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Decoupage Guide

Decoupage has been a popular crafting technique since the 12th century, when Chinese communities would decorate their boxes, windows and lanterns with bright paper cut outs. However, the practice of cutting and gluing in this style actually came from East Siberia; native Siberians would create felt cut outs to decorate nomadic tombs.

Decoupage is a pretty simple process that only requires a few basic steps to achieve something beautiful. To begin, you’ve really got to think about what item you’d like to transform. You can decoupage practically any object, whether you find it around the house or purchase a new item specifically for the crafting technique.

Step 1: Collect Your Decoupage Materials & Prepare Your Object

Select an object or surface that you’d like to decorate. Then, choose a selection of decoupage papers (enough to cover your object), decoupage glue, a pair of small scissors, and a cloth or sponge. Prepare your object for decoupage by ensuring that it’s clean and free from dust. If you’re decoupaging a piece of wooden furniture, it could be worth sanding down the surface for a smooth finish. Similarly, you may need to prime some materials to aid the adhesion of your papers.

Step 2: Cut Your Decoupage Papers

Use scissors to cut your papers into different shapes or cut out specific designs. Alternatively, some people like to tear their papers to create a rustic effect with smoother edges – but this is up to your preference. If you have a keen eye for detail, you could even cut out the designs using scissors and then cut over them again with a craft knife for more precision. Cut out enough for your project.

Step 3: Arrange the Cut-Outs on Your Object

Here, you can plan out your decoupage design visually with a drawn layout, or go freestyle by rearranging the images until you reach your desired look. Make sure you don’t glue the cut-outs down yet; this exercise is all about trial and error until you’re happy with your outcome. If you have many tiny cut-outs, it’s advised to use tweezers to position them accurately. When you’re happy with the look of your decoupage design, take a photo of it so that you can recreate the placement.

Step 4: Glue the Cut-Outs on Your Object

Prior to gluing, make sure you lay down a sufficient amount of newspapers to protect your work surface. Stick your cut outs down using thin layers of decoupage glue and a paintbrush, making sure that you apply glue to the surface of your object and the underside of your cut outs. Then, smooth over the surface of the cut outs to remove wrinkles and any air bubbles using a slightly damp sponge or cloth. Make sure you wipe any excess glue – this is crucial for creating a clean look in your final piece. Allow the decoupage glue to dry completely before you move on to the next step.

Step 5: Seal and Varnish Your Decoupaged Object

Once the decoupage glue has dried, cover the cut outs on your decoupaged object with a coat of varnish. If you purchased Mod Podge, the glue itself is great for sealing and finishing too – so there’s no need to purchase separate sealant and varnish. Simply layer another thin coat over the object using a paintbrush. After coating the object, leave it to dry again. You’ll need to apply multiple coats of varnish to your object, but how many depends on how durable you need the finish to be. You’ll only need a couple of coats for a decoupaged card, but you’ll need several for a piece of furniture.

Step 6: Sand Your Decoupaged Object

When your second or third coat of varnish is dry, sand your decoupaged object using sandpaper to get rid of any flaws, such as blobs of dried glue. This will smooth the surface and create a lacquered finish on wood. Then, wipe over the object with a slightly damp cloth to remove any dust created. Apply a few more coats of varnish to your decoupaged object, sand again, and then apply several more coats of varnish. Again, how many you apply is up to you – but it’s recommended to repeat steps 5 and 6 a few times. The more sanding and varnishing you do, the more unique the finish.