How to Paint Paper Mache Boxes

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Hold items that range from trinkets and spare change to craft supplies inside paper mache boxes adorned with vibrant acrylic paints. Sold at craft and scrapbooking stores, the boxes have a slightly grainy and pulpy paper finish and are available in shapes like circles, squares, hearts and stars. Tailor the colors and style of the painted design to suit your personal taste or the tone of the surrounding room where you plan to display the embellished box.

Things You'll Need

  • Scrap paper or plastic sheet
  • Acrylic paint primer
  • Paper mache box
  • Paintbrush or foam applicator
  • Acrylic paint
  • Fine-grain sandpaper
  • Paper towel
  • Shape stencils
  • Foam stamps
  • Acrylic paint sealer

Cover your work surface with scrap paper or a plastic sheet to protect it from paint spills.

Apply a light coat of an acrylic paint primer, such as white gesso, to the lid and body of the paper mache box. Brush on an even layer with a paintbrush or foam applicator to seal the porous paper surface so the acrylic paint will go on smoothly and have a more vibrant color.

Brush on two even coats of acrylic paint with a paintbrush or foam applicator. Allow each coat of paint to dry for at least one hour.

Leave the painted surface “as is” or create an antique-looking finish by rubbing fine-grain sandpaper over the box’s lid and body to distress the paint. Use a paper towel to wipe off any grit from the sanding.

Create a design on the lid and sides of the box with contrasting colors of acrylic paint. Paint a picture with a thin paintbrush; create patterns and motifs by brushing paint over shape stencils; or brush foam stamps with acrylic paint and press them onto the surface.

Seal the paper mache box after you’ve let the acrylic paint dry overnight. Pour the acrylic paint sealer -- sold at craft and art supply shops -- onto a paper plate to ensure there are no bubbles in the liquid. Apply a medium coat of the sealer with a paintbrush and allow it to dry overnight.

Tips & Warnings

  • Give designs a textured finish by dipping the paintbrush into the paint and pouncing it on the surface rather than applying the paint with long strokes.
  • Create subtle tone-on-tone designs when painting paper mache boxes by coating the box in a light shade of blue paint, for example. Instead of contrasting colors of paint, use a slightly darker shade of the same blue to add painted or foam-stamped designs to the lid and sides of the box.
  • If you can’t eliminate bubbles in the sealer, sit the bottle upside down in an old coffee mug. When you’re ready to pour the sealer onto the paper plate, keep the bottle tip-side down, open the cap and let the bubble-free sealer flow onto the plate.
  • Use acrylic paint, primers and sealers in a well-ventilated area since the products may produce bothersome fumes.

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