These easy to follow steps for making a paper-mâché tree will take you through each process in turn. You will learn how to create a basic tree using the paper-mâché (also known as papier-mâché) technique. We will also look at how to make your tree look more realistic and unique, and what kind of things you can do to make it specific to your project.
Making the Paper-Mâché Tree Trunk
You need to start with a sturdy base to make sure your tree won’t wobble, or sink through. The ideal base would be thick sturdy cardboard, craft mountboard, or a cake board/drum.
Rip some newspaper or unwanted magazines into rough squares, and prepare your paper-mâché paste. You can use a slightly watered down wallpaper paste, or the classic flour and water glue (1 part flour to 2 parts water). You can also water down some white glue using the same ratios.
Blow up a sausage shape balloon and stick it to the base. Now you can begin to build up your tree. Start with the roots and mash-up some of the paper with the glue to make a sticky mass, and load it up around the balloon to make a sturdy base. Now you need to build up the tree trunk, using your paper and glue, build up layers around the balloon - you will need at least 3 layers of paper. Once you are satisfied with the look of it, paste over the whole thing and leave to dry overnight.
The next day you can pop the balloon and you are left with your tree trunk. To add more detail to the trunk you can thicken up brown paint with flour or sand. Alternatively, add shredded paper mixed in with some paint and add it to the trunk - comb down the side with a plastic fork to look like bark.
Adding Detail - Foliage, Branches & Surrounding Ground
With the main trunk in place, it’s time to add the details to make the tree look more realistic. Add a ring of air drying clay to the inside of the trunk, to give you somewhere to place your branches. The best options for branches are chenille stems, or you could use brown card cut to shape.
Try using cotton balls or make-up remover pads, soaked in water with green food coloring, to make your foliage. Squeeze out the excess water and glue around the branches. Add further detail with leaves cut out from colored card with a craft punch, or cut out some using scissors.
You can also use green “flock” as used by crafters, or faux grass or lichen from dollhouse or miniature railway hobby stores, to add texture to the tree foliage, or to create surrounding grass on the model’s base.
For the surrounding soil you can mix white glue (PVA), with tea leaves, sand, or semolina.
Make it Specific to Your Project
Following these instructions obviously makes a pretty realistic looking tree, but it may not be suitable for your project. Just as with forest diorama projects, you need to bear in mind the tree type in relation to whatever you are studying. A tree in the rainforest for example, would need to be made higher, with different levels of foliage.
One of the best ways of using the paper-mâché tree idea is by creating a tree for each season. A winter tree would just need branches, a spring tree just a few new small leaves, the summer tree as above, and an autumn tree just needs different colored leaves, with many of them glued to the ground.
You can also add animals to the surrounding soil, suitable to your project.
The basic steps in making a paper-mâché tree for children are easy to follow, but it is in the details where you project can truly shine.
Resources & Image Credits
Wendy Finn is an experienced crafter, who has had her work featured in many craft magazines.