SAVE THAT BOX! Drawing and Painting on Corrugated Cardboard

If you're looking for ways to save money on art supplies (and what artist isn't?) hang onto your corrugated cardboard boxes for drawing and painting.  Once it's primed with gesso, corrugated cardboard will take acrylic or oil paint. If you want to save even more money, use flat white latex house paint instead of gesso. Corrugated cardboard is lightweight so it's ideal for carrying to class or plein air studies. Unprimed cardboard is a good color for sketching and will take most dry media.

You can prime right over the printing as long as it's not a slick laminate.
To tint the primer, add a little acrylic paint to the gesso or latex house paint
Artwork done on corrugated cardboard will not be archival quality.  Instead, though, you may gain a greater sense of freedom and willingness to experiment with a cardboard canvas.

Conté on unprimed corrugated cardboard.
Conté on cardboard primed with tinted gesso.

Acrylic color study on cardboard primed with gesso.
Because corrugated cardboard is lightweight and is easily cut into any shape, it's also great for temporary signs and decorations.  A few years ago my art class was asked to make signs for the drama club's production of Footloose.  We made two 6' x 10' signs to fill the auditorium windows.  
Since the windows are divided in half by the the frame, we decided to divide
each sign in half - making them easier to work on, store and transport.

We were able to get large corrugated cardboard boxes from a local appliance retailer.  However, none of the pieces were as large as the 6' x 5' we needed for each panel.  The solution was to piece the panels together with kraft paper tape (this is the old-fashioned brown tape that you have to wet to activate the adhesive).  Once the panels were painted and hanging up, any ridges or uneven areas did not show.  The panels were primed and painted on both sides entirely with house paint.

Now that you've got a few ideas, go to your recycle bin and SAVE THAT BOX!


  1. I've manufactured millions of those corrugated boxes for Green Mountain Coffee. I'm glad to see at least one being repurposed.

    1. Yeah, corrugated cardboard is great stuff, I hoard it like gold.