How to Make Paper Clay in Your Home Studio

Learning how to make paper clay has never been easier!

how to make paper clay

In this post, we’ll show you how to make paper clay. Making paper clay is a great way to gain strength in your work, while also reducing its heft.  If you’ve never worked with paper clay, you’ll be thrilled with the doors it can open up in your work. Paper clay improves joining capabilities and decreases warping and shrinkage, all the while reducing the heft of the work. This makes it ideal for building complex or delicate ceramic sculpture.

Ceramic artist Lisa Merida-Paytes has found paper clay to be a great tool with which to build her ceramic sculptures. Not only does it make the work have more strength, but paper clay also makes it lighter weight. In today’s post, an excerpt from the Pottery Making Illustrated archives, Lisa extols the virtues of this wonderful material and gives instructions on how to make paper clay. So read up, and then put your work on a paper clay diet! –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.


how to make paper clay 1

Commercial spray insulation, also known as cellulose fiber, can be purchased from your local hardware store.

How would you like your ceramic work to be lighter? Or stronger? Or both? Paper clay may be the answer since it has all the advantages of durability while avoiding the heaviness often associated with regular clay. Made using any type of clay body – earthenware, stoneware, raku or porcelain – paper clay enhances green strength, decreases warping, improves joining capabilities in wet-to-wet and dry-to-dry situations, and you can even attach wet paper clay to bisqued paper clay piece to repair small breaks.

Successful Tips for Buying and Using Pottery Clay

Learn all about buying and using pottery clay when you download this freebieSuccessful Tips for Buying and Using Pottery Clay.


Making your own paper clay is simple. You’ll need prepared clay slip (commercial or homemade), a drill with a mixer attachment, buckets, bleach, a plastic rib, a respirator, several plaster bats, and paper fibers. Any paper fiber such as newspaper, cotton linter, or photocopier paper can be used to create paper clay, but these types of paper will often develop mold growth if left overnight. I discourage using toilet paper because it contains starch and promotes rot within the clay in as little as a few hours. To eliminate mold, you’ll need to add a tablespoon of bleach and remix. I recommend making paper clay with spray insulation, also known as cellulose fiber and commonly used in insulating attics and homes. I suggest the cellulose for three reasons: strength, time and money. The most important of these being the prefiring strength supplied by the inclusion of the fibrous material. Also, cellulose fiber cuts out the very time consuming step of breaking down traditional paper materials into pulp.

Break all the rules!

In the world of contemporary ceramics, rules are meant to be broken! Additions to Clay Bodies is an introduction to a group of artists who break the rules by mixing just about anything into their clay bodies—from hard materials like stones and glass, to dog biscuits, coffee beans, fiber, and metals. If you’re tired of playing by the rules, this book will send you off in a new direction!

Learn more and download an excerpt!

How to Make Paper Clay – Mixing

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Clay slip with cellulose fiber mixed in. The finished product will be more textural, with fine strands of pulp.

To make 10-15 pounds of paper clay, pour two gallons of recycled clay slip or commercial slip into a 5 gallon bucket. Sprinkle three handfuls of cellulose fiber into the slip and mix with the drill mixer. Crumble the fiber as you add it to the bucket to help prevent dry pockets of material forming in the slip. Mix the slip and fiber for approximately 15 minutes. While mixing, the slip may require more water, but add only small amounts at a time. Once the materials are thoroughly combined, run your hand through the slip to make sure there aren’t any large, dry clumps of fiber remaining. If you find pockets, break them up and continue to mix for several more minutes until the slip comes to a yogurt consistency with tiny threads of texture.

Wear gloves, a respirator and goggles to protect from inhaling dust particles from the clay or fiber. Be sure to read and follow all product warnings on the cellulose fiber.

How to Make Paper Clay – Using

Paper clay slip can be cast directly into molds. To prepare the paper clay for handbuilding, pour the slip onto dry plaster bats and spread it around with a rubber rib until it’s a half inch thick. Wait 10 – 15 minutes for the plaster to absorb the excess moisture and the slip forms a hardened film. Flip the clay over to dry the other side for another 15 -20 minutes. At this point, the clay should be workable as a slab or ready to be wedged for handbuilding.

**First published in 2009

  • Nina D.

    I made paper clay from white paper pulp I bought from one of the ceramic supply companies online and mixed it into clay right out of the bag moist. I used 1 heaping cup of paper to about 4 pounds of clay. It’s been a month now and no mold. The pieces I bisqued are lighter than they look but I was only making some mugs and a platter a la Lana Wilson’s technique. I will be firing them next week at cone 5/6.

  • Janet J.

    Alan N. I don’t know if anyone ever answered your questions. I did a paper clay unit with my students, and I have worked with it at home. The smoke burn off from the paper in the clay is insignificant. I have made some really fun pieces with paper clay, which can also be brushed onto a surface in it’s slip state.

  • Betsy Jo W.

    i just brought some insulation to use to make paper clay . it is 80 % paper, 10% ammonium sulfate and 10 % boric acid. Is it ok that there is ammonium sulfate and boric acid in it?

    • Hi Betsy Jo, we recommend that you reach out to the author, Lisa Merida-Paytes, directly through her website regarding your inquiry as our staff did not feel 100% confident answering your question due to lack of experience with that particular material. You can contact Lisa through her website here: –CAN Staff

  • Linda H.

    I would like to learn more about paperclay. I bought the books but I would really like to find a forum where people using it exchange experiences and answer questions. Does anyone know of an online forum?

  • Simon V.

    I once used commercial cellulose insulation to make paper clay. I made very thin, delicate pieces that all slumped when fired. Apparently, commercially available pulp contains boric acid (added as fire retardant) which significantly changed the firing characteristics of my clay body. Other than firing at a lower temp., do you have any suggestion to counteract this?

  • Karl C.

    Darryl, paper clay will NEVER use fiberglass or rock wool insulation. The article is explicitly about celulose insulation, which is really really different.

  • Darryl W.

    Your comment on gloves and respirator is extremely important.
    Fibers in typical ‘batt’ insulation are glass which will imbed in your hands and permanently lodge in lungs. Cellulose insulation may be a better choice although it doesn’t have the same fibrous quality.

  • Jeffre W.

    AMAZING bisque repair and casting attributes.
    I teach Jr. High ceramics.When a piece breaks, we have actually re-built parts with paperlay and fired them again. Also, pieces of bine dry or even pre-fired pieces can be put together and fired as a whole piece.
    Paper clay slip can be used as thin as sheets of paper. We have also dipped branches in PC slip and then fired them. The result is a hollow branch form.

  • Joanna P.

    I am in a bit of a crunch for time and paper clay is the right clay to use but I was wondering about the shrink. My clay shrinks about 12%. How does adding paper effect the shrink level? Thanks, Jopotter

  • Judith S.

    Re smoke when firing paper clay in electric kilns: If you don’t fire higher than 05 ish, and you use the proportions given in these articles, you won’t get smoke, though you will get some awful smells–mostly from metal. Of course, without the metal, you can fire as high as the regular clay needs to mature.

    Some people use more paper, or fiber, to make mixture strong, and then do not fire the piece at all–Rebecca Hutchinson is an expert on this, and does beautiful work. If you go to high with paper proportions, you might get smoke.

  • I’d be interested in knowing how all these paper clay pieces are being fired. I am in a ceramics class at Ringling College of Art and Design, and we’re being challenged to come up with new, more up to date ways of creating sculptures, and I think metal and paper may be an ingenious way to make a lighter, stronger piece of work. But, since we use electric kilns, and the professor is afraid of causing a great deal of smoke, getting a violent reaction from campus security, she is hesitant to try it out. Does the burn off of the paper cause a great deal of smoke? Or is this only do-able in a pit firing situation? Fortunately, I can build a pit in my back yard. But not at school. Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated! aneal

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