How to Paint Cardboard?

A flexible material, cardboard is frequently used for storing and packing. On the other hand, there are many different ways to reuse or recycle cardboard. One of the simplest methods for creating one-of-a-kind works of art and crafts with virtually endless creative possibilities is cardboard painting.

You won’t lose a lot of money even if it fails. While painting cardboard is easy and inexpensive, a few procedures must be taken to ensure the paint is applied to the cardboard. In this post, you may learn how to paint cardboard. We’ve also included some of the most incredible cardboard paints and some original ideas.

Why Should You Try Cardboard Painting?

The fact that cardboard is less expensive than other materials is the most prominent justification for using it for creative undertakings. Painting on cardboard is probably less expensive than canvas or other more costly papers. Another simple and accessible material for recycling used cardboard is cardboard. Anyone, regardless of age, may paint on cardboard, and if they mess up or damage it, they can quickly start again with fresh cardboard.

child painting cardboard
image courtesy: Tatiana; source:

Because cardboard is lightweight and can be cut to any size, it is simple to transport and work with. Cardboard may be utilized for various creative endeavours since it is simple to mould, such as building a playhouse or engaging in other kid-friendly activities. Additionally, you may design functional items like boxes, coasters, signboards, toys, bookmarks, gift tags, and toys and give a storage container a new look.

Double and triple-walled corrugated materials are suitable for painting. However, you might be able to reuse the cardboard that was used to wrap your new refrigerator and other things. It’s a terrific alternative to paper for youngsters to paint on because you undoubtedly have some cardboard lying around. Don’t forget to recycle when you are through with cardboard and no longer wish to use it or retain it.

The Best Paints for Cardboard

We’ve demonstrated that it’s cheap and straightforward to paint cardboard and other products made of cartons. Conversely, only uncoated cardboard may be painted; boxes with a wax-like seal cannot. Cardboard wrinkles and warps when exposed to excessive water or moisture since it is formed of paper pulp components, sometimes referred to as kraft paper. As a result, adhering to a few basic rules and using the appropriate colour while painting on cardboard is crucial.

Oil Paints for Cardboard Art Projects

Another alternative for painting on cardboard is oil paint. Similar to acrylic paints in viscosity, oil paints are thick. On the other side, oil paints provide more vivid hues. However, utilizing oil paints has several drawbacks. First, some pigments in oil paintings are poisonous and more expensive than acrylic paints. Mineral spirits or turpentine must also be used for cleaning. Apply the paint in thin layers like acrylics since more might cause the cardboard to warp.

dog painting with oil paint on cardboard

Acrylic Paints for Cardboard

Because the paint is inexpensive, less hazardous, takes less time to dry and simple to use, this is the greatest option for painting cardboard. Additionally, acrylic paints may be used in various materials, such as cardboard, canvas, wood, metal, ceramics, and more.

The paint, made up of a pigment floating in an acrylic polymer emulsion, is water-soluble when wet. It produces a plastic-like coating and becomes water-resistant as it dries. Since acrylics are typically thick, they shouldn’t leak through the surface of the cardboard.

However, moisture is still there, and if the cardboard is not handled gently, it might get distorted after which you can remove it as it get easily removed with some work (checkout: is acrylic paint permanent or not). Heavy acrylic paint coats may result in surface distortion even after priming. Paint should be applied in thin layers, and each coat should dry completely before the next.

acrylic painting on cardboard

Additionally, try not to wet the paintbrush too frequently. Avoid squeezing acrylic paint straight from the tube onto the cardboard since it could result in damp areas. When you are done painting, cleaning up the debris is easy.

Spray Painted Cardboard

Spray paint may quickly cover big pieces, such as cardboard box products. Additionally, spray paint dries the quickest when compared to other types of paint. Paint generally takes 15 minutes to dry after application. If sprayed correctly without any unwanted mistakes, the cardboard shouldn’t be deformed by the spray paint; the cardboard must be flat to prevent breaking.

Spray paints can go in locations where a paintbrush cannot since they are available in various finishes. As was already said, proper spray paint application is necessary to prevent issues. Spray the paint first in a well-ventilated open area outside. To avoid harmful emissions and overspray, this is done.

Spray paint should be applied after shaking the can and holding it about 12 inches away from the cardboard. Spray the cardboard with one or two fast, light sprays to ensure that less moisture gets inside and causes it to warp. Give the paint about two hours to dry before adding the second coat. Before painting, gesso or primer should be used to prevent issues.

Is a Primer Necessary Before Painting Cardboard?

Before painting cardboard, we’ve advised using a primer, but is this necessary? Due to its high fragility and inability to handle moisture, cardboard cannot be painted without damage. No priming is necessary if you are playing with your kids and want to throw the cardboard away later.

However, you’ll need to apply a primer if you want your paints to adhere to the cardboard without creating any issues. The cardboard substance absorbs a lot of paint when painted straight on. This causes warping, but it also degrades the paint’s colour quality, giving the impression that it is dull.

The cardboard may deteriorate, and more paint will be needed if more coats of paint are applied. As a result, it is suggested that you prime the cardboard surface.

The primer provides the cardboard with a lovely opaque look and prevents it from absorbing too much paint. You may use less paint while keeping colour brightness by using a primer. A recommended primer for cardboard is white acrylic gesso, commonly available at any craft store.

You may get gesso in various colours if you don’t like white. If daring, you may make your gesso by combining water, white glue, chalk or talcum powder, and white paint. Use acrylic paint colours to add colour.

How to Paint Cardboard

If you adhere to a few simple guidelines and prepare the cardboard surface properly, painting on cardboard is simple. Although it is not meant to withstand paints, cardboard is essentially sturdy paper. You must first prepare the surface and apply a primer to your cardboard art pieces to acquire a finish that will keep them looking fabulous for longer.

The best paint for painting cardboard is acrylic paint, whether it is sprayed on or applied with a paintbrush. Follow the procedures below to get the most out of your cardboard artwork.

Preparing Your Cardboard Surface

Use a cloth to wipe off any dirt or dust from the cardboard’s surface. The painting station can then be established. Use newspaper or a drop cloth to clean up any potential spills on the floor or table. Instead of more fragile cereal boxes, it is best to utilize corrugated cardboard. However, it doesn’t matter what kind of cardboard you use if the only purpose is to amuse the children quickly.

Applying a Primer Onto Cardboard

You may prep cardboard using gesso or latex. When applied, the primer is frequently a white mixture of pigments, glue, and chalk. If you like, you may add an acrylic paint colour. Gesso can be applied using a sponge or special foam brushes.

Apply a horizontal coat first, allow it to dry, and then follow with a vertical coat. Before painting, let this time cure for at least 24 hours. As a result, you may make plenty of cardboard surfaces and save them when you’re ready to paint.

After drying, if the gesso layer is still too rough, smooth it with fine-grained sandpaper. Although more layers are possible, two are plenty for painting. Gesso may also be used as a primer on wood, plastic, and canvas surfaces. Always rinse your brushes or sponges with water after using gesso.


Painting on Cardboard

The gesso can be painted over once it has cured. Let it dry by applying a light layer of paint with a clean paintbrush. When painting cardboard, it’s important to avoid using too much water to prevent warping the material. Although a dry brush could work, it might require too thick paint.

Run a few tests to observe what occurs and which approach is most effective. Instead of squeezing paint onto the cardboard, it should be applied directly to the brush or palette.

Oil and acrylic paintings can also be created using this technique—many painters like cardboard as a painting substrate in addition to essential painted cardboard arts and crafts. Spray painting the cardboard box’s contents will provide the best coverage if you want to paint the storage box.

Sealing Your Painted Cardboard

Though it won’t be necessary, sealing your painted cardboard will enhance its beauty and safeguard your artwork. Additionally, sealing painted cardboard extends the lifespan of cardboard art. However, this raises the price, and sealing is unnecessary if you don’t care about keeping the painted cardboard in good condition.

So what is used to seal cardboard painted with paint? The solution is to use varnish, which may be sprayed or applied with a brush. Both matte and glossy textures are available in varnishes. Painted cardboard would be a great candidate for acrylic varnish; quick-drying, water-based, non-toxic, simple to apply, and can be used on several materials.

The newspaper should always be spread over a varnishing surface, and the cardboard surface should be dust-free. Apply the varnish with straight, equal strokes from one side to the other. After varnishing the cardboard surface, let it cure for many hours. After the initial layer of varnish has dried, you can add a second layer if required and let it heal.

Varnish should be applied outside, ideally with a mask, gloves, and safety glasses. Mask off any areas you don’t want varnish on with masking tape. Before spraying while holding the spray paint can a few inches away from the surface, shake it for at least two minutes. Till the space is covered, move in a straight line from side to side. Regularly cleaning the nozzle will help it stay clear of blockages.

acrylic painted cardboard

The newspaper should always be spread over a varnishing surface, and the cardboard surface should be dust-free. Apply the varnish with straight, equal strokes from one side to the other. After varnishing the cardboard surface, let it cure for many hours. After the initial layer of varnish has dried, you can add a second layer if required and let it heal.

Difficulties with Painting on Cardboard

The cardboard needs to be prepared to prevent problems since it is fragile. You must use the right paint for this, such as acrylic paints, and stay away from water colours. The leading cause of the issues is water or moisture inside the cardboard. When this occurs, distortion becomes a significant issue.

How to Fix Warped Cardboard

The cardboard could still be salvageable even if you over-watered it, and it started to distort if the damage was not too severe. Before using a spray bottle of water, the cardboard must first be dried. The cardboard should now be laid flat, with the curved side facing up.

Books and other heavy objects can be placed on the cardboard to help flatten it. The cardboard should cure for at least one day or until it looks flat again, which might take up to three days or more. A humid environment alone can cause the cardboard to distort. As a result, before painting, the cardboard may be somewhat crinkled.

Before now, we’ve spoken about how important it is to prime cardboard and how to paint with the least amount of water.


  • Can water colours be used on cardboard?

Sadly, water colours deteriorate cardboard. Water colours may be artistically employed, but they need much water to achieve their distinctive effects. The cardboard will not be able to withstand the heavy water use, regardless of how well you prime it.

  • Can charcoal be applied to cardboard?

Charcoal is yet another excellent medium for cardboard. Use gentle, smooth strokes and proceed with caution as harsh rubbing might harm unprimed cardboard. However, cardboard that has been prepared creates an excellent charcoal surface.

  • Is priming the cardboard necessary?

The quick response is no. When applying paint, there are significant variations between doing it with and without primer. Both methods may be utilized to produce original works of art. Although leaving the unprimed cardboard results in a less durable sculpture, the tone produced by the paint’s increased absorption and the impact of dense stacking may be artistically utilized.

  • Can you use cardboard as a canvas?

Without a doubt. Throughout history, several well-known painters have used cardboard to produce masterpieces. A creative mind has no bounds. Creative resource use is a clear indication of creative brilliance. cardboard cutouts in different creative shapes and sizes can also be used on doors in conjunction with washi tapes to make the doors look beautiful and attractive for small kids in house.

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