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How to Make Papier-Mache Day of the Dead Skulls

The skull is the symbol of the Mexican holiday known as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, honoring those who have passed. Create your own festive decor with these crafting tips.


  • Step 1: Inflate the balloon Inflate the balloon a day in advance or inflate and deflate it several times to make it more pliable.
  • Step 2: Create the skull shape Set the balloon on the mouth of the jar to steady it as you work. Create a skull shape by wrapping a few strips of masking tape completely around the balloon about one-third of the way up from the bottom, slightly squeezing it in, to create the look of the jaw.
  • Step 3: Paste Put on the protective gloves. Dab the wheat paste or diluted white glue on a section of the balloon with the paintbrush. Apply a piece of the tissue paper and brush on more paste over the piece. Add another piece so it slightly overlaps the first. Continue around the balloon until you have two layers of tissue covering the balloon.
  • TIP: Use white tissue on a colored balloon or more colorful tissue for a more festive look.
  • Step 4: Let dry Attach a clothespin to the knot of the balloon and hang from the clothesline to dry. When dry, pop the balloon with the scissors near the knot and remove it through the knot hole.
  • Step 5: Cut the base Cut a hole in the base of the skull toward the rear so it leans back slightly when displayed. Cut out the eye holes, nose holes, and mouth. Affix a piece of tissue over each hole with the paste on the inside of the skull.
  • Step 6: Get glowing Give the skull a glow by securing a battery-operated light to the surface where you plan to display the skull using a piece of modeling clay. Place the skull over the light.
  • FACT: In pre-Columbian Mexico, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.

You Will Need

  • Large balloon
  • Empty jar
  • Masking tape
  • Gloves
  • Wheat paste or diluted white craft glue
  • Paintbrush
  • White or colored tissue paper
  • torn into 1- to 2-in. squares
  • Clothespins and a clothesline
  • Craft scissors or a craft knife
  • Battery-powered light
  • Piece of modeling clay

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