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Subject: Painting a Foam Core Insert rss

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Lee Valentine
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I'm about to test some Liquitex spray paint on a foam core insert. It is supposed to be quite safe on foam unlike other spray paints. Are inserts painted with acrylic paint safe to store game components in after they dry, or do they need to be sealed to avoid rubbing off on the components over time?

I made a nice insert, but I used Alene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue which causes much more of an ugly mess than their normal Tacky Glue. I want to keep the insert, but I want to paint it to make it look cleaner.

Thanks for the advice.

Lee
 
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Craig B
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Have you considered coloured matching tape to your foamcore if you want it to be super clean? Or like...... those book cover things back when you were a little kid and covered your school books. Paint to me sounds like a bad idea without testing it on a piece that isn't part of the completed foam core yet. I'd expect it to rub off if you don't seal it. Whereas something like black tape COULD look just as sleek if you really want to cover all the exposed joins.
 
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Drop a pic for us to see please.
 
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C M
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Once the foam is coated with the acrylic you should be able to use a regular clear coat on it without melting the foam. That should keep the paint from rubbing off.
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Lee Valentine
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Craig, I appreciate the idea, but tape would be a real hassle. I'd have to cut tape the size of every part of my insert, and then I'd have to worry about the tape adhesive getting on game components instead of paint.

Lee
 
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Lee Valentine
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J P, here's a minor example. Some of the discoloration is worse than in this photo.



If I get stray fast tack glue on foam core, it tends to discolor it, and trying to wipe away the fast tack with a mildly damp paper towel can often rub away the paper on the foam core.

The foam core I have is black on gray instead of black on black, and sometimes a Sharpie is not enough to darken the edge.

Lee
 
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Jake Staines
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To be perfectly honest, from the picture I think you're probably better off spending your time practising building the insert without getting glue on it in the first place - it should be quite possible to glue foamcore together without getting it on the faces. It's not the easiest thing in the world and it takes a bit of practice, but once that time is invested all your future foamcore inserts will be neater as a result.

Also consider a rebate/rabbet cutter for foamcore - there are several such tools available (I have one by Alvin which is great, and I'm pretty sure Logan/Foamwerks do one as well) and they'll help form a 90-degree joint that's got twice the surface area of a normal butt-joint, meaning the glue will grab quicker and it's easier to hold everything in place.




If you're asking about painting the faces because you're having a lot of trouble with glue squeeze-out, consider getting some low-tack masking tape and taping a line along the edge that you're going to glue. Like that, the glue will go on the masking tape rather than on the face of the foamcore, and you can peel the tape off later to remove the glue at the same time and leave the pristine foamcore face underneath. Just be careful to use low-tack tape (or to reduce the glue by pressing it against your skin a few times) - a high-quality painters' tape may tear the face off the foamcore!

If you're asking about painting the foam core itself, as some of the answers above seem to assume, then my advice would seriously be to not bother. It's hard to get the paint far enough into the foam to thoroughly change the colour, so you end up putting a lot more paint on than necessary. My preferred option is to glue strips of card - same trick with the masking tape if you have trouble with squeeze-out still. It's a bit fiddly, but it looks great when it's done.





To answer your questions specifically, though:

- Once dry, acrylic paint is waterproof and solid - so it should be fine to come in contact with your game components, it's not going to smear over them or re-activate and paint them or anything. There are some paints which might do this, such as gouache, but pure acrylics should be fine.

- You can certainly seal them if you want to, but obviously then you're down to the same question regarding the seal you use. If you use a spray can lacquer/varnish, you're probably fine if you follow the instructions. If you use ModPodge, prepare to get it all over your game components!

Whatever you use, test it on a scrap piece of foamcore first - if it's not dry and non-tacky to the touch 24 hours after spraying, then don't use it. Pre-paint your test piece using the same paint - it's rare amongst acrylics and spray-lacquer in my experience, but the solvents in some lacquers will have/cause problems over some paint and you don't want to find out when you ruin six hours of foamcore insert work with the reaction!

- Aleene's Tacky Glue is my favourite for foamcore - if you need a quicker grab than it provides, consider taping your joints shut with masking tape or using sewing pins to keep it closed while the glue dries.
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Lee Valentine
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Jake, thanks for your feedback. I own a Foamwerks rabbet cutter, and I despise it. The foam core jams in it 90% of the time, even with new blades. Either the rabbet cutter is defective, or my foam core is not uniformly the same depth as the track in the rabbet cutter; I'm using 5mm foam core. The jams seems to look like the foam core is not cleanly passing through the channel in the rabbet cutter. It usually jams so hard that I have to use other tools to unjam it or dismantle it. I used it for part of the insert, but it kept destroying things so frequently that I decided that I am only going to try it again with a different brand of foam core.

I have fewer problems with Tacky Glue, but whenever I use the Fast Grab Tacky Glue it just goes everywhere and mars everything it touches. It's like pouring honey all over my hands and workspace, and spreads like a virus on everything it touches. It mostly starts spreading out if I got too much glue in a joint and squeezes out. I can wipe up excess Tacky Glue pretty easily, but Fast Grab Tacky Glue seems to be tough to wipe up without shredding the face of the foam core.

I also wanted to paint the edges because they are a bit rough. My utility knife blade lock was dying, and even with a new blade it was chewing up the insert and letting the blade come completely out of the knife. I've got a new knife for the next insert which seems to be great, but I've got a very functional insert that I'd like to salvage.

I may try taping to prevent the glue squeeze out. With the normal Tacky Glue, I've recently found that if I lay down glue on the edge of some foam core, I can skim a toothpick across that edge to remove excess glue before joining it to other foam core. That method (plus avoiding the Fast Grab Tacky Glue) seems to make for much cleaner results.

Jake, I do like how you edged the foam core with card on the insert you linked to.


Lee
 
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Paul Burkart
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I tend to do something similar to Jake when I make foamcore inserts -- I take colored card stock, cut it to the right size and shape, and then use double-faced tape to line the bottom of the insert trays. It takes a little time, but it covers up any issues with stray glue from the creation of the tray. The double-faced tape ensures that the foamcore doesn't warp, as it tends to with glue and other substances. That would be my main worry with paint, btw -- as it dries, it might warp the surface of the foamcore. Be sure to test it on a scrap before spraying/painting the entire insert.
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