How to make papercraft hard like plastic

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So you made an awesome figurine paper craft but it goes squishy and fragile after being on display for a while . Or you made an Iron man helmet and wanted it harden so you could wear it for cosplay. So together let’s find a way to make papercraft hard like plastic and maybe glossy too?

What can I use to make my papercraft harden and stronger

I made a lot of anime paper craft and I too want my paper model to look awesome on display and last longer from the humidity and airy weather so I research a bit and found a few ways to harden paper craft.

These are the list ;

Acrylic Varnish is a good choice for hardening your paper craft. But you may want to look for the spray version not the liquid version. Acrylic Varnish that we may want to look into is the matte and glossy version.

Depending on whichever looks you prefer, choose the one you like most.

Acrylic varnish is quick to dry and it gives a protective shield and waterproof your papercraft too.

PVA Primer is another way to make your papercraft hard. Just like Acrylic varnish, it too gives a protective shield, harden and waterproof the paper.

Textile Hardener is a product I found out while researching on YouTube. It’s non toxic and use-able on textile, paper and wood. If used it right it’ll make your papercraft as strong as a tin. Suitable for hardening papercraft for cosplay.

Another ways to harden your model is to use fiber resin. Now I do not recommend using fiber resin because it’s toxic and I find it kind of a hassle to use.

What are the prices on these products

According to Amazon.com these are the prices ;

ItemPrice
Grumbacher 542 Picture Matte Varnish for Picture and Oil & Acrylic Painting, 11.25oz. Can $11.75
Grumbacher Picture Gloss Varnish for Picture and Oil & Acrylic Painting, 11 oz. Can $11.75
Powertex Fabric Hardener – 1/2 Liter Ivory $29.95
Rust-Oleum 272479 Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer, White$4.98

How do you use these products

Acrylic Varnish

First read the instruction labels on your spray cans. Then spray a few coat on your model. Let it dry for 30 minutes or more according to your spray can labels.

But why must we choose spray cans and not brush? Spraying will not runs the ink on our models while brushing with acrylic varnish will runs the ink.

PVA Primer

What you do is use a thinned PVA and spray it on your models. It’s important to thinned your PVA primer first before using. Read the labels of your product on what ratio of water to primer for thinning.

Do not put too much coat on PVA primer on your model or the paper will wrinkle.

Preferable to spray it than brushing but if you can’t avoid it then use brush.

Textile Hardener

Just like PVA primer, mixed textile hardener with water and brush a few coats on your model. Let it dry about 30 minutes or more. Instruction does not mention that you can thinned it with water but you can.

Fyi the textile hardener recommended (Powertex) is black/brown in color so only usable on non colorized papercraft like your model for cosplay and so on.

There’s also a transparent version for sale however the transparent version is not weather resistant.

All of the way listed here will make your model harden like a plastic. So if you are hardening a move-able parts, it’s best to spray/brush the part one by one before assembling it.

Do I coat the inside of my papercraft?

I would say Yes for wearable papercraft model like an armor or helmet so that it is strong enough for you to wear and go rough on it.

For a smaller model, no.

Can I paint it after?

After you brush the coat and let it dry then you colorize your models into your liking using acrylic paint or any paint you’d like to try your hands on.

From what I read on, they recommended using acrylic paint.

Among all these product, What do you recommend?

To be honest, I am no pro in these matter however if you were to ask for my opinion then I would use ;

  • Acrylic Varnish on models such as anime papercraft, game papercraft, military and buildings, diorama etc
  • You can also use Powertex transparent for above .
  • Textile hardener on wearable cosplay papercraft.

What other ways can I do to make my papercraft strong

Let say that I’m dirt poor right now and I have no budget to buy all the products above so I want a free and cheap way of strengthening my paper model.

Using a thicker paper

One way I could think of is to use a stronger paper as in paper with heavier GSM (Grams per Square Meter).

A thicker and heavier paper would be around 250 gsm to 300 gsm. 300 gsm would be like a really thick cardstock or a cardboard.

Read more about it on our article on Type of paper for papercrafting.

Using an adhesive

The second way is to use clear glue/ wood glue. Brush a paint of glue on your model like a few coat on it and it would make it more rigid.

However it could also runs your ink. So be careful.

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