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Discussion Starter #1
I'm about to start a prop build and was thinking of something today while grocery shopping. Has anyone ever used the paper bags you get from grocery stores to do paper mache? The project I'm planning is going to be outside, but on a covered porch. I plan on using sealing products to keep it safe from moisture, but thought that the paper bags may be a bit more durable than just using paper towels or news paper.

I was curious to see if anyone has used this before and what your experience was? I was also planning on using wood glue for the mache as well. Thoughts?
 

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Scared Silly
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Brown paper bags work perfectly well, but because the paper is thicker, it's harder to get it to conform to compound curves. Multiple layers of newspaper can provide the same strength and be easier to shape/apply. That said, starting with a layer of brown paper and following up with a few of newspaper may provide a good balance of time-saving to smooth shapes while giving a good amount of strength for large areas. But try it out! See what works for you!
 

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His name is Roger Clyne
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Paper bags would be perfect for flat areas but if you're trying to do a skull or anything with detail or curves they won't work as well. Not that they won't work at all, it just depends on what you're making. It's also about how many layers you're gonna be doing & what or if you topcoat the item.
 

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Hi,

I'm new here but I have to say that I both agree and disagree with what the others have told you. Brown paper bags can make for a wonderful alternative to newspaper when paper macheing, but you have to know how to do it properly.

First of all, I'd suggest you taking your bags and pulling it apart at the seams. Then, you should crumple it up several times until it's all full of wrinkles and then lay it flat again. Now tear (don't cut) your bag into small pieces, I typically go 1"x1" for highly detailed areas and no larger than 4"x4" for flat non-detailed areas. The reason you want to tear the paper is because it helps to loosen the fibers in the paper and it will help the different layers to stick to each other. I go for a thick, pasty, glue-water solution and I apply it somewhat heavily to the brown paper, using a paint brush to paint it on. I will also suggest using a very fine point brush to smooth the edges of your paper into small cracks and along edges. If you find a piece of the brown paper to stiff or rigid, soak it in the paste to soften it, crumple it some more or discard that piece.

After you have applied a layer or two of the brown paper (letting it dry fully between each layer), you should notice that your piece is a bit heavier and sturdier than if you had applied newspaper. I've had a number of my brown bag mache projects take a beating (or cat knocking them off the top of a bookshelf, repeatedly) over the years and most of them barely have a dent to show for it. You can also get some neat tree bark-like textures out of brown bag mache and a matte finish.

Just remember the trick to making it look good is lots of crinkling, tiny pieces and a tiny paintbrush.
 

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I use food wrap and a heat gun and also different plastic bags and such
The food wrap clings to the frame you build, is weatherproof will last you longer. Isn't affected as much with moisture and won't attract insects etc
It's what I use for any outdoor props. And the melted effects are really good for detail once painted with acrylics.
Apply a couple coatings of Matt outdoor varnish when done.
Just another option for you.
I have a couple of things done on my profile or posts I've made
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Well, looks like I've got some testing to do. I was planning on doing this on a skull and some skeletal bones for a prop project I have in mind. Just feeling out all my options before I start. I may go with the paper bag idea for the bones, but may go with the newspaper for the skull, but after Witchy Momma's suggestion, I may just give it a whirl with the bags.

Still toying around with ideas, making sure I write them down so I don't forget. May be another month or 2 before I get this one started though as my son will be born in 21 days (or sooner). We have ourselves another future haunter on the way...

Ok, here's another question. If I have a skull that I'm going to be macheing over, is it best to use plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or just smear it with Vaseline?
 

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Ok, here's another question. If I have a skull that I'm going to be macheing over, is it best to use plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or just smear it with Vaseline?

Personally, I'd go with the Vaseline. I like to really get in there and get all those fine details (teeth and such) and I've found that aluminum foil and plastic wrap can be too bulky and diminish the finer details unless you go with a shrinkwrap idea like burnley0 suggested.
 

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His name is Roger Clyne
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I think the method depends on what your base skull is. If it's something you're not worried about ruining or something without a lot of detail you can use the foil. Plastic wrap doesn't stick well to anything & it will shift which is the biggest reason I've never used it.

I've never tried Vaseline because, just, ew. Macheing is messy enough without trying to get petroleum based products off my & everything else.

One of the biggest reasons I've never used paper bags is because I used to use plastic bags for cat litter so I didn't get a lot of paper bags. I use reusable bags for the grocery store & have for a while now since we now get charged 5 cents a bag now, paper or plastic, so they're a precious commodity in my county in MD.
 

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I will post some pictures for you soon how I make quick lightweight skulls
A lot quicker than paper mache.
I've been meaning to post some for a while and may even make a video of it too
 

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I've used it extensively for broader, larger projects, to fill in big spots quickly and give them strength with fewer layers. Spider, pumpkins, anything that can be blocked in quickly and then gone over with finer stock for detail, etc. I've really begun to move towards heated plastic however and will use it for the majority of any new work.
 

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I have always had success with just paper towels and newspaper. I always tear the paper and not cut. That way I get jagged edges and the seem to smooth/blend all the better. And I do like to put multiple layers on for strength. Never thought about using paper bags. Might have to try those.
 

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I've never tried Vaseline because, just, ew.
I wanted to mention that for those like Rciag who don't like the idea of using vaseline because it's sticky/greasy feeling, you can instead used some KY or your favorite water-based personal lubricant of choice. Of course, this option is more expensive than vaseline and you're likely to get strange looks from the cashier of your local pharmacy when you try to explain that you are buying several bottles of the stuff "for an art project."
 

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Somewhat Eccentric
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I've used the brown bags on my larger pumpkins to add strength with good results. I've also used them to replicate a skull and it worked quite well. The key to using them on smaller projects is to tear your strips into smaller pieces so they will conform better.
 
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