How Do I Choose the Best Glue for Paper?

Eugene P.

Choosing the best glue for paper can be difficult, because many types of glue can serve more than one purpose. For fast adhesion and minimal complications and mess, regular white craft glue can be a practical choice. When using heavy papers, or for a temporary bond, rubber cement can be a good choice, although it generally performs poorly as a permanent adhesive. Some solvent-based adhesives can be used as glue for paper in situations in which the glue is intended to add some strength to the paper. Specialty glues for paper include pH-neutral polyvinyl acetate (PVA), glue sticks for quick tackiness, spray adhesives for temporary mounting, decoupage for the art form, and industrial cement-style glue for paper that is being attached to a non-porous surface such as glass or metal.

While not the strongest option, all-purpose white glue is ideal for use on paper-to-paper and fabric-to-paper projects.
While not the strongest option, all-purpose white glue is ideal for use on paper-to-paper and fabric-to-paper projects.

Standard white craft glue is a viable choice for general paper-to-paper gluing, as well as some fabric-to-paper projects. It does not dry too quickly, is water-solvent for easy clean-up, and even dissolves in some cases. On the other hand, white craft glue is not necessarily the strongest type of glue and can dry out over time, becoming brittle and flaking away. Even though the glue initially is white, most brands dry clear when applied carefully and in the correct quantity.

Some kinds of craft glue are better for scrapbooking.
Some kinds of craft glue are better for scrapbooking.

Rubber cement is good glue for paper that is heavy and projects in which a permanent bond is not desired. It can allow for the repositioning of the paper being glued, as well as being easily removed with some solvent and a rubber cement eraser block. Some aspects of rubber cement that many find attractive are the amount of time it takes for the cement to dry, and the flexibility the glue has even when set. The cement can set in anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, but it can take years for it to actually cure and dry, if it ever does.

One special type of glue for paper is known as PVA. PVA can come as a powder or as a liquid. It can be used in much the same way as white craft glue, but PVA is acid-free, meaning it will not corrode or discolor pictures, papers or anything else with which it comes into contact. In many cases, PVA also remains fairly flexible over time and does not flake or dry out as readily as white craft glue.

Some spray adhesives can be excellent glue for paper. One type of spray, called a mounting adhesive, is best for strong temporary bonds in tasks such as attaching watercolor paper to a heavy ground or making a tacky surface for positioning items before permanently gluing them down. More permanent spray glues can be much more powerful, although the way in which the glue is distributed might not allow for repositioning once the paper touches the adhesive.

Spray adhesives work well to apply thin tissue paper.
Spray adhesives work well to apply thin tissue paper.

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Discussion Comments


I remember using the white craft glue in elementary school. It was fine for gluing construction paper. We used to play with it, though. It was always fun to peel the dried glue off the bottle, and we would spread it on our fingers and let it dry, then peel it off and look at our fingerprints in the dried glue. Kids.

One kid in my first grade class had to be sent to the nurse because he had the jar paste and he actually ate it! I'd heard of kids eating paste, but he was the only one I've seen actually do it. He said it tasted awful. Fortunately, it was non-toxic, although I think he said it made him nauseated.


Mounting adhesive is expensive! I'd rather get a bottle of white school glue.

Glue sticks can also be good for use on paper, especially for crafts like scrapbooking. It isn't messy and dries clear. It doesn't ooze when you press the paper together, either.

I had a project every year at work where I had to glue labels on to envelopes. They weren't self-stick; I had to cut them out and put them on the envelopes. I tried a lot of different methods, and finally hit on the glue stick as the best way to do it. Two swipes and the label was ready to go. I went through two or three sticks, but it was much easier.

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