Paper Mache is an awesome material to work with but because of the nature of the material, it can be quite hard to get a smooth finish. After you are done reading this article though you will have more than just one way to smoothen out your Paper Mache Project!
So hod do you get a smooth finish on Paper Mache? In short, there are several ways but the most effective ones are tearing your paper instead of cutting it, using the right paper like Newspaper, or other very absorbent paper, use enough paste on your paper to soak it so that it lays flat on the surface, you can use some very fine sandpaper to smooth the surface or you can fill in gaps and uneven areas with wood filler, Bondo or an epoxy mixture.
What Paper Should I Use to Get a Smooth Finish on My Paper Mache Project?
To get a smooth surface with Paper Mache you need to use the right kind of paper.
Generally, you can use any paper, that can absorb water well. So Newspaper is always good but you can also use cardboard, regular printing paper, colored paper and so on.
Any paper, that is coated in any way, like gloss coating for example, if not good for Paper Mache. This kind of paper can wrinkle or bubble up when it drys, mainly because the coating prevents the water-based glue, that you use for Paper Mache, from soaking it and thus it will not adhere well enough.
Also make sure, that you soak your paper well with your glue mixture before applying it. This will ensure, that all the paper stripes, that you apply to your project adhere well.
Another tip for a smooth surface is ripping your paper instead of cutting it with a scissor. the ripped edges will adhere better and they won´t create any gaps like cut paper would do.
So in short, use Paper, that absorbs water well like Newspaper or cardboard, soak your paper with your glue before applying it, rip your paper and don´t cut it and don´t use coated Paper or Magazine Paper!
Can I use Sandpaper to Smooth the Surface of Paper Mache?
You may notice some uneven parts on the surface of your paper mache or brush marks after it has dried. These can happen even if you applied your paper perfectly.
These Marks are coming from the dried glue mixture but don´t worry, they are quite easy to get rid of.
You can use sandpaper for little uneven parts like these. It has to be very fine grid sandpaper though as to rough sandpaper may damage your Paper Mache more than it will help it.
Then apply very light pressure and sand these uneven parts away carefully. Make sure to get rid of any dust from the sanding before you paint your project!
If you have bigger uneven pars or gaps, that are caused by the paper underneath, then I woul suggest using wood filler to smoothen these out.
So in short, use Sandpaper only for brush marks or uneven parts, that where created by the glue mixture and not for gabs or bubbles. Use very fine grid sandpaper and only apply very light pressure when sanding. For bigger gaps, I would suggest using wood filler.
How Can I Smooth Out or Fill In Bigger Gaps in my Paper Mache Project?
Yes, you can! If you have bigger gaps in your paper mache or even very unsightly holes or dents in your Paper Mache then sanding or other small fixes won´t do the trick. But don´t worry, there are a couple of things, that you can do to safe your Project!
For smaller gaps, you could use wood filler to fill these in. Just apply some wood filler to the area, that you want to fix and then smooth it out with either your finger or a plastic spatula.
Don´t worry, if you don’t get a very smooth result right away. Just let the wood filler dry and after it has dried completely you can go over it with some fine grid Sandpaper to make it as smooth as you want.
A slightly better alternative is using Bondo. It is a little bit harder to come by than wood filler but it can be smoothed way easier than wood filler.
All you have to do is apply it to the surface and then make your finger wet with some water, then you can smoothen out the Bondo easily with your finger. The water will make the Bondo not stick to your finger and at the same time, it will make the Bondo very very smooth.
If you are looking for a way to make an extremely smooth surface then Bondo is the way to go! And you can Sand Bondo after it has dried too. So you can fix any errors easily after it has dried.
If you have a very big nasty gap or a giant hole to fill then I would suggest using Apoxy Sculpt or another two-component epoxy sculpting mass.
This Sculpting “Clay” consists of two components, that have to be mixed very well before you can use it. It has the consistency of clay and sticks very well to surfaces.
It is an epoxy mix so it is slightly toxic, so defiantly use something to protect your hands!
Fill in the hole or gap, that you want to fix and let the epoxy dry. After it has dried it will be very hard. Now you can use Sandpaper to smoothen out the surface of the epoxy.
Keep in mind though, that epoxy is quite heavy compared to Paper Mache! So I would suggest using it sparingly.
And finally, you could also use Gesso to make the surface of your project smooth and prepare it for painting in one go.
Gesso is a ground for preparing surfaces for acrylic paint. It is easy to apply and drys quite fast. It will dry hard and if your Project has a lot of smaller bubbles or is just generally very rough then Gesso is your best option for smoothing your Paper Mache!
Just apply it directly to your project with a brush, a foam brush or a sponge. Start with a thin layer and let it dry overnight if you still see some uneven parts then simply apply another layer on top of the first one.
Gesso will have a slight texture to it after it has dried. So if you want to have a very very smooth surface then I would suggest using Bondo instead or maybe even a coating on epoxy.
So it totally depends on your project and how smooth you want the surface of your Paper Mache to be or if you want to paint it afterward and how hard the finished Project is going to be. Depending on all these factors you can choose the perfect material for your project!
If you have any questions, then feel free to leave a comment down below and I will answer all your questions as soon as possible!
Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.