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The Best Way to Paint Paper Mache Letters and Numbers

There are several ways to paint paper mache letters and numbers, but our method will help your projects last longer! Perfect for graduations, birthdays, and anniversary parties or even to decorate your home.

Do you like celebrating big milestones with a party?

So do we!

But we don’t want to break the bank when it comes to decorating for it.

This is why we like making our own simple decorations.

Like this customizable burlap banner.

Or this banner to display photos.

You can even use pallets for an inexpensive but large party photo display.

We’ve made simple centerpieces using photos and mason jars.

And pretty centerpieces with painted cans, ribbons, and photos.

Paper mache numbers decorated with patterned scrapbook paper, paint and ribbon display the graduation year on a table in front of a vase of sunflowers

We particularly like the idea of making party decorations that can be reused like these papier mache numbers.

When you’ve got multiple kids attending the same high school, you can reuse decorations from their parties with a few minor tweaks.

The key is, you need to paint them so that they last.

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Ways to Paint Paper Mache Numbers and Letters

Rows of different colors of spray paint in a craft store.

One of the easiest ways to paint these numbers is with spray paint!

There are quite a few color options available if you choose to go this route.

You can even go metallic, or try one of the textured spray paints.

Console table decorated for a graduation party with a bulletin board of photos and memorabilia and painted paper mache numbers with the graduation year

AnnMarie used spray paint on these numbers for one of her son’s graduation celebrations.

It looks great!

Her numbers have lasted for 6 years, so if you want your numbers to be just painted, this is a super easy solution.

However, if you want to customize the colors, or use some additional paint techniques with acrylic paints, or cover them in paper, you might want to try another way of painting them.

How to Make Paper Mache Numbers and Letters Last Longer

Papier mache numbers aren’t very sturdy.

After all, they’re made from paper!

While I used them to decorate for a party, they’re also a really cute option to use as custom decor if you like decorating with letters.

They would be super cute hanging on the wall or sitting on a shelf to spell out a baby’s or child’s name!

It’s really simple to harden papier mache to make it sturdier.

Containers of acrylic gesso, acrylic paints, matte gel medium, and foam brushes with paper mache numbers.

You’ll just need to take a few extra steps and use two additional products: acrylic gesso to seal and harden the paper and gel medium to seal and protect the paint.

This is everything you’ll need:

Think of gesso as primer.

If you want to cover them with decoupage, the gesso makes them white so the brown of the paper mache doesn’t show through thin decoupage paper or napkins.

Paper plates labeled with "gesso," "paint," and "matte gel" and foam brushes on the plates.

Foam brushes work great for this project, but you can use regular brushes if you prefer.

Three of the products I was using were white, so to help me prevent getting the brushes mixed up I labeled paper plates so I could keep them separated.

Tips for Painting Papier Mache Numbers and Letters

Paper mache numbers in two sizes covered with gesso.

I covered the counters with parchment paper to protect them while I was painting.

It does a great job of not sticking to the numbers while they’re drying.

Wax paper would work well too.

First, coat the papier mache with the gesso and allow it to dry.

The gesso will be dry in about an hour.

Paper mache numbers standing up to dry on top of wax paper after being painted with acrylic paint.

Next, use acrylic paint to paint the numbers.

The great part about acrylic paint is that you have so many more color options available!

You can even custom mix the color to perfectly match your party’s color scheme or to match the decor in your room.

It took two coats of paint to get the color to look even.

Bottle of matte gel acrylic medium in a woman's hand.

Acrylic paint can crack, so use acrylic gel medium to protect them.

You can get it in a variety of finishes to give them a different look: high gloss, satin, or matte.

Once the numbers or letters are painted you can decorate them in other ways, like covering them with patterned paper.

Or making them sparkly by covering them with glitter.

You could do a decoupage treatment on them with napkins or decoupage paper.

Or decorate them with assorted ribbons.

No matter how you choose to decorate them, this simple craft is a great way to decorate for your next party!

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Collage of products used to paint papier mache numbers.

Sources: Papier Mache Numbers | Patterned Craft Paper | Ultra Fine Gold Glitter | Graduation Number Display | Foam Paint Brushes | Acrylic Paint Set | White Acrylic Paint | Matte Gel Medium | Acrylic Gesso

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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