How to make a paper mache witch

The Grim Sisters

When angels turn their backs, and shadows creep from beneath rock and tree to gather in the open and become Night, these three are its usher.

Infamy, Calamity, (and to a much lesser extent) Pariah.

Lock your doors, pull the sash, and pray that the thin line of salt across the threshold really does hold power to keep them out.  Because it's cold on a broom stick at 10,000 feet, where thin air amplifies the cackling laughter, and stifles the terrified screams.


From a spitting, oozing skull of FAIL came The Grim Sisters

Ihad been experimenting with Great Stuff as a filler material for paper skulls (never give up on a bad idea).  Great Stuff, for the uninitiated, is expanding, sometimes evil, foam in a can. 

To summarize, I used too much, too fast, and it expanded unevenly during the curing process.  My experimental skulls collapsed as the sticky ooze did weird things, and I was left with some very scrunched up faces. 

Witches, happily, often appear to have scrunched up faces.  Thus began our witch project.

Witch noggins

The funny thing about imploding witch heads is that they keep imploding, although more slowly, days later. I was surprised (and delighted) to find that, two days after skinning them, the brown paper towel had become even more wrinkled and scrunched than when I began.

Each witch noggin was mounted on its own stick to make it easier to handle.  Not the big, main stick, but a smaller stick; like a Drum Major's baton.  (Yessir, your old pal Spook is a long-ago graduate of the George Parks Drum Major Academy.)

Paper clay

Our scrunched up witch noggins still needed some work to bring out the beauty of their natural scrunchiness, and there were a couple of cave-ins where the skull surface couldn't withstand the forces that apparently exist on the event horizon of a Great Stuff black hole. Paper clay was used to back-fill, build up facial features, and smooth out things like cardboard noses. 

Celluclay is a brand of paper clay that I like to use when I don't plan to make a batch of my own. Just put some in a bowl (Carefully - It's extremely dusty) and add a very small amount of water. Push the powdery pulp around to absorb the water, and then add a little more. Repeat until it starts to behave like a lump of clay. There are all sorts of alternatives to Celluclay.  Toilet paper, shredded and mushed with PVA glue, and a dollop of drywall mud, will also work. 

Now, I know what you're thinking.  "How much is a 'dollop'?"  When I'm working on these smaller projects, and I need some clay, I don't typically measure exact amounts of this and that. If the clay feels right, then it's mixed the way I want.  A handful of right-feeling clay should hold its form when rolled into a ball.

If you're interested in more detailed information on making your own paper clay, this should get you started.

But my skull isn't scrunched up like yours

While you might try repeating my failed Great Stuff experiment, you can sculpt your own bumps and ridges out of clay, or even just wads of brown paper towel saturated with glue.  You'll be amazed by the odd features and crazy doo-dads that pop up on their own. The expanding foam explosion was just an accident with a happy outcome.

Brush with greatness -or- Repaint, and thin no more

Not being adept with an airbrush, I employ several other painting techniques, including dry brushing.

Dry brushing is fun, and you don't have to channel Picasso to get great results.  In other words, if you're more comfortable swinging a hammer than a paint brush, then give it a shot.

Anything can be used as a brush, and I often utilize sponges, shop towels, the cat, whatever's handy.  These materials add texture, which helps to break up incidental regularity (a fancy phrase I just made up for "brush strokes").

  1. Paint your piece a dark color and allow to dry.
  2. Load brush with a light color.
  3. Scrape most of the paint off the brush.
  4. Lightly brush, or dab, if using a sponge.
  5. Use a damp towel to fix any spots that look too bright (you accidentally applied too much paint).


All the neat little crooks and nannies jump out as you work.  Here I've laid down a kind of road map of lights and darks with the first "bone" colored layer. More subtle color layers come later.

Hard lines or "stamp" patterns left by a sponge can be softened by lightly rubbing or dabbing the area with a damp cloth.  This is also a great way to blend colors. 

Note:  I was kidding.  I almost never use the cat as a paint brush.