Easy Recycled Papier Mache Trays Tutorials

Easy Papier Mache Trays

Recycle old boxes to make these Easy Papier Mache trays for the holidays!

Hey folks! I’m back with another papier mache project. Ever since making those pumpkins for fall I haven’t been able to get papier mache out of my thoughts. It’s such an easy, inexpensive craft. It makes me think back to when my husband and I were first married; young, in love and broke! I painted everything BLUE back then and it was the beginning of my thrifting and DIY days. I can’t help but think that if I had applied some of the easy arts and crafts techniques I learned as a child to my DIY decor I would have had more frugal choices for my home; like these easy papier mache trays. What better way to make a cozy niche than a tray? Add some coffee or cookies and a candle and voila! Cozy, warm, inviting. Let’s get started!

The base of this tray is a box. You know, the ones you come home with from Sam’s Club or Costco and they pile up in the garage? Grab a couple of those box remnants and let’s get started!


box (If starting with a full box cut it down to 2 to 5 inches deep, whatever is your preference.)

flour and warm water for papier mache

a big bowl

paper to recycle, preferably newspaper or pages from a book

decoupage glue

decorative papers

paint brush, scissors

OPTIONAL- for the handles:

old leather belt

a good hole punch (I suggest using a Cropadile)

#8- 32 X 5/8 inch machine screws, washers and #8- 32 cap nuts (you can purchase these at Home Depot or even Wal-Mart while doing your shopping)


acrylic craft paints/paint pens


Shred newspaper into approximate 1/2 inch strips.

Make papier mache in a large bowl using warm water and flour. Start with about 3/4 cup flour and add warm water and mix with a whisk until it looks like pancake batter.

I read recently that it is better to paint cardboard with PVA glue (school or carpenter’s glue) before using papier mache as it keeps the cardboard from warping. I made 6 trays and 3 of them warped some, which does not bother me as I love the look of home made. Maybe it is because I put the layers on thin. I am only a novice with this medium; but wanted to give you the full information so that you can make your own choice at this point.

Now, run each strip of paper through the papier mache batter and then through your fingers to keep it from being to thick. Then wrap around the cardboard box. Continue placing batter dipped papers on the box until it is fully covered on the inside bottom and walls. Once one side is completely covered you will need to let stop and let it dry before moving on the the other side. I made several of these and only one appeared that it was going to warp in the center (because I didn’t apply glue before the papier mache), I just laid down some wax paper and then put a couple of heavy books on it and it turned out fine.

After the inside of the tray has dried, begin adhering papier mache strips to the outside. Be sure to overlap the papers in order to get good coverage. Once again, when completely covered, lay aside and allow to dry.

When the entire box is fully dried you can begin your decorations! There are several ways to decorate your tray; you can paint it with craft paints, decoupage with your own papers or even pictures of family, use your imagination!  For mine, I loved the look of the black script on the creamy paper so I decided to decoupage using more book pages. With a decoupage glue (I suggest Mod Podge) adhere the papers of your choice. I use a paint brush to apply the glue, adhere the paper and then paint over them for a nice finish.


At this point, if you are satisfied with your decoupaging and the sheen of the decoupage glue, you can move on to the next step. However, after I finished decoupaging I wanted to add a little color to one of mine. To replicate my look, paint a large oval or circle onto the bottom of the tray using green Mod Podge, or add a bit of acrylic craft paint to your decoupage glue to give it a tint of color. Once it is dry, dab a small brush into the brown paint and paint vines around the border of the circle. (You may want to practice on a scrap piece of paper) Add more vines per your preference and use a lighter brown to add highlights if desired. Now, take the red paint out, dip the opposite end of your paint brush (the stick end) into the paint and use it to make little red berries along the vine. Next, I traced and painted the silhouette of a deer in the middle of the circle and painted it brown. If you like, you could also use a paint pen to add some wise words, part of a Christmas carol or a scripture.


Once the paint dries you have the option of painting over this with decoupage glue for additional protection, or spraying the entire tray with polyurethane. Either way, your tray is ready to use. But keep in mind it is made of paper and the top coat will not protect it from water damage!


For the handles, cut two lengths of the leather belt, I used different lengths depending on the size of the tray. Use the Cropadile or hole punch to make a hole in each end of both handles. Now, using a drill or an X-acto knife, make two holes approximately 3-5 inches apart (depending on the length of the box; try to center the handle) on each end of the tray. Attach the leather handles to the tray using the #8 screws and cap nuts; put a washer on the screw before putting through the handle and tray holes, add another washer and then tighten the cap nut. Once you have attached both handles using the screws & nuts you are done. The tray is complete! Stand back and admire your handiwork! Use for decorative purposes only.


really love these recycled DIY papier mache trays! I made them to sell at my craft booth but I think I’m going to keep them for myself and to give away as gifts this Christmas. Did you like my easy papier mache trays? Be sure to stop back by Indoor Outdoor Space for many more upcycled seasonal decorations to whip up yourself on a shoe-string budget. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest tutorials and freebies delivered to your inbox. You can find more upcycled and recycled paper decor at my own site, The Ragged Rose.

Until our next craft adventure,


DIY & Crafts Author at Indoor Outdoor Space

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