How to Make Handmade Papier Mache Dolls

Updated November 21, 2016

Papier mache is French for "chewed paper," which refers to the use of torn paper strips in the creation of new sculptures and toys. It is a material commonly used in making traditional folk art dolls from around the world. This type of material is not only durable, it is simple to use. You can create your own papier-mache dolls using inexpensive materials you might already have at home.

Sketch a design for your doll. Papier mache is a very versatile material that can be used to make a variety of different shapes and designs.

Create the mould that will be the basis for your creation. When creating a pinata, for instance, it is common to blow up a balloon for use as the base. You can use balloons for your doll head and body, or you can form a shape out of balled-up aluminium foil.

Tear paper into thin strips. Newspaper works well, but you can use any scrap paper. Your strips should be no more than 1 inch wide, but they can be any length you desire.

Prepare the paste by combining white flour, water and glue. You can add more flour or water as needed to create the consistency you like. You can also dilute regular school glue with water to create a powerful paste.

Dip a paper strip into the paste and soak for several seconds. Make sure the paper is fully saturated, but not ready to tear. Position around your mould, smoothing the strips as you go along. Continue until your doll is completely covered with paper strips. Allow the strips to dry for eight to 24 hours.

Repeat with more paper layers until the papier mache is thick and hardened. Allow time to dry between layers. The more layers you apply, the sturdier your doll will be. Let the doll dry completely before proceeding. If you used a balloon as the base, you can pop it with a needle if desired.

Sand down rough edges with fine-grit sandpaper. This will allow you to smooth out any creases and uneven layers in the paper.

Paint and decorate as desired. Nearly any paint is appropriate for the doll, from oils to acrylics. Once the paint is dry, you can add a clear coat of polyurethane to seal the design. Use cloth or yarn to make clothing and hair to finalise the look.

Things You'll Need

  • Balloon
  • Aluminium foil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups water
  • School glue (optional)
  • Scrap paper
  • Needle
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Decorative materials
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About the Author

Liza Hollis has been writing for print and online publications since 2003. Her work has appeared on various digital properties, including Hollis earned a degree in English Literature from the University of Florida.