How to Basics: Decoupage

How to Basics: Decoupage
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The hobby of was popular in the 18th Century among young women, including Marie Antoinette and her friends. Artwork, rather than magazines, napkins or paper, were used to decorate fans, boxes, or furniture. It's amazing that we still love decoupage in 2003! However, it's much simpler and inexpensive for us. Any paper or fabric, as long as it's not too thick can be used. The thicker the paper the more finish you will have to apply. Some very advanced projects require up to a 100 coats of finish! Most projects only receive 2-3 coats, so don't worry.
Here are some tips for successfully using simple decoupage:

Almost any smooth surface can be decoupaged such as wood, paper mache, cardboard, metal, glass, plastic, or ceramics. ALWAYS make sure your surface is clean. Clean with soap and water if you can, then wipe with a vinegar and water solution. This works with glass, ceramic, plastic and NEW metal such as a galvanized bucket. When you can't wash, wipe with a dry, clean rag. Also wipe your project in-between coats of finish after it dries.

When your surface is porous, as with wood, use a good primer such as Kilz, which also can be used for clean metal with no rust. Allow the primer to dry overnight before beginning your project. If you do use an older metal object be sure to sand the rust, wipe and paint with a primer/paint made for metal.

Your designs can be made by using color copies of leaves or flowers. You can also use pictures from wrapping paper, magazines, calendars, gift bags, wallpaper, tissue paper and on and on. Anything that strikes your fancy can be cut out and decoupaged onto a surface. My mom decoupaged old can labels that she found onto simple cut pieces of scrap plywood. She added a hanger on the back and used them to decorate her kitchen. They looked great!

There are many brands of decoupage glues available. They will have instructions on how to use them on the bottle. For very simple projects you can mix 2 parts clear drying craft glue with 1 part water. Always work carefully and slowly. Smooth out your pictures, and remove the extra glue with a damp cloth or sponge, while smoothing out any air bubbles. When you have finished the gluing and it has dried according to instructions, you'll need to finish the project. You can use a water based varnish, which won't yellow, or oil based varnish, which will give a yellow tint to the project. This is great for giving it an aged look. Pick a good, dry day to use varnish, or it may dry cloudy or end up looking "textured". ALWAYS make sure one coat is completely dry before putting on another!

When you first try decoupage try using recycled items and scraps so you can experiment and not feel pressured by using new items. If it doesn't turn out exactly as you wanted it to, that's okay! Try another project. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with the technique.



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About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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