Do It Yourself Privacy Folders

I made a class set of student privacy folders during the summer after my first year of teaching. They were only made out of laminated poster board, but held up surprisingly well for nearly two decades! It was finally time for those old privacy folders to retire, so I decided to make some new ones that should hopefully last until I am ready to retire. :-)

Save money by making privacy folders out of display boards from the dollar store. This step by step tutorial will show you how.

Have you checked out the price of store-bought privacy folders? They cost about $80 (plus shipping) for a set of 24 folders. Ouch! I made mine for less than half of the price, and they are much more unique and colorful. If you want to make yourself a set, head on over to the dollar store and pick yourself up some of these project display boards.

Each board will make two privacy folders. I bought 14 display boards to make 28 folders. Here is a picture of the final product. Notice that I shortened the length of the center part of the display board so it will fit better on a desk. The following pictures will show you how I cut and assembled the privacy folders.

First, cut each display board in half. The half-way mark on my display board was a little shy of 14 inches. I used a T-square ruler and a razor blade to make a nice, straight line. Once I cut the first display board, I just used that one as a template to measure all of the others.

Next, open up one of the privacy folders and measure 15 inches across the center part. Cut on that line as pictured.

You will remove part of the center section and then reattach the side with duct tape.

Cut at the crease so you can remove that section.

Get rid of that center piece. Or (in my case), give those pieces of cardboard to your kids so they can be creative. My daughter made three bird houses with those scrap pieces.

Then, use duct tape to attach the right side to the privacy folder. Balance it out by adding a strip of tape to the left side. I bought five rolls of patterned duct tape at the dollar store and also used some left over tape I already had at home from another project.

Now for the fun part! Spray paint the back (brown) side of each privacy folder. I used five cans of spray paint, plus a few half-empty cans I had in my basement. My husband just loves the new colorful look of his saw horses. ;-)

Let your privacy folders sit overnight so they are nice and dry. Then place a strip of duct tape on each of the two outer creases.

I worked on my privacy folders over a period of three days. It was a lot of work, but I am really happy with the results. Now I can tuck them away until September, as I enjoy the next two months of summer.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Rose Kasper
    July 7, 2015 / 3:55 am

    Chrissie, your privacy folders are wonderful! They sure beat the colored folders that I staple together. Guess I'd better get busy!Sincerely,Rose

  2. Sarah Tighe
    July 13, 2015 / 1:38 am

    Adorable! What a great idea!

  3. Quinnessential Lessons
    July 26, 2015 / 2:27 pm

    Loving these! Now to find the time to make them.KimQuinnessential Lessons

  4. Sharon Fabian
    July 3, 2016 / 3:14 pm

    They look great (and they do look like they'll last a long time)!

  5. Perla Chávez5rrtr035rţ5
    July 15, 2016 / 5:53 pm

    Thanks for the excellent picture directions. That helps a lot. I better get busy.

  6. Mrs. Bru's Brainstorms
    July 20, 2016 / 3:15 pm

    Wow! Never again will I remake them each year with stapled folders. Thanks for the great idea!

  7. Toni
    August 20, 2016 / 11:39 am

    Wow! What an amazing idea. That is probably what the privacy folder people do and charge us a mint. Thank you for a great idea and keeping some money in our pockets!

  8. Cheryl McDonald
    August 20, 2016 / 12:15 pm

    Hi Chrissie, I am soooo glad that I found this! I was about to staple some foldrs together, but I saw this in the nick of time. Now off to the dollar store.

    • Connie Findley
      June 20, 2017 / 10:51 pm

      Ikr! Me toooo! LOL

  9. Unknown
    August 20, 2016 / 5:45 pm

    I used cereal boxes from our cafeteria. Free!!! How do you keep your students from poking holes in the cardboard?

  10. S.G.
    August 30, 2016 / 4:44 am

    I wrote a message inside of mine: "Mrs. G. Is watching you!" The 3rd graders haven't tried to mess with them in 16 years:0)

  11. Beti Kempa
    September 1, 2016 / 1:27 pm

    Yours look great! When I made mine, I left the cardboard the way I found it. Then I glued helpful testing techniques on the inside. Thanks for sharing your cute

  12. RosaMaria Corradi
    September 8, 2016 / 2:59 am

    Great idea! Here's a tip I may try… ask upper elementary kids to donate their used science boards after science fair.

  13. Errar Cowan
    September 11, 2016 / 11:02 pm

    Fantastic idea. Thanks for sharing.

  14. JaniceLynn
    October 10, 2016 / 11:07 pm

    I made these up for my class this weekend. I didn't spray paint them but there wasn't printing to be covered so that saved a step. I think my students will really enjoy using these. Thank you!!

  15. Pencil Points
    February 17, 2017 / 12:28 am

    I have used these, but without the cutting and painting. One thing I found helpful was to personalize each one. That helped keep them free of markings, etc.

  16. pammy
    February 24, 2017 / 6:35 am

    I have purchased them at Lakeshore during the summer when they are the doorbuster. They were not that expensive. However, these look very cute and unique. I love the idea. My only issue is usually they end up with holes, writing, etc. I don't think I would want to put in all of this time and then have them ruined by overactive students. Great idea! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Rachel Baker
    May 12, 2017 / 6:30 pm

    Thinking of using these for my kinders and putting sight words and letters to help them with their writing.

  18. Mama Huggz
    May 19, 2017 / 11:42 pm

    How did you prevent the cardboard from warping?

    • Chrissie Rissmiller
      June 28, 2017 / 2:18 am

      Hi! I didn't have any trouble with warping. They are nice and flat, even now after two years of use. :-)

  19. sag8072
    June 10, 2017 / 3:53 pm

    What a neat idea! I am going to start on this for my class next year this weekend.

  20. Unknown
    June 15, 2017 / 3:57 am

    Super idea!! Thanks for sharing!!

  21. Connie Findley
    June 20, 2017 / 10:51 pm

    This is absolutely ingenious! Thank you so much!

  22. Elissa Miller
    June 29, 2017 / 4:30 pm

    I'm trying this project right now and the spray paint is coming off on my fingers of I touch them at all after drying for three days. Did you have this problem? I used Krylon Silver Metallic paint so I'm thinking I need to try a color that is not metallic.

    • Chrissie Rissmiller
      June 30, 2017 / 7:01 am

      Oh, bummer! No, that didn't happen to me. I wonder if it might have to do with temperature or humidity. I know that humidity will sometimes do that. Maybe read the can for spraying conditions (?) Best wishes. I hope it works out for you!

    • prtrixie
      July 21, 2018 / 12:53 pm

      If you are using metallic paint, you need to seal it with a coat of clear to stop the "sparkles". Alternatively, you could just cover it with a different color which is non-metallic.

  23. Teacher5
    July 14, 2017 / 8:08 pm

    If you assign numbers to your students, simply put a large number on each privacy folder. If you have multiple classes, you can use the same numbers over and over again. When students need their privacy folder, they get their assigned number folder. If there are "markings" on the folders, you have a better idea of who is responsible for being disrespectful. I have done this for about 5 years with little to no markings. Hope this helps!

    • Chrissie Rissmiller
      July 18, 2017 / 3:28 am

      Great idea! Thanks for sharing! :-)

  24. V.Maxwell
    July 25, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    What kind of paint did you use and how many coats did you apply? How many privacy folders did you end up making altogether?

    • Chrissie Rissmiller
      July 29, 2017 / 1:27 am

      Hi! I used a variety of left over spray paint cans that I had in my basement, plus some fresh, new cans of Rustoleum American Accents. They all worked the same. It took two coats of paint to cover them. I made 28 privacy folders.

  25. Lashonda Martin Williams
    August 16, 2017 / 11:01 am

    Wow! These are awesome! I will be using them for my 6th Grade class this year!

  26. Elizabeth Harris
    September 2, 2017 / 4:16 pm

    I has trouble getting my spray paint to cover. I went through a can of black spray paint per folder. So I bought a gallon of paint at Walmart and my husband used his sprayer to paint both sides. (Bless him!) We hardly made a dent in that gallon. I didn't cut them because they will fit just fine on my desks. I did tape the edges and "hinges" for a cute look. I used neon to match my neon and black classroom. Love the Idea! Thanks!

  27. Unknown
    July 5, 2018 / 4:14 am

    I have seen the boards in color, so I will not have to spraypait. I will add an accent color with decorative duck tape. Just saved me $30 bucks from local teacher supply store. Thank you!

    • Chrissie Rissmiller
      July 31, 2018 / 3:22 am

      Colored boards would be great! That would save a lot of time for sure! :-)

  28. Serendipity
    July 25, 2018 / 8:55 pm

    Maybe try using contact paper or using spray adhesive to attach fabric. On the inside of the privacy folders I’ve made I put encouraging phrases and test taking tips.

  29. tania velasco
    July 27, 2018 / 8:11 pm

    Did you lay them flat or fold them to store them ?

    • Chrissie Rissmiller
      July 31, 2018 / 3:23 am

      Mine are folded when I store them. Just make sure they are completely dry if you spray paint them, or they will stick.

  30. Tanya Boyce
    August 13, 2018 / 7:09 pm

    Can you spray paint the front of the folders as well as the back? I bought mine last year and the kids wrote on the white side. I was thinking about painting the white side but wasn't sure if that was possible.

    • undercoverclassroom
      October 16, 2018 / 7:05 pm

      Sure! You can spray paint both sides, but it will use a lot of paint and be time consuming. :-)

  31. Michele Walden
    June 4, 2019 / 7:28 am

    Did you laminate them after they were complete?

    • undercoverclassroom
      June 6, 2019 / 6:57 pm

      Hi Michele,
      No, I didn’t laminate them. The cardboard is too thick to fit through my laminator. :-)

  32. Kara Swindell
    June 27, 2019 / 4:23 pm

    I’m leery about spray painting the cardboard. Can you tell me the exact spray paint you used?

    • undercoverclassroom
      June 27, 2019 / 10:11 pm

      Hi Kara, I mostly used Rust-oleum spray paint…the kind that says “2X the coverage” on the can. They sell a wide variety of colors at Walmart. I did also use a few other random brands that I had in my basement. They all worked fine on cardboard.:-)

  33. Mandy
    July 12, 2019 / 12:31 pm

    I teach 11th grade, so privacy folders are kind of moot, but I like to use the project boards at dollar store for groupwork white boards. I do the ssme thing and cover in cohtact paper and they hold up for about a semester. I never thought to cut them in half though, so I may try that…get a whole year’s worth of boards out of 6 or so.

    Great idea!!!

  34. Anna Jones
    July 18, 2019 / 7:42 pm

    I started making these boards today! It looks like you put the tape on after spray painting….is it okay to spray paint after I taped the pieces together? Also, how did you get the tape to be so straight! You have a steady hand…for sure.

    • undercoverclassroom
      July 20, 2019 / 10:41 pm

      Hi Anna! I put the tape on the inside before spray painting. That is the plain white side, which I didn’t paint. The tape on the outside is just for decoration, and I did add that after the paint dried. Adding the tape first is totally fine. It will just get covered by the paint. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to straight lines. Haha.

  35. Vicki Nutt
    August 25, 2019 / 5:48 pm

    Where did you get the duck tape for your boards? I can’t find any that’s this cute?

    • undercoverclassroom
      September 1, 2019 / 8:54 am

      I got most of it at AC Moore, a craft store. Some of it also came from Dollar Tree, but I haven’t seen any there lately.

  36. Suzie
    August 31, 2019 / 9:03 pm


    Wow!! i had so much fun making these. I have a student in my classroom from last year and she was amazed at our new privacy boards!! Thanks so much for sharing. I teach 1st grade, these are amazing. I put numbers on them this way if someone even thinks about touching these with any type of pens, markers ect… I will know who did it. I highly advised them not to write on our boards! :) So far so good!


    • undercoverclassroom
      September 1, 2019 / 8:52 am

      Awesome! I hope they hold up for many years to come! I bet they are beautiful! :-)

  37. Stefanie Williams
    March 1, 2020 / 8:14 am

    I made mine a few years ago and we are still using them! I have a question though. They still tend to “turn in” and get in the way of their papers. Any suggestions? And I wish I would have wrote numbers on them and assigned them. They sure do love to put holes in them with their pencils!

    • undercoverclassroom
      March 26, 2020 / 8:36 am

      Hi Stefanie, That’s great! Yeah, I always have to keep an eye on those pencil pokers. Haha. I bent the sides back far in the reverse direction at one point, and that seemed to help. Mine stand nice and straight and are still going strong. :-)

  38. Beth
    August 17, 2020 / 12:35 am

    I made these today! I didn’t have to cut them to make them narrower so that saved time. It took me about 4 hours to do all 30 of them. I’m definitely going to number them in hopes of deterring students from writing/poking holes on them. Thanks for this idea!!

  39. Miriam Cohen
    October 2, 2023 / 6:18 pm

    I teach first grade. I have bought the boards at the dollar store and cut them in half. I use clear tape to tape the edges so they last longer. I just use them as they are. I have used the same boards for three years. Some kids write on them or poke holes but remind them not to. I just replace the ones that are in really bad shape for the next year.

    I do tape laminated charts with concepts that we that we have covered in class, which are ment to be helpful to the students.

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