How to Paint Paper Mache Dolls With Gesso

Written by patti perry
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How to Paint Paper Mache Dolls With Gesso
Mix white glue and jont compund to form gesso for finishing paper mache projects. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Dried paper mache pulp often has a pebbled appearance. Gesso is used to smooth and strengthen paper mache doll surfaces. This preparation creates a hard layer over the paper pulp that is ideal for painting fine details. Gesso and sanding make rough textures smooth. This process forms coats of hardness that seal the porous paper for finishing. Gesso covers printing that may show through from paper pulp. You can make homemade gesso or buy it as a ready-to-use liquid.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • White glue
  • Joint compound
  • Plastic mixing bowl
  • Paint stirrer
  • Acrylic paints
  • 60-grit sandpaper
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • 120-grit sandpaper

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    Gesso recipe

  1. 1

    Combine 1 cup of white glue with 2 cups of joint compound in a plastic mixing bowl. Use a paint stirrer to blend these substances.

  2. 2

    Add 1/8-cup of white acrylic paint and mix thoroughly.

  3. 3

    Blend acrylic paints and add to the gesso to make your desired skin colour.

  4. 4

    Increase glue if you notice cracks in your gesso mix. Temperature and humidity may affect gesso as it dries.


  1. 1

    Apply two to five layers of gesso, depending on the finished look you desire.

  2. 2

    Let each coat dry, and sand between applications. Start with 60-grit sandpaper and proceed to 120-grit to achieve the finish you want.

  3. 3

    Mix skin tones or other colours of acrylic paint into the gesso before applying it to the doll.

  4. 4

    Dampen a brush with water and smooth over the dried gesso.

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