Do you love doing DIY projects around your home? Have you made some amazing sculptures out of cardboard and want to learn how to paint them? Well, look no further, you’ve come to the right place.

First, I’m going to show you which paints work best on cardboard and what not to use. Then, we’re going to see what the best methods and techniques for painting cardboard are. If you want to learn all of this and more — keep on reading.

Cardboard and DIY

If you’re crafting with cardboard, the possibilities are almost endless. There are so many cute and practical things you can make; it’s insane. Also, since cardboard is so easy to work with, you can include your kids and do a project together.

You can make storage boxes, mirror frames, or even a playhouse for your young ones. Not only is cardboard easy and fun to use, but it’s also environmentally friendly. Do you still have that huge cardboard box your IKEA chair came in? Well, instead of throwing it out, you can repurpose it, put some paint on it, and make a cool theater for your kids.

How to Choose the Right Paint for Cardboard

Now, painting cardboard isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if you have the wrong kind of paint. Using the wrong paint on the cardboard can cause it to bleed or wrinkle the paper. Also, if you want to do the project with your kids, you need to make sure that the paints are safe.

Now, another thing to consider when buying paints for your project is whether you’re going to need a primer. So, in a sea of different colors and brands, how do you know which one to buy? Well, let’s take a look.

1. Acrylic Paints

First, let’s start with paints that are cheap and easy to use — acrylic. The consistency of acrylic paints is pretty similar to oil ones since neither of them will penetrate the cardboard or leave it soaked. But the biggest difference between the two is that acrylic paints tend to be much cheaper compared to oils. Now, let’s take a look at some of the best acrylic paints on the market.

Winsor & Newton — Best for Beginners

If it’s your first time working with acrylics, Winsor & Newton’s acrylic set could be a great place to start. Depending on what you need, you can go with the six, ten, and fifteen color set. The reason why I chose this is set is that the colors are vivid and opaque, but they won’t break the bank.

Matisse — Best for Kids

Now, if you want to include your kids in your fun project, I’d go with acrylic paints from Matisse. They are non-toxic and waterproof. Also, the colors are vibrant and won’t fade away.

Liquitex — Best for Professionals

If it isn’t your first time putting acrylic paint on paper (or cardboard), I recommend trying Liquitex paints. They come in small sets and cost a bit more compared to the two I’ve previously mentioned; but the colors are vivid, smooth, and long-lasting.

2. Oil Paints

The first thing you should consider when looking at oil paints for your cardboard is the price. Even though the colors tend to be brighter compared to acrylic ones, they also come with a heftier price tag.

Second, if you want to use oils on cardboard, you’ll have to prime it first. Now, I’m going to show you some of my favorite oil paints on the market. And, a bit later, we’re going to talk about how to prime your cardboard, so the paints don’t seep into it and ruin your work.

Winsor & Newton — Best for Beginners

Once again, we have Winsor & Newton paints. They have a 12-color set of oil paints, which I think could be perfect for anyone who wants to give this type of paint a try. The set also comes with a little pocket brush and a mixing palette in the lid.

Gamblin — Best for Fast Drying

Now, Gamblin paints are a bit more expensive compared to the ones from Winsor & Newton, but for a good reason. First, the set comes encased in a beautiful wooden panel and features nine stunning shades. Also, the tubes are 37ml each, and they will last you a long time.

Michael Harding — Best Quality Colors

Last but not least, we have a Michael Harding oil paint set. Now, this is by far the most expensive set I’ve mentioned so far, but the stunning, opaque colors are well worth it. If you don’t want to get the starter set, Michael Harding also has individual oil paint tubes, which are 40ml each.

3. Can You Spray Paint Cardboard

Unlike styrofoam, your cardboard project won’t start melting if you spray paint it. Another advantage of spray painting cardboard is that the drying time is only about 15 minutes. But, there are still a few things you need to do before you start spraying away.

First off, to achieve the best results, you’ll need to use a primer. If you don’t have it on hand, you should try and dilute the paint to a lower consistency.

Also, you have to keep the cardboard flat to prevent it from breaking and crumbling. Now, I’m going to show you what some of my personal favorite spray paints are and talk about why they could work for your project.

Krylon — Best for Beginners

To start off, we have Krylon’s spray paints. The reason why I wanted to start off with these is that they’re the cheapest ones and they’re easy to use. You can get them in a variety of colors, and they’re a two-in-one primer and paint mix.

Evolve Elite — Best All-Around Paint Set

Next up is a spray paint set from Evolve Elite. The set features 12 different colors so you can let your imagination run wild. But, just remember to spray paint in a well-ventilated area, and always wear a mask to avoid inhalation.

How to Paint Cardboard

As I mentioned, there’s a lot more to painting cardboard than just slapping some color on and waiting for it to dry. If you want to avoid the colors bleeding everywhere and crumbling the paper, here are some things you should know.


First, let’s talk about priming. There are a couple of things you can use to prepare your cardboard for painting. You can use either a liquid latex primer or gesso. Which one you decide to go with depends on the kind of base you want to start with.

For example, if you use gesso, you’ll be able to cancel out the dark tones of the cardboard. You’ll get a clean, white surface to start with. Gesso usually takes around 12–24 hours to dry and I recommend going in with two coats. You can do one coat vertically and one horizontally.

On the other hand, if you use liquid latex, you’ll be starting off with a somewhat darker background. You can also speed up the liquid latex drying process by using a hairdryer or a heat gun.


Now that you’ve primed and prepared your cardboard, you can start painting. Since you don’t want to expose it to too much moisture, you’re going to need a dry brush and a sponge if you’re painting with acrylics or oils. If you feel like the brush is too stiff, you can try to soften it up a bit using your fingers.

Also, make sure to put your paint directly on the brush or sponge to avoid curling your cardboard. Apply thin coats of the paint across your cardboard and use smaller strokes. You should wait for a couple of hours before going in with more layers, so your cardboard doesn’t get warped.

Now, if you’ve decided to go with spray paint, the process is a bit different. First, place an old sheet under the cardboard to protect the floor. Shake the can for a few minutes before you start painting to make sure the paint is consistent.

You should hold the can about 12 inches away from the cardboard to avoid pooling the paint in one place. You can wait for 15 minutes before you put another coat down to get the best results. The last piece of advice I have for you is to be creative and have fun with your project.

Bottom Line

Now, let’s do a quick recap of everything we’ve learned. The best paints to use for cardboard are acrylic, oil, and spray. Depending on which paint you go with, you can use different primers.

If you’re a total beginner, I recommend going with acrylic paints, just because they’re the easiest to use. Also, they won’t break the bank, unlike some oil paints. You can also be really precise when using them and paint smaller details.

But, in the end, it all comes down to how big your project is and what you like to use or have on deck. Whichever paint you decide to go with, in the end, you can rest assured you’ve made a good choice.

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