There are a few ways to make a dog paw print in plaster. The method we detail here forms a raised cast instead of an indented one. It will keep your dog’s paws a lot cleaner and also reduce clean-up time when you’re finished.
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Before you begin the plaster project, take a moment to consider if you want your final art piece to sit on a table or bookshelf or if you’d like to hang it on a wall. If you’re going to hang it up, this will require one additional step, which we’ve highlighted in the steps below.
Steps for Making a Dog Paw Print in Plaster
Making a dog paw print from plaster is super easy and doesn’t require a lot of material or time. Here’s what you’ll need:
- At least one happy dog
- Two containers of store-bought modeling compound, unless you make your own
- Two repurposed plastic food cups.
- Dry and liquid measuring cups
- Plaster of Paris
- Glass mixing bowl
- Pencil, if writing in the mold while it’s drying.
- Markers, finishes, etc. for later decorations
- Paperclip, if hanging on a wall
Now, here’s how to get started.
1. Buy or make Play Dough
You’ll need two containers of Play Dough for this project.
Pro-tip: Most big-name box stores will have a ready supply. However, if you want to make your modeling compound for less than $1.00, check out this i heart naptime blog post.
2. Form, then flatten the ball
Next, form a ball from the two containers of Play Dough (or from your mixture) by rolling them in your palms.
Then, using a bottle as a rolling pin to flatten the ball to form a disc shape. Flip over the disc and roll it out from both sides.
3. Press disc flat into a container
For this step, repurpose a (clean) flat-bottomed plastic food container. Use one the size and depth of a shredded parmesan cup or about four inches.
Using your fingers, lightly press the disc, flat side down, into the repurposed plastic container.
Next, using a slightly smaller plastic cup with its bottom side down, insert it into the larger one holding the modeling compound.
Press down firmly on the disc to ensure the compound will remain in place for the next step.
Remove the second cup, exposing the clean, flat surface of the modeling compound in the bottom of the first cup.
4. Make the mold
Place your dog’s paw in the container with the compound and press down to get a good print. Be gentle so as not to hurt their little toes.
Once you feel like you’ve made an impression, lift your puppy's paw and check the mold.
Don’t worry. You can start over if you make a mistake or if your pup wiggles too much.
5. Say thank you
Reward your little one with some treats and love. Let your pup know you’re happy with their courageous efforts.
Check their paw to make sure it’s clean, too.
6. Mix the plaster
For this step, you’ll need to use a glass bowl from your craft or work area. Measure and add one cup of Plaster of Paris (calcium sulfate hemihydrate).
Then, measure and add one-half cup of water.
An old spatula works well for mixing. The consistency will be slightly runny, but this is what you want as it’ll give you enough time to work with the mix.
Pro-tip: Plaster of Paris sets quickly, so don’t mix it up until you’re ready.
7. Transfer the plaster mix
Scrape the plaster mix into the plastic container with the Play Dough mold.
Eyeball about a half-inch of plaster mix.
Pro-tip: A half-inch is not an exact or required measurement of the mix; it’s just a recommendation.
8. Shake and tap
Gently shake or tap the container on your work surface to eliminate any bubbles that may affect the outcome.
Pro-tip: if you would like to hang up the mold once it’s dry and sanded, this is the time to insert a paperclip or other metal hook of sorts. If you attempt this step at a later time, you will likely damage the mold.
9. Drying time
Refer back to the instructions on the plaster mix for drying time.
Drying can take an hour or more, depending on the humidity of your home or climate.
Pro-tip: During the drying stage, you may want to inscribe something in the plaster using a pencil or similar object.
Note: Wait until the plaster has clay-like consistency to make your mark. Otherwise, it won’t work. Scroll down for a few ideas for what to write.
10. De-mold the project
After about an hour, de-mold your project. In other words, remove the plaster cast from the plastic cup. Be careful if you want to use the same paw print again.
Pro-tip: Your project isn’t completely set at this time and will need more time to cure fully.
Some of the molding compound will still be attached to the paw print cast, but you can rinse it off with water.
To wash, use your fingers as opposed to anything abrasive like a brush or scrubber.
Pro-tip: Fill up a bucket with water for this step, rather than washing the plaster cast beneath running water.
12. Sand the rough spots
Using 120-grit or higher sandpaper, smooth the rough spots around the edges.
Don’t press so hard that you sand off too much.
If you plan on adding a finish to the cast after sanding it, use a cotton cloth to remove any excess grit beforehand.
Pro-tip: Plaster of Paris can be sanded to a completely smooth finish but be careful not to smooth out your puppy's paw print.
Need a little more help?
Sometimes directions without visuals can be difficult. For more information on making plaster paw prints, check out this quick video from The Dog Vlog.
What to Write on the Plaster Paw Print
The plaster paw print won’t leave you much room, so keep the messages short. If you like, you can leave the space blank, and later you can add a short pet memorial saying.
Here are a few ideas on what to write on your plaster paw print:
"My Baby Girl" or "My Baby Boy"
Choose from any number of nicknames that you gave to your little one, including “baby girl.” It invokes all those happy feelings from puppyhood, learning how to swim and fetch, and those tender moments and nights caring for them through an illness.
Leave it as is or add their name and a set of dates.
"My Boy, Shep"
This message will remind you of those classic child-meets-dog scenarios where you both learn about the world. Together, you have daring adventures, and you’re more than prepared for any bend in the road that comes your way.
The sweet but straightforward sentiment always makes the perfect pet memorial idea, too.
"Best Friend" or "Best Buddy"
You take your pup everywhere. From car rides to the beach or trail, there is nary a moment where your dog isn’t with you. Not only are they a ready listener who gives great playful advice, but they’re also your best friend.
“My Heart” works for the person whose love and affection for their pup runs deep. They’ve been with you during every move, every breakup, and for selflessly snuggles while helping you eat dinner during movie nights on the sofa.
"In Memory of Daisy"
Since you’ll be making the cast with your pup right now, this message would then be written on the plaster cast at a much, much later time.
“In Memory Of” works for those looking for a sweet, slightly sentimental memorial idea. Place it in pride of place inside a pet memorial garden or next to their favorite shade tree. Or leave it on your bedside table so that you have a quick visual reminder each night and morning.
"Part of the Family"
Dogs are more than just dogs. They’re members of the family, too. You probably even count them as one of the kids or a child just the same. And no matter what life events transpire, your special pup will always hold a place in your heart.
Laddy (plus the date of the cast)
This idea is similar to making yearly growth marks on a wall. Each year make a cast of your pup’s paw print. And each year, mark the date so that you can see how much they’ve grown.
Plaster paw prints make for great paperweights on your desk. So, every time you have to make one of those tedious zoom calls into the office, you can grab and hold on to it like a rubbing stone.
That way, you can dream about your next adventure outside when you finally get to leave that meeting. You can bet your pup is already ten steps ahead of you, too.
"A Loyal Friend"
There’s no more accurate title befitting a dog. Theirs is a lifelong loyalty to you and your family; they forgive you when you forget their routine; they embrace you, even when you don’t offer treats. And no matter what, you’ll never find a happier greeting than from your loyal friend.
"The Pack Leader"
Do you have a gifted leader on your hands? On the trail, do they head out about 10 yards or so to make sure the coast is clear for you and everyone in the group? If this sounds like your champ, then the title of “Pack Leader” is more than suitable.
Here’s a message that works if your pup is super mellow with your kids. Whether they’re painting his nails, dressing him up as a ballerina, or fawning over him with unending smooches, your pup just takes it all in with so much love.
Plaster Paw Art
The plaster paw print you make today serves as art in your home. Not only is it easy enough to do with the kids, but you’ll have a great time using the Play Dough for another project afterward.