Getting Started with Decoupage

Decoupage is a fancy word for decorating objects with cut-out paper. It’s inexpensive and easy and can produce elegant and creative results. You can enjoy it with friends or with your kids and even use recycled materials. It’s a great option for both the novice and the experienced crafter.

Begin simply, decorating a picture frame or a small box, and progress, if you like, to elaborate projects involving multi-piece jewelry or whole pieces of furniture.

Here are the basics, using as an example a small box. You need:

  • A small box of any kind. Wooden ones you get at craft stores are nice.
  • A picture to decorate the box with.
  • Scissors, to cut the picture out.
  • Craft glue or Mod Podge, to glue the picture on to the lid of the box.
  • A cheap paintbrush to spread the glue. Don’t use expensive art brushes for this!
  • Spray or paint-on acrylic varnish to seal the surface.

Cut the picture out, glue it carefully to the lid of the box (you usually don’t want wrinkles), let it dry and then apply several thin coats of the glue or Mod Podge on top to glaze it.

After several messed-up projects, I realized it’s good to seal the project with acrylic varnish. This is more touch-proof and water resistant than the glue alone. I hate using toxic craft materials, so I use a paint-on acrylic sealer.

You can decoupage boxes, frames, serving trays, pendants or beads for jewelry, even canvas board to decorate walls. People love receiving gifts you’ve made, and each can be customized for the recipient.

And I love finding cheap-to-free images to use! You or someone you know probably has a stash of old magazines waiting to be cut up. Thrift stores often sell old magazines for less than a dollar (Martha Stewart Living, for example, has beautiful photography) and old picture and art books for not much more. In January, calendars often sell for a fraction of their original price and can feature gorgeous fine art reproductions. Desk calendars work well; the pictures are generally smaller than in wall calendars. And for a very special gift, scan old family photos into your computer, print them out and decorate a box or mirror frame.

I love to use words, phrases and quotations in my projects. This is where old magazines and books come in handy. The cheapie bin outside your local used book store may hold poems or sentiments perfect for expressing yourself to a special friend or loved one.

Once you’ve had some practice with the basics, you can begin to arrange your images into artistic collages, or add beads, small stones, ribbon or other objects to your creations. Enhance a beach scene, for example, with a small piece of driftwood or little shells. Wrap the edge of a box lid or frame with ribbon, applied with hot glue so it won’t soak through the fabric. Make sure you use strong enough glue for whatever material you’re using; you may have to use wood glue, for example, for driftwood.

The best thing about this craft is that it is adaptable to whatever budget or space you have to work with. You can decoupage in a tiny apartment; just make small projects, and you can tuck away your materials in a single box.

So spend a rainy afternoon trying out this versatile and simple craft. Invite a friend or two; there’s nothing like having a cozy visit and discovering the artist inside you!

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Posted on Aug 25, 2009