Described as the world’s prettiest paper-craft, decoupage has been around as an art form for some hundreds of years. Its origins are thought to lie in the Far East; in nomadic Siberian tribes and 12th century China. From there it spread through Europe to Italy via trade routes and over the following centuries developed into something of what we know and love today.
Whilst the techniques have developed and some of the materials updated since those early days of decoupage, the art form remains much the same. Today it is used in card embellishments, to decorate lanterns and lamp shades and on all manner of frames, vases, boxes and furniture.
Designs range from the simple to the intricate, making it ideal for artists of an entire range of experiences, and even the most basic of designs can be strikingly beautiful. If you are new to decoupage, or want to learn more about getting started, read on for some helpful, handy tips.
If you choose to cut out photographs or pictures, choose ones with clear outlines when you are first starting out as they will be easier to cut whilst you practise with the scissors. Don’t use original photographs unless you have them backed up on file and be prepared to make a few mistakes when you are starting out!
You’ll also need a set of basic tools, all of which are available online or in local craft shops. A good craft knife with a sharp blade and round handle should be the first thing on your shopping list, followed by a sharp pair or small scissors. Other useful things to have to hand when you start are cloths and cotton wool buds to dab away excessive glue. Sandpaper can also be useful for sanding away excess varnish.
The next thing to invest in is some quality decoupage glue, which will also be available online or in your local store. It is ideal as it can be used as glue as well as varnish. Separately purchasing PVA and varnish is also fine, but be sure to by a gloss varnish as it will not go cloudy when applied. Once you gain more experience you may also want to invest in a matte finish varnish, which can be used on the final layer of application.
Once you have your papers and tools it’s time to get stuck in! First, ensure your surface is clear, clean and dust free to prevent any particles becoming trapped in the layers of varnish you are about to apply. Set down the item you plan on decorating and prepare yourself to begin decorating.
Next, carefully cut out the materials you wish to decoupage into the shapes or designs desired. If you are short on ideas or would like some pre-made stencils, there are a number of copyright free design websites online to spark your inspiration. Often, it is easier to make rough cut outs of your designs using your scissors before trimming them down more accurately with the craft knife.
The next stage is the easy part; place your cut outs onto the card or item you are decorating, using tweezers to manoeuvre smaller or more delicate pieces or pictures. Glue the pictures in place, taking care to remove any wrinkles in the paper or fabric. Dot away any excess glue.
Next, it’s time to start varnishing. Once the glue has dried in place, apply a single layer of varnish over the top of pictures and wait for it to dry. Repeat this process until you’ve achieved the desired finish; typically somewhere between five and ten coats will do the trick. You may have to lightly sand the varnish after every few layers to achieve a lacquered finish.
Once you’ve completed your first designs it’s time to start experimenting! The sky’s the limit and, with practise you’ll be able to produce all manner of decoupage designs in both 2D and 3D.