How to Paint Cardboard

    by Robert Russell

    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.


    Many purchased products arrive in cardboard boxes. One way to recycle accumulated cardboard involves using it for art projects. As you create with cardboard, adding a coat of paint to the surface can make lively transformations. Large boxes can become innovative storage containers or makeshift wardrobes by painting them with engaging colors and patterns. Children often enjoy making magic castles or boats using painted cardboard boxes.

    Things You'll Need

    • Plastic tarp or newspaper
    • Latex primer
    • Paint pad
    • Paint brushes
    • Latex paint or tempera paint
    • Stencils (optional)

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    Set up a work area by laying down a plastic tarp or newspapers to protect the area where you will paint.

    Apply latex primer over labels and pictures on the box to ensure adequate coverage. The words and images on the box will show through the paint if you do not apply primer first. Allow the primer to dry completely according to manufacturer recommendations.

    Apply the latex or tempera paint over the primer, using spray application or a paint pad. Cardboard may warp if the paint is too thick, because it takes too long to dry. Paint pads allow you to apply a thin coat of paint that dries quickly. It is also possible to apply a thin coat of paint with a spray can with careful application. Hold the paint can eight to 10 inches away from the cardboard, moving the can back and forth. Allow the paint to dry completely.

    Add decorative paint over the base coat. Use small brushes to paint intricate patterns or images. You might also use stencils and spray paint to paint shapes.

    • Use latex paint to simplify clean-up and to avoid toxic paint fumes.

    Photo Credits

    • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images