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We tend to save the cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towels for crafts, like play binoculars and telescopes.

The outsides are easy to decorate, the insides not so much.

Painting is maybe doable, but a brush would hit at the wrong angle. Instead, I've thought about decorating paper and rolling it up inside. I'm struggling with how to affix this paper. If I glue the back of it, it'd be tough to get inside without wrinkling. I'd rather not tape along the seam, as it's ugly!

Is there a better way to get the decorated paper inside the tube?

  • Decorate seems pretty open ended. Do you mean paint, add glitter or what exactly? Or is the issue not so much with what but how? – Matt Jul 10 '16 at 0:12
  • @Matt More the how! – user24 Jul 10 '16 at 0:15
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Regardless of what you intend to decorate the inside of your tubes with, I think the solution is to apply the adhesive on the inside first and then decorate.

I was looking at a way to get paint brush bristles angled at 90 degrees either via a kludge, like an elastic, or a commercial product but I had issues searching for "90 degree brush head". What little I did find was either too large or unrealistic for this application. That's when it hit me! There is a simpler solution likely already in your possession or at least cheap to acquire for this.

Toothbrush

A toothbrush already has the 90 degree angle that would make for easy adhesive application on the inside of a tube. You basic white glue would be fine here for this. Even though it is non toxic I am sure you would prefer to get a dedicated toothbrush as supposed to dual purposing your daily one.

Once you get a decent amount of glue inside I would roll up the paper, that you plan on placing inside, smaller than that of the toilet paper roll itself. Gently put it in the tube and once it is inside all the way you should be able to release it. It will open most of the way and a little massaging will help get it in place the rest of the way. This should help keep glue from getting on the paper where it will be seen.

Using paper that is longer than your tube would be useful as you can adjust it from both ends without having to put your hand in too far. Excess paper can easily be removed with scissors or knives after.

If you were to use something other than paper, like glitter for instance, it would just be a matter of sprinkling it inside the tube and letting it stick.

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  • Clever and effective! – Erica Jul 10 '16 at 9:21
  • Aside from applying the glue, I could apply the paint directly with this. Or glitter glue. Seems like the best plan. – user24 Jul 10 '16 at 9:28
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I bought a brush years ago that has a bend in the handle (about 45 degrees) that might work for toilet paper tubes (not long enough for paper towel tubes), but it'd be very, very difficult to use with any precision.

I'd recommend one of two things:

  1. Use construction paper or other relatively stiff paper, and curl it up to place inside. You don't need to glue the whole surface. You could just apply glue or even tape at the ends, and it'll hold fine.

  2. If you really want to affix the whole thing, you'll want to use spray adhesive. Let it dry for a few minutes, and it'll behave like a giant Post-it Note. Curl it up, sticky-side-out, at a smaller diameter, and then use some sort of dowel or rod to unroll it and burnish it inside the tube. You could even wrap it around a dowel or tube of a slightly smaller diameter (eg, 3/4" PVC pipe), and then just unwrap / unroll it inside the tube you're decorating.

And I noticed that Matt mentioned glitter -- I was actually thinking sand art ... but for that, you just need to smear the glue in there, it doesn't have to be very pretty -- you could wad up a paper towel and push it through with a rod to spread the glue, then pour in colored sand, glitter, confetti, etc.

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  • The spray adhesive is a solid idea! The toothbrush thing will work for now, but I'm eager to get a spray can for the future. – user24 Aug 1 '16 at 17:37
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I've successfully painted the inside of tubes by pulling sponges through them on strings. Saturating the sponge with slightly thinned paint worked best for me, but I needed a matte black finish and it took several coats drying in between. It strikes me that a slightly oversized round piece of sponge with poster paint of different colours applied to it might produce a nice stripy/swirly effect (for the latter use a stick rather than a string and twist as you pull).

PVA or similar craft glue should work similarly. You could then either use this to stick paper (rolled up of insertion) or shake up some glitter/confetti in the tube. These would also stick to paint if you wanted a base colour with decoration on top.

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Cut it up so it's flat, and once you're done, seal it back up.

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  • From the wording in the question I think the OP wanted to avoid having to cut it and having a seam. Do you by chance have a way to mitigate this? Also could have an issue working it flat and then rolling it up again. Shape would be changed and the decorated paper inside could buckle. – Matt Aug 2 '16 at 18:27
  • How would you recommend sealing the tube back up? – user24 Aug 3 '16 at 0:11
  • You could use tape or any flat material on the outside, then paint over it. – haykam Aug 3 '16 at 0:14
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    That would work if you happened to have two tubes that were a sliding fit together. Then the seams could be opposite and reinforced so they'd be quite subtle. The outer tube could be made to fit. – Chris H Aug 3 '16 at 7:58
  • @ChrisH, that is also an option. – haykam Aug 3 '16 at 17:16

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