How to Paint Cardboard

Updated April 17, 2017

Many of the products that we buy come in cardboard boxes and containers. One way to recycle the abundance of cardboard that ends up at our homes is to turn it into an art project. Cardboard may be used for a variety of projects. Large boxes can be turned into storage containers or makeshift wardrobes by painting them with interesting colours and patterns. Children can have fun making magic castles, boats, or other interesting art projects out of cardboard boxes.

Sketch a model of the project. Draw a design on a piece of paper and fill it in with coloured markers.

Purchase paint for the project. Latex paint is the best paint to use on cardboard. It is water-based paint. This makes clean-up easier and you also don't have to worry about dangerous paint fumes. Buy the cheapest latex paint in the store. There is no need to paint cardboard with expensive paint. The amount of paint depends on the size of the project.

Set up a work area. Lay down a plastic tarp or newspapers to protect the area where you are working.

Cover labels and pictures on the box with a coat of primer. The words and images on the box will show through the paint if they are not primed first. Prime them with a latex primer. Latex primer is available in spray cans.

Apply the base colour. Apply the base colour with a spray can or with a paint pad. Cardboard has a tendency to warp when the paint is to thick because it takes too long to dry. Paint pads allow you to apply a thin coat of paint that dries in five minutes. It is also possible to apply a thin coat of paint with a spray can if you are careful. Hold the can eight to 10 inches away from the cardboard. Spray using back and forth motions.

Paint the cardboard. Use small brushes if you are painting intricate patterns or images. An alternative approach is to make stencils and use spray paint to paint the shapes.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Coloured markers
  • Latex paint
  • Latex primer
  • Plastic tarps
  • Newspapers
  • Paint pad
  • Paint brushes
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About the Author

Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.