Derived from the French word découper, which means “to cut out,” decoupage is the art of decorating objects using paper cut-outs, paint effects, decorative details, and layers of lacquer and varnish.
Decoupage was commonly used as far back as the 12th century. Where Chinese peasants used decoupage to decorate windows, lanterns, gift boxes and other objects. This skill is thought to have been brought over from Siberia where felt cut-outs decorated the tombs of Siberian nomads dating back to before Christ. Many countries and cultures across the world have encompassed decoupage in one way or another.
The Victorians were obsessed by it and covered everything from cards, boxes to furniture. With the manufacturing of valentines card decoupage became a popular past time. Mary Delany a gentlewoman at the time was an avid Decoupager, here are a few images of her work. She created many botanical images using brightly coloured tissue paper and layering them up to create accurate illustrations.
Decoupage involves cutting out pictures or shapes from paper, gluing them to an object and then coating the pictures and the object with layers of varnish. The reason that decoupage has always been so popular is the fact that the finished effect item can look profession. Also there is no age limit or previous skills required. You learn as you go, cutting ripping and arranging plus you can decoupage everything!
Yes that right, you can decoupage anything, all you need it the right varnish or sealer to make it waterproof.
Well, the truth is that you can use pretty much anything, from pretty papers you have collected, postcards, tissues photos you name it you can use it, however, you need to test them first. Specialist decoupage and Decopatch papers have special dyes, tear and fold beautifully and don’t react to the glue and varnishes.
Magazine images and other paper can warp with the glue so make you test it first. Tissue paper and crepe paper have a tendency for the dyes to run which can produce messy effects.
Decoupage glue –Mod Podge and Deco patch glues act best for these although a separate sealer will be needed for items like table, or anything that may get wet.
PVA glue is an all-round craft glue which dries clear (90% of the time) and sticks paper, card, fabric, wood and metal is a good basic product ideal for children’s projects.
The best varnish to use is gloss, as no matter how many coats you use it doesn’t go cloudy.
Cutting out is a large part of découpage so a really sharp pair of small scissors is needed.
Unfortunately, these will blunt quickly or if you are good with a scalpel then a sharp craft knife will be great.
For preparing any surface that isn’t paper or cardboard. Use a very fine sandpaper between the coats of varnish.
1. PREPARE YOUR SURFACE
If your item is made of paper or cardboard then just make sure it is dust free.
If your item is wood, metal or ceramic a light sanding will help bond the glue to the item.
The main things is to make sure the surface of it is clean and dust free as the varnish magnifies any imperfections.
2. CUT OUT PICTURES OR SHAPES
Select your pictures and cut them out.
If you want a background and are using Decopatch papers you can just tear them and the effect will look great, you can always layer them with cut out shapes or images.
If a white edge shows around the picture you have cut out, colour the edge with a crayon/pen that matches either the picture or the background on which it is to be used.
Arranging the pictures is the fun part so take your time with it.
The best tip is for this is to work on small areas, trying to stick down a4 sheets will leave you with tears bubbles and creases.
Whereas working with smaller pieces of paper will allow for a smoother finish.
First, you need to coat the surface with a thin layer of glue, lay the image, and then coat the top of it in a thin layer.
Smooth out any wrinkles and wipe away any excess glue with a slightly damp sponge or cloth.
4. FINISH WITH A VARNISH
When it comes to glue most people are too impatient with it. You need to make sure it is dry before you seal it, for best results leave it overnight, if you don’t do this you may end up with a slightly tacky finish.
Depending on what finish you are after depends on how many coats you will need to apply, with ample drying time between them. Anything from four to 15 coats may be needed depending on how thick the decoupage paper is and how smooth and durable a finish is required.
To achieve a finely lacquered finish you will need to sand lightly after a few layers of varnish and wipe away all dust. Keep repeating this process until you are happy with the finish.
I love decoupage, it is so easy to transform furniture with patterns and prints, I have my eye on a vintage map and my old chest of drawers for a large project.
I have run workshops with kids as young as 2 and adults, this really is a craft for everyone.
One Christmas I had my friends and family making decoupage baubles (there were lots of cocktails involved) and they loved it, a quick achievable craft.
I am not sure Mary Delany would approve but as we are just crafting and having fun then it’s good enough for us.
This Wednesday we are having a decoupage Workshop a light up tree or star. We will spend the afternoon cutting sticking and gluing. It should be that will be really relaxing and enjoyable with fantastic results.
Hope to see you there. But in the mean times check out this Decoupage tutorial on how to use French Gilding Wax to create a shabby chic style.