Make Household Items Pretty with Decoupage

If you enjoy making collages but want something more than a poster to hang on the wall, consider decoupage. Decoupage is the familiar technique of covering any item with magazine cut-outs or other flat papers and then sealing it with a special glue for a smooth and protective finish. Decoupage was an especially popular craft in 1700s England, though it dates back to 12th century China.

These simple steps will guide you through the process of decoupage. This fun activity is great for adults and kids. Consider it for a family get-together; it will silence questions of “when is dinner ready?” and doesn’t make too much of a mess. It’s also perfect for a kid’s birthday party or sleepover.

Have items to choose from. For kids, boxes tend to be the easiest, as they have flat surfaces that are simple to cover. Also, kids tend to spend a lot of time finding and cutting out their images, so a small item without complicated angles is preferable. Try empty laundry detergent boxes – they are the perfect size and shape, and kids love to store their belongings inside.

Otherwise, the sky’s the limit. Suggestions to decoupage: tables, chairs, bookcases, frames, folders… the possibilities are endless. When I was in high school, my friends and I would cover metal buckets with magazine photos from our favorite movies, fashion and television shows (yes, I eventually threw away my “Dawson’s Creek” bucket.)

Gather supplies: you either need magazines, to cut out words and images, or you need another type of paper (wallpaper samples or wrapping paper, for instance.) For decoupage glue, use Mod Podge, available at art stores. Don’t use paintbrushes with bristles. The inexpensive rectangle foam brushes work best and spread the glue thinly and evenly.

For every piece of paper or picture you want to put on your item, cover the back with a thin layer of glue and press onto the surface. Be sure not to make the cut-out too soggy or it will tear easily. Press lightly to smooth the picture in place. As you go, make sure not to leave any blank spaces. The more overlapped the pictures, the better pieces look.

When the entire surface is covered, then you need to brush a layer of glue over the entire object. Don’t stop there. When it’s dry, brush another layer, and the next day, another. It’s hard to estimate exactly how many layers you’ll need – it depends on the item and how much you’ll use it (a chair needs more layers of glue than a picture frame.) The key is to have a thick, smooth seal, with no paper edges flipping up or peeling off. If you use any embellishments, such as flat sequins or buttons, you need many more layers to secure them onto the item.

Finally, there’s one major warning about decoupage: it can be very addicting!

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