How to Make a Scary
Tree with Creative Paperclay - Page One of Two
are for making a hollow tree that will allow
the insertion of a light - I will be using a green LED which does not
heat. If you will be using any other type of lighting, please
make sure that
you take proper safety precautions to prevent the bulbs/tree from
overheating. Light tree
at your own risk.
-------- WEAR A DUST MASK
When performing any sanding or machining procedures
on dry paperclay!
This process will create EXTREMELY
FINE DUST PARTICLES which
you probably don't want to be breathing. Wear EYE PROTECTION
and make sure you have read all safety warnings on your power tools
before operating them! (Project
can be completed without the use
of any power tools)
Now on to the project!
You will need:
(amount will depend on the size of your tree, how
thickly you apply
the clay to your armature, and
whether or not you choose to make
yourself. The tree in this project is about 11" tall, the
paperclay on the armature is about 1/8" thick,
I used it for all the
branches as well, and it took an entire 8 oz.
package of paperclay
to construct it)
sculpting tools - whatever you are most comfortable with.
(my personal favorite is an old nut pick,
followed closely by a ball stylus assortment
and some home-made tools)
container of water
Elmer's white glue
tissue paper or heavy-duty paper towels
good quality watercolor paper - I'm using Arches 120 lb. cold pressed
acrylic paints - black, white, burnt umber, burnt sienna, golden brown,
dark forest green or ivy green
note - these are Delta Ceramcoat colors, but you may
use any acrylics you choose,
in any color range with black white, browns and a
large soft watercolor brush
fan brush, or old splayed brush suitable for dry-brush techniques
24 gauge wire
needle file or pointed diamond bit for Dremel or other power carving
shiny green or red foil (if desired)
Begin by creating the branches - I prefer to create my own branches,
but you can also use natural materials
and just insert and blend them into the tree trunk as shown below for
the paperclay branches.
To create your own:
- cut random lengths of wire from about 3" to 7" and
twist the ends together in groups of 3 to 5.
- cut small branch pieces and hand shapes from
- glue wire pieces to paper towels or tissue paper.
- Cut lengths of wire to attach to watercolor pieces,
glue the wire to these pieces, then glue
to paper towels or tissue paper.
- allow pieces to dry, then cut out.
- add paperclay to the small watercolor branches only (we will be
and larger branches later). Add the clay
by spreading a thin layer of glue over
and allowing it to become tacky. Pull a small
amount of paperclay from
the package, thin it
between your fingers, and wrap around the branch
armature. Once you have
the armature covered,
smooth and sculpt along the branch by pulling the
clay from the base
to the tips with wet fingers.
This takes practice - start gently or you will just
clay off the armature!
- Allow all branches to dry.
When you have
your branch pieces and arms ready, you can start
First twist some newspapers into a solid "log" shape and
tape securely. We are using this
for the inside of the tree to make it hollow, but
even if you don't want a hollow tree
using this method will reduce your use of
paperclay. Remember that this is going to
be the inside of the tree and will be covered with
about 1/8" of paperclay all around,
so don't make it too large
Cover your work
surface with plastic wrap,
put down a
blob of clay and start sculpting
the base of your tree, leaving an indent in
center for your newspaper log.
If you plan on making a hollow tree, make the
center of the base thinner (about 1/16" or less,
but not so thin that it won't hold a shape).
It will be easy to cut through this thin part later.
Spread a thin layer of glue over the
newspaper piece and place into base.
Start adding clay around the
newspaper so that it stays
upright in the base.
Continue adding clay
around the newspaper until you get
to the point
where you want to start adding branches
and the arms (about half to
two-thirds of the way up the tree).
Add the arm pieces by pushing the wire into the clay with the
pointing upwards, then adding additional clay to cover the wires.
pulling the clay out from the base) pull
down and position where you want them. Spread a thin layer of glue
along the arm and onto the hands. Add clay along the arm
by thinning pieces of clay between your fingers and then
wrapping the clay around the wire. Once the wire arm is covered
with clay, dip your fingers into water and smooth and sculpt along the
This takes practice - just go slowly and try to taper the arm
towards the wrist.
To sculpt the hand, press out a thin layer of clay
between your fingers,
then stick this layer onto the back side of the hand as shown.
Place your fingers behind the hand, and then gently go around
with the BACK side of your craft knife (no cut fingers please!)
Add another thin layer of clay to the top of the hand, bend
hand up and
repeat the process for cutting the paperclay on the hand.
(yes, this is the opposite hand - I forgot to take a picture of this
stage while I was sculpting the other one)
It will be more difficult to see the areas to cut on this side,
not important that you go around the hand exactly, just that you
have a little watercolor/paperclay sandwich to sculpt the hand
Once the watercolor paper hand armature is covered with clay,
press the clay gently around the finger pieces to join the clay layers
together, then sculpt the fingers.
Complete both arms and hands, then add more paperclay
around the trunk
until you're ready to begin adding branches.
Spread a thin layer of glue along the branches,
press into the clay on
the tree trunk and cover with thin
pieces of clay as you did for the arms.
Smooth the clay on the
branches and into the tree trunk with wet fingers.
Add the dry smaller branches you made earlier by placing them
about mid-way onto the larger branches you just created with wet clay,
and smoothing the wet clay onto the dry branches (if you have trouble
getting the wet clay to stick to the dry clay, apply a little bit
of glue on the dry branch and then smooth the wet clay onto it.)
Continue adding branches and sculpting into the tree trunk.
Smooth this all together so you get a "growth pattern" along the tree.
You may realize after you've added a few branches that your
tree trunk looks too thin, in which case, you can always just add
I like to have some
movement along the trunk, as shown in the photos,
you can see how the roots, trunk and
limbs have a twisting,
growing motion to them.
If you are using natural branches, spread some glue on the bottom of
press into the clay on the tree trunk, and then use more clay to create
flow up onto the branch.
Now that the tree is developing it's own personality, it's time to
sculpting the face!
Start by just marking out where you want the features
to go, then
use a sculpting tool to dig away some
of the clay, down to the newspaper armature
bits of clay over the eyes for the brows, add some
for the nose, cheeks, and upper and lower lips, then
push it around with your sculpting tools until
you get a face you are happy with.
You don't need to try for a lot of detailed features here,
we want it to be kind of rough and "tree like". We will
also be doing more to enhance the features after
the clay after it has dried.
Now there's just one more thing to do to the tree before it dries....
If you want to
hollow out your
tree later, it will be easier to
accomplish if there's a hole in
With your craft knife cut gently
TO the newspaper, but not into it.
You will be able to feel this as you
cut, just go slowly in a sawing motion
along the clay.
DO NOT REMOVE THIS PIECE NOW!
There is wet newspaper underneath! Leave it in place until the
clay is dry.
Set tree aside to dry. This might take a few days..........
PAGE - The wonderful possibility of awful things that can happen
your tree is drying....
what to do with the tree when it is dry.
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