Can You Spray Paint Paper Mache


Last updated: May 4, 2023

Discover the step-by-step method for spray painting paper Mache in the post.

Can you spray paint paper Mache?

Paper mache is a great sculpting material for crafts and artwork. It is easy to work with and relatively inexpensive. One way to finish paper mache, especially if you plan to use it for decorative purposes, is to paint it. 

If you’re looking to achieve an even coverage without brushstrokes, you may have considered using spray paint. But can you spray paint paper Mache? Let’s find out together! 

Can You Spray Paint on Paper Mache?

You can spray paint paper mache. However, you need to prime the surface first. Painting paper mache directly might cause the paper to warp or wrinkle. You can use any paint, but acrylic is the top choice for most paper mache artists.

What Is Paper Mache?

Paper Mache is a French term that means “chewed paper.” It’s a popular crafting technique that uses moist paper and paste to create a variety of shapes and objects. 

The paper is soaked in water and then combined with the paste to mold an object. The paste or adhesive acts as a binder and develops into a hard shell once dry. The hardened outer shell can then be painted or decorated. 

The choice of paper and adhesives depends on the type of paper mache. But common options are cardboard and newspaper strips for paper, while adhesives include mod podge, drywall compound, diluted white glue, and flour and water paste.

Some paper mache projects include paper mache boxes, paper mache letters, jewelry boxes, vases, and pinatas. 

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Paper Mache?

Any paint suitable for paper can be used for paper mache. Common options are acrylic, tempera, gouache, watercolor, poster paint, and oil paint. Acrylic and tempera happen to be the most popular choices. 

Acrylic is generally preferred by most artists because it’s easier to come by and has some added benefits over tempera paint. For instance, it is fast-drying, lightfast and permanent. It is also available in liquid and spray form. 

Both acrylic and tempera are non-toxic, easy to use, and come in various colors. They are also flexible when dry, which helps to prevent peeling and cracking. 

Oil-based paints are another great choice, but they usually have a strong odor. So, you need to use them outside. 

How to Prepare Paper Mache for Spray Painting

What You Need:

  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Dry paper mache
  • Tack cloth
  • Primer
  • Coarse sandpaper


First, sand the paper mache with coarse sandpaper. Make sure to follow the direction of the paper grain. After sanding with coarse sandpaper, repeat the process. But this time, use fine-grit sandpaper. The goal is to remove every bump and the surface to be as smooth as possible.

Can You Spray Paint Paper Mache?


Once you’re done sanding the surface, clean off the sanding dust with a tack cloth. You can also use a lint-free cloth. Once again, follow the direction of the paper grain as you wipe the surface; this will ensure no damage is done to the project.


Applying primer on paper mache will ensure the paint adheres properly. You can use Gesso or a spray primer. Follow the instructions on the label to apply the primer. 

Use one or two light coats of primer. Allow it to dry for at least 12 hours before you add a topcoat. 

How to Spray Paint Paper Mache

Step 1: Select the Spray Paint

Start by protecting your work area to protect valuable items or surfaces from spray paint. You can use some old newspapers along with painter’s tape. 

The first step is to have your spray paint ready. As earlier indicated, not every paint works well on paper mache. Acrylic is commonly preferred, but oil paints also work well. 

We’ve listed out three products that work exceptionally well for paper mache sculpture. 

Step 2: Shake the aerosol can

Before you start spraying, shake the aerosol can for a good two minutes or more. Failure to shake the can well enough might result in weird spurts and clumps. 

It’s also a good idea to do a couple of test sprays away from the surface just to make sure the paint is coming out nice and even. You can use a newspaper or something else.

Step 3: Apply several light coats

Now, apply several light coats of paint. Spraying too much paint at one spot can result in drips and uneven finish. Keep your hands moving back and forth. 

Also, keep the can 6-12 inches away from the surface. Spraying too close causes drips, while spraying from far away affects the coverage. 

Step 4: Let it dry

Most professional-grade acrylic paints usually dry in 20-30 minutes. However, you must wait too long for your project to cure fully before using it. This can take up to 24 hours or more. I have written an article on how to make spray paint dry faster: you can check it out to help you make the paint dry faster.

3 Best Spray Paints for Paper Mache

1. Rust-Oleum 249127 Painter’s Touch

The Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Spray is a nice way to give your paper Mache project a facelift. Thanks to its Double Cover Technology, it provides twice the coverage of most general-purpose spray paints. This allows you to complete your project faster without sacrificing quality. 

Even though the paint is oil-based, it is low odor and fast-drying. It goes on smoothly with no dripping and dries to touch in 20 minutes. Each aerosol can covers up to 12 square feet. 

The paint comes with a built-in primer, so you don’t need to apply a separate coat of primer. Besides reducing the cost of your project, this is a real-time saver. 

You also have the option to choose from different hues and finishes. Besides paper mache, the paint also works on wood, wicker, metal, and a number of materials.

Being oil-based, the paint contains a significant amount of VOCs, so it’s best used outdoors. Remember to wear a respiratory mask. 

Shake well for a good two minutes before use and often while spraying. For the best results, use several light coats and hold the can at least six inches from the paper mache surface.

Once dry, the paint leaves a long-lasting finish that is resistant to chipping. 

What We Like 👍

  • It can be paired with other monotonous colors
  • Provides long-lasting protection
  • Large angle nozzle for spraying in any direction
  • Comfort tip to reduce finger fatigue
  • Easy to use
  • Available in different colors and finishes

What Could Improve 👎

  • Nozzle clogging can be a problem (to prevent this, always clean with mineral spirits after each use)

2. Montana Cans Spray Paint

The Montana Gold is a popular choice among spray paint artists and works great for paper mache and any type of artwork. It’s an acrylic-based formula, so it dries super fast and leaves a nice matte finish. You can use it on a wide range of surfaces, such as canvas, paper, wood, metal, concrete, and much more.

The spray paint option consists of one color. You can also get the set which consists of 12 colors. 

The can feature a low-pressure valve for easy control, which makes it perfect for beginners. A master cap set is also available in case you need to create different kinds of effects in your project. 

The can is 13.5 ounces and contains about 400ml of paint.

For the best results, shake the can vigorously for 2-3 minutes before use. Ensure you hear the mixing balls rolling freely. Also, remember to remove the safety seal before spraying. You will find the nozzle too hard to press if you don’t. 

The paint dries to touch in 6-8 minutes and is usually workable after an hour. However, it takes 24-48 hours to fully cure. 

To prevent clogs and spits, soak the nozzle in warm water whenever you use the paint. This will help dissolve any paint buildup in the spray tip.

What We Like 👍

  • Great for beginners
  • Vibrant color finish
  • Quick-drying formula
  • Suitable for any type of artwork
  • Good coverage
  • Easy to use

What Might Improve 👎

  • Paint tends to buildup easily 

3. Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint

Krylon Fusion is an all-purpose spray paint designed to work on a wide variety of surfaces, including paper and paper mache. It comes with primer and sealant built-in, which saves you more time and money. 

We still recommend using a primer to enhance adhesion. A good option is the Rust-Oleum Adhesion Promoter. Make sure the surface is clean before using the primer.

The can feature an easy push, big button spray tip that enables spray in all directions, even upside down. 

The paint goes on smoothly with no drips or clogs. It dries to touch in 20 minutes and leaves a modern, sleek finish. Each 12-ounce can cover up to 25 square feet. 

Use 2-3 light coats instead of one heavy coat to avoid drips. You can recoat within the first two hours; otherwise, wait after 48 hours. Spray back and forth, overlapping to get even coverage. 

The paint is available in different colors and finishes. Make sure to spray outside. Use lacquer thinner for cleanup. 

What We Like 👍

  • Provides rust protection on metals
  • No drips or runs
  • Provides good coverage and adhesion
  • Comfortable spray tip
  • Quick-drying formula
  • Delivers a modern sleek finish

What Might Improve 👎

  • A little too pricey 

How long does spray paint take to dry on paper mache?

It depends on the type of paint. Acrylic paint typically dries to touch on paper mache in about 10-30 minutes, depending on the brand. However, it may take up to 48 hours to achieve full curing. 

If you’re doing multiple coats, I suppose you should wait for the complete dry time between coats. This can take a few hours or a day, depending on the brand. Always check the label for instructions about drying times. 

Don’t apply the finish coat too soon, or you might end up with cracks on the paint job. 

For the best results, paint in a moderate climate. The temperature should be 55-75 degrees F.

You can reduce drying time by using an air-conditioner and dehumidifier (if the weather is humid outside). An oven might also work if you don’t use a balloon as your base. 

  1. Place the project on a cookie tray and put it inside the oven. 

  2. The oven should be set to a low temperature (around 175 degrees F). 

  3. Check it every 20-30 minutes until it is completely dry. 

How Do I Seal Paper Mache After Painting It?

Sealing paper mache ensures the color remains intact over time. Otherwise, it will become dull or chip away. It also increases the longevity of the paint job. 

Since you’re using acrylic paint for paper mache, it makes sense to use an acrylic sealer. You can also use varnish, but it usually dries hard and can leave a shiny finish, which might not be desirable. 

Acrylic sealers are available in both containers and sprays. Use the spray form if you want to avoid brush marks on your project.

Here’s how to seal paper mache:

  1. Wipe off dust and debris on the surface if it’s not already clean. You can use a dry towel. 

  2. Next, apply the spray sealer. Leave it to dry completely, then add another coat if required. Two coats are usually enough. Keep the spray at least 12 inches from the surface. 

  3. Acrylic sealers generally dry quickly. So, it might feel dry to touch in a few hours. However, wait for at least 48 hours for it to fully cure. 

FAQs – Spray paint for paper mache

Can you spray paint paper mache without a primer?

This is not recommended. Paper mache tends to warp or wrinkle when you spray paint it without a primer. Priming also helps the paint to adhere well and ensures there’s no peeling. Use Gesso or any primer suitable for your paint type.

Can You Sand Paper Mache?

Yes, you can sandpaper mache to remove wrinkles or uneven parts, so you can paint on a smooth surface. This is also a nice way to create a new texture. Make sure to use very fine grit sandpaper as rough sandpaper can damage the paper mache. Also, apply very light pressure.

Do I Have to Prep the Surface Before Painting Paper Mache?

If there are no wrinkles or uneven parts on the surface, you skip the preparation step and apply the paint straight away. However, if the paint requires a primer and you don’t use one, it may cause the project to warp or wrinkle.

Can you use tempera paint on paper mache?

Tempera paint is ideal for paper mache and is one of the most popular options. It won’t flake, chip, or crack. However, it doesn’t last as long as acrylic paint and may not always produce the desired results. I would still recommend acrylic anytime!

Can you spray paint paper mache letters?

You can spray paint paper mache letters as long as you have the right supplies and a little bit of creativity. Make sure you have the letters laid out on a newspaper to avoid spilling paint on unwanted areas. You may need to spray paint a few times until you get the desired color shade.

Can you spray paint paper mache boxes?

Yes, you can use spray paint to embellish your paper mache boxes. Feel free to tailor the color and style to suit your personal taste or the tone of the room where you plan to place the box.

Is spray paint good for paper mache?

Yes, it is. Spray painting paper mache is a nice way to make it look more appealing. However, it’s important you use the right type of paint. Acrylic is the top choice for most paper mache artists.

Summary – spray painting paper mache

In conclusion, you can spray paint paper mache as long as you use the right type of paint. 

Many types of paint work on paper mache crafts, but we’ve found acrylic and tempera to be among the best. Tempera may be better for children’s projects, so you’re left to choose between a high-quality acrylic or oil-based paint. 

Besides the paint type, proper surface preparation is also important in achieving a professional finish. Make sure to sand, clean, and prime the surface before applying spray paint. It’s also best you work outside since spray paints generally produce a lot of fumes. 

We hope you enjoyed this article. Let us know if you have any more questions or suggestions about using spray paint for your first paper mache project. Until then, happy spraying!

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