Glue Guide – Use the Right Glue for the Job

Glue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart

If you ask somebody who isn’t crafty how many types of glues there are they will probably give you a pretty low number. When I asked around the number was normally around 5. If only they knew. A trip down the adhesives aisle at a craft store will set them straight.

In fact, looking at all of those glues can be pretty darn daunting. Plus they can be expensive and they can dry up before you have the opportunity to use it all up. So what do you do when you don’t know what kind of glue you need?

In the past when trying to locate what will work and what dries clear and what is permanent I got frustrated. That wondrous adhesive aisle can be pretty infuriating when you’re reading 10 different tubes and bottles and still not finding what you need. My searches often went online where I felt as though I got the runaround. Plus, a decent comprehensive reference couldn’t be found – and if I did find one the link would be broken.

I’ve made the following chart that I use as a quick reference and I’d like to share it with you. Just click on the image below to open the PDF file that will print nice and clearly for you. Keep it at your desk, toss one in your glue box… I spent lots of time online searching different resources and compiling what I found and trying to make it easily accessible. Most of the time I kept it generic, but sometimes I have gone brand specific.

Glue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart

If you still aren’t sure which glue to use, it’s often best to err on the side of caution as clean up from a fouled attempt can be time consuming, never mind that it can completely ruin your project. If you want quick guide for knowing how to glue one thing to another, you absolutely must check out This to That.

Fill in the fields to attach (this) to (that) and accurate advice will magically appear! For instance, when gluing ceramic to styrofoam, they suggest Epoxy for the strongest bond, hot glue for the fastest, weldbond for the least toxic and suggest to apply glue to the ceramic and then adhere to styrofoam. Neat, huh? Let’s dig into my glue box and see what we have, shall we?

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School GlueGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart
- This is excellent to have around if you have kids that like to craft because it’s non-toxic and easy to clean up and can be used generally, on paper, styrofoam, wood, ceramics.

I always buy Elmer’s brand simply because I am familiar with the results and it is inexpensive, however there are store brands that can be cheaper. Another application is to make creepy skin clones of your hands circa grade school times.

Wood Glue
– One of the least versatile glues here but important all the same. The bond is considered permanent dries a yellowy beige color and is only acceptable for use on wood.

I typically purchase Elmer’s brand simply because I am familiar with the results and happy with the price, but there are more brands to choose from at hardware stores.

Glue SticksGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart
– These are great in my book because kids can’t make as big of a mess as they can with liquid glue. They dry clear, most are acid free and all are acceptable for paper crafting.

There are tons of brands at different price points and I have probably used them all, including sticks where the glue changes color (most commonly from purple) to clear as it dries which an be handy in certain circumstances. They are great for office use when sealing envelopes, especially in large quantities. The only negative is that they can dry out before you have the opportunity to completely use up.

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Tacky GlueGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart
– As you can tell, Aleene’s is my brand of choice. While it may seem overkill to have so many, the different types can have different attributes and applications.

The similarities – all tacky glue is considered to be permanent, dry clear and acceptable for general use, paper. All but the clear are also acceptable for use on styrofoam, wood, ceramics and fabric.

Fast Grab Tacky GlueGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart
– When working with little things that try to get away from you, like beads, this stuff is a godsend. It’s also great when working with something that is difficult to hold on to. For instance, you’re trying to glue these two angles together but it’s hard to hold it in place just so while the glue dries. This stuff instantly grabs and takes hold so you don’t have to while it dries.

Original Tacky GlueGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart
– A nice, thick glue perfect for every day use.

Clear Gel Tacky GlueGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart
– You know how sometimes glue that is supposed to dry clear is kind of milky? This is great for when that is just not an option.

Super FabricGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart
– This may seem an awful lot like ‘Fast Grab Tacky GlueGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart, however, Quick Dry doesn’t have that initial grab but it does dry much more quickly. Great for projects that need to be handled a lot while being worked on.

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Mod PodgeGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart
is considered permanent, dries clear and acceptable for use on paper, styrofoam, wood, ceramics and fabric. Uses include as a glue, decoupage medium and finishing top coat. There are a wide variety of formulas including those listed below.

GlossGlue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart | Matte |  Fabric | Glitter | Glow-in-the-Dark | Satin | Shimmer | Sparkle

Typically I keep gloss, matte and outdoor on hand as they are the ones I most commonly use. While there are versions online for homemade Mod Podge, I really recommend using the real stuff. While the homemade can be considerably cheaper, it also doesn’t have the permanence necessary for most decoupage projects.

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Rubber Cement
– Intended for primarily paper crafting and can be used for temporary or permanent adhesion, this glue is acid free. There are three methods when using rubber cement: wet mount, dry mount and combination mount that should be outlined on every bottle. Works well when making binding on homemade notebooks and makes a pretty believable fake booger (not that I’d know from experience).

Paper Glaze
- This adhesive is for paper crafting and is common in scrap-booking. While more expensive than traditional glues, it contains no acid and will never yellow with age making it perfect for keepsakes. When applied in thin coats it can be used to laminate images. Dries clear when applied in thin layers.

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Fabric Stiffener
- While not technically a glue I feel that it fits into this category. Intended only for fabric, this product does exactly what it says it will. Either watered down, or applied straight from the bottle, this turns flimsy fabric, lace, felt and the like into a rigid piece. The more watered down the glue, the less stiff the form will be. The application requires dipping the fabric into the mixture or brushing on and wringing out the excess. To prevent waste, I wring the extra into a mason jar to be reused again and again.

Felt Glue
– While a specialty glue that only works for felt may seem like a silly expenditure, if you use felt often it comes in very handy. Use in place of sewing felt together, or to tack down items that are difficult to hold in place when sewing. The downside is that it dries very, very hard so take care not to use anywhere you need to actually stitch.

Fabric glue
– There are tons of fabric glues out there and I typically have several on hand.

Cheapie No-Sew Fabric Glue – I purchase mine at Family Dollar for $2 a package. It goes a long way and is easy to use. Only use with projects that will not need to be washed often.

Fray Check of Stop Fraying
– Apply to rough edges of fabric to prevent fraying. Especially great if you don’t have access to a pricey serger.

Fabric Fusion
(by Aleene’s) – Pricey, but dry clean safe.

Flexible Stretchable
(by Aleene’s) – Great when gluing things onto fabric that moves a lot. For instance, great when gluing things onto cheapie winter gloves.

Super Fabric
(by Aleene’s) – This stuff means business and must be used with proper ventilation. I only use this type of glue when working on shoes or other fabric things that have a lot of wear and are often around water, scuffed, etc.

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Hot glue gun
– An honest to goodness multipurpose glue that is permanent and acceptable for general use on paper, styrofoam, wood, ceramics, fabric and natural items. Due to its nature it is necessary to take caution when working with hot glue as the glue and the metal bits on the gun it can cause nasty burns.

Both a pro and a con, this glue quickly adheres as it cools down requiring quick work.It can yellow or become brittle with time.

Glue guns can be found to be corded or cordless, high temperature, low temperature or a combination of the two (with a switch). There are full size (larger) and mini size, which I prefer and own.

Sticks also come in high temperature or low and multiple sizes- be sure to purchase the right temperature and size for you gun. Additionally the sticks come in regular length and extended length. Once you buy the longer ones, you’ll quickly become accustomed to not reloading the gun frequently and will only buy the shorter when absolutely necessary.

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Super Glue
– Permanent and drying clear, this adhesive can be applied in most general uses, paper, ceramics.

I purchase mine at the dollar store where they are 4 for $1 because it is a rare occasion when I can open the tube for a second use. Dries clear and really likes to glue skin to things very quickly. I imagine that most junk drawers around the world have a tube of this stuff hanging out just for emergencies.

E-6000
- Whenever I say “strong glue” in a DIY I always follow it with “like e-6000″. Industrial strength, it is suggested for general use, wood, ceramics, fabric, metal and natural materials and it dries clear.

To use apply a small amount and allow to sit until it becomes tacky. Then press the two items together. If you try to use immediately, your top bit will slide around like crazy. It must be used in a properly ventilated area.

Quick Hold
is a version of the same but dries much more quickly but costs more for less product.

Shimmer
– Good for a permanent bond on paper, wood, ceramics, and metal. It is made of two components (they often look like double barrel syringes or two tubes like above) when mixed together make a very, very strong adhesive. Unlike most glues that are still kind of soft when dry, epoxy creates a hard protective shell that can help protect if from the elements, including humidity. JB Weld is specific type of epoxy that can withstand very high temperatures and my preference. Some will dry clear and others will not, like JB Weld which dries a dark gray.

Spray Adhesive
-
Incredibly handy, spray adhesive can be used to form either temporary or permanent bonds when working with paper, fabric and natural items.

When buying spray adhesive I purchase whatever is the cheapest as I have no loyalty to any one brand. I’ve seen where it is recommended for applying glitter but in my experience, it is always a fail. Overspray can be a sticky and messy issue, so take care when using. Also use in a well ventilated area as fumes are nasty business.

Glue Guide by Dream a Little Bigger - always use the right glue - FREE downloadable reference chart

On a side note I haven’t noticed paste for sale, have you? I wonder if Elmer realized that the applicator was too similar to a spoon for lower elementary children to ignore? If you have a crafty glue that you love, please share it in the comments!

Hope your weekend plans are fantastic!


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Comments

  1. Brittany B says

    I love this! It makes it so easy to understand what goes with what. May I ask that you also consider adding Studio Tack and Sobo to this list? I am a graphic designer and use these all the time in my work and think readers might like knowing even more options for their personal crafts! Both are acid-free and archival quality.

    Also, have you seen the gel glue pens? I recently bought some but haven't tried them yet. I am wondering what the will perform like.

  2. Katie says

    I find this incredibly helpful, with one exception: super glue. Superglue is made of a chemical called cyanoacrylate. When it comes in contact with cotton, it can spontaneously combust and let out toxic fumes. So while your chart is really great, I'd get rid of the dot in the fabric column for super glue.

  3. Allison Murray says

    Thanks ladies for all of the lovely comments!
    Brittany I have not used any of those but I think I'll have to give them a go! Thanks for the heads up :)
    Katie- You're absolutely right on the super glue – it's also awful with wool and it doesn't work with metal – the sheets have been updated! Thanks for noticing and bringing it to my attention. I never would have caught it!

  4. Karen hornsten says

    I used to swear by Martha Stewarts glue products when making my origami flowers. Got a little costly, so i was glad to see Aleenes Clear Gel glue on your list. I love it for reliability and durability, all important when I create a large wedding bouquet from paper flowers, which are assembled after foldingmany paper petals. As a gal who works with paper and glue every day, I very much appreciate all your work in putting together a fantastic glue tutorial and chart. Thank you! Karen

  5. CAndice Windham says

    Thanks for a great tool!
    here are my favorites: Beacon Quick Grip, great for adding bling and embellishments, similar to E6000, but a thinner consistency. I use it on paper, fabric, wood and metal.
    Beacon Zip Dry, great paper adhesive.
    3M Quick Dry Scrapbook Glue (may have the name a little off), doesn't wrinkle your paper
    Best Glue Ever (Scraperfect), used for adhering papers/cardstock. It remains tacky when dry, so it's great for adding things like a dusting of PearlEx over your project.
    Double Stick Tape: anything from Kool-Tac or Sookwang

  6. Allison Murray says

    Karen, as you can tell I'm pretty partial to Aleene's myself!
    Great additions, Candace – I'm adding it to the bottom of the post where it will hopefully be better seen!

  7. Carmen says

    This is a wonderfully handy post! Thanks for doing all the leg work for us. I've linked to you on my FB page, and will also be pinning. Thanks again!

  8. CeCe says

    Great, informative article! Question for Allison– or any readers: I make jewelry pieces using embroidery thread, and have to use a glue to keep some strands together. However, I'm finding that I don't like the odors that come with the fabric glues like Allene's (and hot glue leaves too many bumps in the project). It is my intent to sell my pieces (on Etsy) once I've built my inventory a bit, but I'm afraid that once my customers open their purchases they'll be afronted with the glue odor. So I've resorted to Elmer's.
    Anyone else have the concern I have and how did you combat it? Thanks in advance.

  9. Allison Murray says

    Hi, CeCe – the problem that I see is that Elmer's isn't permanent. I would be afraid that the jewelry would come apart with time, or if it accidentally got wet, like in the rain. The industrial glues do have an awful, chemical scent but I think that if you gave it time to air out prior to sending you should be fine. If you've had your clothes dry cleaned (where they clean clothes with chemicals rather than water and soap) you may notice a similar smell, but if the clothes are allowed to air out a few days it dissipates. I think that it would be similar with your jewelry crafts!

  10. Abby says

    Thanks so much this is a fantastic reference as I'm always doing little projects and just have to experiment with the glue.. just wondering, I didn't see plastic on the list. I am contantly gluing my son's toys or toy parts together – any suggestions?
    Thanks again!

  11. Allison Murray says

    Abby, for plastic I would really recommend an epoxy (the two part glues). There are some even specifically made for bonding plastics together. If the plastic is more firm than rubbery, you could also use super glue in a pinch, but your longest lasting hold will definitely be the epoxy. Cheers!

  12. Kemerley Deus says

    I am doing a project in September on canvas. We are having a Neon/80′s family reunion, I am having the kids do a project for the decorations. I want to write something on the front of the canvas relating to the reunion. What glue could I use that would show up on the canvas after they have decorated it. Are do you have any idea’s that would help me. Thanks a lot.
    Kemerley

    • Allison says

      They sell glitter glues that might work out well for you. You can also put an Elmer’s glue cap onto a 2 ounce bottle of acrylic craft paint and write on top of your paintings that way. Another option is to write in any glue and then glitter the top of so that it stands out. Most glues dry clear or white so I wouldn’t just go straight up glue, though.

  13. Rebecca says

    This is fantastic, thanks! I’m always a bit intimidated by all the adhesive options, and since my budget is small, I really don’t want to waste money by buying things that won’t work for my projects.

    • Allison says

      That’s exactly why I worked this up. Because sometimes I get so confused and it’s irritating when you wash a tee shirt to have everything you glued on come off. I actually use the guide myself when I need a reminder. So glad it’s helpful to you!

  14. Chris says

    Allison, you’re amazing. Thanks for this info.

    I’m still struggling though. I’m doing the first crafts I’ve ever done in my life right now, and I’m having a hard time. I wonder if you could offer some insight?

    It’s all fabric work. I’m not going to sew anything. I’m trying to make a tree skirt, table runner, and stockings for Christmas decor. It’s a lot of felt, some burlap, and some embellishments. The embellishments include lots of sequin appliques and patches, more felt and burlap, and some little crystals and plastic cabochons.

    I bought the Aileens fabric fusion glue and it’s not working with the burlap at all. It worked very poorly with appliques on felt. The backs of the appliques and patches are a little shiny-smooth. Next I tried old fashioned elmers white craft all purpose glue. It’s working ok with the felt until I hold up the stocking, then the heavy sequence appliques fall off. It’s also not working with the burlap at all. (I’m new at this, is burlap not considered a fabric in the crafting world?) I looked at This to That, it doesn’t have felt, appliques/patches or burlap specific info, just “fabric” and suggests 2 glues I hadn’t heard of. I’m wondering if the appliques aren’t considered fabric, and if not what are they considered?

    Any advice you could give me I’d really appreciate.
    Thanks for all you do,
    Chris

    • Allison says

      Hey, Chris – I’d really recommend working with a heavy duty fabric glue like Aleene’s super fabric. You’ll need to use it with proper ventilation but it is one of the more serious glues you’re going to find when working with all kinds of fabric. If you have a hard time with the burlap still I’d probably try E-6000 next. Those are both my “go to glues” when dealing with fabrics and “heavy things”.

      I know how frustrating it can be to get everything glued on and then have it all fall right off. Give one or both a go and let me know how it works for you, but just glue a few and be sure to let your project sit flat for a good while so that the glue holds, especially if your items are heavier than the fabric is. I’d probably go overnight. When you know what works best for that particular project or items to glue on, you can go nuts!

      Thanks so much for your kind words, best of luck and be sure to let me know how it pans out :)

  15. Chris says

    Thanks so much! I ordered the E-6000 over the weekend. ‘Should be here late this week. I’ll comment again once I’ve used it. I really appreciate the recommendation, and the inspiration.

  16. Dri says

    Hello
    This was very helpful when looking for fabric glue to make my Halloween costume. I purchased the Aleene’s Fabric Fusion to make my dress and I must say it is not working at all. It will not stick and the fabric that I am using is just a bed sheet. Do you have any suggestions on what I should do? I was thinking about using my glue gun but wasn’t sure how it would turn out with the dress.

    Any help would be appreciated,
    Dri

    • Allison says

      Hey, Dri – so sorry that you’re having some problems. I just read a handful of recent reviews on Amazon and a lot of people are having a hard time with it.. Something must have changed in the formula and I’m sorry again.

      When working with cotton I find that cheapie, cheapie fabric glue works really, really well. My favorite I actually buy at Family Dollar a little discount store and it comes in a white tube with blue writing. It runs either a buck or two per tube. Otherwise you might even take your project in to a craft or fabric store and see which glue they’d suggest. Are you gluing the entire dress from scratch – totally no sew?

  17. Cate says

    Alison , my gratitidute fro your tutorial on glue and there abilities. I am just starting to use dried pressed flowers. You mention using a type of glue in above list that though suitable may dry yellow. Can you suggest a glue for pressed flowers. What a great gift you’ve provided for those of us newbies and seasoned professionals. Blessings Cate

    • Allison says

      To be honest I’d think that plain old Elmer’s school glue might be the best option for dried flowers. If you give it a go will you let me know how it works out for you?

  18. Chris says

    Hi Allison,

    It’s me again, Chris with the sequence appliques. I wanted to let you know how it all worked out.

    The E-6000 did it. I was able to glue everything with it. The burlap took a lot of it, but it worked on that too. The appliques all worked just fine. Everything I used it on – including an old porcelain music box I had broken – turned out successfully. You rule!

    By the way, I read a review as I was buying the E-6000 that advised getting the little tubes if you’re not used to working with glues. I wanted to pass that along here because I found it to be good advise. For me as a total newbie the larger tube became a mess in no time. I couldn’t control how much came out, it got on everything, and I wound up wasting a lot. The little ones were easier to manage.

    I read your comment above regarding Aleene’s Fabric Fusion. Yeah, it didn’t work for me at all either. That’s a shame if there’s a product change that’s ruined it. Oh well, I’m just so glad you turned me on to the E-6000. Thank you so much!

    Merry Christmas!
    Chris

    • Allison says

      That is a great tip about the little tubes. It seems the glue just keeps coming out of the big ones even when you’re not using any pressure anymore. Very glad you were able to make a glue work for you :)

  19. Kathy says

    Thank you for your great glue chart…I will add this to my “did you know” file that I print and share with friends. I’m currently making lapel flowers and having a problem getting the fabric (cotton) to adhere to the metal pin back. I’ve tried e-6000, fabric glue and hot glue. None of these glues are strong enough to hold together when trying to pin the flower on clothing. The “this to that” shows 3m 77, but it is a spray. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Allison says

      Honestly, I’d go ahead and give clear tacky glue a try. You’ll have to hold it some time as it dries but it should work. If not I’m finding that Gorilla glue is bonding just about everything to anything!

  20. Geraldine says

    To prevent the glue stick from drying, keep it in the freezer. It’ll stay moist and be ready to use next time you need it. I’ve kept a stick in the freezer for over a year, it shrunk somewhat, but it’s still sticky.

  21. Judee says

    I need to know what glue to use to glue a decorated letter onto a foam canvas, which is covered with fabric. This project is for a little girls room. I didn’t see this particular thing on the blog. Thank you so much.

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