How To Paint Cardboard With Acrylic Or Spray Paint?

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This is the most complete guide on the complete process of how to paint cardboard with acrylic or spray paint where we have discussed everything you need to know.

Are you a DIY lover? Do you love to spend your leisure in doing DIY works? Well, painting can give you the pleasure of doing something on your own that has some purpose.

In terms of DIY materials, cardboard is unbeatable in terms of flexibility, affordability, and ease of use. Repurposing old cardboard to create a new craft or signboard is an excellent use of cardboard.

It can be for home decor, other craftwork, and many more. Despite the ease with which corrugated cardboard can be molded and shaped, painting it can be challenging.

Cardboard is prone to bending, wrinkling, and bleeding due to its fragile craft paper composition. Unlike other sketching materials or canvas, this medium does not allow you to express your thoughts and emotions freely.

When working with cardboard, there should be some considerations, the first of which is to be pickier with your choice of paints.


In this article, you will learn everything about how to paint cardboard with acrylic or spray paint, the process, the materials, and the ways of keeping your work from warping. When you’re done, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge about painting cardboard in the right way.

Why Paint A Cardboard

Before jumping into the key point of painting cardboard with acrylic or spray paint and the process of doing it, let’s learn the point of painting on cardboard in the first place.

It is possible that it occurred to you why does anyone need to paint cardboard? First, find the answer to that.

The cost of art supplies can quickly escalate. Repurposing old cardboard is a favorite pastime for many people because it is inexpensive, light, and versatile.

But despite this, it nevertheless serves as a solid foundation for any painting. A great low-cost canvas, too. Cardboard can be used for both art and craft projects.

It’s easy to get rid of the painting after the project is finished or if it doesn’t turn out as you had hoped. You can paint on it, and it’s long-lasting enough that you won’t have to worry if you make a mistake.

Cardboard can be an excellent tool for experimenting and igniting your imagination. If you’ve never tried painting on something other than cartridge paper, it can be an exciting new experience.

Cut-outs may be glued onto cardboard for added depth and dimension, as well as elevation. Other crafts, such as cardboard modeling, may necessitate painting cardboard.

Designers, architects, and the general public enjoy creating cardboard models for their own amusement. It is necessary to paint some models even if they are purchased as model kits.

However, cardboard should not be used for long-term art projects. Because the paper decomposes with time, your art might not be around for a while.

Types Of Paints And Relevance To Be Used On Cardboards

Many people think that when it comes to painting, any pigmented liquid can be used. This is a big misconception that you need to get rid of in the first place.

Every painting is not meant for every surface. The hold of the color, the outcome, and the durability can be impacted based on your decision to choose the color.

Therefore, you should always pick the color on the basis of the surface and when we are talking about cardboard here, let’s go through the possible options that you can consider.

Spray Paint

Spray paint is one of the common components for DIY lovers. The reason is its convenience and ease of use. When spray painting cardboard, you have the option of using water-based paint.

Spray painting on cardboard is frowned upon due to the ease with which it warps. As a result, if you mishandle the spray paint correctly, the color will seep through and deteriorate the cardboard.

Since paper-based cardboard is wet and warped by moisture that seeps in, its appearance will be altered as a result. Spray paints, on the other hand, may be used to cover a wide surface or if a paintbrush is inconvenient.

You can use spray paints if you need to cover a large area and want a high gloss finish or if you want a particular sheen that only spraying can provide.

Spray paint should be handled with care and only when instructed by the manufacturer. To avoid inhaling harmful paint fumes, spray paint should be used outside or in a dry, well-ventilated area.

Placing newspaper or a tarp behind the cardboard will help protect the surface underneath from getting the paint on it.

Avoid getting paint fumes in your mouth and nose by donning a face mask while spray painting. First-time users should give the paint a good shake for two minutes at least before spraying to ensure that the paint is well mixed and gives a brilliant color every time.

Aim for a distance of 12 inches between the can and the cardboard. Wait for a light coat of spray to dry on the cardboard before continuing.

A wet board and leaking paint are also possible outcomes if you don’t wait. It’s precisely the same method, except the first layer of paint should be put before the second coat of paint and the cardboard.

If you don’t have two hours to spare, consider using a paint primer.

Oil Paint

For cardboard painting, you can also use oil paints. Oil paints, like acrylics, have a viscous texture. Oil paints, on the other hand, produce more vivid hues.

However, oil paints have some drawbacks. One drawback of oil paints is that they are not a very economical option like acrylic, and some of the pigments used in them are hazardous to health.

To clean up, you’ll need turpentine or mineral spirits. If you utilize thick layers of cardboard, its dampness can cause it to warp.

Allow for the gesso to dry completely before brushing on a very thin layer of paint on the primed cardboard. Allow for at least an hour between coats.

If you’re using acrylics, apply several light coats to the cardboard to avoid bending it.

Acrylic Paint

Another popular paint is acrylic. Because of the wetness, acrylic paint and other water-based paints can easily warp cardboard. If you are planning to use acrylic paint in fabric then we suggest you read this guide.

Even if you use a primer, you run the risk of letting the water soak in if you use a thick coat of acrylic paint.

While using acrylic paint on cardboard, you should avoid dipping your sponges or brushes in water both before and after painting.

Using a dry brush for acrylic is not a good idea as the painter may feel uneasy. Try twisting and bending the bristles to loosen them up.

Keep in mind that extra moisture from a dab of paint can generate damp spots if it is squirted onto cardboard. It is much less likely that your board will warp if you coat it with gesso.

However, it is advised that you apply a light layer of paint first and allow it to dry fully before applying a second coat.

Water Color

Even with gesso, watercolors on cardboard are not recommended by professionals. Watercolors, by their very name, imply the presence of liquid.

If you wait for each layer of paint to dry before applying a new one, the result is a smooth surface. You’re placing your bets on painting on canvas, which is engineered to absorb water-based paints.

Preparation Of The Cardboard For Painting

Before you start painting cardboard, you need preparation. It is the first step for every painting job. Getting cardboard ready for painting is actually a lot easier than people think.

First and foremost, you have to ensure that the cardboard doesn’t have dirt or grime and is completely dry before proceeding.

If necessary, prime the card with something like gesso, but this is not required. From there, you’re good to go, and you may apply your preferred paint to the cardboard.

Prior to painting the cardboard, be sure to let the primer completely dry on the surface before going ahead and painting over it.

In addition, you should make sure that the primer is compatible with the paint you intend to use on your card before applying it.

A water-based primer is needed when painting with water-based paint, whereas an appropriate oil-based primer is a must-have when painting with oil-based paint.

Even while some individuals believe that a rip or tear in their cardboard precludes it from being painted, this isn’t always the case.

When the paint is dry, you can mask the tip with tape and paint over it for a more uniform appearance afterward.

Prior to painting the cardboard, you can cover up any tape repairs that were made throughout the DIY process by applying a primer to the surface.

Why Using Primer Is Important

When painting cardboard, we’ve talked about using a primer, but is it really necessary? Cardboard is prone to deterioration due to its inability to withstand moisture and, as a result, paints.

Using a primer isn’t necessary if you’re just having fun with the kids and intend to throw away the cardboard afterward. In order to keep your paints on the cardboard without causing any issues, you’ll need to apply a primer first.

When painting directly on cardboard, you run the risk of wasting a significant amount of paint. This is the reason behind warping, but it also diminishes the paint’s color quality, making it appear drab.

If you want to avoid damaging the cardboard, you’ll have to add more paint layers. As a result, it’s recommended that you prime the cardboard before using it.

An opaque look is achieved by using a primer to avoid the nature of cardboard absorbing too much of the paint.

Using a primer reduces the amount of paint you need to apply without sacrificing the brightness of the colors you choose.

White acrylic gesso, which can be purchased at any craft store, is advised as a primer suitable for cardboard. If you don’t like white gesso, you can instead obtain it in a variety of tinted hues.

DIY gesso made from white glue, paint, and water is an option if you’re feeling daring. Adding color is as simple as sprinkling some acrylic paint on the surface.

Complete Process On How To Paint Cardboard With Acrylic

A lot of painting methods call for you to dip your brush in the water while you paint. However, cardboard can be damaged by water.

In order to prevent warping and curling during painting, use a sponge or a dry brush. Instead, if the brush is excessively stiff, you can easily break the bristles using your fingernails.

Get Paint On The Brush

Dip your brush into the acrylic paint or squeeze it directly onto the sponge or paintbrush. To prevent the cardboard from curling, do not apply the paint straight to it.

You may also fine-tune the amount of paint you use by adding it directly to your brush. An excessive amount of acrylic paint on the paper can distort or cause the color to sink in areas when applied all at once.

Time For Thin Coats

Using a paintbrush, apply several thin coats of paint at a time. Before applying the second layer of paint, wait for the first one to dry.

It usually takes two hours for the drying process to complete. Never, ever use water to dampen your paintbrush. If you need to switch colors, make sure you clean and dry the paintbrush properly.

Apply The Second Coat

With numerous coats, a solid color will be achieved. Some of the first coats will likely be slightly transparent. Adding several coats helps balance out your color.

Keep applying coats until you achieve the desired appearance.

Complete Process On How To Paint Cardboard With Spray Paint

You can use spray paint to paint cardboard and the ease to use is one of the key reasons. A wide variety of paint cans can be purchased at a hardware store.

Work in a safe area when spray painting. The Consumer Product Safety Commission of the USA warns that solvent-based paint fumes and water-based acrylics can both be harmful if consumed.

Make sure you’re in a place with good airflow and plenty of ventilation. It is ideal for spraying paint cardboard in a warm, dry area that is entirely protected from the outdoors.

A carport, for example, provides shelter from the wind, the cold, and the rain.

Make The Surface Ready

Removing spray paint is a difficult task. Take a few moments to set up your workspace and yourself before you begin working.

Use a piece of cardboard, newspaper, or an old sheet to protect the ground from getting painted. Make sure your clothes are protected by an apron or by wearing a face mask and gloves.

The Shake Of The Spray Paint Is Necessary

Before using spray paint, shake the can for three minutes to ensure that the pigments separate. Shaking aids in the mixing of the pigments, resulting in a smooth gradation of color.

Maintain the paint’s flow by reshaking your can every hour.

Spray The Paint Slowly

Hold the can in a parallel position to the cardboard at a distance of about 12 inches after it has been prepared. The paint could create warping if you get any closer.

The can should be sprayed in the desired pattern, but be careful not to overspray. You don’t have to move the can in a straight line from left to right.

Make swirls, zigzags, and polka dots by tracing a pattern on paper. Stay away from saturating the cardboard with more than two coats of spray paint.

Warping can also be caused by oversaturation. Wait for two hours for the first coating to dry before moving on.

Time For A Second Coat

Apply a second application when the first one has dried. The paint may warp if you don’t allow it to cure completely.

Consider using a contrasting color for the second layer in order to create a more pronounced contrast. Spray in the same manner as before, but with a light mist.

Continue with more layers if you want a more opaque hue. If you need to touch up any places, this is the time to do it. Allow two hours for each successive layer of paint to dry completely.

How To Paint Cardboard With Acrylic Or Spray Paint Without Causing The Warp

Apply your paints only after you’ve made sure the cardboard is dry and that your paints don’t contain an excessive amount of water, and avoid keeping the cardboard in a humid area while drying.

Gesso can also be used to protect the cardboard from warping in specific paint formulae, depending on the situation.

While painting cardboard, nothing is more frustrating than seeing all your hard work go to waste because the material begins to warp.

The most common reason for cardboard warping is excessive water on the cardboard, although there are many others.

The best way to avoid warping your cardboard when painting it is to keep it as dry as possible by reducing the amount of water used.

You can distort your cardboard even with the tiniest quantity of water if you are painting it with water-based paint and you end up adding excessive water.

You should be able to tell if the card is too wet to paint by running your fingers over all over the cardboard and by eye inspection alone.

Give it some time for the cardboard surface to dry before painting it if you are concerned that it will distort due to the surface being too moist.

Way To Seal Paint On A Cardboard

Many popular paint sealers are designed to adhere to the paint instead of the cardboard, making the process of sealing cardboard quite simple.

When it comes to sealing your paint, you should have no problem finding the right type of sealer to fit your needs.

The cost of a good paint sealer is significantly lower than most people imagine; therefore, sealing your paint properly is pretty affordable.

In addition to protecting the paint on your cardboard from water, sealing the paint can also protect it against UV light which is often overlooked.

As UV radiation is able to quickly deplete the color of most current paints without a sealer being put to them, this will help to ensure that your paint will last as long as possible on your cardboard.

For most people, a varnish-based sealer for cardboard is the most fantastic option for protecting them from water damage.

Aside from water, the varnish will also protect the painted cardboard from the massive majority of other impurities that could harm it.

Final Verdict

There are a lot of questions about how to paint cardboard with acrylic or spray paint, so we’ve gone through all of them to give you the complete picture.

We have considered each of the points that you may need to keep in mind while performing the job or even before starting the job.

Priming the cardboard and sealing your paint to the cardboard have also been discussed, making the operation more comprehensive and often resulting in an improved end product.

The choice of paint is also very important, and we discussed that in detail. That is the first step that you need to consider because by making this choice wrong, you can be in thick soup.

DIY works always have the risk of ruining the work entirely if the person doesn’t have knowledge or experience in the job.

However, as professional help is not a very cost-effective option, DIY is often opted for by many people. With the steps described here, you can easily complete the job without risking anything.

Just be careful of the material and the ways you are done.

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