This project can be somewhat messy. Make sure you protect your work area for easier clean-up.
- skull replica
- large bowl
- white glue or modge-podge
- exacto knife or razor
- nonstick cooking spray or another release agent such as DW-40, or mineral, or vegetable oil
- acrylic paint
- black markers
- paper fasteners (optional)
- glow-in-the-dark spray paint (optional)
Step 1: Find a model skull to build the papier mache over. Chose one that is made of a non-porous plastic or resin, and is rendered in enough detail that features will still be visible under a few layers of paper mache. One with a removable jaw is preferable. Don’t worry about ruining the original skull, it won’t be harmed!
Step 2: Prepare a solution of ½ cup white glue and 1½ cups of water in the large bowl. Mix well. Add flour or corn starch if desired, but it is not necessary.
Step 3: Cut paper into strips of varying lengths. You will need smaller lengths for details such as the eye cavities and around the nose cavity.
Step 4: Coat the surface of the skull with a thin layer of your chosen release agent. I used a vegetable oil cooking spray. If your model has a removable jaw, take it off and also coat it with the release agent.
Step 5: Dip some of the paper strips in the glue/water mixture and begin laying them on the skull. The strips should be coated but not saturated. It is easiest to start at the top of the skull so your paper doesn’t slide around too much. Keep them as smooth as possible. Overlap the strips of paper slightly when laying them. Make strips smaller as needed. Cover the entire skull this way. If you have a jaw, also cover it.
Step 6: Let dry. This can take a day or longer. Make sure that the paper is completely dry before proceeding. You may wish to store left over glue solution in an airtight container as you will need more of it for the next step.
Step 7: Once the paper is dry, follow up with another layer of paper just like we did in step 5. Let dry completely. At this point you can either follow with a third layer for a stronger finished product or you can proceed to the next step. If you have been saving the glue solution, don’t throw it out just yet, we’ll need it for step 9.
Step 8: Carefully cut the dried paper mache off of the model skull. The easiest way to do this is with an exacto knife or razor. Cut a straight line up the back of the skull, being sure to only cut the paper. Make the cut as small as you possibly can and still be able to lift the paper off. For the jaw, I recommend making the cut along the bottom.
Step 9: Repair the cut in your paper mache skull model more paper strips and glue solution. Then, patch over obvious cracks and crinkles with small bits of paper. Do the same with the jaw. Let dry.
Step 10: (Skip if your skull does not have a removable jaw). Use two paper fasteners to attach jaw to skull.
Step 11: Fill in the details by painting in desired colors. I used black and white acrylic paint, and followed with a layer of glow-in-the-dark spray paint. Use markers to draw in teeth.
Then, you’re ready to add the skull to whatever spooky display you have in mind!