One of the biggest questions I have come across is about drying paper mache. How do you tell when it is dry and how long does it take?
It needs to be completely dry before adding more layers and before painting, to make sure it doesn't mold. It is the one thing that tries my patience because I am usually in a hurry and really don't like waiting!
You must take into consideration the humidity and temperature in your area. For example, a basement in most cases is going to be more humid than upstairs. The coast next to the ocean will be more humid than the desert. Not just your location, but obviously humidity and temperature can vary from day to day and season to season.
When you are drying paper mache, first, look at the color. Are there still some parts that look a bit darker than other spots? If so, it is still wet.
Touch it. Sometimes you can feel a difference because it is cooler to the touch, where it is damp. No, I am not dreaming. Really.
Squeeze it, slightly. If it squishes easily it may still be wet. There will still be a bit of give if you haven't got many layers on it but it shouldn't push in easily.
I could also tell you to knock on it, like you are testing a watermelon but I'm not sure that advice would be particularly useful. That depends on the object.
Keep in mind, what you have used for your underneath form will also be a factor in drying time. Crumpled newspaper will absorb some of the moisture. It will help if you are able to cut your project open and remove this. You will have to make sure that first, there are enough layers that your form will hold the shape on it's own.
It is helpful, when drying paper mache, to hang your project or set it on a rack. In the winter I set my projects on the heat register and turn often. In the summer, if it is hot and sunny, I set them out in the sunshine, on the deck to dry. If you are stuck inside with high humidity a dehumidifier will help, if you have one.
The most important thing is to make absolutely, positively sure it is dry before moving on to the next step. Some projects will now have a layer of celluclay put over top to add more dimension. Others are ready to be painted and sealed.
So have I answered your questions, without really answering your questions? I know, I didn't tell you it will take an hour, it will take a day, it will take a month. It depends. (No, it won't take a month.) Usually it will take a few hours, possibly overnight. If it takes longer than that you are adding too much paste to the newspaper.
Just remember, drying paper mache properly, is the most important step in creating a project that will be very durable, high quality and will last for years.
Now, let's go make something!
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