Paper Mache Relief – How To

Brrrrrr……baby it’s cold outside! Here in Illinois we are in a deep freeze. Where are you from and how is your weather these days?

I mentioned posting on paper mache reliefs the other day. I had a distraction from that but am now on it and ready to go. The first pictures are of a relief I created on a client’s wall in the upstairs foyer. The one is of myself actually doing the work and the other is the finished product. The following pictures and instructions are of a simpler project but done in the same technique. It just gets applied to walls on a larger scale. Hopefully I can include a photo of an urn relief that I did in a model home a few years ago. It is actually my favorite. So here we go…….The supplies you will need are, something to apply the relief to, pre-packaged paper mache, drywall mud (alot of times it is called joint compound), a water based primer such as Kilz, acryic paint (I used Delta Ceramcoat, but you can use any brand just get the color you want), red metallic paint, sandpaper, glaze medium, and water based varnish.
relief steps 003
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relief steps 001
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I thought a little Valentine piece would be fun. I purchased a box at Michaels for $1.89 after my coupon. All of the other supplies I already had, but you may find at your local craft store. The only thing you will probably have to get elsewhere is the drywall mud. Unless you get your supplies at Walmart, then I bet they would have that as well.
A finished project —


The different steps along the way. You will need prepackaged paper mache (photo). Sometimes it is called plaster papaer.

I just freehanded it but you might prefer to draw a simple heart on the center of the box for guidance. Wet the paper mache according to directions, cutting it into pieces about 5-7 inches long. Apply it to the top of the box forming a heart shape. Smooth it down a bit, but you can expect it to stay a little rough. (That’s where the drywall mud comes in) Press the edges down so there are no gaps. Let dry several hours or overnight.

Next step is to apply the drywall mud. I used a painters knife but a putty knife works just fine. Apply 2 thin coats letting it dry a few hours in between coats. It’s important to layer on thin coats as it can crack as it dries if it’s to thick. I also sanded mine in between coats and after the second coat. The way I like it is leave it with some hills and valleys for texture. When this has dried thoroughly coat the entire box with a water based primer such as Kilz.

Next comes painting the heart. I used a color called Cardinal Red but any red will do. I applied 2 coats, let it dry and then painted on 2 coats of red metallic. Don’t worry if the red goes past the drywall mud, you can clean up any edges when you apply the pink to the rest of the box. Which is what is next actually. It took 2 coats to cover the box with pink, sanding between coats and after to give it a smooth feel.

The final steps are the writing and the glazing. The writing you can do whatever you are comfortable with as long as it is permanent. Be it paint such as I used, a stencil, or even rub ons. And you can use a saying of your choice. Let the lettering dry thoroughly and then mix 1 part burnt umber paint to 2 parts glaze, I brushed each side separately and immediately used the cheesecloth to remove enough so the pink shows through well. When this is dry, I suggest overnight, I applied 2 coats of water based varnish.

And this has been my favorite so far. It was done on the wall of the vestibule going into a master bedroom. It coordinated with what I did in the master ceiling and on the master bath walls.
Ashwood Park South 009

I hope that you will give it a go and try the technique. Whereas it can be just a little messy, the rewards are great.
Have a good evening and stay warm!

2 thoughts on “Paper Mache Relief – How To

  1. Oh Doris! I LOVE the piece in the hallway! (first photo) Do you build up the mache for that? Using a stencil and put the pattern on the wall? Just gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.

    • Actually Dixie, I just started putting the paper mache on the wall. I knew what I was after and it just came to life. I did build up the paper mache and I don’t know if you are familiar with it but they offer a fine wire mesh. I built it up a bit with that as well. And lots of layers of drywall mud. If you’d like I could post a picture of the faux finish in the bath area that went with this. Thank you for asking!

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