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What Are Paper Mache Boxes?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet

Paper mache boxes are inexpensive, lightweight boxes, usually made from cardboard, which are intended for decorative embellishment. They are generally quite plain in appearance, but are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. While paper mache boxes are often embellished using a decoupage technique, the number of possible decorative methods which can be used is largely limited only by the crafter’s imagination. Similarly, there are many potential uses for finished paper mache boxes, from serving as gift packaging to providing storage to functioning simply as decorative objects.

As they are made to be decorated, paper mache boxes are usually rather plain in appearance before they have been embellished. They are generally made from a rigid, lightweight paper material such as cardboard or from a paper composite. Normally, they are gray or tan in color, and their surfaces often have a rough, unfinished look and feeling.

A mache box may be composed of a variety of papers cut or torn into strips.
A mache box may be composed of a variety of papers cut or torn into strips.

Many craft supply retailers sell paper mache boxes in a wide variety of shapes, most which include a removable top. Popular choices include round “hatboxes” and rectangular “shoeboxes.” Also available are more whimsical shapes, such as stars, hearts, and “treasure chests.” While the smallest examples of these boxes can fit in the palm of one’s hand, the largest ones may measure 2 feet (69 cm) or more in width.

The number of possible decorative methods which can be used to embellish paper mache boxes is largely limited only by the reach of the crafter’s imagination. Many crafters opt to use a decoupage method, in which strips of tissue paper, maps, stamps, or other decorative paper items are layered over the box’s surface using a specialty craft adhesive. Paper mache boxes can also be painted, covered with ribbon or fabric, adorned with photographs, decoratively stitched using an embroidery technique, or ornamented with items like rhinestones, silk flowers, or beads.

Once paper mache boxes have been decorated, they have many potential uses. They can serve as gift packaging or can function as “memory boxes” in which one can store items like photographs, concert ticket stubs, and school dance programs. The boxes can also be used in a very practical fashion, with a decorated hatbox providing storage for hats, and an embellished shoebox acting as a container for a pair of shoes. Finally, the boxes can also serve simply as decorative objects, adding an ornamental touch to a bookshelf, a mantel, a vanity, and so forth.

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Discussion Comments


My mom used to have huge collection of hats that she had purchased mostly second hand. A lot of them were beautiful hats but she did not have a proper hat box to put them in. She complained for years that it was impossible to find the right sized replacement hat box until she just began making them herself.

She found some book at the library about how to make paper mache hat boxes and she loved the idea so much that she went into production full speed. I had forgotten all about them but she died recently and when I was cleaning out her house I found a few dozen of them in her basement. They worked, many of the hats are still lovely.


I like to make paper mache gift boxes. They are an easy and fun way to customize any gift that you are giving. They also offer you the chance to put a personalized spin on your gift presentation. You can make the box reflect the interests of the person you are giving it to.


Making paper mache boxes is one of my favorite craft projects because it is so easy and cheap and fun to do. There are also almost limitless numbers of designs you can make.

I got turned on to this unique craft by a friend of mine who gave me a homemade box for my birthday. It was painted in colors that I love and was just the right size for some little kick knacks that I was trying to keep track of. I asked him how to make it and he gave me a lesson the next week. It couldn't be easier.

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    • A mache box may be composed of a variety of papers cut or torn into strips.
      By: roger ashford
      A mache box may be composed of a variety of papers cut or torn into strips.