How to make bas-relief with plaster

How to make bas-relief with plaster

Would you like to do some decorations in your house that are not so common in other households? Or maybe you would like some other way of doing art from traditional painting?

Traditional being mentioned, bas-reliefs aren’t exactly new invention and you have probably seen them before not knowing what they are called.

For maybe that reason, the first thing you might have in your mind when you come upon this article is “what is a bas-relief?”. A bas-relief is a type of sculptural art and it can be realistic or nonrealistic.

Usually, a bas-relief is created on a flat surface but can be on curved surfaces like pots or vases. The surface is mostly flat with projecting areas that stand out, but not entirely free from the background. This form of art can be described as somewhat like a 3D painting.

That is, if you decide to paint it. Plaster bas-reliefs can be left like that or you can paint them. If you do decide to paint them, the outcome can be amazing.

Overall, bas-relief is a fun and creative type of art to work with. For someone who enjoys painting and sculpting, this can be an ideal medium to entice your imagination.

Materials needed for making bas-relief

These bas-relief materials are quite simple and I tried to keep them at the level that can be found in any household. If you have more innovative ideas, go ahead and do those as this is just a general guide on making things like this. It’s great if it has woken some new inspirations.

So the materials that we need for this project are the following:

  • Plaster
  • Water
  • Hanging wire
  • Two eyelet screw hooks
  • Wood frame
  • Wire mesh
  • Large cloth
  • Acrylic paints
How to make bas-relief sculpture with plaster

Start by getting yourself and materials ready

You will be creating this bas-relief using strips of cloth soaked in plaster, using a piece of wood as the frame. Begin by choosing a working area that you don’t mind getting a little bit messy.

Wear old clothing as well, ones that you don’t have a strong attachment to. Most artists have clothes that they do their work in so as not to ruin their regular clothing, and you probably do as well if you do any amount of artwork.

I’m no artist and just wear my regular work wear. Some people are skilled in staying clean when they work with plaster etc., but sadly I was never one of those.

How to make bas-relief

Step 1: You can use a store-bought frame or make your own, but wood is a good choice as it is sturdy. I would use an old piece of discarded wood or plywood because I am cheap. But that is a personal choice.

Your frame can be whatever size you want. If you are making the frame, screw the two hooks into the back of the frame and tie on the wire to use for hanging your art piece when it is finished.

Do this before you put on the plaster, or you could end up breaking off pieces of plaster and ruining your work.

Step 2: Next, cover the wooden frame with the wire mesh screen. Make sure the screen sheet will cover the frame with extra room to curve around the back.

Stretch it taut around the back of the frame and secure with small nails, or use a staple gun. Trim any edges using tin snips.

Now here is good to remember that wire mesh comes in many sizes and strengths. Depending on your project, you probably want one that is easy to cover the frame with. Its main purpose is to support the bas-relief plaster so it doesn’t have to be that strong for small to medium projects.

Step 3: Now comes the messy part. Mix the plaster and water according to the instructions on the container of plaster.

Soak strips of cloth in the plaster. When they are thoroughly wet, apply the cloth strips to the frame, making sure you cover the entire area, going around the sides as well.

The cloth you use is up to you. You can experiment with different thicknesses and textures and weaves.

We have a large supply of fabric scraps around our house for other art and craft projects with kids, so I always have a large variety to choose from and work with.

Let this first plastered cloth layer dry. It will be your canvas to work on. You can also do this with one big piece of cloth, but it will be little more tricky to work it.

Step 4: When your base is dry, you can begin to create your masterpiece. Soak bits and pieces of cloth in the plaster.

Build up your art in layers, making some higher than the others to create peaks and valleys in your work. What you make is up to you.

This is where you use your imagination, using the wet pieces of cloth as your sculpting medium. You can create organic, flowing forms, or geometric skylines. When your plaster is becoming tacky, you can add other inclusions.

If you don’t want to work with fabric or want to use other tools to make bas-relief that’s OK too. Everything goes with art, just make your plaster so that you can work it with tools, just don’t make too much of it if you want to take your time.

Step 5: When the plaster is dry, you can paint it how you want. Acrylics are a good choice for plaster. Here is a guide on painting plaster art that is quite handy here.


This how to make bas-relief with plaster is supposed to work as outline guide for creating bas-reliefs. There are other viable ways to start with it.

If you want to make them on flat surface straight away, that works as well. Get some plastic under the plaster and you’re good to go.

If you want to do it on plywood, you can go ahead and do that as well. Creating shapes is also up to the imagination. The fabric used in this guide is just meant to be supporting material for the plaster. It’s good if you want to create big shapes.

For smaller ones, just plaster will work and you can also grow it layer after layer like a 3d printer would, just wait for the layer to dry before building upon it.

If you’re interested in other plaster arts as well, here is how to make plaster handprints for kids, plaster animal tracks for kids, and plaster flowers for anyone who enjoys seeing beauty.

All of the previous projects are low skill projects so anyone can do them.