Decoupage - A DIY Guide to Using Decoupage to Give Old Furniture a New Lease Of Life

Summary: Using Decoupage when upcycling furniture is a quick and easy way to create decorative effects on furniture and accessories. Personalise old furniture, picture frames and boxes using decoupage. We teach you how to decoupage to give old furniture a new lease of life. Find out how to rejuvenate old furniture and other items around your home using decoupage techniques - you will see it is easy for anyone to do with the most basic DIY skills and knowledge.

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Decoupage is an easy craft to practice, and you can use it to give furniture or accessories a new lease of life.

What is Decoupage?

Decoupage is the art of applying a collage of pictures to a three dimensional object, for example a box, a photo frame or an occasional table. If you have an old object that doesn’t go with your decor, or if you want to add more interest to a plain item, decoupage is a great way to do it.

What Do I Need?

Firstly, you need an object to apply your decoupage to, and a selection of images to use. It is a good idea to practice on something simple like a small wooden box or tray to start with, or you could even decoupage a stone for use as a paper-weight.

When it comes to choosing images, there are tons of places you can get great pictures to use. You might have an old collection of interesting stamps (don’t use ones that are worth a lot of money of course!), scraps of wallpaper or wrapping paper with nice patterns and old maps are all good materials. If you’ve been on holiday and saved tickets, flyers etc to remind you of your trip, you could put them all together on a photo frame for a great keepsake. The main thing is to make sure your pictures are the right thickness – if you use thick card or photo paper, you won’t be able to bend the image around any corners, but if you use thin newspaper you risk tearing it or seeing through to the image on the reverse side.

There are two ways of decorating using decoupage – you can completely smother the object in images, which is the more usual method, or you can pick out one or two images to add interest to a plain object. If you are thinking of using the second method, you will need to pick out something like a flower, that you can cut out and stick on, rather than a square-edged picture.

Decoupage towel rail

Decoupage towel rail

Whatever images you use, make sure they go together well – a mish-mash of flowers, kittens and cakes will just look odd! A collection of different flowers and plants will go really well together though, or perhaps classic cars are more your thing. Whatever you choose, make sure you have enough pictures to cover your object, allowing for plenty of overlapping.

Once you’ve chosen your object and images, you will need to gather a few more craft items. A pair of scissors for cutting out pictures, or even better, a craft knife and cutting board will allow you more control. A piece of sandpaper will be needed to roughen up the surface of your object so that the pictures will stick well. You will need PVA glue for sticking the images on to your object, and a brush to apply the glue with. Then you will require clear varnish for coating the object once you’ve stuck all the pictures on.

Applying the Decoupage

Before you start, protect your working area with newspaper or a dustsheet to make sure you don’t get glue everywhere.

Firstly, you need to prepare the object that you are applying the decoupage to. If the object has a smooth or shiny surface, rub it over with sandpaper to give the glue something to adhere to.

Rubbing down with sandpaper

Rubbing down with sandpaper

Now make sure the surface is clean, dry and free of dust.

Gather up your collection of pictures and cut them out to suitable shapes. If you are cutting out around the outline of your images this will take a while. A sharp craft knife and cutting board are the best tools for this job, though you can carefully cut around with scissors if you don’t have a craft knife and cutting board available. Take your time and be careful.

Cutting out

Cutting out

Arrange the pictures on your item as you cut them. This way you will get an idea of how the design is going to work, and make sure you have enough images. Make sure your images overlap a little and don’t leave any gaps in between. You may need to find small pictures to fill in any little gaps. Depending on the object and your chosen subject, you may want to place your pictures at different angles, so that it will look interesting from all sides.

When you think you have enough pictures, remove them and place them to one side. Now you can start gluing. Use the brush to apply a good layer of PVA glue to the object, working on one area at a time if it is a large object, or if you need to be able to turn it around to access different sections. Place your pictures onto the object, smoothing them down carefully and ensuring the back is completely covered in glue. This is particularly important where your images are overlapping.

If your object has any curves or angles, you may need to cut splices into the pictures to make them wrap around without bumps or wrinkles. This is something that you will get better at with practice. Smooth out any air bubbles or wrinkles gently with your finger. Don’t press too firmly or you may tear the picture.

Keep working until you have covered the object, allowing time for the glue to dry if you need to turn it over and work on another side. Make sure you don’t allow wet glue to rest against anything while the object is drying.

Brush and Stain

Brush and Stain

Once you have covered your object and the glue is completely dry, you can varnish over it. This will protect the pictures to stop them from being damaged, and give a nice finish to the piece. Brush clear varnish over the whole object, applying at least two coats. Allow the proper drying time between coats. It is up to you whether you prefer a gloss or matt finish for your object, but do make sure the varnish is clear.

Let the varnish dry, and stand back to admire your decorative piece of decoupage!

Decoupage frame

Decoupage frame

Decoupage towel rail

Decoupage towel rail

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