you wish and it’s stainable, offering a variety of options for decorating and designing. For wood glue, you just need soap and water for cleanup after using it and since it’s non-toxic, it’s a great glue for anyone to use for paper mache! There is a slight difference between carpenter and wood glue, depending on the brand that sells it, so definitely go for the normal wood glue. It’s definitely one of the stronger glues out there since it’s supposed to be used with wood or carpenters! The one we recommend for this type of glue is Elmer’s Wood glue.
- Super strong
- Many not need to be diluted with water
- Once dried, it can be further decorated
- Easy to clean up after use
- There are several different types so make sure to get the normal wood glue
- Not as flexible as others once it’s dried
Wallpaper paste also works, but it will take more time and effort for this paper mache mixture to have good results. It’s quite thick in substance, hence the small difficulty in getting to a thin consistency. You’re going to need to add a bit of salt to prevent the wallpaper paste mixture from spoiling as well. Otherwise it works just as good! Any wallpaper paste in general would do the job, but if you’re going to buy one we’d definitely recommend Roman PRO liquid wallpaper adhesive.
- Prevents mold
- Great option if you have leftovers from other usage
- Cheap to buy in bulk
- Not safe for children
- May spoil
White glue is one of the most basic and common glues that you’ll find anywhere from an office setting to a school classroom. It’s also the traditional paper mache glue that you’d see any child use. There are plenty of different types of white glue with different thickness, dry time, and components. The most standard would normally be Elmer’s School Glue. It’s toxic free and easy to wash off with water. It’s used often in school projects and homework, so it’s definitely doable with any and all types of paper. It’s a well balanced type of glue in terms of dry time, strength, thickness, and the flexibility after it’s dried. You can’t go wrong with Elmer’s Washable No-run School Glue.
- Very common and easy to find
- Cheap and affordable
- Flexible after drying
- Not Sandable
- Softens once it gets exposed to water
Mod podge is another great choice for a water-based type of glue to use for paper mache. It can also serve as a finish for your paper mache with glue to protect it. Mod podge also has a selection of different finishes such as gloss, matte, glitter, and much more. It works great as a sealant and binder for other projects and material. It cleans up very easily with soap and water and it’s non-toxic. Here’s a basic gloss finish Mod Podge you can consider.
- Lots of different choices for finishing
- Flexible for other usages
- Easy to clean up after use
- Different selection of finishes
- Depending on the ingredients, might need more water to dilute
- Dries very quickly and will require working fast
In addition, there’s weldbond, a universal adhesive that works with anything. It can also be used as a primer, meaning you can add it onto your finished project so you can add additional decorations or paint over it. It’s also water resistant, so it can project your entire project from being damaged or destroyed. For your paper mache project, you’ll need to find full strength weldbond since it resists water and will not dilute well. Check out our recommended Weldbond Multi-Purpose Adhesive Glue.
- Very strong and stable
- Shrinks when dried and is good for edges
- Water resistant
- Dries very quickly
- Cannot dilute with water
Lastly, there is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) glue formulas out there where you can make a paste from scratch for your paper. This glue paste method will ensure you know what type of ingredients are being used for your glue and gives you absolute control. Also there’s the flexibility of changing the ingredients depending on what type of preference you may have for the method of making the paste or just what type of paste you need. For these procedure’s you’re definitely going to need a bowl and a tool to mix your glue such as a whisk. Basically it’s water with flour!
You can use one part white flour to five parts water and boil this mixture for about three minutes. Cooking the mix will dry almost clear.
If you prefer not to boil anything, you can use one part white flour and one part cold water and stir the mixture until the consistency is smooth without any lumps. However, using raw paste won’t dry clear and sometimes leave white residue after drying.
You can also use warm water (not boiling water) and mix it with white flour for a faster and better consistency.
You should also add a few tablespoons of salt to prevent your custom paper mache glue recipe from going bad or molding. It may seem a bit weird, but it will save your flour mixture and last longer.
- Build onto your creativity
- Easy to make with household items
- Saves money
- May require trial and error
- Not as convenient
Hopefully this article has helped you find the best type of glue to use for paper mache projects. If not all, a majority of these glues can be found at your local crafts or hardware store. Your cup of flour can definitely be found in your kitchen cabinets, or just about at any grocery store. Remember that also most of the glues that you use will be mixed with cups of water to have that consistency to be a paper mache paste.
If you’re just starting out in the paper mache field, you can try making a paper mache balloon! There are several basic paper mache shapes at the beginner level such as paper mache bowls or paper mache animals. You can utilize all sorts of paper from decorative papers to paper issues, sand paper, magazine paper, and of course, plain paper, which you’re sure to have plenty of.
Other glues you need to look into next are fabric glue and glue for miniatures. It surprising how many different kinds of glues are available! Some are multipurpose while others are designs for specific projects. Happy crafting!
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my kids however, that is typically a challenge with how limited their attention span can be and how messy it gets. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for all of us.