Tips for Applying Glue in Paper Models

Proper gluing technique is just as important in paper modeling as it is in plastic models. Over gluing soaks the paper and produces sloppy models. Under gluing allows the edges to separate. It’s also important to make sure tabs, edges and bases are smoothly attached without any bumps or ripples. 

Here are some strategies for gluing paper:

  • Always work on top of a craft matt or other surface that resists adhesives. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll get some glue on the edge of the paper. You don’t want to the model to stick to your work surface.
  • Use the right type of applicator for the situation: pen tip applicators or thin brushes for tabs and lines, sponge applicators and wide brushes for larger surfaces. Keep a tool box of different size brushes handy.
  • For larger surfaces, spray a thin coating of water onto the paper to moisten it. This makes it easier to spread the glue. Note: this technique only works for water based glues such as white glue and wood glue.
  • To make the paper and glue more flexibility and repositionable, dilute the glue with water. This keeps the adhesive from drying to quickly and gives you some additional play when lining up tabs and edges.
  • Try to use just the right amount of glue for any application – bumps and ripples are usually the result of over gluing. Start conservative and add more glue if necessary.
  • Use a bone knife or paper craft smoothing tool to press remove any bubbles and flatten to the paper down along the tab, edge or base. Start from the middle and push firmly to the outer edges.

If you’re working with a white glue, one of the other techniques you can use is sealing and finishing. Most white glues, properly diluted can spread on top of the paper to seal and finish the edges. This is most useful for landscaping, wall and extremely large structures such as multi-story buildings.

Use a brush to apply a thin layer of glue around the edges of the paper to smooth and weigh down any loose edges. The combination of the adhesive and coating makes the edges of the paper more difficult to spot. A coating of white glue can also take the shine off the paper coating for a duller or weathered appearance.