Paper sculpture techniques

Written by sue stepp
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Paper sculpture techniques
Make paper sculptures using these simple techniques. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Creating sculpture out of paper is simple, but there are many different techniques for the sculpture. People can form sculptures using different types of paper. Cardboard, newspaper, magazines and art papers are used in creating sculpture. The sculpting material is bound together using a variety of different glues and binders. The completed pieces are painted and sealed, so the finished sculpture lasts a long time.

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Building a paper sculpture using layers of paper is like creating a topographical map. If you create a pyramid, you cut a multiple number of squares, making each one a fraction of an inch smaller than the last. Then you glue the squares on top of each other, starting with the largest on the bottom and working your way up to the smallest on top. This process works well for making bases for sculptures or easily designed pieces.

Cut and glue

Make the sculpture using cut and glued shapes. Cut out pieces and then roll, bend or form the pieces into the desired shapes. Make cones, cylinders or boxes out of paper and add decorative accents to the outside. If you make a palm tree, start by making a cylinder for the trunk. Add cut paper pieces on the outside that make it look rough like the actual trunk. Cut large eye-shaped pieces of green and draw a line down the centre using any sharp-pointed object. Bend the leaf on the line, and cut slits along the outer unfolded edges. Open it up and glue one pointed end into the centre of the top of the cylinder. Make more leaves and glue them in until it forms the top of the palm tree.


Adding quilled paper pieces to a sculpture lets you add mass to a sculpture without using solid layers of paper. Quilled paper works well for hair, flowers and intricate designs on sculptures. Quilled paper is small strips of paper twisted around a toothpick or ceramic needle tool until it forms the desired shapes. Artists make tight rolls, bell shapes, loose coils, teardrops, eyes, diamonds, triangles, squares, leaves, petals and many other shapes. These shapes are glued to the sculpture for decorative effects.


Build armatures for sculptures. An armature is like a skeleton in a person. It supports the sculpture and keeps everything in the right place. You can make armatures by gluing paper tubes, boxes and rolled newspaper into the desired shape, or they twist pieces of wire together until it forms the right shape for the sculpture. Paper is secured around the armature, forming the sculpture.

Paper pulp

Artists take old newspaper or other discarded paper and turn it into paper pulp. Make paper pulp by tearing paper into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces and putting it in a large container of hot water. Let it sit several hours. Put 237 ml (1 cup) of pulp into an old blender and fill it full of water. Blend the paper until it looks like thick mashed potatoes. Pour the blended mixture into a strainer with tiny holes and drain out the water. Keep blending paper until you have enough for the sculpture. Store it in a plastic container with a lid. Paper pulp is easily moulded around armatures, and people make paper clay from this material. Artists hand-build sculpture using paper pulp by pressing it into place and removing excess water by pressing a sponge into the wet areas. Let it dry thoroughly before painting or sealing. It takes several days to dry.

Paper clay

Mix 948 ml (4 cups) of paper pulp, 237 ml (1 cup) of school glue, 125 g (1 cup) of white flour, 125 g (1 cup) of joint compound and 2 tbsp of vegetable oil together in a plastic container with a lid. Put your hands in the mixture and knead it until it gets to the consistency of a thick bread dough. Mould the paper clay mixture over an armature and create a sculpture. Let it dry for several days before painting or sealing.

Cast paper sculpture

Use a commercial mould or make a mould out of plaster, polymer clay or silicone. Spray the inside of the mould with mould release or spray cooking oil. Make a large batch of paper pulp using newspaper or art paper. If you want a pure white sculpture, use watercolour paper or blotting paper for etchings. Fill the mould with paper pulp and press the paper tightly using a large sponge. Press the sponge down into the mould, pull it up and squeeze the excess moisture into a bucket. If you need more pulp, add it and continue the sponging process. Sponging takes out extra moisture so it dries faster. Let it dry for several days in the mould, then carefully pull it out of the mould. Let it dry two days out of the mould before painting or sealing.

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