How to make paper mache heads

Written by suzie faloon
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How to make paper mache heads
Paper mache heads can be simple or detailed and lifelike. (masque en papier maché image by jean claude braun from Fotolia.com)

Paper mache heads decorate special occasions such as the "Day of the Dead" in Mexico, Halloween, parties and parades. The heads may be skeleton designs, cartoon-like characters or detailed copies of lifelike animal or human forms. Paper mache is a medium that is pliable with a slow-drying process which enables the artist to take the time needed to create a sculpted form.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Balloon
  • Flour or glue
  • Large bowl
  • Craft or newsprint paper
  • Cardboard
  • Acrylic paint and brushes
  • Salt (optional)
  • Hand blender (optional)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Select a round balloon that is large enough for the size of the head. Fill the balloon with air and tie it securely to keep its shape.

  2. 2

    Tear paper into strips. Mix equal parts water and either flour or white craft glue in a large bowl. Alternately, you can mix three parts boiling water, one part flour and 1/4 cup salt which is slowly mixed with hand blender for a smooth paste. It is best to mix such heated paste in small batches.

  3. 3

    Place several paper strips into the bowl of paste. When the paper is saturated lift one piece at a time from the mixture. Strip away excess paste with your fingers and smooth the paper strip over the surface of the balloon. Completely cover the balloon with a layer of the paste and paper. When using heated paper mache, work with the paste only until the mixture cools down. Once your first layer is complete, add one or two more layers to the balloon and set it aside to dry thoroughly.

  4. 4

    Cut pieces of cardboard to make a foundation for the ears and nose of the paper mache head.

  5. 5

    Mix a new batch of paper mache paste. Place four-to-five-inch strips of paper into the paste. Place a piece of cardboard against the centre of the front of the balloon to create the bridge of a nose. Paste it in place using the short pieces of saturated paper. Continue adding strips and form the full shape of the nose. Build the brow line of the face and concave area for the eyes with pieces of pasted paper. Keep adding paper to form the half-round shape of the upper and lower eyelids.

  6. 6

    Set a cardboard ear against one side of the head. Paste it in place with small strips of paper. Position the ear in line with the eyebrow and the bottom of the nose. Continue adding pasted paper until an ear shape is formed and the cardboard is completely covered. Make a second ear on the opposite side of the head in the same fashion. Set the head on a large empty bowl and allow it to dry completely.

  7. 7

    Paint the paper mache head with acrylic paint and brushes. Set aside to dry.

Tips and warnings

  • Pop the balloon by poking a pin through the layers of the dried papier mache if you require the head to be wholly enclosed.
  • The paper mache head may collapse if you try to paint it before the pasted material has dried to a hard shell.

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