My Favorite Adhesives

Glue stick-my glue sticks of choice are: Coccoina, Tombo (permanent), Scotch (permanent), Avery (permanent). I look for glue sticks labeled permanent. Coccoina is my absolute favorite (a great source for it is here). I love the 40 gram size as it lasts a very time. Smells good, too. Always make sure to put the cap on your glue stick when it's not in use. Keep it away from the heat as well or else it will dry out.

I have been using a Coccoina glue stick for all of my paper gluing for many years now. When I am working in collage, using a good quality glue stick, I cover the back of my paper completely with the adhesive (yes, the *entire* back surface and not just the edges!) I pick up the paper with the glue on it and then adhere it to my substrate. Using a dry rag, I'll gently burnish the paper, smoothing out any excess glue that may seep out and getting rid of bubbles and wrinkles. Repeat as much as needed when gluing paper to paper. 

Gel Medium-you can use this as an adhesive or as a sealer. I prefer a Gloss finish. The "Matte" has a substance in it (to dull the gloss) so if the layers are built up (or applied thickly) it can look cloudy. You can also use it as a texture gel.
I have used gel medium as a collage adhesive as well as for making my books, boxes, etc... I have made books using handmade papers as well as canvas with it. It is the perfect all around glue for almost everything! Once it dries, it is permanent.

My favorite acrylic paint and medium company is Nova Color ( in L.A. they ship. They don't wholesale so their prices are the BEST and their gels and paints are top notch) in L.A. I have also bought (and would recommend) Golden Paints, Lascaux and Winsor Newton brands.

Other adhesives that I like:
 Books By Hand Ph Neutral Adhesive 16Oz 

PVA- I almost always use gel medium when making my books. I have also used (and recommend PVA.) It is expensive though. It also is hard to find during the winter as it freezes so companies won't ship it. It's a great bookbinding or collage adhesive. If you're working with altered books, this is THE glue as it won't wrinkle or buckle your pages if you apply it thin layers. Lineco sells it as do many other bookbinding companies.

Aleene's Tacky Glue- Another adhesive that I have used is Aleene's Original Tacky Glue. There are a ton of different varieties of this glue and I will either use the Original or Quick Dry (though they both seem to dry fairly quickly.) I like the nozzle application for those hard to reach areas. It's great for making boxes and for anything that you want to dry quickly. It's also a good glue for most fabrics.

  Sakura Quickie Glue Pen
Sakura Quickie Glue Pen- I use Sakura's Quickie Glue Pen primarily for gluing foil. You write with it, let it dry completely (when it dries, it is tacky and not wet) and then place the foil (wrong side down, foil side up.) Burnish with a bone folder and remove the foil. The foil will stick to the desired area. You can also use it while wet with glitter, etc... Write/draw/make marks with it and pour the glitter onto the wet glue. Tilt the paper and pour the remaining glitter back into the container (or use one of those fancy glitter trays.) Let it dry completely. Ooh, sparkles!

The best way to apply any adhesive is to completely cover the back of what you are gluing (for example, a piece of paper) with your adhesive of choice. Place your glued paper onto your page/canvas, etc... Then burnish (rub) with a dry rag or paper towel. I do not apply glue on the top of my pages. IF you are working with gel medium and you want to cover the top, wait a couple of days first. Then apply only a THIN layer. You need to make sure that the glue underneath is dry first or else you will have bubbles and wrinkles.

Think THIN layers of adhesive for paper. I know some folks who are very heavy handed with glue. If you cover the back of your paper completely with one thin layer of glue, immediately stick it down and then gently burnish it with a dry rag, it WILL stick. I usually glue on top of an old magazine or catalog that I can later on toss in the recycling bin.

NEVER use a heat tool to speed up the drying time. When gel medium dries, it's essentially dry plastic. Using a heat tool will only "cook" the top of the adhesive any ways. It doesn't dry the bottom layers.

With any kind of medium or acrylic, only scoop out what you need. Don't put anything back into the container or else it will grow mold over time. 

Heavy or extra heavy gel medium will hold three dimensional items. The trick is to apply the glue thick and to give it time to dry.
You only need ONE kind of gel medium. If you buy soft gloss or regular gloss, to thicken it up, scoop some out and put it on your palette. Let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes-voila heavier gel medium! To thin a heavy gel medium down, put some gloss medium (fluid) into it. Don't add water as it breaks the binder.
I tend to shy away from any adhesive that is toxic. I don't like E6000 or anything of that nature. 
Use common sense when using any art supply, don't eat or drink (if you have a drink make sure it has a lid on it so you don't accidentally dip your brush into the cup.) Don't wash brushes or supplies off in a sink that has eating utensils, plates, etc... in it. 
To clean up your water buckets, fill the water buckets with an inch or two of water. You don't need a ton of water to clean your brushes. As you need to clean your brushes, have old rags or paper towels handy to clean your brushes on. Then take the old rags or paper towels that you just used and stick them into your water bucket to soak up any remaining water. Toss the rags/paper towels in the trash. Don't dump your water down your drain pipes.  
I am primarily a paper artist. I have taught classes in acrylics and various mediums, bookbinding, collage, etc... for over eighteen years now. I do not work for any company. All of the products mentioned above are my personal favorites. They are supplies that I buy (just like you) and use on a regular basis. I ONLY recommend what I LOVE and use in my own artwork as well as in my classes. I also only recommend companies that I have buy from.
Other Links of Interest:
Basic short list of my favorite tape (not to be confused with where to find decorative tape)
Special thanks to Pam for suggesting this post!  


GREAT Info...thanks!
Rolina said…
Excellent information - thank you!
Hello - which glue do you recommend to use on altered magazine pages? I am using Citra Solv on National Geographic Magazines and I would appreciate your advice with regard to the correct glue to use. Thank you.
Unknown said…
Thank you for your detailed descriptions of uses. My particular need at this moment is a glue to attach a fabric-backed mixed media cover to the current cover of a book. It is a math book with that slick (magazine-style gloss) finish. From reading your description, I'm thinking sand the cover a bit and use PVA?????? Do you agree?
Kelly Kilmer said…
Unknown-Apologies, I just saw this. I think it depends on what kind of fabric you are using. Usually for fabric, I use aleene's tacky glue or SOBO.

@William-I use a glue stick, gel medium or PVA.

inkerdoodler said…
I have to reinforce Kelly's recommendation for Coccoina glue sticks. They are far superior to anything else! I bought a set of 3 and used them up... while I was waiting for a new order to arrive, I used what I had on hand in the interim... I used both Scotch permanent and Avery permanent glue sticks, but within several weeks my images were starting to lift off. That did NOT happen with the images I glued with Coccoina. I bought the big ones! Be SURE to burnish with a rag to remove bubbles and ensure that all edges are firmly in place!!

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