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Decoupage is an easy, creative and satisfying craft medium. With minimal materials, you can decorate almost any surface or object easily and with professional results.

Simply defined, decoupage is the art of cutting designs out of paper or other flat material, then applying a decorative pattern to a surface and covering with lacquer or glue.

Dating back to the 12th century in Asia, decoupage gained widespread popularity in Victorian England, where floral, cherubic and heart motifs were applied to furniture, screens and lamps. The word decoupage came into use in the 20th century and is based on the French word decouper, or “to cut.”

Today’s decoupage crafters have successfully applied designs to paper, wood, metal, glass, terracotta, plastic, wax candles, ceramics, cardboard, eggshells, stone materials, and more. Virtually any surface, with proper preparation, can be decoupaged.

basic decoupage supplies

  • A golden object with a clean and dust-free surface to decorate
  • Decorative paintings
  • scissors or craft knife
  • Collage glue or medium such as Mod Podge OR thinned white glue
  • foam brush
  • Tweezers
  • brayer (optional)
  • Fine-grit sandpaper (for certain surfaces)
  • varnish (optional)

Surface Preparation

  • painted wooden surfaces – Lightly sand the surface with a fine grit sandpaper. Clean thoroughly before decoupage.
  • unfinished wood surfaces – Decoupage materials can be applied directly to clean, dust-free unfinished wood surfaces. If you want color, paint the wood first and let it dry for at least 24 hours. If the paint is sticky, don’t decoupage. The paint must be completely dry for this technique to work.
  • slippery plastic surfaces – Materials do not adhere well to slippery plastic, so provide some “tooth” by sanding with fine grit sandpaper and wiping thoroughly. If in doubt, test first.
  • stone or rock – Thoroughly clean the surface of dirt or dust and weep it completely. The flatter and smoother the surface, the easier decoupage will be, especially for beginners.

Fonts of decorative images

Most flat materials can work for decoupage. Consider these sources: wrapping paper, tissue paper, scrapbooking paper, seed packets, menus, ticket stubs, napkins, wallpaper, old book pages, magazines, pressed flowers, ribbons, photographs, greeting cards , fabric, stickers, posters, calendars, maps, mats and more.

basic decoupage instructions

  1. Prepare the surface if necessary. See the preparation tips above.
  2. Crop images. Traditional decoupage included fine, precise cuts, but modern designs often include torn images and patterns.
  3. Design layout before decoupage. The most attractive design may need overlapping cutouts.
  4. Cover the surface with decoupage medium using a foam brush.
  5. Cover the back of the cropped image with medium.
  6. Apply carefully to the surface, pressing from the center of the piece towards the edges to minimize bubbles and wrinkles.
  7. Use a brayer to flatten the image as much as possible. Fingers can be just as effective for this step.
  8. If bubbles form, carefully pop them with a pin and smooth them out.
  9. Let the piece dry. Apply a coat of decoupage medium over the entire surface and allow to dry. Repeat until the surface has multiple layers. The most professional finish has no raised edges or minimal undercuts.
  10. If desired, varnish the finished piece following the instructions on the bottle. This seals the design and provides a more finished look. It also protects items that will get a lot of use.
  11. For a more professional finished project, lightly sand and clean between clearcoats until completely smooth.

decoupage tips

  • Allow all substances to dry completely between applications: paint, decoupage medium, and varnish.
  • Do not use inkjet printed images as the ink will smudge. Make color photocopies instead.
  • Do not use original photographs so that they can be preserved. Make color photocopies.
  • Some materials, such as napkins and very thin tissue paper, are delicate and require a light touch to prevent tearing.
  • Decoupage medium comes in matte and glossy finishes. Consider this for the final design.
  • Rinse sponge brushes immediately.

Decoupage is fun and easy. Try these basic decoupage techniques and create professional results.

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