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  1. #1
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    Default Paper mache: How many layers and the order of sealing and painting

    I'm excited to finally have armatures that I like for this year's new outdoor props. As I type, the second layer of paper mache (using Stolloween's recipe) is drying. Now I'm wondering, how many layers do most people use? I typically do enough that when I press on the piece there's no give but I feel like pieces that will be sealed and outside might need more.
    I intend to seal them so they're waterproof but I'm wondering if I should put a coat on before AND after I paint them or just after. Anyone have experience with paper mache soaking up paint more than usual or getting slimy when the top coat of glue gets wet from the paint?

  2. #2

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    This year is my first year using paper mache for Halloween too. I was curious about the same thing. I was assuming I would just keep adding layers until I was satisfied with how solid it felt.
    Back in school we used to make paper mache masks and other things in art class. I remember once they dried the paint was no problem for them. They took a lot of wet before they got soft, then once the paint dried it actually seemed to help harden the project.

  3. #3
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    Any mache I've done hasn't taken gotten slimy or soaked up more paint. In fact I don't think the paint penetrates the glue layer at all unless you're painting it while it's still wet which I don't advise. The glue is almost like a primer layer.

    I should tell you that Stolloween's pumpkins are VERY heavy. Not sure how many layers he's using but the one I own is a pretty heavy pumpkin even though it's hollow.
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  4. #4
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    I am no expert, but I did a few pumpkins with 6 layers of paper mache and a thin layer of sealant after the piece was dry and it is rock hard!

    I mean, we can't even smash it with a hammer! I used flour, water, and elmers glue, and man oh man I think I could build a home out of the stuff.

    I let my mache dry, and make sure it is totally dry. When totally dry, I used paint, and then sealant.

    When I paint mache, I really experiment with color, different shading, and color washes. After the paint dries a few days, then I do one or two layers of sealant.

    None of my paint has ever become slimy, streaky, or had any issues when I sealed them.

    There are alot of people here with tons of great advice, so I am sure you will get some more experienced answers. I love mache, it is such a great way to create!

  5. #5
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    We do a minimum of three if the piece is hollow. If we finish with paper towel it's way hard enough for anything.

    Latex paint will definitely soak into paper mache and soften it until it dries.

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  6. #6
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    I think he mentions using about a dozen layers on his pumpkins. That has to add up. No wonder they're heavy. Though, having put paper clay on a hollow pumpkin with only three layers and waking up to find it collapsed under its own weight like a pancake...well, I can understand why he over builds!

  7. #7
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    I do at least 3 layers on all papier mache pieces. I use more if I don't have a wood or PVC armature underneath, such as a pumpkin built up with just wire. If you have a thinner armature, you need many more layers to prevent collapse. I think I normally do 5 on a small pumpkin (like, party balloon size) and as many as necessary as props get larger.

    As for sealing, I paint the inside and the outside as best as I can with an outdoor flat latex paint, then do all the detail work in acrylic/spray/airbrush paint, then seal with a clear water based sealer (the oil ones give me a headache) on the outside and inside. One coat is fine if it's brush on sealer. At least two coats if it's spray on to make sure you cover it completely.

  8. #8
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    Thanks so much for the great tips! Can't wait for all pieces to dry so I can move on to the fun stuff.

  9. #9
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    Oct 2009
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    I have used "Drylock" paint as my base coat on some of my props. I used it over a paper mâché that was covered with paper clay. I did three layers of paper mâché. But I used chicken wire as my armature so it had plenty of strength to support the paper clay with only three layers of mâché. I painted the base coat on the paper clay and once it dried I painted the final colors on top of the "Drylock". For the final layer I used spray on polyurethane. I put on several coats of polyurethane. I was very concerned about it getting rained on. The prop held up very well to rain on the exterior. I ran into a problem the day before Halloween when we got a very substantial amount of rain. The exterior still held up fine. The prop spent several hours in the rain. I usually removed the prop if the forecast called for rain. Unfortunately, I was not home and therefore unable to take the prop down before the rain started. My problem started because the prop was a PumpkinRot scarecrow. So it has a carved face where the rain was able to penetrate the prop on the inside. A lot of rain ran down the prop and into the carved openings. The rain pooled on the interior of the prop. I did not protect the inside of my prop with anything other than a few coats of spray paint. (I forgot to mention that I removed the chicken wire armature after the paper clay was applied and dried.) The prop held up surprisingly well considering how much rain penetrated the interior. It started to sag a little on the bottom due to the weight of the prop bearing down on the wet area. I tried to remove the prop while it was still raining. The prop was very wet and had absorbed a lot of rain. I ended up damaging the prop because I tried to remove it and it was too wet to handle the movement. I guess what I am getting at is that if you have a hollow prop make sure you seal the inside and give the rain a way out of the prop. Anyway.....the "Drylock" and the polyurethane did a great job protecting the exterior of the prop. If I didn't have any openings in the prop I am confident the prop would have had no problems with the rain.
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  10. #10
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    I'm in the process of completing three small pumpkins and used six layers of mache. I did cut out the face and added the first layer of clay before I removed the stuffing and was surprised at how solid they were with the stuffing removed. Thinking of doing a larger pumpkin and will probably do more even more layers on it.

    I'm also working on a tombstone using a small cat litter bag as the form and have eight layers on that one. Just trying to decide what to do with it as far as lettering--form them out of clay, either raised or recessed, or cut through the mache and light it from the inside. My Secret Reaper project is the priority now.

    Priced spar urethane at Lowes yesterday and will be spending $30-40 to seal my creations once I have the extra cash. From what I've read this is the best sealer for weather protection. I have a 10% off Lowes coupon, so that will make it hurt less

    Lizzy

 

 
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