Are you working on your first paper mache project or looking for suitable materials to plan out your project? There are many paint types available, and the option you decide to go with could determine other materials you need to collect or the overall time your project takes to dry. You’re probably wondering, “what is the best paint for paper mache?”
While there are many paint types you can use on paper mache, using acrylic paint is the best option. They’re easy for beginners to use and highly affordable. However, you need to sand, prime, and seal the color for the best results.
In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know about painting paper mache. Look for our top picks for paint at the end too.
At a Glance: The Best Paint for Paper Mache Today: Arteza Craft Acrylic Paint Set
Best Paints for Paper Mache Reviews
The two most common paint choices for paper mache are acrylic and tempera paints. Here are some of the best brands to use.
Acrylic paint comes in spray or liquid form. Both are affordable and come in a variety of colors. However, the steps you take to apply them will vary.
The second best paint choice for paper mache, tempera paints are an excellent choice for kids. If you use tempera, you’ll need to apply the paint with a brush. However, they’re safe enough to use your fingers.
Can You Paint Paper Mache?
You can paint paper mache, which can help your project look more appealing. However, you need to prepare the surface to help the paint adhere and then seal it to the surface for the best results. The steps you take to do so vary based on your paint choice.
What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Paper Mache?
Any paint you can use on paper is ideal for paper mache, including:
- Oil paints
- Poster paints
- Tempera paints
- Acrylic paint
The two best paint options for your projects are tempera and acrylic. They’re available in many colors with a matte finish. They also remain flexible after they dry, which helps you avoid cracking or peeling. However, acrylics have some added benefits over tempera paints.
What Is the Best Paint for Paper Mache?
Acrylic paint is the top choice for paper mache artists. The paint dries quickly and is widely available in any craft or art store. A huge reason most people use this paint for paper mache comes down to the steps you take to apply it. Acrylic is better if you need to sand and prime a surface. However, tempera paints are a popular choice as well.
Tempera Paint vs. Acrylic Paint
Tempera and acrylic paints are the best options, but some prefer acrylic due to the ease of use. Here’s a bit more information about using either option.
Because they are both made from a water base, tempera and acrylics are also generally non-toxic. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is in charge of this. They reveal the issue with water-based paints because some of the ingredients could irritate if you ingest them. Acrylic paint is also toxic as it dries, so you need to make sure you have proper ventilation.
However, some paint brands may have toxic additives to help them dry faster. The safest craft paints are approved as non-toxic by the Art and Creative Materials Institute. Look for their seal of approval to make sure the paint meets proper safety standards, especially if you’re painting with children.
People go with acrylics over tempera paint because they are more widely available. Poster paint is cheap and widely available craft paint. Tempera, however, is more of a high-quality art paint made from egg yolks. Most tempera paints today are synthetic and similar to poster paint, so you may see them listed as the same thing.
Another reason is that acrylics are easy to mix or dilute with water. Paper mache crafts don’t require lots of expensive colors, but you could save money on a kit with your primary colors and mix any others you may need yourself. These paints allow you to let your creativity fly.
Acrylic paints are also waterproof. While this means you’ll need to wash your paint brush after use carefully, it helps protect the paper from damage later.
The upside to tempera is that it requires fewer layers to coat. Fewer coats of paints mean there are fewer opportunities for oversaturation or wrapping. Poster tempera paints have a texture that helps create beautiful effects on paper mache. They also dry faster than most acrylics.
However, tempera paint is sometimes more expensive than acrylic. The paint you choose may depend on the effect you hope to achieve and your painting experience.
Can You Spray Paint Paper Mache?
You can also use spray paint on your paper mache project. There are various acrylic paints in a spray can form available. However, spray-painting paper comes with a few added steps.
Spray paint comes out very wet, which can cause the paper to wrinkle or warp. When spray painting paper mache, it’s essential to prime the surface before you apply the paint. Never use varnish to prime paper you plan to spray paint. Instead, use Gesso or a primer ideal for your paint type.
Look for a paint made for paper mache and acrylic paints. There are plenty of acrylic-based options to choose from on the market.
Do You Prepare the Surface Before Painting Paper Mache?
If your paper mache project doesn’t have any uneven surfaces or wrinkles, you may not need to prepare the surface. You can paint paper mache immediately. However, any rough parts on the surface will show through the paint.
Some types of paint also require you to prime the surface first. For example, spray paint may cause the paper to warp to wrinkle.
Preparing paper mache is highly recommended for most projects if you want it to last, though. It keeps the wet paint from causing the paper mache to bubble or warp. The result is a smooth surface for painting. Never seal the surface until the paint is dry.
Can You Sand Paper Mache?
You can sand paper mache to remove wrinkles or uneven surfaces. You could also create a different texture altogether. Paper mache can have a rough and raw finish. Sanding the paper allows you to paint on a smooth surface without causing harm to your project.
How to Smooth Paper Mache Before Painting
If you use flour and water paste to make your paper mache, you may notice tiny bumps or uneven sections of dried paste. You can smooth the edges and rough strips.
Smooth out the uneven surface of your paper mache before adding the paint by sanding and priming. You’ll need 150 – 220 fine-grit sandpaper and a primer for acrylic paint, such as Gesso. Here are the materials you need:
- Fine-grit sandpaper
Step 1: Sanding
You can create a smooth surface with patience. Rub the paper mache surface with fine-grit sandpaper to remove bumps. Clean the surface free from any dust or debris before priming and painting with a dry towel.
Step 2: Priming
Gesso is ideal for priming nearly any surface type before painting with acrylics. It has a similar texture to acrylic, but it dries harder. Gesso works by creating a barrier between the paint and your paper mache. You can purchase Gesso from a craft store or make your own.
Cover the entire surface you plan to paint with Gesso. Use a paintbrush, making sure to get in the corners and crevices. You want the top layer of Gesso as smooth as possible. Otherwise, you can add some texture to the Gesso for more detail if you wish.
After the first layer, allow the Gesso to dry and add more layers if needed. Some creations could require several layers of Gesso for a smooth base. Allow it to dry for around 12 hours before painting.
How to Paint Paper Mache
Before painting, collect the materials you may need. Purchase your paint of choice and any brushes or sponges. Wear protective clothing to keep the paint from staining the fabric if you use acrylic paint and provide plenty of ventilation in the form of an open window or fan. Prepare your work area by laying down a drop cloth or newspaper.
Once you have your materials and paint choice, you’re ready to get started. Use the steps below to paint paper mache.
Step 1: Apply White Gesso
After you prime your project with Gesso using the steps above, you’re ready to paint. Make sure the primer is 100% dry before getting started.
Step 2: Paint
Apply a base coat of paint, fully covering the paper mache.
You can use a paintbrush or sponge to apply acrylic paints. If you’re using spray paint, always shake the can thoroughly before use. Hold the can around 12 inches from the surface and apply the paint in thin layers. Work from back to front until you cover the entire surface.
Don’t worry about painting your project quickly. You can always add more paint later. The trick is to keep the layers thin.
Step 3: Fill in the Fine Details
After your base coat of paint dries, you can fill in the fine details. Decorate the paper mache using vibrant colors, stencils, and anything else you want. You can use a thin paintbrush or an airbrush.
Some people also choose to add wool, beads, string, and other household items to complete their creations. A waterproof marker is another fun option.
Step 4: Leave it to Dry
If you use acrylics, the paint should dry quickly. Most professional-grade acrylics dry in 20 to 30 minutes. However, you may want to leave the object to dry longer.
How to Seal Paper Mache
Most people recommend sealing your paint job no matter what type of paint or surface. If you don’t seal the paint, the colors could become dull or chip away over time. Sealing the paint helps lock in the shade and boosts your project’s longevity.
The best sealer for paper mache is an acrylic sealer. Sealer is ideal for a wide range of projects and dry with a matte finish. Unlike varnish, a sealer will not dry as hard or make the final product appear shiny. However, you can use varnish if you prefer.
They come in spray or liquid form that you apply with a paintbrush. Go with a spray form if you want to avoid brush marks on the surface of your finished project. Here are the steps you take to seal paper mache.
Step 1: Clean the Surface
Remove any dust or debris from your project before you apply the sealer. A dry towel is a great way to wipe off the surface.
Step 2: Apply the Sealer
If you’re using a traditional sealer, grab your paintbrush to apply a thin layer of sealer on your paper mache. Leave it to dry all the way, then add another coat if needed. Two coats are often the right amount of sealer for longevity.
With a spray sealer, you want to cover the paper mache in a thin layer using short bursts. Aim the nozzle at your project, spraying no closer than about 12 inches from the surface.
Step 3: Allow it to Dry
Most concentrate and spray sealers tend to dry quickly. It might feel touch-dry in four hours. However, allow the sealer to dry for 48 hours. After it dries, check for any missed spots and apply another layer as needed.
How to Quick Dry Paper Mache
You can boost the time it takes paper mache to dry, whether you’re priming, painting, sealing, or just got done making the paper itself.
Fresh air is the best option to dry paper mache quickly. Place your creation in front of a fan or in the sun to help the paper dry faster. If the weather outside is humid where you live, try heading to an air-conditioned environment and use a dehumidifier.
The oven is another trick to speed up dry time with paper mache projects. However, this option is ideal if you did not use a balloon as your base. Setting the oven to a low temperature around 175 degrees F and placing the paper mache (unpainted or primed) on a cookie tray in the oven helps the paper dry faster. Check it every 30 minutes until it’s dry.
Before you start painting paper mache project, think about the paint you plan to use. Many paint types work well on paper mache. However, acrylic and tempera paints are among the best. Go with acrylic paint if you want to add detailed decorations or spray the paint on, while using tempera may be better for projects with young children.