5 Best Spray Paints for Cardboard and Cardboard Boxes

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Last updated: June 7, 2023

Discover the best spray paints for cardboard and cardboard boxes in this our comprehensive paint guide.

Best spray paints for cardboards

Spray paint is probably the easiest and most inexpensive way to paint cardboards. However, because cardboard is such a porous material, most regular paints don’t readily adhere to it. 

If you’re looking for the best spray paints for cardboard, you’ve come to the right place. 

The best spray paint for cardboard contains less moisture and doesn’t seep into the material. In most cases, it includes a primer and could either be acrylic or oil paint.

In this article, we will look at the top seven spray paints to help recycle or remodel your old cardboard boxes and transform them into a beautiful work of art.

Can you use spray paint on cardboard?

Yes, you can, as long as you use the right type of spray paint. Due to the porous nature of cardboard, only spray paint with a small amount of moisture adheres well to it. Two good examples are acrylic and oil-based paint. 

For the best results, before painting cardboard, ensure the material is dry and apply a gesso primer (that is, if the paint has no built-in primer) beforehand. 

For more information on how to use spray paint on cardboard, check out our article: Can you spray paint cardboard? 

How to choose the best spray paint for cardboard

Using the wrong spray paint on cardboard can cause it to bleed or wrinkle. Here are the key things to look at before choosing any product.

Color Stability: Some spray paints need to be applied on top of a primer base. This ensures the color is stable and more visible. On the other hand, some spray paint do not require a separate coat of primer because they have primer built-in. Always check the product label to know if the product is paint and primer in one or if you’ll need a separate coat of primer. 

VOC Content: Spray paints generally contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds). The higher the amount of VOC, the more toxic the paint is. If you’re working with kids, you want to choose a product with less VOC. Oil-based spray paints usually have the highest amount of VOC. Whatever product you use, it’s very important you work in an area with good ventilation to reduce the impact of the fumes. 

Convenience: You also want a spray can that is easy to use. Some brands feature innovative spray nozzles that improve coverage by allowing you to spray at any angle. They can also feature a large tip for comfortable spraying and to reduce finger fatigue. 

Top 5 Best Spray Paints for Cardboard and Cardboard Boxes

1. Krylon K02730007 Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint

The Krylon Fusion is an all-in-one spray paint designed to bond to the most difficult surfaces, including cardboard. It is commonly used in metal, wood, PVC, tile, and even plastic. It delivers the best-in-class adhesion and leaves a durable, sleek finish. 

One of the main highlights is that it doesn’t require a primer. And that is because the paint has a built-in primer and sealant. This makes it ideal for exterior surfaces.

The spray is available in different sheens. If you plan to use it on cardboard, we recommend choosing a flat finish, as it seems to work perfectly and provides a unique, chic feel.

Also, you can choose one from the many color options or just go with clear if you want to maintain the original color of the cardboard. 

According to the manufacturer, you don’t need to sand the surface. But if you’re using it on a different material, it might not feel as slick as you want. In this case, you can gently sand it to smoothen it out. 

Another nice feature is the easy push, big button spray tip, which reduces finger fatigue and allows you to spray in all directions, even upside down.

It takes about 20 minutes for the paint to dry to touch. However, you need to wait at least an hour before handling it. If you want to apply another coat, do so within the first two hours or after two days. 

We recommend using several light coats until you completely cover the markings or get the desired color vibrancy you want. The paint comes in multiple colors and finishes, so you’re not limited to only one option. 

Each can is 12 ounces and covers up to 25 square feet. 

For optimal results, spray in moderate temperatures (55-75 degrees) and low humidity conditions (ideally, below 60 percent). 

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Sprays smoothly with no clogs.
  • Available in a variety of colors and finishes.
  • Dries fast.
  • Works on various materials.
  • Comfortable spray tip.
  • Great coverage.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • A bit pricey.

2. Rust Oleum 249130 Spray Paint

The Universal All-Surface Spray by Rust-Oleum is oil-based, which makes it ideal for cardboard and cardboard boxes. When applied correctly, it produces an attractive, shimmering metallic look on surfaces that doesn’t fade or chip easily. 

As the name suggests, the paint is not only suitable for cardboard; it works on virtually every surface, including difficult ones like metal, wicker, and plastic. In fact, it also provides rust protection on metal, which increases durability. 

So besides painting cardboard, the paint will come in handy when you need to update a piece of furniture or restore old items. 

Like other Rust-Oleum paint, it has a large color selection and different sheens. Once again, we prefer the matte or flat finish on cardboard for a low-sheen look. But you can also choose gloss, metallic, or satin if you want more shine. 

The paint is also available as a clear topcoat, which you can apply on other oil paints or by itself.

The any-angle spray tip allows for constant spraying in all directions and reduces finger fatigue. 

The drying time is 30 minutes, and you can apply several light coats for better coverage. It can take up to a week to fully cure, so you have to be a little patient. 

Each 11-ounce can cover up 5o 25 square feet. 

Ensure you shake the bottle before use and frequently while on the job. And keep your hand moving to avoid oversaturating any spot. 

As expected, this spray paint produces toxic fumes, which can be overwhelming if you don’t use it in an area with good ventilation. Keep a solvent close by for cleanup.Β 

Overall, we are satisfied with the quality of this product. It contains a primer, which saves you money and time. Besides cardboard, you can use it on other surfaces. 

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Protects from rust and corrosion.
  • Fast drying formula
  • Provides excellent adhesion and coverage.
  • Works on variety of surfaces.
  • Sprays in all directions.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • Strong odor.

3. MARSH-30394 Mark Over Paint

If you have a corrugated cartoon you want to reuse, the Mash Over Paint will come in handy. It is designed to obliterate old marks on brown corrugated cartoons so you can reuse them instead of throwing them away. 

The paint is true to lead-free and marks on virtually any surface, producing a highly visible color. It is also free of CFC and CFHC, which makes it completely safe to use. 

Ensure you mask the surface before you commence. To apply the coating, all you need is a few quick sweeps with short bursts of spray. Luckily, it dries really fast (within 5 minutes) and can be written without smudging. 

However, the paint is a little thin, so you will most likely need at least two light to medium coats to properly cover existing bar codes, lettering, or shipping marks. Wait at least 5 minutes between each coat.

Once dry, the color is a very close match to a typical corrugated cardboard box. Make sure it dries completely before handling.

The only negative is that it leaves the smell of spray paint, so it’s best to use it outside or somewhere with adequate ventilation. Also, some people might consider it a bit expensive, but we think it’s worth the price.

To prevent clogging of the nozzles, shake the can frequently while using it. 

Overall, Mash Over is a great way to cover old markings on boxes and save a little money. For the price, it comes highly recommended.

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Highly visible colors.
  • Marks on any surface.
  • Dries very fast (within 15 minutes)
  • Easy to use.
  • Great coverage.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • It has a strong smell
  • A bit expensive

4. Krylon I00401 Glitter Aerosol Spray

The Krylon Glitter is perfect for creating a glistening gold effect on cardboard that looks expensive and antique. It provides a perfect sheer glittery coverage that sticks and doesn’t fall off like many glitter paints. 

The paint works as it should as long as you do the prep work. It can be applied light or heavy, but it’s best to use thin layers to avoid drips. 

The shade is pretty much a top coat. The glitter gold color is beautiful, not too sparkly, though it might appear a little dull to some people, but it’s exactly as expected. 

The only downside is the price. We feel it could have been a little cheaper, considering the size of the bottle. It’s smaller than an average spray can, so you don’t get a lot of paint. However, it does make up for this with its superior coverage, but we still think a larger bottle would have been better.

We recommend spraying at 16-18 inches away from the surface at first. Then move close as you spray till you get a good distance that gives you the desired coverage. 

The smell from the paint is pretty strong, so you should use it outside. After painting, allow the item to completely dry and “air out” before using it. Sometimes, this can take a few days, but it’s necessary to get rid of any lingering paint smell. 

Overall, we are satisfied with the quality of this glitter paint. It provides very good coverage and is suitable for cardboard and other surfaces. We wish the bottle was bigger! 

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Beautiful glitter and gold color
  • Very good coverage
  • Reliable quality (made in the US)
  • Beautiful glitter shade
  • Easy to use

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • The bottle could be larger.

5. Krylon K05588007 COLORmaxx Spray Paint

Like the previous product, the Krylon COLORmaxx spray paint offers special rust protection for metals. But it’s also flexible enough for cardboard and many other surfaces. 

It comes in a convenient spray can that is easy to use and doesn’t drip much except for user error. 

In addition to coloring cardboard, the paint also protects from the weather, making it suitable for anywhere, whether inside or outside the house.

As the name implies, the paint comes with a built-in primer, so there’s no need to apply a separate coat of primer. 

The spray tip is quite wide, which makes it more comfortable to use. Also, it sprays at any angle, even upside down. 

Each aerosol can is 12 ounces and covers up to 25 square feet. 

The paint is available in various colors and finishes. Our favorite option is the gold color and metallic finish, which also looks great on metals. 

Under moderate weather and temperature, the paint dries to touch in 20 minutes. You can reduce the drying time by using multiple light coats instead of a heavy one. This also increases the effectiveness and improves the final result. 

Make sure to prepare the cardboard surface adequately before applying the paint. Otherwise, it may not last long. The paint has a very strong odor, which is expected since it’s oil-based. So, be sure to use it in a well-ventilated space. 

Overall, we are satisfied with the quality of COLORmaxx. It might not be a typical cardboard paint, but it gets the job done when applied correctly. It’s a good deal for the price. 

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Dries really fast
  • Reasonable pricing.
  • Easy to use
  • Provides rust protection for metal.
  • It doesn’t require a primer.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • It has a strong smell.

6. Pintyplus Aqua Spray Paint

If you want something more targeted towards arts and crafts, Pintyplus Aqua will make an excellent choice. The set includes eight mini spray cans with different pastel colors that are super easy to use.

Each can is exactly 4.2oz, which is a perfect size for kids. The colors include Light Orange, Apple Green, Yellow Chick, Ice Blue, Lavanda Violet, Pink Bubble Gum, White, and Black. 

Each color leaves an attractive ultra-matte finish, which looks great on cardboard. You can also use it on plastic, wood, and metal. 

A special feature of the kit is that it’s low-odor and environmentally friendly. So it’s safe to use it indoors. In fact, it’s the only spray paint for cardboard we recommend for kids. The smaller size makes it more convenient to handle compared to larger cans. 

The paint is very forgiving and can be easily removed with soapy water and a brush if you are not satisfied with the outcome. But we don’t recommend doing this on cardboard since it absorbs water.

Another important highlight is the low-pressure valve, which provides greater control and helps to reduce overspray. However, since the paint is water-based, the nozzle can easily clog up if you allow the paint to build up and dry inside. One way to avoid this is to spray the can upside down until no paint comes out. 

Also, before you start painting, make sure the surface is clean and dry. Shake the bottle vigorously for a minute or two and test spray on a piece of paper before moving to the target surface. 

The drying time is about one hour, but the recoat can be done after 30 minutes.

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Perfect for kids and novice artists
  • Low odor (safe to use)
  • Easy to use
  • Available in a wider range of colors.
  • Good coverage.
  • It doesn’t take long to dry.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • We wish the aerosol cans were larger.

7. Rust-Oleum 7732830 Stops Rust Spray Paint

The Rust-Oleum Stops Rust is commonly used to add color to metals while providing rust protection. While it’s not a popular option for cardboard or cardboard boxes, it bonds pretty well to the material. 

The paint is oil-based, so care should be taken when using it. It’s best to use it outdoors or in a well-ventilated space. 

Besides cardboard and metal, it works on other surfaces and protects from the weather. When applied correctly, the final paint job is chip-resistant and retains its color for a long time. It is also resistant to abrasion.

Each aerosol can is 12 oz and covers up to 15 square feet, which is pretty decent. For comfort, the spray tip has a wider finger pad, which allows you to spray for a long time without developing fatigue. The tip also sprays in direction, even upside down.

Drying time is longer compared to the other options, around 2 to 4 hours, depending on the weather condition. Once dry, it leaves a smooth satin finish with a hunter-green hue. There are other colors and sheens available, so feel free to choose what works best for your spray paint projects.

As with most spray paint, the only negative is the strong odor. It’s best used outdoors. Also, you will need to wear a mask.

Nevertheless, Stops Rust is one of the easiest ways to add color to cardboard. It produces a bold appearance and provides long-lasting protection. For the price, it comes highly recommended. 

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Multiple color options
  • Resistant to chipping and abrasion
  • Suitable for different surfaces
  • Comfortable spray tip to reduce finger fatigue
  • Excellent color retention.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • Longer drying time

Spray Painting on Cardboard without Using Primer

It’s possible to spray paint cardboard without using a primer. But this will mean applying several thin layers of paint because you don’t want the cardboard to absorb too much paint. 

Without a primer, there’s nothing acting as a shield between the cardboard and paint, so it ends up soaking up too much. 

The effect is that the paint will look pale when dry, so you will end up applying the paint multiple times. This doesn’t only prolong the project but also results in a paint job that is less durable, and there’s a huge chance the cardboard could warp. 

Is It Better to Spray Paint Cardboard or Use Regular Paint?

It depends on what you prefer – speed or precision. Both options can be used on cardboard, but each has its pros and cons. 

Spray paint is very easy to use and applies paint from any angle, allowing you to cover larger areas of cardboard. It dries much faster than regular paint, usually within the first 15 to 20 minutes, and produces a smooth and even finish. 

Regular paint, on the other hand, offers more precision and control, which makes it easier to create different effects and textures. However, it’s a much slower process, and there’s always a risk of leaving brush marks on the surface. 

Both spray paint and regular paint are available in a wide range of colors and finishes, so you will never run out of options.

How do you seal a cardboard painting?

If you’re painting a piece of art on cardboard, you might want to seal it afterward to preserve it for as long as possible. Sealing your cardboard painting doesn’t only protect it from environmental damage but also ensures the finished job looks better.

The process is pretty straightforward and very similar to applying paint. Just follow the instructions on the product label. 

There are different sealants you can use depending on the paint. Two popular options are varnish and shellac. You could either use a brush or spray-on sealant. 

Varnish is great for acrylic paints, while shellac works with any paint. 

Whether you’re using varnish or shellac, apply thin coats and allow each coat to dry before adding another. You can apply the sealant to both sides of the cardboard; for cardboard boxes, just apply it on the exterior. 

The drying time depends on the sealant. Shellac is fast-drying, so you won’t need to wait for too long between coats. Varnish, on the other hand, might take a few hours to dry and solidify. You can add another layer once the previous one is completely dried. 

For safety, wear full protective gear to protect your skin. Also, place newspaper under the cardboard to avoid staining the floor. It’s best to work outside. 

Spray Painting Cardboard: Safety Practices & Tips.

  • First, you must choose a workplace with good air circulation. this will help reduce the impact of the fumes released by the spray paint.
  • Always keep your hand moving when spraying. Don’t apply too much paint at one spot on the cardboard.
  • Avoid working in low temperature and high humidity conditions.
  • Always wait for each coat to dry before adding more.
  • Make sure the cardboard is dry before painting on it. If you paint the cardboard while it’s still wet, it will likely warp.
  • Before you start painting, always shake the can well for a minute or two. This will get the content to mix well and come out evenly. It will further prevent the spray paint can from clogging. Check out our article on how to unclog spray paint can in case you experience clogging while painting.
  • Keep the can at about 6-8 inches (or whatever distance the manufacturer recommends) from the cardboard.
  • Use several light coats instead of one heavy coat avoid drips and makes the paint dry faster.
  • Wear a respirator mask to protect your lungs when using any cardboard spray paint.
  • It’s a good idea to finish off your work with a coat of sealant or varnish to enhance its durability.

FAQs – Best spray paint for cardboard

What Kind of Spray Paint Works on Cardboard?

Due to the porosity of cardboard, any spray paint with very little water or moisture will work. A good example is acrylic paint. Acrylic is fast-drying and non-toxic. Oil paint also works, but it contains toxic chemicals, so you should use them in a well-ventilated area, ideally outdoors. 

Do I Need to Prime Cardboard Before Painting?

Because of the porous nature, it’s recommended you prime cardboard before painting. Priming helps to paint to adhere better and ensures it lasts longer. Luckily, some spray paints have primer and color in one, so you don’t need to apply a separate coat of primer.

Can you paint use chalk paint on cardboard?

Yes, you can, but you will need to prime the surface first. Also, since chalk paint is generally thicker than acrylic, you will need to apply very thin layers. To get a smoother finish, you might need to sand the surface afterward when the chalk paint is fully dried. 

Does rustoleum work on cardboard?

Yes, Rust-Oleum works really well on cardboard. However, you should ensure the paint is specifically made for cardboard or suitable for multiple surfaces. In general, most Rust-Oleum spray paints are versatile and can be used on various surfaces. They are also fast-drying and great for beginners.

Can you use spray paint on cardboard boxes?

Yes, you can, as long as you use the right type of paint. Cardboard boxes are usually porous on the surface and tend to absorb moisture. So, a spray paint with low moisture content, such as acrylic or oil paint, is recommended.

Does spray paint waterproof cardboard?

No, spray paint doesn’t waterproof cardboard. This is because cardboard ordinarily contains some amount of moisture. If you want to waterproof cardboard, you have to apply a sealant or wax. Make sure the paint is completely dry before doing this.  

Summary on spray paint for cardboard

There you have it – the best spray paint for cardboard. Whether you need to create a work of art on cardboard or cover existing markings on a corrugated cartoon, spray painting cardboard will allow you to create a textured finish. 

Make sure the cardboard is dry before you use it. Ideally, you want to prime the surface before applying the paint. Remember to cover your work area and protect yourself from harmful fumes. 

Hopefully, you found all the tips and instructions helpful. Did you learn something new? Let us know in the comment section.

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