It’s a little controversial… but it’s true!

Shh… Come a little closer… I’m going to share with you a trade secret.

It’s something that a couple of big companies don’t want me to tell you.


As you know, I’ve worked in the art industry for 30+ years.

I’ve worked in large art departments… small art boutiques… and had my own studio for 20+ years.

What I’m going to tell you is based on more than 30 years experience of working with glues.


Shabby Art Boutique - The Truth About Glues


I’ve used a large variety of glues in that time; on all kinds of surfaces.

Thirty years ago, we didn’t have the variety of glues that exist now. Glue wasn’t fancy back then… it was just glue. But it worked!

It didn’t come in gloss, matt, sparkly or iridescent…. it was just common old glue. It stuck things together and it was inexpensive!

These days we have a large variety of glues on the market, for all different kinds of applications and all different price points.


Shabby Art Boutique - glue


Almost all glues used for paper crafts e.g. decoupage, mixed media, altered art etc, are Polyvinyl acetates. That’s PVA glue, or in the US it’s also known as Elmers glue.

It’s also sold in other guises as specialty and decoupage glues and sealers… although some companies will tell you that theirs is better or does extra special things.

So I’m going to share with you my opinion on glue, which is based on my 30 years working in the art industry.

I’ve tried many types of glue, but always come back to white glue (PVA). It covers most of my gluing needs. Here’s why:

  • White glue (PVA) is inexpensive.
  • It’s also non-toxic, as long as you don’t eat it.
  • PVA doesn’t omit any harmful fumes or terrible odour.
  • You can handle it without gloves.
  • It dries clear.
  • It has a neutral PH, so is perfect for acid-free archival work.
  • Best of all, it can be adapted to be used in other adhesive applications like decoupage, sealing or as a crackle medium.

Shabby Art Boutique - Decoupage & paper glue label


This is how I adapt PVA to be a decoupage medium.

Materials: PVA, water, small bottle or jar.

I dilute the PVA with water in a ratio 3:1 – that’s 3 parts PVA to 1 part water.

Simply pour the 3 parts PVA into your container, stir the one part water in until mixed thoroughly.

Tip: I find keeping glue in smaller containers is more practical and easier to use. You can still make up a large quantity in a bigger container, but I do find it easier to decanter off smaller quantities for my daily use.

Decoupage and paper glues need to have a runnier consistency than normal PVA, which is quite thick.

Disclaimer: If you over dilute your PVA glue you will make the glue less effective. I’ve seen others recommending to dilute 1:1. I’d be surprised if that actually adhered anything together.


Shabby Art Boutique - Crackle Medium label


Here’s something you may not know… PVA can be used as a crackle medium.

1. Start by painting the base coat with an acrylic (latex) paint.

2. Cover the area to be crackled with a coat of PVA glue.

3. While the glue is still wet, paint another coat of acrylic paint (in a different colour), over the top. The paint will begin to crack as it dries.

4. When the project is completed, paint a top coat of PVA as a sealer – see note about sealer below.


Shabby Art Boutique - Glue Sealer label


PVA is also used as a sealer, but I usually like to dilute the consistency with water. Depending on what the project is, I find that the PVA can be applied easier when it is a little runnier than normal, so I add water and stir after each addition until I feel the glue flows well.

Always wash brushes or sponges with soap and water after using glue.


Okay, so you want a fancier glue like gloss or glitter glue!
Too easy, add a small amount of gloss varnish to your PVA for a glossier finish and if your thing is glitter, just stir some glitter into your PVA glue. Yes, it  really is that easy.


So… let me dispel some myths for you that circulate around cyberspace.

Specialty brands are better quality and produce better results.

I dispute that if you are comparing a good quality PVA to the specialty brand.There are many versions of PVA and I’d always go for the best quality one. It’s still heaps cheaper than those ‘specialty’ glues and does the exact same job.

Using PVA will make your project peel or go yellow with time.

Umm… how much time are we talking here. I have several pieces in my original portfolio from art school that are more than 30 years old and I’m happy to tell you they are not yellow, discoloured or peeling. I’ll get back to you in another 30 years and let you know how they have faired over time.


Specialty glues have sealer in them and PVA is not a sealer!

Wrong. PVA was invented to be a high performance sealer, primer, bonding agent and dust proofer. It’s quick drying with a very high bond strength.


The ‘specialty’ glues are better because they have different ingredients to PVA glue.

Really… where are they hiding those extra ingredients. I’ll let you be the judge. All you have to do is compare the ingredients written on the bottles.


Shabby Art Boutique - PVA glue


You don’t have to agree with me on this topic. I’m giving you MY viewpoint, based on my experiences over a very long period.

I feel qualified to pass judgment because I’ve tried all of the contenders and I’m not a fly-by-night crafter who’s thrown together a few craft projects recently. I have been working with adhesives for 3 decades. Which glue do you think big companies and art departments use?

I get pretty miffed when I see bloggers commenting on the inferior quality of PVA, when they have made their own glue and over diluted it. It was doomed before it even started.

I’m not affiliated with any company selling glue and have nothing to gain from telling you my findings. So please don’t get me wrong… I like those specialty brand glues, but I prefer PVA and believe that it is an equivalent product at a much cheaper price.


You are welcome to use my glue bottle graphics shown on this post.


I’m sharing my glue comparison with these friends this week:

    The Scoop, Project Inspired , Sundays at Home, The Inspiration Gallery
    Vintage Inspiration Party

I’d be delighted if you’d like to connect with me at the following places. . .

            google plus rose smoke

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or if you’d like my posts delivered directly to your Inbox

Subscribe to Shabby Art Boutique by Email


Hugs ~ Kerryanne


  1. Thanks heaps for sharing this information Kerryanne. I have used PVA in this way for years too but thought I was skimping out and not doing the job properly. It was cheaper to do this than buy all the different glues. 🙂

  2. This is wonderful. I have way too many bottles of all different kind of glue. This just made my life so much easier. Thank you, Kerryanne!

  3. Thanks Kerryanne for the tips. I use the ole Elmers School glue and it works great. Thanks for all the helpful tips to make the Elmers work in different mediums.

  4. I got over paying $17 for a product rhyming with hodstodge so I use Pav but I did not know about using it as a crackle medium that is a brilliant tip thanks for sharing that, I’ve decided to risk not waiting another 30 years for your update and give it ago. Quick question if I use a different colour as the base will it be seen under the glue when it crackles?

  5. Thanks so much for your article! I like PVA more and more and it was very useful for me! I don’t know about cracle effect with glue! Thank you!

  6. Thank you for a GREAT article! I am definitely sharing this.

    And subscribing to your blog…

  7. Years ago a friend commented that she always used Elmers in placing wool pieces on her quilt for finishing and that it was the same as the “fancy” stuff – she could smell it! I just sent her a note about this – I’m sure she’ll enjoy reading this. I know I stopped buying the fancy stuff after she said that – ’cause I knew she was right. I didn’t realize how versatile it was though. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Great reading looking forward to more non expensive ideas. Thank you.

  9. Hi Kerryanne does this glue also replace the $9.00 or $10.00 little bottles of wash glue used for applique. Thank you so much Pandy

  10. Thank you for sharing this Kerryanne. It is interesting to note that a lot of demonstrators on TV are back using PVA glues.
    Toni xx

  11. Joan Granat says:

    I totally agree. And if the glue has to be trin, I mix it with thin wall paper paste. Thank you for a great blog.
    Joan from Denmark

  12. Thank you for this information. What an eye opener.

    Patricia C

  13. Kerryanne, you are a wealth of information and I thank you for generously sharing your know-how with us. Your blog is pretty and practical-a ‘must have’ for any crafter. 🙂 xo

  14. Great Kerryanne.

    I used to PVA everything in highschool some 20 years ago and then was so often told I was wrong and the process was floored, I too ‘converted’ to specialty glues.

    Thank you for sharing the blends you use for crackle & sealer, etc.

  15. cindy coven says:

    Thank you for this blog. I am pretty new to art, gluing, collage and card making. All the different mediums are so confusing. This makes it so simple. thanks for sharing.

  16. Thanks for opening my eyes about glue! Who knew we it could be used in a myriad of ways – no more different types of glue for me.

  17. Well,
    What can I say, thank you very much. You’ve made us very happy, because if Mod Podge is expensive in the USA imagine abriad. I remember using, what we called “white glue” in many projects and ways when I was little, as there was nothing fancy, back then & it worked perfect
    Thanks again,

  18. Thank you for the great info.! Wish I would’ve figured this out long ago, I could’ve saved so much money! Do you have any tips for fabric glue that is washable? Love your website.

  19. Karen Ely says:

    I am just now seeing this post, so I hope you can get back with me. I want to cover an old sewing machine case base with fabric. Can I use this process as an application and sealer for applying fabric over wood? Those old cases are actually wood under the fabric. I know friends who use Modge Podge to apply it and seal it, but can I just use your glue recipe instead???

  20. Thank you for sharing this tutorial . Finally I have the confirmation found that there are not always the expensive things that afford the best services . Now I have to find out which brand in Switzerland is closest to the Elmsers product . I am pleased to spend in the future less money on expensive tools and still achieve good results .Greetings from lake of Thun.

  21. Hi Kerryanne!! Your blog is great :) happy to have stumbled upon it via Pinterest!!:)
    I once had the great p[easure of meeting my hero, John Derian at his New York City store/studio !!:) ..He told me he uses regular
    white glue diluted with water for his work under glass. Occasionally, though, I get an unattractive silvery sheen on the piece…
    not all over, just in some places…? Do you perhaps have any idea what I am doing wrong???? I really make sure that there are no air bubbles!!….I would be so grateful for any advice to avoid making this error!!! Many thanks in advance!! 🙂 BEST WISHES!!!! XOX Ilana

  22. Barb McLean says:

    Hi Kerryanne,
    I have heard that you can use PVA glue as a pouring medium…is this correct? And is the ratio still 3-1 ?
    .Thanks so much for all your information about PVA glue and hope to hear back from you soon.

    Sincerely, Barb

    • Kerryanne says:

      Hi Barb,
      I know of others who have used PVA as a high gloss pouring medium, but I’ve never used it that way, so can’t really advise on this technique. 🙂

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