The world of crafting involves a wide array of materials. Paper, fabric, wood, foam, and cardboard are just the tip of the iceberg. Each of these materials has their own tips and tricks you need to know to use them well, and cardboard is no different.
Making a craft with cardboard requires knowledge of its inherent strengths and weaknesses, as well as the best ways to bond it together with adhesive.
So, what’s the best way to glue cardboard? Gluing cardboard is easy if you have the right type of glue. Simply apply the glue and press the two pieces of cardboard together, holding it in place until the glue has had a chance to cure enough to stand on its own.
The key to gluing cardboard is choosing the right adhesive for your project, depending on if the cardboard needs to be sturdy or is a temporary project, or what other materials you may be using with the cardboard.
If you’re interested in using cardboard for your next craft, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn everything you need to know about gluing cardboard!
Best Types Of Cardboard To Glue
When it comes to gluing cardboard, it doesn’t really matter what type of cardboard you’re using.
You can cut up the cardboard from an online shopping delivery box, a moving box, or even buy sheets of cardboard at the store. It all works great with glue, as long as you’re using the right one.
For example, with cardboard that has a shiny, slick surface on the outside because the box has been painted or coated to be a different color, you’ll need a glue that can bond well with a slick surface.
Glues to look for in this situation would be glues that work well with plastic. Plastic also has a naturally smooth surface, so glues that work with plastic will usually work with coated cardboard.
An alternative would be to sand down that layer of coating or paint to get to the brown cardboard underneath, but be careful with trying this.
Cardboard is still made from recycled paper, and paper can turn to crumbles quickly if rubbed with an abrasive material such as sandpaper.
We recommend simply leaving the cardboard coated and choosing a more heavy-duty glue.
This would also work if you painted the cardboard yourself for your project. If you’re making furniture for a dollhouse, for example, you likely wouldn’t want every item in the dollhouse to be a dull brown.
If you paint your cardboard before gluing, be sure to allow the paint enough time to sufficiently dry before applying the glue. If you apply the glue before the paint is fully dry, the glue will lift and smear the paint.
Best Types Of Glue For Cardboard
We’ve mentioned a few times that the key to gluing cardboard is using the right adhesive.
Choosing the right adhesive will depend on a variety of factors:
- The required stability of your final project
- The permanence or temporary nature of your final project
- Other materials you plan to use with the glue (paper, fabric, wood, metal, plastic, etc.)
- Whether you need to glue large pieces of cardboard together or small areas for detail work
- How much dry time you have before you need the final project
In the list of adhesive options below, we’ll tell you exactly what each type of glue is good for and what projects they’re best suited for.
Before you grab whatever bottle of glue you have lying around the house for your next project, review our list below and choose one that will give you the best end results.
1. PVA Glue
PVA glue is a wide category of glue, including white school glue, wood glue, and even book binding glue.
PVA stands for polyvinyl acetate, which describes the synthetic polymer that’s created with the specific chemical formula used to create this type of substance.
Although PVA glue sounds scientific and intimidating, as we mentioned above, it’s the most commonly used type of glue. If you’ve ever used Elmer’s school glue, you’ve used PVA glue.
PVA glue is the best choice for gluing cardboard that doesn’t need to be sturdy. It won’t hold up to a lot of weight or pressure, but it’s great for temporary or light projects.
You can find many different types of PVA glue that work, but our top two recommendations are Lineco Neutral pH Adhesive and Elmer’s Glue All.
Lineco Neutral pH Adhesive is the type of PVA glue that’s used for book binding. This is a good indicator that it works well with paper, which is what cardboard is made of.
Elmer’s Glue All is another great choice because it’s used so widely for paper and school projects, which often include cardboard.
PVA glue provides a high level of flexibility, so your cardboard can withstand some tweaks to the design as the glue is drying.
Some people thin their glue with water to make it easier to apply with a brush, so this can be a helpful idea if you would prefer to use brush than the applicator tip on the bottle.
2. Contact Cement
Switching gears to a more heavy-duty type of glue, Contact Cement is an option if you’re looking to create a highly stable structure that can bear a reasonable amount of weight.
(By reasonable amount of weight, we mean that you wouldn’t want to stand on your structure with your full body weight, but you can likely add several pounds of weight before it will start to deteriorate).
One major drawback to using contact cement is that it’s highly flammable and the vapors can cause flash fires and are harmful when inhaled.
If you’re going to use contact cement, be sure to use it outside so you have plenty of ventilation, and wear a breathing mask. Leave your project outside to fully cure.
Another small drawback to Contact Cement is that it’s a little more expensive per ounce when you compare it to other adhesive options.
Still, it’s a great option if you’re looking to create a sturdy, weight bearing structure. You can use a jar of Contact Cement with a brush for application, or buy tubes of Contact Cement for detail application.
3. Spray Adhesive
Spray adhesive is ideal for those crafters looking to connect two large pieces of cardboard together, or looking to attach other large pieces of material to wide expanses of cardboard.
Using a spray adhesive means that you won’t have as much control over where you apply the adhesive, so it’s not ideal for detail work or small areas of application.
A project that’s ideal for spray adhesive would be covering an entire cardboard project in fabric. For example, to make a dollhouse armchair or couch out of cardboard, connect the small pieces of cardboard using a more precise adhesive like PVA glue.
Once the structure is set, apply a spray adhesive to the entire cardboard construct. You can now choose to either stick pieces of cotton balls to make the furniture soft, or simply wrap fabric around the structure.
If you do choose to go with the cotton ball step, you can allow them to dry, then use your spray adhesive again and stick your fabric to the cotton and any remaining exposed pieces of cardboard.
There are many spray adhesive options on the market, but 3M Super 77 is a great multi-purpose spray adhesive that would be ideal for those looking to use several materials with your cardboard.
4. Gorilla Clear Glue
Gorilla Clear Glue is another adhesive option that’s a little more expensive per ounce compared to other glues, but works great if you want a strong, sturdy bond.
There are many types of Gorilla Glue available, so be sure when purchasing to specifically buy Gorilla Clear Glue.
You would not want to use super glue or foaming glue. Super glue is too much to use with cardboard, while foam glue won’t hold up well or provide precise enough application when joining pieces of cardboard.
Gorilla Clear Glue is a good multi-purpose glue that works on several different surfaces, so you can rest assured it will work well to bond cardboard to other cardboard, or any other material.
If you’re working to make a model or prototype of an engineering or architectural structure such as a skyscraper or bridge, you’ll definitely want to go with Gorilla Clear Glue.
Gorilla Glue as a company is known for creating glues and adhesives that provide a very strong, sturdy bond. So if you choose to use Gorilla Clear Glue, you can rest assured that your project will stay intact no matter what tests you put it through.
5. Mod Podge
An adhesive that most crafters know very well, Mod Podge is another fantastic option to use for gluing cardboard.
Mod Podge creates a more flexible bond, similar to PVA glue, so it’s best used for projects that don’t need to support any weight or can be temporary models, such as for school projects.
It also works great to use Mod Podge for cardboard because not only can you use it to glue your cardboard together, but you can use it to seal your project afterward.
If you’re painting your cardboard project rather than wrapping it in another material like fabric, then it’s a great idea to apply a layer of Mod Podge over your whole project at the end.
Mod Podge comes in a jar, so you’ll need to also grab a pack of glue brushes like the ones for the Contact Cement above to apply your glue.
6. Hot Glue
Hot glue is a top choice for several crafters who work with cardboard. It creates a strong bond and dries fast enough that you can finish your craft quickly.
The only drawback to using hot glue is that it can be messy to apply if you’re not used to it. Hot glue is known for leaving strings of dried glue behind if not applied precisely.
However, those dried glue strings are very easy to break off, so you can clean up your project if you’re still learning how to properly wield your hot glue gun.
If you want to work swiftly and easily with gluing cardboard, hot glue is probably your best option among the glues.
To grab your own hot glue gun with glue sticks, we recommend picking up this set by Ximytec. It includes one 20W hot glue gun and 20 sticks of hot glue.
7. Aleene’s Tacky Glue
The last adhesive we recommend for gluing cardboard is Aleene’s Tacky Glue. This glue is well known among crafters who work with fabric, though the Aleene’s brand has a wide array of glues that are great for different materials.
Their Tacky Glue will be exactly as it sounds – tacky. This is a very sticky glue that will stick your fingers together if you’re not careful in application.
The bright side of its tackiness is that you know it’ll do a great job of sticking to your cardboard and binding your cardboard pieces together!
If you’re looking for a glue you can use across multiple projects that will work great with gluing cardboard together and gluing cardboard to other materials, then Aleene’s Tacky Glue is a perfect choice.
Projects For Gluing Cardboard
Gluing cardboard might seem like an odd project to some, but it can be helpful for a variety of crafts. If you’re looking for some ideas to recycle your cardboard, we found a great video from 5-Minute Crafts on YouTube explaining 15 DIY cardboard crafts we’ve linked below.
However, if this video still isn’t what you had in mind, below are just a few more ideas of what you can make by gluing cardboard.
1. Models & Prototypes
Before you set out to make a permanent structure out of wood or metal, it can be a good idea to test the design out with cardboard.
Wood and metal are hard materials to work with, and they take a lot of time and precision to build correctly. By building your project in cardboard first, you can test your design and figure out how the final product might look.
This can be for architectural or engineering models, such as buildings or bridges, or it can apply to new invention prototypes. Many innovators and entrepreneurs got their start by gluing pieces of cardboard in their garage. You can try it too!
2. Dollhouse Furniture
As we’ve mentioned throughout the article, it can be a great cost-effective idea to craft your own furniture for your child’s dollhouse from cardboard.
Any furniture item can be made with cardboard. Beds, chairs, sofas, dressers, mirrors, kitchen counters, refrigerators, and more can all be made with cardboard.
You can add finishing touches to your furniture items by adding fabric, plastic accessories, or painting the cardboard.
It could be a great idea to work with your child to build their furniture pieces from cardboard. They might enjoy seeing how the furniture was made and learning how to build things from scratch.
3. Projects With Kids
Speaking of working with kids, gluing cardboard is a fun activity you can do with children of all ages to build projects of all scopes and difficulties.
With young children, you can use a cardboard circle cut-out and give them small pieces of colorful paper to glue onto the face of the cardboard to make a mosaic.
With older children, you can work with them to make more intricate structures like houses, cars, or robots. If you’re working with younger children, it’s best to use Elmer’s glue or Mod Podge in case they put it in their mouths.
However, if you have older children who don’t put everything in their mouths anymore, you can use some of the other adhesives like the Lineco PVA glue or spray adhesive.
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