How to Decoupage

Learn How to Decoupage and Explore Free Projects and Recipes

Arts and crafts
Nikki Bidgood / Getty Images

Decoupage can sometimes be deceptive. By looking at a finished project, you would think this craft technique would be complicated, but it isn't. It is actually quite simple. If you can cut and paste, you already know most of the techniques involved.

Basically, you cut out pictures; you glue the pictures onto an object, and then cover the object and pictures with a few coats of glue/decoupage medium to protect it.

You might even have everything you need to make your project lying around your home right now. So, gather together your supplies and start crafting!

Craft Project Step-By-Step Instructions

If you want to try your hand at decoupage, but you aren't exactly sure what to make or how to begin, follow these step-by-step instructions to learn how to make different types of masterpieces. You will be surprised with how easy it really is:

Supplies You Need

Before you go out shopping for supplies for your decoupage projects, read through this list and check around your house first. You probably have most of the items you need lying around the house right now.

  • First of all, you need something to decoupage pictures onto.
    You can add pictures to almost anything: furniture, photo albums, shelving, frames, boxes, vases, mirrors, hardcover books, trays, suitcases, dishes, candles, cans, bottles, egg cartons, rocks, and much more.
  • Next, you need the pictures.
    The pictures can be cut out of magazines, catalogs, or books. You can photocopy clip art, photos, stories, poems, and other items printed from your computer (if you use pictures printed using an inkjet printer, see our tip below to prevent ink bleeding). The options are endless: cut out pictures, motifs, or shapes from wrapping paper, wallpaper, fabric, napkins, greeting cards, postcards, photographs, travel brochures, handbills, programs, garden seed packages, pages from old books, foil covered paper, paper doilies, ribbon, posters, dried flowers, tissue paper, and more. You can also buy paper and pictures made especially for decoupage. Get creative!
  • Decide on what decoupage medium to use.
    You can buy a product made especially for decoupaging, such as Mod Podge or Collage Pauge. You should have at least one of those in your craft cupboard, but in a pinch, slightly diluted white school glue will do.

The items above are the most important supplies you need. There are a few other items you might want to keep close by:

  • Popsicle Stick: You can use this to help smooth out wrinkles and removed excess glue. You can also buy a tool made especially for this called a brayer.
  • Foam Brush: This is used to spread the decoupage medium or glue onto the item you will decoupage. If you don't have a foam brush, you can use an ordinary paint brush or even a cotton swab.
  • Scissors: Used to cut out the pictures and other items you will be decoupaging. To help with cutting pictures with a lot of small details, you might want to use a utility knife.
  • Tweezers: Tweezers are sometimes a great help when it comes to positioning small pictures.
  • Damp Rag: Keep one nearby to wipe up excess glue and to help with other clean up. I find it handy for keeping my fingers clean.

Once you gather together all of your supplies, you can begin decoupaging.

Getting Started With Your Project

Once you have all of your decoupage supplies gathered, you can start on your project by following along with this easy directions.

As with any craft project, you should read through and understand ​all of these instructions before starting.

  1. Start out by making sure the item you will decoupage is clean and dry. If you are going to paint your item first, make sure the paint is totally dry before you start decoupaging.
  2. Cut out the pictures you are going to use.
  3. Arrange the pictures onto the item you are decoupaging before you add glue until you like the way they look. The pictures can be in any placement you like and can also overlap.
  4. Working in a small section at a time, remove the pictures and apply a generous layer of decoupage medium onto the item you are decoupaging. Make sure you completely cover any area the picture will touch. If you prefer, you can spread the medium onto the back of the picture.
  5. Stick the picture on the decoupage medium. Use your finger to gently push down the picture (for a large picture, start from the center and work your way out) and push out any wrinkles and excess medium. You can also use a popsicle stick or brayer to do this.
  1. Continue with the last 2 steps until all your pictures are glued on. Let the decoupage medium dry.
  2. Once the medium is dry, coat your item completely with the decoupage medium. Let this dry.
  3. Now, you can continue to add coats of the medium until you get the desired results. You will, however, want to keep adding coats until the edges of the pictures are all smooth.
  4. Let your project dry completely and then it is ready to use, display, or be given away as a gift.

Before you start or even finish your project, you might want to take a minute to read through these decoupage tips.

Decoupage Tips and Hints

Make your next project more successful using these tips and hints. If you aren't sure what kind of pictures and/or photos to use in your projects, start out by exploring this list of options. You can also read through all of our tutorials and learn everything you need to know about decoupage and use these how-to videos to jump start your creativity. 

  • Tried-and-true tip:  If you use Inkjet printed material on your projects, let the ink dry, then spray it with hairspray. It sets the ink and then you can use the print. Make sure both are completely dry before using ​your medium.
  • Decoupage can get messy. Keep a damp cloth nearby to wipe up extra glue and keep fingers clean.
  • Be patient and let each layer of decoupage medium dry completely before applying the next layer.
  • While decoupage is known as a 'cutting' craft, sometimes you might want to tear your pictures instead of cutting them. Torn edges lay a little flatter and blend a little better.
  • Consider making photocopies of photographs and other original papers so you can save the original.
  • If you are using pictures on thicker paper, such as photos or greeting cards, give your decoupage project plenty of time to dry.
  • Use a utility knife to cut pictures with detailed edges.
  • Make sure the item you will be decoupaging is free of dust and dirt.
  • When it come to decoupaging on plastic, experiment before you commit. For rougher surfaces, the pictures should adhere but will take a little longer to dry. If the surface is very smooth, consider roughing it up with a little sandpaper.
  • If you are going to decoupage on a surface that was recently painted, make sure the paint has dried completely. If you feel any tackiness or can see an imprint of your finger if you press on it, it is not dry enough.
  • Watch for bubbles as your pictures dry. If one forms, use a pin or utility knife to pop it and then use your fingers to smooth it down.