Making Paper Clay Mache Hands
David Dienhart -
Making Clay Mache Hand Halloween props is a relatively simple process. It's a bit lengthy, but with a little bit of patience and persistence, you can make some realistic looking, durable prop hands that can be reused for many years to come. In this article, I'll share my DIY (Do It Yourself) build process:
- 1 each: roll of 1/2 inch wide masking tape
- 2 each: 2 inch long 1/2 inch diameter pieces of PVC tubing
- 2 each: 1/2 inch PVC couplers
- 1 each: Hot Glue Gun with a few glue sticks
- 1 each: Thin cardboard
- 3 each: Coat Hangers
- 10 each: Artificial Fingernails
- ~50 inches of tubing (I purchased a roll as shown below)
Planning and Laying out the Hands
- Start by tracing one of your hands onto a sheet of paper. Mark the knuckles on the paper and measure from 2 inches down on your wrist to each fingertip. You will use these measurements to cut lengths of wire for each finger.
- Cut two pieces of wire to the lengths measured for each finger, one for each hand.
- Place wire onto the paper hand template and bend each finger to join them all together at the wrist.
- Cut tubing for each finger roughly 2 inches shorter than each of the wire fingers.
- Mark each tube to make it easier to keep track of which finger it is.
- Place each tube on the appropriate finger on the hand template and mark where each knuckle is on the tubing.
- Slice halfway through each knuckle in the tubing (the slit will be on the top side of the finger)
- I will explain how to assemble one hand. Follow the same steps for the other hand as a mirror of the one we are building.
- Place the wire flush with the end of the 1/2 inch PVC pipe. Using the hot glue gun, glue the wire fingers into the pvc pipe. Let the glue cool.
- Slide the tubing over each finger and align with the cuts all on one side. If needed, place some tape on the fingers to temporarily hold them in place.
- Making sure that each tube is slid all the way into place, squeeze some hot glue into the tip of each finger tube to more permanently hold into place. Do the same at the opposing end of each tube.
- Bend the fingers into the position that you would like them to be in and squeeze hot glue into the cuts at each knuckle toward and away from each fingertip. This will keep the fingers firmly in position.
- Cut a piece of cardboard to shape the palm. You can cut two pieces, one for the palm of the hand and one for the back of the hand, or only one for the palm of the hand, omitting the back of the hand if you want a more boney look.
- Tape the cardboard for the palm into place. Coat the entire hand in masking tape.
- Ball up wads of paper or masking tape and apply to the top of each knuckle and cover with masking tape to provide more detail to the fingers.
- Ball up wads of paper or masking tape and apply to the tips of the fingers and cover with masking tape to give the fingertips a more natural and rounded look.
- Once the hand is completely covered in masking tape, you will have a solid armature to apply the paper mache clay to.
- Mix up a batch of clay. There are many recipe's out there. I recommend "How to make Paper Clay 2.0 by GhoulishCop".
- Apply the clay over the entire hand.
- Texture the knuckles and palm using popsicle sticks or sculpting tools.
- Press artificial fingernails into place at the tip of each finger. They will not adhere at this point, we will glue them on later.
- Place hands under a fan to speed up the drying process. As you can see in my photo, I built a jig out of PVC to hold a number of hands in an upright and stable position for working on and drying.
- Once dry, remove the fingernails and glue back on with superglue. I chipped some of the fingernails up on the hands that I built.
- Paint the hands with a consistent undercoat. Grey for a zombie look, brown or tan for a more fleshy look. Allow to dry between each paint step.
- Dry brush the highlights like the knuckles and higher areas with a lighter color.
- Tea stain the entire hand with either a black or darker brown color and wipe off all excess paint.
- Once dry, coat the entire hand with a good clear coat. I prefer to use a matte finish on the flesh and a gloss finish on the fingernails.
- While there are a lot of steps to the process, the finished hand will be durable and have a realistic look to them.