Paper Mache – Mahi Mahi Fish

Last year I took a course in oil painting. As someone new to painting I found oil challenging but acrylics more forgiving. Painting on a canvas was not exciting to me then I remembered loving paper mache as a kid. When I searched the web I found two websites that inspired me.

What surprised me was the variety of materials and glues available as well a paper mache clay.

Original Plastic Fish

My first idea was to use an old plastic fish I bought at the Outer Banks in North Carolina as a mould. I tried various glues and recipes but the one I enjoyed the most was white resin glue diluted with 10% water. Then for paper I tried several newsprints, tissue and paper towels to name a few but got interesting results with kraft folding paper towels. These are the basic brown towels you would find in a gas station.

While some of the glue recipes would release from the plastic, white resin glue bonded well. I decided to just cover the model with paper and paint.

Covering model with paper mache

While reading the Gourmet Paper Mache site I learned about cloth mache and using materials other than paper. I decided to glue lace trim onto the body to create a scale like effect.

Covering the body with lace trim to create scales

Next came the fins. Why not create a rib structure with twine and yarn?

Cotton string glued onto the tail to create ribs

Here is the model with all of the paper, string, yarn, lace and gesso done.

Model covered and gessoed

My original idea was to mount the fish on a canvas like a trophy mount.

Original trophy mount idea

Next came painting the fish. As mahi mahi are colourful I had freedom to go a bit wild. Then I decided to use a 18x36 inch canvas and have the fish swimming into the scene. I painted the canvas as underwater with the light shinning in. I mounted wood reinforcing to the back to support the weight of the model then glued and screwed the model on.

Here is the final result as it hangs in my living room.
And so started my love of paper mache.

Fish Hung

Fish Hung above door


  1. Myles Chumchalh June 4, 2020

    Wonderful work! I want to make a Large mouth Bass and your scale idea will def. help me come up with something to use.

    • Rich June 4, 2020

      Thanks Myles

      I fine the use of lace trim give a fun look and detail. The texture helps in creating a multi-tone paint scheme. Would love to see a picture of your bass when done. Email me at


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