How Long Does It Take for Handmade Paper to Dry?

Mold and deckle full of fresh pulp being lifted from the slurry.

Making beautiful sheets of handmade paper is the perfect way to use up scrap paper and junk mail that otherwise may wind up in the trash can or recycle bin. 

Adding color and decorative elements allows your creativity to soar and results in truly unique creations that you want to enjoy right away. 

Alas, paper straight out of the mold is wet and must be dried thoroughly before use.

How long does it take for handmade paper to dry? Depending on several factors, such as the method employed, amount of pressing, paper thickness, and humidity, handmade paper can take anywhere from thirty minutes to several days to completely dry, though ironing can dry paper in mere minutes.

Although handmade paper drying times can vary considerably, there are a few tricks you can use to speed the process up. 

As you read through the following to get a general idea of how long it will take your paper to dry, keep an eye out for a super time-saving tip that will have your paper dry in just a minute or two.

Factors That Influence Drying Time

When left to air dry, some papers will dry completely in about thirty minutes, some may need 12 hours or so, and others may take as long as three days.

There are several factors that directly affect the length of drying time necessary.

Understanding these factors and the effects they have on the drying process will help you to customize your drying technique so you can begin using those lovely handmade sheets of paper as soon as possible.

Drying Method

The method you choose to dry your paper can make the difference between a long and a short dry time. 

For instance, sheets placed individually on a flat, absorbent surface that is regularly replaced with a fresh, dry one, will tend to dry faster than multiple layers that have been sandwiched between boards.

The amount of air circulation varies for different methods, but generally, the greater the air flow, the less drying time is needed.

Amount of Pressing

After paper is lifted out of the tub of slurry and the excess water has been allowed to drain for a moment, the next step is to press as much of the remaining moisture from the paper as possible.

Typically, the paper is couched (removed from the frame onto a pressing or drying surface) onto an absorbent material, such as felt (learn more here) or blotting paper, a screen or cloth is placed on top, and a dry sponge is used to press out and absorb the liquid.

The more water is removed, the faster the paper will dry.

Thickness of the Paper

Not surprisingly, the thicker that your paper is, the longer it will take to dry.

The good news is that the paper’s thickness is completely controlled by you as you make your slurry.

Basically, the more water you add to the slurry, the thinner your sheets will be.

If there is not enough room in your blender to add additional water, pour the slurry into the container you’ll be using, and add more water directly to the container and stir.

As you gain experience, you will develop a feel for when the slurry has reached a consistency that will produce thin sheets of paper. 

Humidity

Low environmental humidity is ideal for drying paper as the surrounding air is relatively dry and not saturated with water vapor, thus allowing the moisture in the paper to evaporate readily.

Attempting to dry paper in conditions with high humidity will take much longer. 

Drying Time of Handmade Paper

Serious paper-making crafters usually have a drying system in place in order to dry multiple sheets of paper simultaneously again and again. 

This typically involves layering the sheets between corrugated cardboard and cloth or felt, and forming large stacks called posts.

A fan is used to accelerate drying time, and the sheets are usually done drying by the following day.

While this technique is effective and can be replicated by even beginners, most paper-making hobbyists that only make paper occasionally would consider a formal setup unnecessary. 

There are many ways to dry handmade paper, but each produces a slightly different final texture and will require different drying times. 

Experimenting with several approaches is the best way to find your ideal method.

Flat Surface Drying Time

Drying time when using only a flat surface and natural air circulation will vary significantly depending on the surface on which your paper was couched. 

If the paper is couched onto a solid, flat surface such as a wood board, glass, or plexiglass and no additional measures are employed to accelerate drying, such as running a fan, it can take up to several days (one to three) for the paper to fully dry.

Placing a heavy object on top of the drying paper to keep it flat will further extend drying time.

Again, the drying time will be dependent on the factors previously mentioned, such as how much water was pressed out and the humidity of the surrounding air.

If the paper is dried on supportive surface that allows air flow underneath the paper as well as above, such as a window screen, Pellon interfacing, or plastic craft sheets and is elevated for maximum air circulation, drying time may be greatly reduced.

Tip: Cut a piece of 100% cotton cloth just a bit larger than the paper, and place it on top of the screen, interfacing, or craft sheet before laying down the paper. This will make removing the dried paper much easier.

Oven Drying Time

Drying single sheets of paper in the oven set on a low temperature (200℉ or so) shortens drying time significantly. Usually in under five minutes, the paper is completely dry.

However, you must watch the paper carefully to avoid scorching. Also know that using this method typically results in the corners starting to curl as the paper nears dryness. 

You will likely need to iron it flat again or lightly mist the paper with water and press it flat using a heavy book or similar object.

Microwave Drying Time

It’s hard to predict how long it will take paper to dry in the microwave because not all microwaves operate at the same efficiency and there are numerous factors involved, like the level of saturation, paper thickness, etc.

Be aware that this method is risky and generally not recommended. If the paper becomes too dry, it can ignite, destroying not only the paper but the microwave as well.

If you decide to try this technique, go slowly. “Cook” the paper for only short bursts (5 – 10 seconds) at a time, and allow the paper to cool in between rounds.

Remove the paper before it’s completely dry, and use another method, such as air drying, to finish drying.

How to Speed Up Drying Time Significantly

Stumbling upon this method is a game changer for most paper-making hobbyists.

Instead of waiting hours, or even days, for paper to dry, this technique only takes a minute or two.

Curious yet? I won’t prolong the suspense any longer.

A regular household iron can be used to dry individual sheets in a fraction of the time.

Many people aren’t aware of this simple drying method, but it works, and it’s fast.

Instructions

After pressing as much water as possible from your new paper, transfer the paper onto blotting paper (I love Arnold Grummer’s because they can be used over and over), place another blotting paper on top, and press again.

Some people like to use a rolling pin for this step – just don’t press too hard.

Next, sandwich your handmade paper between two ordinary papers or a couple of paper towels, set your iron to a medium heat setting, and iron the paper for one minute. 

Remove the top layer of protection, and check for dryness. If the paper is still slightly damp, you can now iron it directly, remembering to keep the iron moving over the paper.

The paper may turn a tad lighter as it dries, but as far as speed is concerned, this technique can’t be beat.