Paper mache, or papier-mâché, is a timeless activity that many people enjoy. One of the few problems with paper mache is finding the right form for your project, particularly if you need a round shape.
So, how do you make a paper mache ball? To make a paper mache ball, it’s easiest to use work and shape the project over an existing round form, such as a balloon, which you can remove easily later. Another option is using two similarly sized semi-sphere shapes, working around each and, eventually using paper mache to connect them.
There are several methods for forming balls out of paper mache. As with anything dealing with this craft, you are only limited by your imagination.
Materials Needed For Paper Mache
When you are ready to start a new paper mache project, you should get all of the tools that you will need together. In addition to your form, which we will talk about below, you need to have a paste.
Your paste for your paper mache project will literally be the glue that holds your project together. For a strong paste, you should make a mixture with glue as your basis. You can also make a paste mixture with flour and water.
Flour and water mixtures can’t be used day after day, but glue based mixtures can usually be kept in a sealed container for multiple uses.
While there are different recipe mixtures you can make for your paper mache project, the basic method is mixing water into either glue or flour until it is a homogenous mixture and is thin enough to easily spread and soak into the next important ingredient for your project: your paper.
Newspaper has long been the mainstay of paper mache projects, as it easily absorbs the paste mixture you are using, while still being strong and flexible. Telephone book pages are also incredibly handy to use.
While you can use other papers, such as tissue paper, you should avoid using slick or tough paper, such as magazine sheets or computer paper. Blue shop towels are increasing in popularity for their ease of making paper mache projects.
Tear your paper into strips. It is best to tear and use strips of paper that are roughly 1 inch thick, although if you are doing an area with a lot of detail, you may wish to use thinner strips of about 1/2 inch thick or less.
Making a Paper Mache Ball: Balloon Method
This process also works with similarly rounded objects, such as a beach ball.
The biggest advantage of using a balloon is that you can pop the balloon and pull it out of the paper mache if you leave a small hole. That’ll be a little harder to do with a beach ball.
The size you need the ball to be may dictate which form you use, as beach balls typically come in larger sizes than balloons, although you may find large relatively spherical balloons online. Balloons do allow you a lot of control, however, as you can blow it up to whatever size you prefer.
To pop your balloon, you should use a sturdy needle or pin. If you have kids around, you may need to plan on doing this step yourself, so that no one gets accidentally poked by a sharp object.
How to Make a Paper Mache Ball With a Balloon
Follow these easy steps to make your paper mache ball using a balloon or beach ball:
- Inflate a round balloon until it gets to a spherical shape. You can also use a beach ball. When using a balloon, tie off the balloon once you get it to the right size and shape. If you’re using a beach ball that allows you to push in the tab to inflate it, push it in before you get ready to make your paper mache. You may want to use something to hold the round form in place.
- Apply the paste. You can apply the paste mixture by either painting it on with a brush or by dipping the strip of paper into a bowl with your paste mixture. In that case, dip a strip of your newspaper into the mixture and remove excess paste by running the paper between your fingers.
- Start layering strips of newspaper around your ball. Smooth the strips and removing any air bubbles that may get trapped under the paper. Run your hand over the paper, smoothing it around your form.
- Layer in opposite directions. As you begin layering strips of paper, you should criss-cross the layers of strips over each other for best coverage and security. Continue working by overlapping your strips of paper, pasting them to your form.
- Rotate “sides”. Once you have covered the top portion of the ball or balloon, carefully rotate your form. As you continue, apply layers of paper around the knot, leaving just a small area to pull the ball or balloon out of your paper mache ball for when you are done.
- Continue until you have at least three layers. Apply at least three layers of paper all around your form. If you need a stronger, sturdier ball, you may need to apply more layers. Keep in mind that the more layers you apply, the longer your paper mache ball will need to dry.
- Leave it to dry. Once you are done applying paper mached strips of paper to your project, allow it to dry. Many projects need at least 8 to 12 hours, although more thickly layered projects may need several days to dry. Touch your project. It should be dry and not sticky, otherwise you need to let it dry longer.
- Pierce the balloon or beach ball with the needle. Carefully slide it out of the access spot you left when you were applying paper mache to the form.
- Apply paper mache to the opening left in your form. Or, you can leave the opening if it is sturdy enough to allow the ball to sit. You may also want to add more layers to your project to make it thicker and sturdier. You can do so now. Then allow it to dry.
Once your project has dried, you can paint and decorate it as you desire.
Note: You may want a bowl or tray to set your balloon in while you are making your paper mache project. Cover the plastic wrap or wax paper to keep the paper mache from sticking to the dish. You might also consider setting it on a roll of tape.
How to Make a Paper Mache Ball Without a Balloon
Making a paper mache ball without using a balloon or ball as your form can be done, but it takes a little more work. You will need two spherical forms to apply the paper mache over. You are going to be making two halves of the sphere and then connecting them together with this method.
One suggestion is to use the newspaper you already have on hand. Ball it up until you get two balls slightly smaller than the diameter you want your finished product to be.
Follow these guidelines to make your paper mache ball without using a balloon:
- Make your molds. Get all of your supplies together and make your forms or get objects to paper mache over.
- Prepare your surface. Wrap these balls or semicircles in plastic wrap to keep the paper mache from sticking to the newspaper. The plastic will help it release when you are ready to remove the pieces from the forms.
- Set your forms on a tray lined with wax paper or a bowl to help support your project and keep it from slipping around while you work.
- Start layering your paper mache paste and paper strips over the first structure, criss-crossing them over each other for complete coverage and to produce a strong form. Continue working around the form until you have several layers of paper mache applied. Ensure a smooth application of each layer.
- Repeat this process for your other form. This is basically forming the second half of what will become your paper mache ball or sphere.
- Allow both halves of the sphere to dry well before proceeding. As mentioned previously, this usually takes at least 8 to 12 hours, although paste mixtures with more water or thicker projects will take longer to dry.
- Join the two halves of your sphere. Remove the paper mache pieces from their forms and remove the plastic wrap. Line up the two pieces and use paper mache or glue to help them stay together.
- Finish applying paper mache around the joined area. At this time, you can also apply more layers around your ball to make sure that everything is smooth and as thick as you need it to be.
- Let the project finish drying. Once dry, paint, decorate, or embellish it as you see fit and enjoy!
Note: Keep in mind while you work that you need to keep smoothing your paper and paste strips over the form. Doing this regularly will prevent ripples from forming and will also help remove air bubbles which can weaken your spherical structure.
How Many Layers of Paper Mache Do You Need?
Usually three or so layers of paper mache is sufficient to support most projects. If your project needs to hold up to a lot of wear and tear (such as masks for plays, playtime, or festivals) you will want to make it thicker four or more layers are a good idea.
You can also allow your work to dry and then pick it up to inspect it. If you’ve used a thicker or relatively more durable paper, three to four thicker layers may be plenty. If you’ve used a thinner paper, more layers may be useful. Just be sure you don’t weigh down your extra layers with too much glue.
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