Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Smooth Moves

Ahhh...smoothness. Many people have asked questions about getting a smooth surface when using papier mache clay. Here are a few tips and suggestions for getting a smooth finish with paper clays.

1. First what are you using for your paper source for the clay? Are you pulping your own paper or are you using Cellulose Fiber Insulation. Cellulose Fiber Insulation is a bit finer than homemade paper pulp and in the long run actually probably cheaper to use when you figure in the cost of energy to boil and shred recycled paper.

2. Coating the surface of wet paper clay with paste is a good technique. It fills in the pits and dimples and helps achieve smoothness. Be careful not to apply to much paste (thickness) as it can crack, chip or flake.

3. A really good technique is sanding. Dry paper clay has the same characteristics as wood so using sandpaper works very well. A small orbital sander like the Black & Decker mouse works very well. I also use a rotary tool or Dremel with a sanding bit for smaller areas such as eye sockets, teeth etc. Sanding dry paper clay is very dusty and messy so take precautions and wear a dust mask.

4. Another option is to make a different type of clay, one made from blended toilet paper. Soak a roll of TP in a bucket of water until it starts to dissolve. Remove the cardboard tube. Use a hand mixer or hand blender to completely shred the paper, pour the water and shredded TP onto a screen and wring out the excess water then add enough glue or paste to make a workable clay.
Use the clay to just cover the surface...this stuff is not real workable if you want to sculpt anything but serves a good purpose for surface smoothing. Roll some between two sheets of wax paper, work with very thin thicknesses such as an 1/8 of an inch, then apply to the areas where you want smoothness.

5. For the ultimate in smoothness you can buy "Creative Paperclay" from any craft's about 7 bucks for 8oz but a little goes a long way. Use it in the same way as the toilet paper clay by rolling it into very thin sheets. The great thing about creative paperclay is that you can add elaborate texture with sculpting tools.

And finally I would suggest remembering that paper mache has a unique texture and look so I don’t usually work too hard to make mache look like something else. The natural texture of paper clays can be used to enhance your props and any roughness looks great when painted with a dry brushing technique.

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