Papier-Mâché Hanging Bird Project

Papier-Mâché Hanging Bird Project

Colorful Papier-Mâché bird hanging in front of some green tree branches

Create a feathered friend for your home inspired by your observations of the birds in your backyard and Pennsylvania’s Important Bird Areas. This hands-on, papier-mâché hanging bird project is designed to be crafty along with educational as you explore the birds of your region.

Papier-Mâché supplies, including a bird template, glue, wax paper, scissors, newspaper, cardboard, and paintbrushes

Gather your supplies

You will need:

  • Printed bird pattern — click here to download
  • Recycled cardboard
  • Newspaper
  • Masking tape
  • Elmer’s Glue-All
  • Twine or string
  • Wax paper (for working surface)
  • Mixing cup for glue
  • Craft paint (colors of your choice plus white and black)
  • Craft paint brushes (various sizes)
  • Palette or paper plate for mixing colors
  • Water
  • Water cup (for cleaning brushes)

Papier-Mâché Hanging Bird Pattern

Step 1: 

Print (or trace from a computer screen) a copy of this bird pattern and cut out the three bird pieces (body and two wings). 

Black bird pattern cut-out and traced onto a piece of cardboard
Cardboard cutout of bird pattern

Next, trace each of the three pattern pieces onto a piece of corrugated cardboard. Then cut these shapes out of the cardboard.

Cutout cardboard bird with crumpled pieces of newspaper tapped on top

Step 2: 

Crumple pieces of newspaper into small balls and ovals to add onto the cardboard cutout and begin to build up areas for more dimension. Add wads of paper underneath each of the bird’s wings, along both the sides of the tail, around the head and along the beak. Use strips of masking tape to hold these pieces together as you build the body of the bird. 

Cardboard cutout of a bird wrapped in masking tape

Step 3: 

With a piece of twine that is about two inches in length, secure both cut ends with masking tape to the top-middle area of the cutout form of the bird, between the head and the tail. This will become the hanger for your bird.

Cardboard cutout of bird wrapped in masking tape pictured next to scraps of newspaper

Step 4: 

Once the bird’s shape is to your liking, continue to wrap the bird with masking tape until it is mostly covered and smooth. 

Cut up strips of newspaper

Step 5: 

With a full sheet of newspaper, begin to make long strips by tearing downward. These strips can be up to an inch in width and torn into shorter lengths as you work.

Bottle of Elmer's Glue-All and a cup filled with glue paste

Step 6: 

With a disposable mixing cup, add approximately a tablespoon of Elmer’s Glue-All paste and mix with small amounts of water until the paste is a soupy consistency that is easy to spread with a paint brush. If it becomes too thin, add more glue until you’ve reached a desired consistency.

Piece of wax paper and scissors

Step 7: 

Cut a piece of wax paper large enough for your working space; this will be used as a surface where you can apply glue to your strips of newspaper and will not stick to your craft materials.

Paintbrush adding glue to strips of newspaper
Glueing strips of newspaper to cardboard bird cutout

Step 8: 

With a craft brush, begin to coat strips of torn paper with the glue-water mixture and place these strips over the form of the bird. 

Continue this process until the entire form is covered in strips of paper. Use your craft brush to apply more of the paste mixture to the outside of the form, this will help keep the pieces together. Allow for some drying time between layers before adding more paper and glue.

A grid selection of illustrated bird pictures

Step 9: 

While waiting for your project to dry, learn about the Brandywine Conservancy’s efforts in protecting Important Bird Areas. If able, take some time to observe the birds that you see outside and take note of what colors and shapes you see.

Then browse the Guild to Native American Birds and find some birds with colors that inspire you during this making process. Take some time to study the colors and patterns of the bird you wish to model your project from. 

Painting a papier-mâché bird
A detail of painted papier-mâché bird

Step 10:

Once the papier-mâché is dry, use your craft paint to premix the base colors for your bird and begin to evenly paint onto your project.

Once the base layers are dry, begin to add distinguishing visual marks and details (stripes, spots, tails, feathers, eyes, beak, etc..) of your chosen bird. 

Finished papier-mâché bird with hanging string

Step 11: 

Once you have completed painting your bird, thread a longer strand of twine into the original loop that is secured to the model. Now you can enjoy the finished product as an addition to a window, wall, ceiling or even an indoor plant!