What is Decoupage?

Judy Valencerina decoupaged train case

Artisans on Etsy use many different ways to decorate materials for their unique creations. Decoupage is just one of those techniques that use simple supplies to transform a piece into something spectacular. Objects are enhanced by gluing pieces of decorative paper onto the surface, which is then coated with a protective finish. The technique can be used to embellish almost anything – from jewelry cases to furniture.

An inexpensive and popular method to decoupage is to use your average Elmer’s white glue, but crafters looking to sell their goods on Etsy may want a formulated decoupage medium that will produce better results. Before embarking on a decoupage adventure, try mapping out a game plan. What kind of artwork do you want to create? Will you use a pattern or create a random design? Other factors to consider include using cut or torn paper, text versus no text, paper size, and the use of specialty papers. You can also enhance the final project with paint, glitter, embossing, and other finishing touches. Before working on a decoupage project, it is important to make sure you have enough materials, images, and paper to cover your piece.

The supplies you will need to decoupage include:

  • Decoupage medium or white craft glue (slightly diluted with water using a 4:1 ratio.
  • Sealer or other finish
  • Paint brush (or foam brush for larger surfaces) to accommodate the size of your cut-outs.
  • Cotton swab to work with small pieces
  • Scissors and/or craft knife
  • Soft, damp rag

After gathering your supplies, you need to prepare the surface. Make sure it is fully clean. Waxy or glossy surfaces require a light sanding job for better adherence of the decoupage medium. Clean glass and porcelain objects with white vinegar.

Use scissors or tear apart your images – making sure to cut at a 45-degree angle toward the back of the paper. This will reduce the amount of white edges that show. A craft knife will help you make more precise cuts. After cutting your paper, arrange the images by first placing them on your surface.

Brush decoupage medium (or diluted glue) on the object – where you want the first piece of paper to go. Brush a bit of the medium on the back of the image. Position the image and press it lightly with your fingers to smooth out. This will remove any wrinkles or bubbles. Press again with a damp rag – don’t wipe – instead, use a rolling motion. Repeat this process until you have covered the entire piece. After inspecting for any bubbles or wrinkles, leave the piece in an undisturbed space where it can dry (for one to two hours).

After completely drying, a final coat of decoupage medium is applied over everything. Let the piece dry, and add another coat of medium to achieve the smoothness you desire. Some crafters will also use a finish (like varnish) – depending on their material. The end result should display a “glassy” finish that conceals edges of paper and any textures.

An example of decoupage techniques on Etsy appears in Judy Valencerina upcycled train cases – an artist we profiled in January of 2011.

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