July 24, 2017

DIY Craft Tutorial: Plaster Birds

I have a free craft tutorial for you today that involves playing with plaster! We made these cute bird sculptures using plaster cloth wrap & plaster of paris, and painted them with acrylic paints and finally decorated with paint pens.

The plaster birds are happy sitting on this shelf above my wool stash :)

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You will need:

- plaster of paris
- masking tape
- newspaper
- plaster cloth wrap (plaster impregnated cloth/ bandage in a packet, available at some craft supply stores)
- sandpaper
- acrylic paints
- paint pens (optional)
- acrylic gloss varnish
- gesso

Other useful bits n bobs:

- scissors
- tub for water
- mixing bowl for plaster (an old food container does the job)
- barrier cream for hands as plaster tends to dry the skin
- dust mask
- paintbrushes & palette

First, take some newspaper and roll/ scrunch it up to make an egg shape for the bird's body. Make a smaller ball from newspaper for the head. Wrap them all up in masking tape and stick them together to make your bird shape. Shape a triangle piece for the tail and attach it.



Cut the plaster cloth into various sized strips and dip the pieces in warm water as you need them. Then, just like paper mache, layer them all over and around your bird shape. Make sure you cover all the newspaper, even over the ends of the tail. If you smooth it all over with wet fingers it helps to fill all the little holes in the bandage. 

At this stage I would recommend adding a bit of a beak with the plaster bandage. We didn't, I will explain further down what we did, but if you add a bit of a blobby beak at this stage it might be easier. Don't worry about adding the point of the beak, you can do that later.

Leave to dry.


Mix up some plaster of paris according to the packet instructions. Wait until it has started to thicken up and start scooping some on to your bird and smoothing it all over. 



For our beaks I smooshed (technical term) a bit of crumbly half-dry plaster onto the front of the birds' faces and got the kids to carefully add some wet plaster to make it all smooth and to make the pointy beak shape. It works, but like I mentioned earlier, it might be easier to add some of the beak at the plaster- cloth stage.


Get your birds as smooth as you can (Miss 6's was quite lumpy- that's ok!) and leave to dry. The plaster will reach a stage when it gets to thick and clumpy to work with. We dried ours over a heater vent overnight, but left in the air they could take a few days. They are dry when they are much lighter. They will still feel cold and ever so slightly damp and heavy whilst they still have moisture in them.

*Important* Don't wash plaster down your sink or you'll have a plumbing nightmare! We wash hands and tools in a bucket of water then throw the water outside. Any left over plaster is left to harden and put in the bin.

Next stage is to sand. Wear a dust mask and do this outside. We are sanding all the little lumps and bumps off. Kids might need help to sand theirs smooth, depending on age and skill level.


Our plaster birds all sanded and ready for some colour. A bit of texture left is ok!

Make sure all the dust from sanding is wiped away with a rag. Do an undercoat of gesso and let dry. Then choose some pale colours to paint your bird. Think about where your wings and eyes are and draw them in first if you like with a pencil. You can draw a leaf shape on it's side. The leaf shape works well for a birds wing, and is a good way to describe how to do it to kids. :)


We stuck to pale colours because I then wanted to decorate them with paint pens. That meant using lots of white to make the colours pale.


I love the texture of painting on plaster.


Take your paint pens (once your paint has fully dried) and start adding patterns to your birds. We added stripes, spots, swirls, lines and other little shapes. (We have posca pens and montana paint pens here.)




Once all of your decorations are done and you are happy with your bird, give it a final coat of varnish to protect. I love and use Matisse polymer gloss varnish. If your paint pen "shifts" whilst varnishing I recommend just doing one quick stroke over the pen lines, then going back when that first coat is dry to make sure it's all covered.

Now, enjoy your birds! It's fun to make something from plaster. I think the surface of the plaster has an amazing texture to paint on. 



If you have any questions please ask!

Jules :)

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