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How to Preserve Paper Mache Figures

Updated April 17, 2017

Paper mache is a versatile craft material that you can create from basic household supplies. While the most common use of paper mache is for grade-school projects such as volcanoes and masks, many crafters use paper mache to make decorative items such as sculptures, vases and lawn ornaments. If you're creating a paper mache item that you want to keep for years to come, using the right ingredients for your paste mixture, the right paper mache techniques and adding a protective finish are key.

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  1. Mix one part water with one part all-purpose glue or wallpaper paste in a large bowl to create the paper mache paste. This paste mixture will last longer and it will not mould like flour- or corn starch-based paper mache paste mixtures can.

  2. Tear the newspaper strips into 1- to 2-inch-wide strips in any length.

  3. Apply two to three layers of newspaper strips to your paper mache mould. (You can create moulds in any shape you want from materials such as balloons, cardboard and plastic bottles.)

  4. Let the strips dry for six to eight hours. To add extra strength and durability to your figure, apply another two to three layers of newspaper strips and let dry for another six to eight hours. Decorate as desired with paints, markers or other craft supplies.

  5. Apply a thin coat of outdoor varnish or water-based sealant to the finished paper mache figure. You can use an outdoor varnish intended for wood furniture or boats, or a water-based sealant made for paper and other craft items. This will make the figure stronger and waterproof.

  6. Let the varnish or sealant dry for several hours. Apply a second coat and let it dry.

  7. Warning

    Apply varnish or sealant in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside, to avoid inhaling chemicals.

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Things You'll Need

  • Glue or wallpaper adhesive
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Newspaper strips
  • Outdoor varnish or water-based sealer
  • Foam brush

About the Author

Betsy Morgan has been writing and editing professionally since 1995. She has written for publications like "Wired" magazine, "Paper" magazine and Vault.com. She has a Bachelor of Arts in history from Columbia University.

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