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How to decoupage:

7 steps to success

Crafts & Supplies at joann.com!
Decoupage is the art of decorating an object by gluing pieces of decorative paper to the surface, and coating it with a protective finish. Today, many people still use plain old white glue, but a formulated decoupage medium will give you better results.

You can embellish almost anything, as long is it stands still. After decoupaging 10 or 20 square miles of surfaces over the years, we have a few pointers and trade secrets to make your next project more successful.

7 Steps to Success
  1. Plan your project.  If you are the free-wheeling, devil-may-care crafter, just start cutting and gluing.  If you are little more methodical, consider a few things first.
    • What do you want the end product to look like?  Do you want to create a pattern or a random design?  How will you use colors?  Will you include text? How will you use the sizes of your paper? How will you cut or tear your paper? Will you use similar images, eclectic images, or a collage of images and specialty papers? Will you embellish with paint, metal leaf or other materials? Are there textural elements, like embossing? How will the base color or pattern work with the images? Will you use a decorative final finish, like antiquing or craquelure?
    • Is your object suitable?  Are the areas you want to cover smooth?  Is there anything that will keep the glue from sticking to the surface?
    • Are your images suitable?  Are they the right size or scale? Are they printed on paper lightweight enough to be very flexible? Is the ink or paper dye going to bleed or blur from the water-based medium (to prevent bleeding, spray the images lightly with polyurethane)?
    • Do you have enough images or materials to cover your surfaces?
    • Do you have the tools and supplies you need?
    • Do you have a good place to work on it, and leave it undisturbed while it dries?
    • If you are covering several sides of an object, can you cover one side at a time, or devise a rack or stand so it can dry without marking the surface?
  2. Gather ye supplies while ye may.  
    • Decoupage medium.  You can also use white craft glue, diluted slightly with water (4 parts glue to 1 part water)
    • Sealer or other finish
    • Paint brush, suitable for the size of your cut-outs.  For small pieces, you can use a cotton swab.  For large areas, a foam brush
    • Scissors and/or craft knife
    • Soft, damp rag, like terry cloth
    • Brayer (optional, but useful for larger, flat areas)
  3. Prepare your surface. Clean it thoroughly. If waxy or glossy, sand it lightly to help the decoupage medium adhere.  If it is glass or porcelain, clean it with white vinegar. If you've painted it, be sure it is very dry.
  4. Cut out all of your images.  You can use scissors or decorative scissors for large cuts.  Cut at a 45° angle toward the back of the paper, to reduce the amount of white edge showing.  For intricate cuts, use a craft knife.
  5. Arrange your images.  Place them on your project first, if possible, then lay them out to the side for quick access.
  6. Affix your paper. Brush decoupage medium on the object where you want the first picture. Now brush decoupage medium on the back of the image. Position the image and press it lightly with your fingers to smooth it out and eliminate wrinkles or bubbles.  At this point you have a choice: Press it again with the damp rag, or roll it with the brayer? Use the damp rag first.  Don't wipe; just press with a rolling motion. If you are working on a very flat surface, use the brayer over a piece of alumnium foil or wax paper.  This will prevent the brayer from marring the image or getting all sticky.  Repeat the process until you have covered everything. Give everything one last look for wrinkles or bubbles.  Let it dry for an hour or two.
  7. Apply your final finish.  Brush on a coat of decoupage medium over everything. Let it dry.  At this point, you can continue coats of decoupage medium until the surface is smooth, or switch to another finish like varnish or polyurethane. Your goal is to give it a glassy finish that hides the paper edges and textures. This may be the time to add a decorative finish, like craquelure varnish.

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