||The aim of the present research was to study moisture changes and strains induced by smooth water desorption of several cement based materials. The main advantage of this small-steps drying is to dramatically limit the structural effect within tested samples, by lowering moisture gradients and therefore cracking due to differential shrinkage. Resulting data are of importance as they allow water retention curves, porosity distribution and desiccation shrinkage to be determined versus a large range of relative humidity. Experiments were conducted on ordinary mortars and cement pastes with water-to-cement ratio of 0.5 and 0.8. The role of the cementitious matrix and of aggregates over water-related behaviour of these materials can also be studied. Finally, a simple numerical model, based on experimental poromechanical results, was proposed to predict the shrinkage when the material is submitted to drying.