Monday, July 30, 2012

The Art of Decoupaging

If you promise not to laugh, I'll let you in on a little secret. You see this here box? That's my first decoupaging project, when I was a mere teenager. It's v-e-r-y old and it shows, and I'm not sure why I've kept this little number all these years, but here it is for your viewing pleasure--a former cigar box, transformed, if I may be so daring with the English language. From the looks of things, I'd say kissing and skin products were high on my list of priorities back then.

Well now ... moving on.

Many years  (and kisses) later, I've decoupaged quite a number of things, including one of my favorites, shown above. I cut images from a Victorian calendar and decoupaged this clay pot. I think it's kinda cute.


Decoupaging is all about layers, and if you take your time and do it right, the outcome can look spectacular. Recently, I took on a project, just for kicks, and I was quite pleased with the results. You may have your own way of decoupaging, but here's my tried-and-true formula.

For this project, I started with a small box as my object of choice, because, well, a dear friend had a few to spare. (Woo-Hoo! I love free!) I decided to spray-paint the top and sides of the lid, in case I didn't want to wrestle with its daunting scalloped edges. I also lightly hit a few places inside the box with the paint. (I used the only black paint on the premises.)

Once the paint dried, I spread out a patriotic plastic tablecloth (why not?) and collected my supplies:

  • Mod Podge
  • Craft brush
  • Bowl of water
  • Scissors
  • Hand towel
  • Cut-out source/s
  • Plastic table cover

I chose to go with a music theme and found an old songbook that hadn't been used much in the last 30 years. I tore out three or four pages and started cutting. You can cut any shape you want; I went with straight edges for everything except the lid. More on that later.

After you've done a bit of planning with your cut-outs (I tend to plan as I go), it's time to get wet and sticky.

Something you may not know about decoupaging is it works much better if you soak your cut-outs in water for a few seconds before affixing them. I was taught that way in my high-school art class and I don't care who tells you otherwise, trust me here. This allows you to manipulate corners and angles and curves, and eliminates bubbles.

After soaking for a few seconds, blot the cut-out with a towel, but it should remain damp. One word of caution: If you're using photos, and are printing them at home, make sure they aren't printed on an ink jet printer. They must be laser prints. Other than that, anything works for decoupaging, from newspaper on up. Yes, you can even give newspaper a short water bath. Who knew?

Using a craft brush, spread on a coat of Mod Podge to the area where you wish to place your first cut-out. (I took a picture of this step, but it was so out-of-focus. Just follow me here.)

Using your fingers, press until smooth, making sure no bubbles are caught underneath. Once the cut-out is in place, apply a second coat of Mod Podge over the top. (If your cut-out overlaps your object, trim it with scissors prior to covering it with Mod Podge.)

Continue placing cut-outs at various angles on your object and allow each layer of Mod Podge to dry before proceeding.

For the inside of the scalloped edge of the lid, I traced a single sheet and lined it up with the scallops. I decided to leave the outside scalloped edges simply painted, with no cut-outs, then brushed with several coats of Mod Podge. I like the contrast the painted edges created.

Because working on the inside of the box was cramped and tedious, I chose to cut single sheets, for the inside, instead of layering.

How many layers you use is entirely up to you. I used about four layers of cut-outs on this project.

Once you're finished, add as many coats of Mod Podge as suits your tastes, allowing to dry between each coat. The more layers, the more texture. Personally, I like a lot of Mod Podge. It's hard to take a photo that shows it sufficiently, but I tried. This is about five coats. I will add a good five more.

And there you have it, my latest decoupage activity.

Now, go find something to cut up!

It's loads of fun!



  1. I love your box! I decoupaged my entire desk top with old hymnal pages, and I love it!
    I smiled at your original decoupage project. I remember a photo collage I did in high school that had very similar photos! :)

    1. I would love, love to see a photo of your decoupaged desk! Sounds amazing.

      P.S. I'm glad to know someone else thought like me in high school. :)

  2. What a pretty box - ready for all sorts of treasures.

  3. What a great way to uniform several boxes!
    You got me thinking!

    What makes your cute box so special in the music and scallops.
    Great idea.

  4. You obviously had an affinity for co'cola as well...front and center!
    I admire anyone who can actually finish a project...especially a decopage one. I have a cornucopia sitting on my project table I've been working on for almost a year. To say it resembles dog poo would be an understatement! You my friend are quite the cut-up!

    1. Oh yeah ... I was a big Coke drinker back then.

      You have such a way with words. Made me laugh.

  5. Hi Dayle...Love your cigar box creation. Very artistic! You are definitely a crafty critter. Great job! Susan

  6. Hi Dayle! Although I really like your cigar box (it's a bit vintage now), your new box covered with hymnal pages is really pretty!

  7. Love...lovelovelove this! I love decoupage, but mine lacks the good layering. I tend to be single minded in my design. I'm working on something right now that's a single layer in fact. Wondering if I could add something.

    There is something about decoupage that just relaxes me for some reason. Maybe it's because I'm not very talented in art and even I can cut and paste.

    I dunno..
    Just like to do it.

    And I LOVE that box.

  8. I have always loved this medium! Thanks for your tips! Kit

  9. Great tips, Dayle, and I adore the finished product.

  10. Great tip soaking your cut-outs in water . . .
    Who knew?

  11. That turned out so cute. I've never decoupaged anything before! It's fun seeing the process. It looks like it would be easy to do.

  12. Hi Dayle,
    I like's fun to do.
    I have used a variation of decoupage very successfully when my daughter and I made pencil jars for Christmas one year.
    We painted the outside of jars with ordinary house paint and put our cut outs directly onto the wet paint with no overlaps. When this was dry we painted the jars with clear varnish. We decorated the neck of the jars with raffia, ribbons and lace. This was about 30 years ago and some of these jars are still in use today
    I like both your boxes.
    Have a good week
    God Bless
    Barb from Australia


Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle