How To Paint Cardboard (Easy DIY Guide For All Paint Types)

If you're a crafty person who enjoys trying different do-it-yourself projects, you're probably wondering if you can paint cardboard. It's entirely possible to decorate cardboard with varying types of paint, including acrylic, oil, and spray paint options.  

If you’d like to learn how to paint cardboard, along with the types of paint that work best on it, be sure to use this guide to learn more! 

If you’ve found yourself asking, "can you spray paint cardboard?" you're not the only one! Check out these different types of paint that you can use on cardboard while learning more about how to use them to achieve the best results possible with any project you're handling. 

painted carboard for art

Acrylic Paint

It’s entirely possible to use acrylic on cardboard, but you’ll need to be cautious when doing so. The best way to apply the acrylic paint to the cardboard is to use a dry brush instead of a wet one. So, be sure that you don’t wet your brushes.

While you may be used to dipping your paint brushes into a bowl of water before you dip them in paint, this isn't the best solution for acrylic paint. Because you don't want to use wet brushes with acrylic paint, make sure to have multiple dry bushes available to use!

Spray Paint

You can use spray paint on cardboard to decorate it or even cover it with an entirely different color. Some people stress over the idea of using spray paint on cardboard, worried that it will warp on them when they’re trying to do it.

Of course, if you’re not using the spray paint properly, it will drip down and need to be fixed. If you want to achieve the best results, prime your cardboard beforehand. 

Once you’ve primed it, apply the spray paint in layers, going one step at a time.

Oil Paint

It’s also possible to use oil paint on cardboard, but you’ll need to take a careful approach with the product. You’ll need to apply the thinnest layers possible of the oil paint when working with cardboard.

If you apply thick layers, the paint may begin to drip, causing damage to your cardboard and ruining the outcome of your paint job. After you apply one coat, you’ll need to let it dry completely before applying the next coat. It does require some patience!

How To Paint Cardboard With Different Types Of Paint

One of the most important things about painting cardboard is avoiding warping. You may want to know how to paint cardboard without warping. If so, you’ll need to take specific steps and have the right tools available to use.

With the right products, a bit of patience, and the best technique possible, it can become that much easier for you to paint the cardboard box with ease. 

Painting a Cardboard Box

When you're applying acrylic or oil paint, you'll need multiple brushes. It's best to NOT get these brushes wet while you're dipping them in acrylic or oil paint. After all, you already know that oil and water don't mix well and can quickly lead to a mess.

In addition to using multiple dry brushes so that you don’t have to worry about rinsing them and getting them wet, you should also prime the cardboard box before you begin the painting process.

If you want to save this step, you can buy treated cardboard. If not, you can use acrylic gesso on your cardboard to prime it.

tools for painting cardboard

Painting a Wood Effect On Cardboard

If you would like to know how to paint wood grain on cardboard, it’s a lot easier than it looks. You’ll need to use a base coat designed for woodgraining, which provides the overall appearance of wood on a piece of cardboard, ultimately making it look more valuable.

The good news is that this product is chip resistant and won’t become damaged with ease. In addition to using the right base coat, it’s important to have the right brush for applying this coating to your cardboard. The best brush to use is a faux painting graining brush that will get the job done for you that much faster.

Spray Painting a Cardboard Box

Although it requires a bit more precision, it’s also possible to spray paint your cardboard box. You should buy the best spray paint for cardboard to ensure that the results turn out the way you anticipated.

If you’re not sure which brand to use, Krylon is ideal for those who are just getting started with spray painting cardboard. You can also use acrylic spray paint to decorate your cardboard box to your liking. Remember, take your time and work slowly to see the best results!

Cardboard Painting FAQs

Can you recycle cardboard that has paint on it?  

In most areas, you can recycle the cardboard, even if it has paint on it. Of course, it’s best to find out by visiting your city’s recycling website to find out what types of materials they’re willing to take. 

You don’t have to worry about contributing to waste because you’re repurposing the cardboard already and may be able to recycle it in the future when you’re done with it. 

Do you need primer for cardboard?  

It’s good to have a primer for cardboard but it isn’t necessarily a need if you get the right type of cardboard to use in the first place. If you get the treated cardboard, you can skip the process of applying the primer to your cardboard.

However, if it’s not treated, use the acrylic gesso as a primer and allow it to dry before proceeding to cover the cardboard box in any type of paint. 

How do you seal a cardboard painting?  

If you’d like to seal your cardboard painting, it’s best to use an enamel spray that will provide a protective layer to the painting to keep it from scratching or becoming damaged.

While some people think they can use hairspray, this isn't the best solution. If you use hairspray, it may not react well with the paint you've used on your cardboard, thus resulting in a bit of a miss. Instead, buy the enamel spray and save yourself the frustration. 

Does painting on cardboard last?  

Painting on cardboard can last as long as you’d like it to if you take the right steps. Not only will you need to use treated cardboard or use a primer, but you should be taking your time when applying your paint, allowing each layer to dry to avoid warping, and then sealing the finished piece with the proper sealing agent.

If you use the sealing agent, it keeps the painting protected on the cardboard and allows it to last for more extended periods! 


You can paint cardboard while completing all kinds of do-it-yourself projects. If you'd like to add paint to cardboard, consider buying treated cardboard to save yourself some time. If not, you can use a primer, whether you're applying oil, acrylic, or spray paint to the cardboard.

Finally, don't forget to seal it! You can create some of the most unique pieces on cardboard and save them for a long time when you’ve sealed your finished piece.