Decoupage, that is the craft of cutting out pictures from magazines and other sources and then sticking them on to the surface of a piece of furniture, a picture frame, ceramics, etc, is an excellent way of bringing back to life tired and shabby looking household objects.
Popular in the 19th century, there has been an upsurge of interest in this paper craft in recent years. Then it was a time-consuming activity but now, with modern products to use, you can create stunning and beautiful craft works relatively quickly.
There is such a sense of achievement when you bring back to life something that you otherwise would have thrown away.
Time consuming but gives beautiful results
The first stage in traditional decoupage is to choose a suitable object. In the 19th century, small pieces of furniture, screens and frames were popular. The item should have a firm surface like wood, for example, and be able to take glue and varnish.
Sand down the surface to remove any old varnish and imperfections then use a damp cloth to remove any dust.
Cut out the pictures you want to use, spread glue on them and position on your object. When the glue has dried, varnish the whole surface, let it dry totally, then sand it down again. Repeat the varnishing and sanding until the surface is perfectly smooth. This can take more as many as 40 or 50 coats of varnish!
The stool above, which uses postage stamps so effectively, had 30 coats of varnish, each of which was sanded down before the next one was applied.
The basic traditional technique is still the same but many people use modern products to avoid the time and labour involved.
Decoupage for Beginners
Excellent tutorial on how to begin on your decoupage project
Here’s a really clear and easy to understand tutorial on decoupage. Each stage is demonstrated and explained.
Quicker and easier with modern products
Nowadays not many people do decoupage the traditional way. Using modern decoupage products, a single final coat of glue at the end is usually enough to give the desired effect. In the video below, you can see how varnishes come in different finishes: glossy, matte and sparkly.
Mod Podge, illustrated on the left, is the best known and most widely used glues for decoupage.
Forget about having to put on 50 coats of varnish, then sanding each coat down after they dry. Just the thought of that is enough to put most people off trying the craft.
More About Decoupage Paper and Glue
As well as another tutorial
In this video you get a lot of useful and interesting information about the glues and paper used in decoupage. It’s another excellent tutorial with lots of examples of decoupage work which should provide plenty of inspiration for your first decoupage project.
Foam Decoupage Brushes
As recommended in the video above
As explained in the video, many people prefer foam brushes to apply Mod Podge because traditional paint brushes, another choice of brush, can leave behind hairs which are difficult to remove particularly if you don’t notice them until your decoupage has dried.
Examples of Decoupage
Personalise it for Yourself or as a Gift
Decoupage doesn’t have to be serious and elegant. It can be witty and fun – take a look at the pictures above and below of the outside of this decoupaged Betty Boop box. The inside is also full of Betty Boop decoupage too.
If you would like to do something similar and can’t find a suitable box to use, you can buy plain, unvarnished wooden boxes quite inexpensively. I think a decoupaged box would make a lovely gift if it is decorated with pictures reflecting the interests of the person receiving it. For example a sports fan might like a box decorated with pictures of his/her favourite team or sport.
It looks like this telephone, covered using decoupage techniques, is covered with hand drawn, pen and ink sketches. What a great idea to use your own artwork for this craft.
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I've been writing about antiques, collecting and crafts for over 20 years. First I wrote for specialist magazines here in the UK, then I started writing online which I now do exclusively. I am a member of the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk affiliate advertising programs and can earn commission on items advertised on my pages here.