May’s Guide to Liquid Mediums

I remember when I walked into my very first scrapbooking store. The year was 2001, and even though choices were far more limited then, it was still utterly overwhelming. There were so many choices, so many decisions to make. How would I know what was right for me?

Today, I’m noticing many people have a similar problem. Now the source of confusion is wet mediums. Some come straight from the art aisle, others are marketed directly towards paper crafters. There are a veritable cornucopia of options. In my research to assemble an article to help those who aren’t sure what is right for them, I first tried putting a wide variety of mediums through several tests such as adhering buttons and heavier objects, adhering paper down, etc. In many of my tests, I found switching adhesive really didn’t matter – whatever I have on hand will work fine. However, that does not mean that all things are created equally in the liquid medium world. There are differences. Several key questions will help you determine which medium (or mediums) are right for your needs.

What are you doing?

The answer to that question will matter in your choice of medium, and may determine if you can get away with just one product, or if several more specialized products are the way to go. If you are needing a liquid medium to primarily hold heavier embellishments down, you do not have the same reqiurements as someone who is wanting to create collage art with tissue paper. Knowledge is power – and it will help you make better choices.

Does longevity matter?

This is an important question! I remember the many craft projects I did as a child with rubber cement, projects that have now fallen to pieces or become horribly discolored. Check your labels, because while most mediums are non-toxic, few boast acid-free or archival quality among their specifications. For example: I know that Mod-Podge is a popular product choice for many papercrafters. However, be sure to purchase the ‘paper’ version if you need an acid-free product. If you are making something that isn’t meant to last, then this isn’t a problem. However, if you are making something you’d like to see still look good in ten, twenty, or even fifty years, then take care with the materials you choose.

How do you work?

Is a small applicator tip best? Or do you like to dip a paint brush into a large jar? Do you need to be doing a lot of lines or detailed and small applications? Or will you be doing large all-over work? Knowing not only what you’re doing, but how you work is helpful – and can reduce frustration and keep you from slowing yourself down by choosing a product that can’t be used in that way.

What does it offer?

You will not find any straight “adhesives” in this article. Yes, there are some excellent liquid scrapbook adhesives out there, but most cannot multi-task, and therefore I have not made room for them in my stash. I prefer items that can do a multitude of things for me – and do them all well.

Now that the critical determining questions have been asked, here are my answers. I am sharing with you the mediums I use here in my own studio, and why I recommend and use each one.

The new kid on the block – just released this year – is Ranger’s Glue n’ Seal. It’s a nice multi-purpose glue. The built-in brush was a major plus for me. When I find myself wanting to adhere papers, throw a button on, or otherwise just needing to brush on some glue I reach for this, and am happy with the results. It passed all of my tests on paper, and I’d recommend it – especially to someone wanting the ease of a built-in brush!

I was introduced to PPA by US Art Quest years ago, and it’s been my best friend and most recommended product ever since. It not only works as an adhesive on any item I might want to add to my paper craft project, but it is also useful as a sealant, top coat, or to mix with acrylic paints, washes, or mists. It is archival, acid-free, non-tacky, and UV protective. In short, it’s the best all-around product that I’ve found on the market. The matte finish truly dries without a trace, and the gloss finish is nice for showing a bit of shine. This is a very thin liquid medium, so it will definitely not work in place of molding paste or with stencils to form a design.

If you are looking for a medium with more body, that will hold shape as well as smoothly go on with a brush to adhere or seal, then I’d recommend Claudine Hellmuth’s multi-medium. It should be noted that once applied, the gloss finish becomes resistant to taking on color. I use this frequently for canvas projects. It will hold buttons and other embellishments, and I really like that I can apply this over a plastic stencil and it will hold the shape, creating a textured resist on your project. You can see this in use below creating a diamond pattern stencil on a kraft paper tag-

This is fast becoming one of my favorite techniques, actually, and this product is the best way to do it!

Ranger’s Glossy Accents is another favorite medium of mine. Thanks to the super fine applicator tip you can draw with it, apply it over any design, and generally just add shine and a hint of dimension to any project you can create. Once dry it is slick and totally clear – and I can not count the number of bottles I’ve gone through over the years! I have also found this to work very well as a general liquid adhesive, and it is fantastic for use with glitters.

Finally, there is the medium of molding paste such as Golden Gel Medium.While it is not a medium that you would typically use as an adhesive, and it is not clear, it’s an excellent tool in the mixed media artist’s toolbox. Molding paste has a firm consistency, and so it will hold its shape. It can be used with color (washes, paints, etc), or color can be applied after the paste has dried.

At the end of the day, your liquid mediums should do what you’d like them to. Glossy or matte, thick or thin – the options are all there in the scrapbook stores and in art stores and in various sections of craft stores as well. Most of the items I’ve featured in this article are available at Michael’s and other craft store chains.

I hope this introduction to liquid mediums has been helpful. With so much available, and so many brands to choose from, I believe it’s important to read those labels, and figure out what you’re getting – and more importantly, if it’s the best option for you.

21 Responses to May’s Guide to Liquid Mediums

  1. Gab May 1, 2011 at 3:27 am #

    Great article, thanks May!

  2. Barb in Ak May 1, 2011 at 4:26 am #

    Wow! That was very comprehensive, and I was happy to find out that we agree on several of the products 🙂 I just recently started using Claudine Hellmuth’s multi-medium matte—-Love it!!!

  3. Kelbah May 1, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    I’m with you on the Artquest PPA Glue, I love that stuff. After years of papercrafting and about 20 different adhesives in my stash, I too have narrowed it down to include most of your recommendations.
    Thanks for the always thorough and helpful product info, it really does simplify things – even for the “old pro’s” among us!

  4. Paulette S May 1, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    May, Ranger’s matt accents was my favourite liquid glue until they discontinued it! It was great for holding ribbon, buttons & heavier metal embellishments because when it dried you didn’t see it & it dried quickly… I miss it so much… after reading your article, I am still wondering what the best substitute you think would make me happy?!? Thanks so much for sharing:o)

    • May Flaum May 1, 2011 at 10:30 am #

      For the metal/buttons/embellishments I almost always use Perfect Paper Adhesive in Matte. It dries invisible (and without any ‘shiny’ spot either) and will hold dang near anything. Really ANY of the products I mention in this article would work though.

      For ribbon- I’d recommend you don’t use liquid adhesive at all. Any of the mediums I mention will work, I just don’t like to wait around for ribbon adhesive to dry, and so often I put too much on and then have spots on my ribbon. Scrapbook Adhesives makes a “crafty power tape” that is a strong double sided tape I use almost exclusively with ribbon and trim application. It’s about 3/8″ wide so it works for even most thin ribbons too and it’s strong so it holds. When that won’t work for me, I either stitch or use brads.

  5. Sage May 1, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    This was very helpful to me, it confirmed some of my already made choices and gave me good ideas as well – thanks!

  6. Allison LP May 1, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    Thank you, May. Education is power!

  7. JillT May 1, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    Oh thank you May! I have enough adhesive in my stash, but appreciate the discussion of artistic mediums/uses.

  8. Jessica May 1, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Very informative, thanks very much.

  9. Crystal Williams May 1, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Thanks, May! As one who lives very rural I have to rely on the internet to learn about products. There are no scrapbook stores near me. Scrapbook Update is my #1 resource for information. All your help is greatly appreciated.

  10. Mary L May 1, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    This was a great help to me! Thanks May.

  11. angela p May 1, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Thanks May! This was fabulous! Even though I’ve been papercrafting for a while and have my own favorites I’m going to branch out a bit and try yours to see if they fill a gap in my crafting!

  12. Cindy deRosier May 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Great article! I haven’t tried any of these except Glossy Accents, so it was helpful to read about the others.

  13. Pamela McGillin May 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Thank you for the review. When it comes to the adhesives, I am an utter newbie. I’ve bought a few (maybe more then a few) products & there they sit on my shelves because I’m not sure what to do with them. This review helps.
    I love the corrugated butterfly on your card & I’ve been seeing lots of corrugated alphas, etc… What would be the best was to achieve this look, without using store bought products?

    • May Flaum May 1, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

      You could either die cut/punch corrugated cardboard, or to get a cardboard look that is acid-free you could use a paper crimper tool (Fiskars makes one) and run cardstock through it, then die cut/punch/shape as desired.

  14. Michelle Salazar May 1, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    A wonderful article and I have now have some answers to quesitons! Thanks May!

  15. Katie May 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    Thanks for writing and sharing this. I have just started to do mixed-media art and I am so confused re: which product to use. This clears up a bunch of questions I have. I now have more time to create since I won’t be spending time on decisions and wondering and fretting.

  16. pegg May 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Thank you for this – so helpful! I get so confused when to use what. And there are so many options!

  17. Pat Dembowski March 21, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    Found your wonderful article when looking for an answer to a probem I have. I want to attach a type of fishing net to my scrapbook page and have no idea what to use. There are 1″ spaces inbetween each square and the net/string holding the squares together is very thin. It measures about 11″ x 4″. Any suggestion?

  18. rbg December 8, 2014 at 8:17 pm #


    • Nancy Nally December 8, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

      Apologies…we experienced a massive server crash shortly after the publication of that article and the pictures were not recoverable, only the text. I thought all the display errors that resulted were cleaned up but obviously we missed this one. Sorry for the confusion.

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