Screamer Scraper Paper Mashers. Making Paper-Mache Creatures.

By Jolene Navarro, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Smithsonian Design Institute

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

45 min to introduce and set up project. 10 x 50 min classes to build and assemble creature.


  • Art element Form.
  • Look up Dan Reeder’s website
  • There are different types of artists.
  • Dan Reeder makes dragons and monsters using paper mache.
  • In class we will watch a few of Dan Reeder’s YouTube videos.
  • How might we use newspaper, coat hanger, tape and glue to make our own monsters?

National Standards

  • Visual Art –Standard 1 Understands and applies media, techniques, and process related to the visual arts Standard 1 Level IV (grade 9-12) Benchmark – Applying media, techniques, and process with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that ones intentions are carried out.
  • Visual Art – Standard 2 – Knows how to use structure and functions of art 1. Artistic Skills and techniques; 2. Form and aesthetic Level (grade 9-12) Benchmarks Knows how organizational principles and functions can be used to solve specific visual arts problems. Vocabulary terms A. solving visual arts problems.


Students will be able to use found recycled items to create a 3-D form. They will be able to solve structural problems by working with other students.



  • Newspaper
  • Wire coat hangers
  • Wire cutters
  • Masking tape
  • Marbles for eyes
  • Anything for teeth (we have used broken tile, nails, made some with clay)
  • Old bed sheets or any cotton material. Paint.
  • Make paper mache paste – two options
    • Option 1:  3/4 white glue to 1/4 water (or if using a good, thick glue, like Elmer you can do 1/2 and 1/2)
    • Option 2:  1 part flour to 1 part water.  Stir together. (you need to keep add and adjusting as you use it)


  • Paper-Mache - French for “chewed-up paper,” a technique for creating three-dimensional objects, such as sculpture, from pulped or pasted paper and binders such as glue or plaster. (
  • Form-The shape or structure of an object.
  • Assemblage -A three-dimensional composition made from a variety of traditionally non-artistic materials and objects.


Background Information:

The day before we start the lesson I tell the student to look up Dan Reader on line. I ask them to think about how they might use his technique to make their own paper-mache creature.


Day 1
  1. We will go over the power point showing the technique and goals for the project. We will discuss what they found out about Dan Reeder and how they might use his technique
  2. Students will get in small teams of 2 or 3 and brainstorm monster/dragon ideas. They will make sketches of the type of creature they might make with the supplies available: Newspaper, wire coat hangers and tape.
Day 2
  1. Teams will go over their sketches, talk about what they like any problems they might face with their design. The teacher walks around and approves final lose sketch.
  2. Students gather supplies and start with making the head and body from balls of newspaper. They will unfold a stack of newspaper and crumple one sheet into a ball. They will continue paper until they get the size they want for their “body”. Just a little bit of tape at this point to hold the paper in place. Use the same procedure to make a head and other smaller balls for details such as ears and nose. How big is the body will it need extra support?
  3. Start paper-macheing the head so it can start drying.
Day 3 and on...
  1. For arms, legs, tails or wings we will use the wire coat hangers. Holding the hooked part in one hand stretch like your loading an arrow in a bow. Now shape it for the form you want it to take. Such as calves or thighs.
    1. Fill the wire form with wads of paper, tape into place.
    2. Twist, curve and shape the now filled form for the different parts you want to add to your creature.
    3. All parts must have 5 to 6 layers of torn newspaper strips applied with the glue mix.
  2. While those are drying make fingers, toes and small spikes.
    1. Cut the wire in to smaller pieces, wrap the shorter pieces with torn pages from a phonebook. Now wrap completely in tape. The pointed end can be a horn or spike the rounded end can be used as a finger or toe.
  3. Now you will make hands and feet.
    1. Crumple a sheet of newspaper into a “hand” sized ball.
    2. Place one of the fingers (or toe) you just made in the middle of the ball. Attach by making an X with tape lapping tape around the palm.
    3. Repeat with other fingers until you have them in place. You might only have 2 or 3 fingers. The only difference with a foot is the wad of paper is a bit larger and more oblong.
    4. Connect to bottom of arms and legs. Wrap tape diagonally and crisscross to make sure it is secure.
  4. Now back to the head. It should be the layers of paper mache should be hard and dry.
    1. Using serrated knife, cut in half. You are creating you bottom and top jaw.  Think how this cut might show your creatures personality. Pull out the brains…uhm…paper. Play around with it until you see how to place the mouth you want.
    2. With a dab of hot glue on your shell attach the teeth. Use whatever you think works for teeth. We have used broken tile, nails, or made them with FIMO. Gaps between teeth works well.
    3. Use small strips of cloth coated in glue mix and put them crisscross around each tooth.
    4. To finish off jaw – place a large piece of glue soaked cloth inside. Press the cloth against the newspaper overlapping to the outside of the jaw. Wrinkles will form and make the “skin” look natural. While this is drying we will start assembling the body! PAINT it once it is dry! You will not be able to reach all the inside once it is taped to the body.
    5. Cut out eyes sockets – a bit smaller than your eyes.  We have used marbles and Ping-Pong balls. You could ask the students: How might we create eyes? Let them brainstorm!
  5. Assembly!
    1. Cut a hole for the leg – make it a little smaller so it is a tight fit. Stuff the leg into the hole.
    2. With the legs in – cut a hole for the head. Fit the lower jaw into the hole. Tape the lower jaw in place by pulling the tape taunt, diagonally onto the body. Add another strip of tape going the opposite direction.  Add many layers until it is tightly secured.
    3. All other parts and make sure it can stand.  If not how might you make adjustments in order for you creature to be able to stand. Legs and arms can be bent – joints can be cut – just add a small wade of paper and tape in place.
    4. Cut and use the other small balls for ears, cheeks, horns or nose. Cut small hole to add any spikes.  Tape all into place.
  6. Now for the Skin: Using an old bed sheet, (you will be painting over it so it can have patterns) cut into strips you will give your creature a realistic. Shape the lips on the outside of your creature and pay close attention to your eyelids.
  7. Know you get to paint it!!! Have fun.

*** I recommend you not put the paper in the glue mixture – apply with fingers and smooth out until all edges are flat.

Discussion Questions:
  • How might you use the techniques that Dan Reeder uses to make your own creature?
  • How might we use wire coat hangers be used to support your idea and gain balance?
  • How might you move/potions limbs and features to create personality.
  • What changes need to be made before you add the last layer?
  • How might we use non-traditional/recycle items to create details in our creature?


This is a wide open assignment. The creature could be made smaller if needed or larger with more details. The range of possibility from an abstract monster were you cannot make a mistake to a very detailed dragon.

Enrichment Extension Activities

  • For social studies or Language arts we could study lore or legends of other cultures and create creatures based on what we find.
  • The students could be challenged to design and create a creature that stands upright on only two points.

Teacher Reflection

  • The first time I did this project it was with students working alone on their own creature. It took too much time and some students got overwhelmed with all the pieces that needed to be made before they could assemble. Working in small teams of two or three has solved that problem and the problem solving in small groups has been a great side effect.
  • Next time I will make a visual poster of the steps – as a reference to the groups as they get deeper into the project.

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