How to decorate paper mache boxes

Written by drea christopher
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Turn inexpensive paper mache boxes into eye-catching storage units by decorating the tan-coloured, textured surface of the containers with basic craft supplies such as acrylic paint, patterned paper and dimensional embellishments. Available at scrapbooking, rubber stamping, craft and dollar stores, paper mache boxes come in many shapes like rectangles, circles and hearts. Use the embellished boxes to contain memorabilia, craft supplies or jewellery. Hand-decorated boxes can also become personalised packaging for gifts for friends and family members.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Plastic sheet
  • Scrap paper
  • Paper mache box
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Decorative paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors or craft knife
  • Double-stick tape or glue stick
  • Paint pen
  • Dimensional accents
  • Adhesive dots
  • Stickers, foam shapes or ribbon

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  1. 1

    Cover your work table with a plastic sheet or pieces of scrap paper to keep paint and adhesives from ruining the surface.

  2. 2

    Paint the paper mache box with 2 to 3 coats of acrylic paint, in any colour of your choice. Allow the paint to dry at least one hour between coats.

  3. 3

    Embellish the top or the side panels of the box with decorative paper, if desired. Select paper that coordinates with the acrylic paint and place it face down on the table. Sit the lid face down on the paper and trace it with a pencil. Cut the paper out with scissors or a craft knife and affix it to the top of the lid with double-stick tape or glue.

  4. 4

    Create a border around the lid with a paint pen. Add a personal message, a favourite song lyric or decorative flourishes to the top of the lid, a 1/2 inch in from the edge or along the sides of the lid that hang down over the container portion of the box.

  5. 5

    Add a dimensional accent to the centre of the lid. Affix a cluster of paper flowers, a gift bow, a chipboard letter or a grouping of buttons or plastic gems with adhesive dots.

  6. 6

    Decorate the sides of the box with embellishments such as stickers, self-adhesive foam shapes, doodles drawn with paint pens or a pretty ribbon bow tied around the centre of the box.

Tips and warnings

  • If the surface of your paper mache box has a particularly bumpy texture that soaks up the acrylic paint, prepare the surface of the box before painting by coating it with a layer of white gesso, sold at craft and art supply shops.
  • When you want to completely cover the lid and sides of the box with decorative paper so none of the original white or brown colour shows through, you don't have to paint the box with acrylic paint first.
  • When creating decorative containers for young children, avoid embellishing the paper mache boxes with accents like plastic gems or buttons that can fall off easily. If the child is still in the stage of putting small objects into her mouth, the small items can become a choking hazard.
  • Protect your work surface when using a craft knife by covering the area with a self-healing cutting mat, available through office supply, art or craft shops.

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