Paper mache has a vast history. This art form is more than a thousand years old, so it has gone through many incarnations. In China where it originated, it was used to make war helmets. Nowadays, it’s mostly a fun hobby.
Paper mache is easy to whip up at home for gooey delightful crafts for children and adults alike. Although many simply purchase glue to use in the mixture, it’s possible to make your own using what you already have at home – namely, flour – and save the expense.
How do you make glue for paper mache out of flour? Mix equal parts flour and water in a bowl, and adjust the ratio as needed to get a glue-like consistency. To achieve a gel glue, gently heat the mixture on the stove.
It’s really that simple: stir up some water and flour to get your homemade craft glue substitute, apply it to your strips of paper, and paper mache away!
While some people use materials such as glue as the basis for their paper mache adhesive paste, you can make a paste out of ingredients you have in your own home: namely flour.
Making Paper Mache Glue With Flour – Step By Step
Making a paste for your paper mache project is simple, but you do have a couple of options. You can simply mix your ingredients together or you can “cook” them. We’ll go over each method.
You should only use all-purpose white flour when making a paper mache paste. Wheat flour does not make as sticky of a paste, so it tends to be ineffective for paper mache.
Method 1: “Uncooked” Paper Mache Paste with Flour
You can make paper mache paste out of flour and water by using hot water or cold water.
While most paper mache “pros” use hot water to dissolve the flour more efficiently, you can use cold water and just note that it likely won’t be as smooth of a mixture, but kids can more easily help with each step. With hot water, you don’t need to worry about boiling anything on the stove.
Just follow these easy steps to make paper mache glue with no “cooking” whatsoever:
Step 1: Add flour
Get a clean bowl or dish and add flour to the bowl. Consider a disposable container that you might be recycling, such as an old yogurt or sour cream container. It might take a while to get a regular dish clean if you allow the paste mixture to harden in your good Tupperware!
Step 2: Add hot water
Get a pitcher of hot water from the tap. It does not need to be boiling; simply hot tap water will be sufficient to dissolve your flour into a thick, soupy mixture.
Step 3: Mix thoroughly
Pour your water over the flour. Start with roughly equal proportions of each (1:1 ratio). Stir paste mixture. Immersion blenders are also helpful at this step.
You may want to add more water or flour to your mixture as you mix it.
The ideal consistency for your mixture is similar to white craft glue, such as your standard Elmer’s glue. It should drizzle from your spoon readily. If too thick, it will not soak into the paper as readily, while a paste that is too thin may take longer to dry.
Step 4: Let the mixture cool
Let your mixture cool until it is safe enough to touch and get ready to paper mache!
If you will be making paper mache over more than one day, you will need to make new batches of your flour and water paste each day, as it tends to break down and may even mold between sessions.
Keep in mind that this mixture is likely going to leave a flour-y type reside on your project. That might be what you happen to be going for, and it is perfectly fine for crafts at home.
If you want a smoother finish, consider the “cooked” paper mache paste option below.
Method 2: “Cooked” Paper Mache Paste with Flour
When you make “cooked” paper mache, you should be aware that you will need to use the stove and a saucepan, which needs to be cleaned immediately after use to prevent the paste from sticking to it.
While kids often love to help make the paste mixture, you might want to consider just having an adult make it.
Here’s how to make a simple paper mache paste with flour on the stove:
Step 1: Gather ingredients
To make a cup of “cooked” paper mache paste with flour and water, you need roughly 2 tablespoons of white flour and 1 cup of water. The initial water temperature doesn’t matter as you will be using heat soon.
Step 2: Whisk thoroughly
Mix the two ingredients in a saucepan, whisking or stirring the mixture until it is smooth and no lumps are present.
Step 3: Heat the mixture and stir constantly
Heat the mixture up over medium heat on the stovetop. Continue stirring constantly and bring the mixture to a boil.
Step 4: Remove from heat
The mixture will begin to thicken. Make sure it does not burn as you stir it. Once the flour and water mixture starts to boil, remove it from the heat.
Step 5: Allow the mixture to cool
Allow the mixture to cool. As it cools, it will form an almost gel-like consistency.
Once the mixture has cooled enough to safely handle, you can start making your paper mache project. Consider using the time it takes the paste mixture to cool to prepare strips of paper and your form.
As with “uncooked” or raw paper mache paste, this mixture needs to be discarded after every session, with a new batch made fresh.
Things To Know About Homemade Paper Mache Glue
You can always opt to add water to any existing craft glue or paste you have at home for making paper mache, but if you don’t have any to begin with, it’s quick and easy to make your own with flour.
While flour is readily available in many people’s homes and is usually safe for children to use, there are a few disadvantages that you need to be aware of:
- Flour contains gluten. If you or a loved one is gluten intolerant, flour may not the best choice for a paper mache paste, especially with little ones who might touch their fingers to their mouths absentmindedly while the work. Likewise, if someone in the house is highly sensitive to gluten, having more of it around may not be a good idea.
- A flour and water paper mache paste mixture does not stay good for long. It starts to break down from organisms all around you, such as microscopic fungi like yeast. It starts to lose its stickiness when that happens and is no longer good as a paste. However, this is great if you just want some “paste” on hand when you’re ready to use it; with this mixture you only need to whip up as much as you need, without having to store the rest of the recipe.
- When you use a flour and water paste mixture, it can grow mold, particularly if you live in a humid climate where it takes longer for the project to dry. It is not the best choice if you are planning to have your artistic masterpiece last for a long time.
- Flour and water paper mache paste mixtures also tend to be opaque or white unless you make a “cooked” paste, which tends to go on clear. This can add an extra dimension to your work. However, you can also add food dye to have a more creative effect on your work.
- Using a flour and water paste mixture does not tend to be as smooth as a glue and water mixture. This is especially true if you make a thick mixture with your flour instead of a thinner mixture. The biggest difference in the two is that a thicker mixture takes less time to dry.
All in all, we feel making a paper mache paste with flour is totally worth it as long as no one is sensitive to gluten. It’s cheap, convenient, and quite safe for most people. Unless you need to have tons of glue on hand or will be making high quality pieces that need to last and suffer some wear and tear, a flour-based paste is a great idea.
Other Supplies For Paper Mache
The easiest way to paper mache is to have a form to build your paper mache project upon. When you have your form picked out, such as a bowl, wrap plastic wrap around the form to help protect it. This will also help the paper mache to be removed from the item when you are done.
If you are using a form such as a vase, you might need to cut the paper mache from it when you are done. This is best done by an adult. You can then re-form the project and paper mache around it to create your finished piece.
When you paper mache, you will need strips of paper. The best types of paper for this craft are porous papers, such as newspaper or telephone book pages. Magazine papers, printer paper, and similar papers are too thick and glossy to let the paper mache paste absorb into the sheets readily.
As your prepare your paper, you need to tear it into strips. The uneven edge produced by tearing the strips makes it more effective and glue more readily to each other than when you cut strips that have an even edge.
You also need to be cognizant of how wide your paper strips are. Typical strips of paper for paper mache are 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide. You do not want to go any wider than that or you’ll have trouble with it keeping shape. Narrower pieces are ideal for detailed areas, such as around the nose and eyes for a mask.
When you layer your strips of paper on your form for your paper mache project, you will want to cross the strips over each other, rather than simply laying them side by side. This produces a stronger piece of work. You will also need to layer it several layers thick. Most projects need at least three layers.
Once you have layered your project, it is time to let it dry. Give it at least 8 to 12 hours to dry in a room with good air circulation. You could even sit it in front of a fan, turning it periodically to make sure that it dries evenly. Touch it to make sure it is not damp or tacky.
Once you have dried your project, remove it from the form. Put more layers down as needed, making up a new batch of flour and water paper mache paste, if that is the glue you are using. Then allow it to dry again.
After your finished piece has fully dried, it’s time to decorate. Enjoy adding paint and other flourishes to really let your personality shine through!
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