Does Wood Glue Work on Paper?

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If you need to glue wood and paper, you require an adhesive that bonds both materials well. Both materials are porous. It makes the selection easier than when you stick wood to plastic. Regular polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue usually suffices.

Does wood glue work on paper? Yes, it does. But you need to know how to carry out the task correctly for the best results. Things like bubbles and wrinkles can spoil the appearance of your project. If you take a few basic precautions and follow some specific steps, you can get satisfactory results while using wood glue on paper.


Master hands using a spatula smooth out the bubbles and creases on the whimsical monochrome blue wallpaper on the wall

You need to consider the basic fact that paper comes from wood. With this logic, any glue that works well on wood such as wood glue will work well on paper. A glue such as mod podge is useful for indoor applications provided it doesn’t get wet.

You can also use wood glue and paper when you have to glue a joint temporarily, like using it on a jig. You glue paper in between the two parts. The result is that it forms a weak bond that you can break when required.

If you are a dedicated woodworker, amateur, or professional, you will sometimes find the need to stick paper to wood. You can select PVA glue for making a perfect bond for the job at hand.

How to Glue Paper to Wood Using Wood Glue

When you need to glue paper to wood using wood glue, you need to follow certain steps. If you do it right, you can get satisfactory results every time. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Covering the Surface

Take some old newspapers to cover the surface of the wood in the area of your project where you intend to work.

Step 2: Sanding Down the Surface

Use fine-grit sandpaper to sand down the surface of the wood. If you plan to cover the top of a box, then you need to sand down the outer surface of the box lid. Ensure that you sand down any irregularities on the surface. Once done, run a tack cloth or soft rag over the surface to free it from dust and debris.

Step 3: Placing the Paper

Place the paper on the wooden surface where you intend to stick it. You need to cover the entire area that you want to stick and trim the paper with scissors or a knife to the rough size and shape of the final surface leaving a slight overlap of about an inch all around.

Step 4: Applying the Glue

Apply glue all over the wood surface that you want to glue. The form of glue may vary, so you may squeeze it from a bottle, brush it on, or spray it onto the wood. Make sure to cover the surface of the wood evenly and sufficiently.

Step 5: Adding the Paper

Now, gently transfer the paper to the wood surface. Once it covers the desired area, gently rub the paper, pressing it onto the wood with a dry rag or handheld roller. This gets rid of random wrinkles and small air bubbles under the surface of the paper.

Step 6: Drying the Surface

Once the paper is comfortably applied to the surface of the wood, leave the glue to dry for a few hours or overnight. Although quick-set glues like PVA and mod podge may dry in a few minutes, it takes several hours for them to set and harden completely.

Step 7: Trimming the Paper

Once the drying time has passed, tug the paper gently to check for adhesion. Now, trim the excess paper with scissors and your paper-wood bonding is complete.

Step 8: Placing the Paper

To make your paper surface more durable and water-resistant, you can apply some lacquer, clear varnish, or wood sealer to it.

Handy Tip: You can make sealer by adding school glue and water in a 50-50 ratio. You can also use a decoupage medium instead of school glue.

Handle paper with printed images with extreme caution. If the printer ink is water-based, it might smudge when it comes into contact with water. You can remedy this by using a laser printer to print the images rather than an inkjet printer.

Other Methods for Sticking Paper to Wood

Sticking paper to wood is an easy process. It is cheap and quick, especially when you need to stick paper decals or add embellishments to your woodworking projects. But if you don’t follow the correct steps, it can make your project look shoddy.

To make your project look smart, you need to know how to use adhesive in different forms. Two major forms of adhesive are spray and tacky glue. Here are the step-by-step guides to using both these forms of adhesive:

Spray Adhesive

Used to adhere the pieces of the craft body.
Image Credit: Timothyrfries via Creative Commons

Applying spray adhesive is by far the easiest way to apply glue to any surface. The secret to successfully using this form of glue is to be quick because the glue dries pretty fast.

Applying glue too abundantly can result in lumps, wrinkles, and air bubbles. If you apply it too thinly, the paper may not adhere completely to the wood. Here are the steps for applying spray adhesive:

Step 1: Identify a Suitable Adhesive

Even in spray adhesives, you get different types. You need to choose one that is best suited for sticking paper to wood.

Step 2: Setting Up Your Work Area

Get all that you need in one place keeping in mind that you need to work fast while using spray adhesive. You don’t have to concern yourself with applicators like brushes and sponges, but you will need a dry cloth and perhaps a handheld roller for pressing the paper to the wood.

Also, keep a sharp knife and a pair of scissors for trimming the excess paper. If you plan to sand the wood (explained in the next step), keep some fine-grit sandpaper at the ready. Now, you are set to start your job.

Step 3: Sanding the Work Area

This image is part of my project to build a wooden pet house for my dog and my cats.
Image Credit: Mforns (WMF) via Creative Commons

If the work area is rough with ridges and bumps, you may need to sand down the surface with a fine-grit sandpaper. If you don’t do this, the rough surface of the wood might show through the paper once the glue dries.

Step 4: Clean the Surface

After sanding the wood, run a dry cloth across it to clear sawdust and debris. Using a tack cloth is also a good idea.

Step 5: Spraying on Adhesive

With spray adhesives, you need to use a small quantity at a time. It is a good idea to spray some adhesive on a test surface to get the feel of applying it. That way you get a thin but uniform layer when you spray it on the actual job.

Step 6: Apply the Paper

Here, you need a steady hand to press the paper uniformly across the surface of the wood. Once the paper comes into contact with the wood, press a dry cloth over it to ensure a firm bond. Rub the cloth or a handheld roller along the surface to remove any wrinkles or air bubbles.

Step 7: Drying Time

Leave the workpiece to dry for at least one hour. Placing the wood flat is a good practice, especially with large pieces. It prevents the paper from sliding or peeling off.

Tacky Glue

One of the more preferred options for sticking paper to glue is tacky glue. It works best for this type of job as it has such a thick consistency. It is cheap and available. The thick consistency prevents the formation of wrinkles and air bubbles.

Here are the steps for applying tacky glue:

Step 1: Sanding the Surface

Before you apply the glue, your wooden surface should be smooth and clean. Use fine-grit sandpaper to smoothen the surface.

Step 2: Clean the Surface

Use a dry rag to clean the surface from any fine, dry debris, and sawdust from the sanding operation.

Step 3: Apply a Sealer

To create a uniform smoothness along the surface of the wood you can add a polyurethane wood sealer. By doing this you reduce the possibility of creases and air bubbles forming between the paper and the wood.

Step 4: Applying the Glue

Pour the glue onto the wood surface. With tacky glue, you can add it abundantly without any fear that you are applying too much. Ensure that you cover all the required areas.

Step 5: Placing the Paper

Once your tacky glue is completely applied to the surface of the wood, you can place the paper on the wood.  After placing it in the required position, use a dry cloth to tamp it down and press it onto the job.

Move the dry cloth along the surface from the center towards the edges to remove air bubbles if any and to smoothen out wrinkles. If the surface area is wide, you can use a handheld roller for this operation.

Step 6: Drying Time

Wait for about an hour for the glue to dry. It may take more time depending on weather conditions. An hour later, gently tug the paper where the excess paper protrudes to ensure that the glue has dried completely and the paper uniformly adheres to the wood.

If you are satisfied that the paper is well-bonded with the wood, use a sharp knife or scissors to cut away the excess paper.

You have now successfully completed your paper sticking task.


Hand Rubber Roller to be rolling Photo paper on board by glue

As you have seen here, sticking paper to wood is quite simple if you adopt the right techniques. There are many different forms and types of adhesives out there that are compatible with sticking paper to wood. So, don’t hesitate to experiment.

Once you identify a suitable glue to work on paper, your main adversaries are wrinkles and air bubbles. But if you do it right, you can be successful in your endeavors.

In your next woodworking project, you can now use wood glue to work on paper with full confidence that you can do a good job, using the information we have provided here.