Paper mache cardboard boxes
A few weeks ago a friend of mine had a “bad movie night” where he was showing the film “Sharknado.” Inspired by the theme for the party, I decided I had to wear a shark hat for the event. After making my hat, my daughter requested a monkey hat. This was not a request I could refuse.
I took pictures of the process to show you how you can make your own. I haven’t ever tried to make paper mache hats before, so this was not only a lot of fun – but a great learning experience. While I own the really great paper mache monster books by Dan Reeder, I only used them for inspiration and tried out a few new things on my own.
Even though I used this process to make hats, the directions here could easily be adapted to making anything out of paper mache.
Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools
Here’s what you need to get started:
- Cardboard Boxes. Cardboard forms the “skeleton” of the structure. It’s cheap, ubiquitous, sturdy, and easy to cut and form.
- Masking Tape. Once the cardboard has been cut, liberal use of masking tape will keep your creation together until it can be covered with paper mache.
- Scissors and Utility Knife. Scissors can be very helpful in cutting cardboard or paper. While scissors can be helpful, and appropriate for kids, I find a utility knife gets the job done faster.
- Measuring Tape. If you’re not making a hat (or other apparel or armor) you won’t need this. But it is helpful when making measurements. ((In a pinch, you could just use a piece of yarn or string to mark lengths, and then put the yarn on the cardboard for reference.))
- Plastic Wrap. Whether you’re working with gluey paper or paint, the process is messy. I would recommend covering the work surface with plastic wrap. I happened to have a really large plastic bag, which I taped directly to the table.
- Glue. I just used a big bottle of Elmer’s white glue from the hardware store, but I’m pretty sure wood glue would have worked as well, if not better. It’s also more versatile and sturdy.
- Plastic Tray. The next time you get take-out or have a plastic line from inside some packaging, save it. It makes a great wide tray for mixing water and glue or when your project is dry, it is also great for mixing paints.
- Paper Grocery Bags. The “twist” with this process is that I used torn up grocery bags, rather than the traditional newspaper. It turned out this was a really good idea for a number of reasons. Paper bags
- are a cheap and plentiful material. When thoroughly wet strips of paper bags are easy to place, mold and shape. However, the most important features of paper bags is that
- they hold glue and water really well and then dry quickly into a sturdy hard shell. In fact, they form such a sturdy surface that I only had to do a single layer of paper mache around the entire hat. This means that you can quickly put down a single layer of paper bag strips all over your cardboard form, wait a few hours for it to dry, and then get to work finishing the project.
- Paper or Newspaper. While grocery bags work really well to cover your cardboard form, they can leave some small gaps where they overlap. When I found gaps in the project, I simply used a few thin strips of the newsprint style paper to cover the holes and smooth out spots on the rough paper bag layer.
- Cup of Water and Paintbrushes. An old mug is best and pile of cheap dollar store brushes is probably fine.
- Paints. I prefer acrylic paints. They are cheap, can be diluted with water, easy to mix, they stay wet long enough for you to blend, but not so long that you have to wait days for it to dry. They also clean up well with water.