Waiting for paper mache to dry takes longer than doing the actual paper-mache work. If you don't wait for it to dry completely before painting or applying a second coat, you may damage your project. Speed up the drying process with fans, sunshine or fresh air, tailoring the method to the material used to create the paper-mache form.
Any fan you have handy -- a ceiling fan, box fan or oscillating desktop fan -- helps your paper-mache project dry faster, no matter what you've used as the frame or form for the project. Set the project in a room with a ceiling fan, keeping the fan set to a low or medium speed while the project piece dries. If you have a portable fan, place the fan in the same room but positioned so it doesn't blow directly on your project in close proximity. Otherwise one side may dry faster than the other.
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Help From Heat
A radiator-style heater helps dry your paper mache faster during months when it's cold enough to use a heater in your home. Place your paper-mache project a foot or two from a baseboard heater, portable radiator or any type of heater that does not get so hot that it may burn things.
Do not place paper mache near electric or kerosene space heaters, nor any type of heating device that glows and gets too hot to touch. Paper mache is paper, after all, and can catch fire.
An oven set to a low temperature such as 175 degrees Fahrenheit helps speed up the drying time on small paper mache projects. Place the paper mache item on a cookie tray before putting it in the oven. This method is not for paper mache over balloons, which may expand or pop in the oven. Only use the oven if your base beneath the paper mache can withstand the heat. Cardboard and paper are fine; plastic and foam should not be used in the oven. Check on the paper mache at least every 30 minutes while it's in the oven. Remove it if it looks as though it's starting to burn.
Fresh air is another way to dry your paper mache out -- provided the weather is warm and dry. If the outdoor air is humid, your project may dry faster indoors in an air-conditioned environment, or in a room with a dehumidifier. Outdoors, place paper mache in an area with light breezes and sunshine, ideally. A balloon-based paper mache project may crack if left outside to dry; the air in the balloon may expand and contract as the air temperature inside the balloon changes.