How to make a paper mache toucan

Written by miranda brumbaugh
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How to make a paper mache toucan
A toucan's main feature is its oversized beak. (toucan image by Adrian Hillman from

Toucans are birds native to the tropics. Their most prominent feature is their brightly coloured bills, which measure one-third of the length of their entire body, but are lightweight and more for show than for protection. Bring a toucan into your home for a taste of the tropical islands with a papier-mâché craft that is inexpensive to make. Follow the colour pattern of an actual toucan or decorate your toucan by gluing on glass beads in place of paint.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 plastic butter containers with lids
  • Wooden spoon or paint stirring stick
  • Sheets of newspaper
  • 2 latex balloons
  • Cyanoacrylate glue
  • 2-inch wide painter's sponge
  • Black, white, yellow, light blue and red acrylic paint
  • Paint brush

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  1. 1

    Rip the newspaper into 1-inch squares and fill one plastic container with the pieces. Mix 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of water in a separate plastic container and stir with the wooden spoon or stick until the paste is smooth. Pour paste into the container filled with paper squares, squeezing the mixture until it resembles clay.

  2. 2

    Take a handful of the paper mache pulp you made in the previous step and press together into a firm ball. Squeeze out excess water and mould the pulp into an 6-inch long shape that resembles a fat banana. Form one end of the shape into a sharp point that is curved downward. Leave the other end as wide as the entire shape and flat on the end. Set aside on a newspaper-covered surface to dry.

  3. 3

    Inflate one balloon to 12 inches to 18 inches in length, or as big as possible. Inflate another balloon to approximately 4 inches in diameter, and tie a knot in the ends. Hold the two balloons by the knotted ends so the larger balloon is at the bottom right side of the smaller balloon. Attach the balloons using the cyanoacrylate glue.

  4. 4

    Tear the newspaper into 2-inch strips. Mix 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of water in the container you previously used for the paste, stirring until smooth with the wooden spoon or stick. Dip the strips of newspaper into the paste and apply a layer to the surface of both balloons, smoothing down with the painter's sponge to remove air pockets and wrinkles.

  5. 5

    Let the first layer dry, and then add at least three more layers, letting the paper mache dry between each layer. Attach the dried piece you made in the first step to the front of the top balloon for the toucan's bill, using the cyanoacrylate glue.

  1. 1

    Paint the entire surface of the toucan body, head and bill with the white acrylic paint. Let dry and then paint the body and head black, leaving the front half of the smaller balloon white for the facial area. Paint the bill yellow, and let dry.

  2. 2

    Paint a thin black line down the middle of the length of the bill on both sides, and paint a solid black circle on both sides of the top of the bill near the end. Paint two solid black circles at the top of the small balloon on the white paint for the eyes.

  3. 3

    Paint a 1/4-inch black strip down both sides of the bill where it connects to the toucan's head. Paint a thin red stripe down the centre of the top of the bill so it is visible from the left and right profiles of the toucan.

  4. 4

    Paint a red 3-inch diameter circle on the bottom of the toucan. Paint two sets of two ¼-inch thick blue lines at 2 inches in length above the red circle for the feet.

Tips and warnings

  • Overlap the strips of newspaper as you place each one to give you a completely covered layer of paper mache.
  • You can save your paper mache paste and pulp by covering with a lid to keep it from drying, which is helpful since each of your layers of paper mache will take approximately 12 hours to dry.
  • Add a handful of small pebbles to the inflated large balloon before you tie a knot to secure it, so your toucan will have some weight in the base.
  • Do not try to dry your paper mache body, head or bill using a heater, hair dryer or sunlight. If you do, the surface might crack or the balloons could burst prematurely.

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