Paper Mache Planet Part 1

The first part of my planet project has begun!  I wanted to include an update of this project this week.  My desktop computer is still down, and although my laptop is a bit finicky, it’s still useable, so I’m updating from it for this week.

I spent most of the time since my last update on this blog applying for jobs and assembling the supplies I would need for my paper mache planet.  After some thought, I decided to create my own paper mache paste – since the ones in stores were a bit costly, and I could save a lot of money by just using ingredients that I already have.

For the base of the planet I bought a ten inch styrofoam ball.  For the planets, I bought three inch and one inch balls.  To insure a proper scale, I won’t bother with adding mountains or cutting out the sea basins, for it would be only a few millimeters at most.  Instead, I will paint the features onto the surface of the ball using acrylic paint.

To create a paper mache paste, you have technically two different recipes. One is a flour-based paste.  The other is a glue-based paste.  I wanted the paste to dry clear and I wanted it to be a pretty easy to make paste in case I misjudged how much paste I needed for the planet itself – thus making it easy to whip up another batch in case I wanted to add another layer before the planet dried.

According to my research, glue-based paste tends to dry clear, and I can use the simple Elmer’s school glue, which is pretty cheap at Hy-vee or Target and I already had a bottle at home. I just bought two more just in case.  The recipe calls for four parts glue to one part water and then mix this thoroughly.

I started out with a black plastic bowl – I bought a cheap two dollar one to avoid running any of my or my roommate’s bowls – and two four ounce bottles of Elmer’s school glue.  I poured both bottles into the bowl, leaving me with eight ounces of glue altogether.  Since there is four parts glue to one part water, eight divided by four makes two, so I used a measuring cup that measures in ounces and poured in two ounces of water.  I stirred the concoction with just a plastic spoon.

Once I had the paste, I laid out paper on the floor of the bathroom, being careful to cover as much of it as possible.  I used thin, white printer paper to cover the floor, and cut up the rest.  I decided, since this is a round styrofoam ball I’m using, to cut the paper into around 2 inches by 3 inches.  This way I could avoid too much creases in the paper, making it easier to keep the surface of the planet flat.  I then began to apply the paper mache paste to the strips and laid them on the planet itself, careful to smooth them flat.

Here is the result thus far:

As you can see, my work area is just on the floor and not too big. I kept it to one side of the bathroom so there was  an easy pathway to the toilet for both me and my roommate. The door to the bathroom will be kept shut to avoid having cats messing with the project and getting sick.  It will take a few hours for the glue paste to dry for I did only two layers thus far.  I have not done the bottom of the planet since I decided to do as much of the top and sides as possible, wait till that dries, and then turn it over and do the bottom.  I can then test to see if I need to add another layer or two once I finish the bottom of the planet.

After the paper mache is layered deep enough and dries, I’ll start sketching with a very light pencil the continent areas and the sea basins.  The painting part will be the hardest part since it’s precision work for most of the features of the planet.  Also, I may look for a clear, thin stand I can rest this planet on to make it easier to paint.

Once I gain access to a scanner, I’ll give you all a preview of the shape of the continents.  The shaping of the continents and the location of various features on the planet depended a lot on how I crafted the tectonic plates and their movement.  In my world-building series, I talked a bit about tectonic plates, their movements, and how they influence the planet. This science was used to craft a sketch of the approximate plates on my Elivera planet and how they moved. This helped me decide on where the mountain ranges would be and various hot spots.  I drew this by hand, so once I find a scanner, I’ll upload it here and explain it more in depth.

Categories: Art, World Building, WritingTags: , , ,


  1. Really interesting, Amber. Thanks for the detail in the description. Excellent for your writing and your book.



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