Decoupage may seem like a new trend, but the technique actually dates back to twelfth century China. It was not until it became enormously popular in France and Italy during the seventeenth century that it became known as decoupage. Some famous people are known to have loved and enjoyed decoupaging during their lives including Marie Antoinette, Madame de Pompadour, and Beau Brummell. If you haven't yet, you should consider trying it. Decoupage is relatively easy and inexpensive to do. Here are some basic guidelines to get you started.
Selecting What to Decoupage
First, decide what item you want to decoupage. The sky is the limit here. Any material can be decoupaged including wood, plastic, metal, ceramic, and paper. You might consider decorating an old piece of furniture or embellishing a boring light shade. Other items that people have successful decoupaged include trash cans, picture frames, photo albums, shelves, vases, boxes, candles, and even sneakers. Whatever item you choose, it should be clean and free of any dust or dirt. If you want to paint it, do it at least twenty-four hours before you decoupage it.
Once you have the item picked out, you need to decide what you will use to cover it. Technically, the term decoupage refers to gluing items that have been cut out--the term comes from the word 'decouper,' which means 'to cut out.' However, decoupage does not have to be limited this way. You can use pictures from magazines, catalogs, or books. Wrapping paper, wallpaper, greeting cards, tissue paper, postcards, and fabric are other possibilities. Craft stores even sell specially made paper for decoupage. If you have a good printer, surf the Internet and print out your own pictures. You can even use your own personal photos. However, you may want to consider getting high-quality copies made first because the copies are usually easier to work with.
HINT: When cutting out designs, make sure you use a sharp scissor, razor blade, or craft knife. Tilt the cutting edge slightly toward the outside to give the paper a beveled edge. Straight up-and-down cuts give the paper a hard, raw edge and may cause the underside colors to show.
After you have all your pictures cut out, decide how you want to arrange them on the item. Pictures can be in any design and even overlap. Be creative. If you do not like how it turns out, you can always redo it provided you have more paper. Most decoupage medium will come off in water provided you do it before it has been sealed.
Next, you need to gather the necessary supplies to decoupage. Your main ingredient is the glue. Inexpensive decoupage medium can be purchased at any craft stores, but you can also use diluted white glue. Simply add a little water to make the glue thinner. For larger projects, you can also use wallpaper paste.
You will also need something to apply the glue or decoupage medium to the paper. A cotton swab or a paintbrush will work, but foam brushes seem to do the best job. You may want to get a Popsicle stick or a brayer (which looks like a mini-rolling pin) to help smooth out the wrinkles. You should also have a damp rag to wipe up any excess glue. Polyurethane or acrylic spray sealer will also be needed if you want to protect your item.
There are two ways you can decoupage. If you are planning to decoupage onto paper or if you do not want to have any finish on the item, only apply the glue to the backside of the picture. Otherwise, you can coat the entire picture with glue or decoupage medium. You might also want to put a thin layer onto the area where you will be sticking the picture.
Place the picture onto the item. Then, starting from the center, use your fingers to push the picture down gently. Smooth out any wrinkles and excess glue. For an even smoother look, use the Popsicle stick or brayer. Use your damp cloth to wipe off any excess glue from around the picture and smooth down the edges. If the edges are not sticking, lift up the picture carefully with a toothpick and apply a small quantity of glue. Then, use your fingers or a damp cloth to press it down again.
Continue doing this until all your pictures are glued on. Let the glue dry. Top it off with a second coat of decoupage medium or diluted white glue to over the entire project. Once it has dried, you can use soft steel wool to buff the surface of the project and eliminate any spots that look white. However, this is not necessary. Additional coats of decoupage medium or glue can be applied if desired.
Sealing the project with a sealer is also optional. However, it is strongly recommended if your project is going to see any wear and tear. The more coats of sealer you use, the more the decoration will recede into the background and look like a painting. Let the sealer dry completely between coats. Some people will use ten to twelve coats of sealer on an object, but it is up to you.
Now that you are finished, it is time to decide what you want to decoupage next. Be warned, decoupaging can become an addicting habit. Luckily, it is also an inexpensive one. Before long, you will have an array of objects that can be used to decorate your home and that make wonderfully personalized gifts.