Halloween pandas and the Courier

ppppppppppTRYING to decide on a Halloween costume is both exciting and very stressful but after 2 consecutive years of buying a costume on-line that is rarely seen post-Halloween, this year we decided to strip it back and make our costumes from scratch.

After we discovered that there were old issues of The Courier just gathering dust in the ASM office, we decided to give lots (and I do mean LOTS) of them a better home in the form of paper mache heads. After being inspired by a giant Karl Pilkington head we saw on Facebook, we began to brainstorm on the kind of heads we could adorn, such as celebrities, animals, and anime and film characters. Finally we decided on something that everyone loves, something soft and round and adorable – pandas!

Now I won’t lie to you, it was a struggle. The day before Halloween we were sat for over 4 hours in the middle of the living room, surrounded by newspapers, and covered in paper mache mix which restricted us from changing the TV channel. At the beginning it was rather enjoyable; placing row after row of shredded gloopy newspaper over a balloon was quite therapeutic! However, halfway through making the heads the pain kicked in.

When embarking on such an artistic journey, be prepared for back aches and a sore butt (even if you’re on cushions and especially if you were at the gym the day prior) and if, like us, you make it a last minute job then make sure there’s a hair dryer nearby – because you will definitely need it! Even with all the wind in Aberystwyth, we were stood for several hours with 2 hair dryers attempting to blast them dry (2 whole years of uni and we still haven’t learnt to plan ahead).

Number 12Our next mission was the design of the face but thanks to the wide range on Google images we were able to find many samples, most of which were effectively adorable designs. However if we thought that making the paper mache was going to be the biggest mess, we were wrong. Perhaps it was the excitement of making a panda head or the fact that it was 5pm and we needed to start pre-drinking pretty soon, but there was paint on clothes, faces, all over hands, floors and if we didn’t have so many copies of The Courier, there definitely would have been a whole new colour scheme in the house.

Despite the short time frame we had to make them, the pains in our backs and the clothes that may never look the same again, it was absolutely worth it. It was like being a celebrity in Aber with people asking for photos and wanting to try the heads on themselves. I would highly recommend making your own paper mache head for any fancy dress event or occasion (or just because it’s fun), HOWEVER PLEASE be sure to plan much more in advance than we did.

What you will need: 

  • Plain flour (£0.45 in Lidl)
  • Water (straight from the tap!)
  • Salt (Sea or iodized – no preference)
  • A large bucket
  • Newspapers
  • Balloons (12” preferably)
  • Strong card
  • Staples
  • Poster paint
  • Paint brushes
  • PVA glue (standard school glue)
  • Possibly a hairdryer (HEED OUR WARNINGS!)
  • Thin scissors
  • Pencil
  • Scotch Tape


The amounts required will vary depending on the amount of items you want to make, their size, and how many layers you want (thickness and durability).

  1. Firstly cover your designated work area with newspapers to avoid any stains from the paper mache mix or paint, give yourself considerably more room than you previously predicted – trust us.
  2. Shred some newspapers into strips, roughly an inch wide.
  3. Pour the flour into the bucket and gradually add water.
  4. Add a bit of salt to the mix – as this will ensure it doesn’t mould (to allow re-use in the future).
  5. Use your hands (you can wear gloves if you want) to make sure there are no lumps of flour mix.
  6. Aim to achieve a consistency that resembles Ready Break (thinner than oat porridge but thicker than water).
  7. Add the newspaper strips into the mix and stir so they are thoroughly soaked. Number 9
  8. Carefully and smoothly begin layering the strips of paper onto the balloon (alternating horizontally and vertically for a stronger structure and so you can keep count of where you are).
  9. Once you have 4 layers of mush, leave it dry in a safe place (use a hairdryer if you’re in a hurry). Repeat this until you are satisfied with the thickness of the sculpture.
  10. When it is completely dry, mark eye and mouth holes with a pencil and cut these out carefully with a thin scissors.
  11. Now you can begin to paint.
  12. Once your paint has dried, you can add on any extras with some PVA glue (such as ears, hats, glitter, etc.)
  13. Cut the strong card so it is roughly 2 inches wide and sits comfortably on the top of your head (we used 2 A4 sheets and stapled them together to fit around – for those with long hair – use scotch tape to cover the staples so you don’t snag your luscious locks).
  14. This crown will help raise the head up a little so the head is not sat on your shoulders (it’s a good idea to fit the crown before cutting our your eyes and mouth so that they are located in the right spot).
  15. As soon as you feel your new head is comfortable and sturdy, you’re ready to be the most envied person(s) in Aberystwyth!