Make Your Own Crackle Finish


Of all the expensive, hard to manage supplies I’ve come across, crackle finish wins as both ridiculously costly, and annoyingly unreliable. When I first heard of crackle finishes being done with consistently good results, and with a cost effective medium, I was dubious. I was wrong. You really can get a great crackle finish on cardstock, chipboard, wood and even fabric using—-wait for it—-Elmer’s Glue All, which costs less than a dollar for a 4 oz. bottle if you hit a back to school sale.

To make your crackle finish, you’ll need:

  • Elmer’s Glue All white glue. This technique may work with other white glues, but I haven’t tried them. I do know it doesn’t work with Tacky Glue.
  • Acrylic paints. I used the cheap stuff, as always, because I wanted to let some of the base coat show through the top coat. You’ll need two colors. For my samples, I used teal and black as base coats, and a mix of white and yellow ochre for the top coat.
  • A wide bristle brush, an old credit card, or scrap of chipboard.
  • A surface. I did my samples on cardstock and wood. I’ve seen this done on muslin, too.

This is a technique you’ll want to test, on a surface similar to what you want to crackle. Results may vary widely, due to surface choice, paint viscosity, and weather conditions.

crackle_hs01Here are your basic materials: Elmer’s Glue All, and cheap acrylic paint.

crackle_hs02Start by base coating your surface with paint. You can do this in one color, or several. Whatever you use with show up as the crack part of your finished piece—that is, your base coat will show up as the cracks between the pieces of your top coat color.

Let the base coat dry completely. This is very important.

crackle_hs03Apply a coat of glue, using the applicator of your choice. A thick layer of glue seems to give bigger cracks, while a thinner one seems to give finer, smaller cracks.

crackle_hs04One of the things I noticed was using a brush horizontally to apply the glue seemed to give more horizontal cracks.

Let the glue dry until it’s just tacky.

crackle_hs05Load up your brush with the top coat color, and apply it in even strokes over the tacky glue layer. Try to do just one pass over each section of glue for best results.

crackle_hs06The surface will begin to crackle very faintly almost immediately. Don’t hover, because at this point, you can’t change the results you’re going to get. Put your piece down, and walk away for ten minutes. The surface will continue to crackle until all layers are dry.

crackle_hs07I noticed that the glue took longer to get tacky on wood than it did on cardstock, but the results were fairly similar.

And the results? Here we go:

Crackle01Cardstock base.
Glue applied vertically, with a brush.
Top coat applied horizontally, with a brush.

Crackle02Cardstock base.
Glue applied horizontally, with a credit card.
Top coat applied horizontally, with a brush.

Crackle03Cardstock base.
Glue applied horizontally, with a credit card.
Top coat applied horizontally, with a brush.

Crackle04Cardstock base.
Glue applied vertically, with a brush.
Top coat applied horizontally, with a brush.

Crackle05Wood base.
Glue applied horizontally, with a credit card.
Top coat applied horizontally.

Crackle06Wood base.
Glue applied horizontally, with a credit card.
Top coat applied horizontally.

Make Your Own Glitter Glue

GGI have a real bias against the use of loose glitter. Opening a jar is like opening Pandora’s box: glitter flies everywhere, and ends up tracked all over the house. I also have trouble keeping the stuff attached to my work, in the density and location I desire.

My solution: glitter glue. I love the stuff. However, I find the glitter glues sold at most craft stores to be too thick and globby for my taste. For a long time, I used Elmer’s 3D Glitter Glue, which blended a very fine glitter with a gel binder the consistency of—-well, gel glue. When this glitter glue became hard to find in anything other than multi-packs of colors I don’t really want, the next natural step was to blend my own, using ultra-fine glitter and Elmer’s Clear School Glue. It’s a little more viscous than their glitter glue, but much cheaper, and I get to blend my own colors. Now, I’m only limited by the colors of glitter I can find.

To make your own glitter glue, you’ll need:

  • Elmer’s Clear School Glue. Don’t get the blue tinted stuff. I’ve tested it, and it really does stay slightly blue when it dries. Buy clear.
  • Ultra fine glitter. This is sometimes marketed as fairy dust. It’s tiny. Don’t use standard glitter, because it’s too big and clunky. You want the really super fine stuff that almost looks like powder.
  • A squeeze bottle with a fine tip. I buy mine in the fabric paint section of my favorite craft store. I think they’re by Jones Tones, and they have a clever little top on them designed to keep liquids from leaking out. This helps keep the glitter glue from drying out for a longer period. Alternately, you can save the applicator bottles from fabric paints or alcohol inks, but you’ll need to make the hole in the tip just a little bigger for glitter to pass through it.

Now is probably a good time to say that this glitter glue doesn’t store well for long periods. It will keep for a week or two, but after that, it starts to separate, and the glue dries out. I find making a small amount, for whatever project I’m working on today, is best. I can always make more next week.

Why bother? Because I can get exactly the color I want, when I want it. If I need sage green iridescent, I can mix up a batch, use it up, rinse out the bottle, and make another color tomorrow.

OK, back to the lesson…

glitter_hs01Here are the items you’ll need: clear gel glue, ultra fine glitter, and a bottle with an applicator tip.

glitter_hs02The ratio we’re going to use is two parts glue to one part glitter. We’re going to make a sandwich of the glitter between layers of glue, so the glitter won’t stick to the bottom of the bottle, or get caught in the lid. We also want to leave enough air space in the bottle to allow for adequate blending.

So, mentally divide your bottle in quarters. Fill the first quarter with glue.

glitter_hs03Fill the second quarter of the bottle with glitter. Try to keep it in the center of the bottle, rather than pouring it in along the sides.

glitter_hs04Fill the third quarter of the bottle with glue. Cover that glitter up completely.

glitter_hs05The fourth quarter of the bottle is room for shaking. Shake hard. At first, you’ll hear the glitter rustling. When it stops making noise, and sounds like a liquid, you’re done.

That’s all there is to it. Glue. Glitter. Shake. You’re done!

Be sure to do the first squeeze of your new glitter glue on a piece of scrap paper. Very often, the shaking will force plain glue up into the tip, so your first squeeze will be more glue than glitter. Once it works its way out, and you get the nicely blended stuff to the tip, it should be smooth sailing.