Decoupage (day-coo-parj) is from the French word couper, which means to cut. The term refers to the technique where surfaces are decorated with pictures of cut out paper and buried in layers of varnish.
Almost anything can be covered by decoupage: wood, metals and ceramics are the most common surfaces. Any paper item can be used, though it may need preparation before cutting. The arrangement is laid out and images glued to the surface and varnished. Finish coats of wax or specialty varnishes can be used to produce different effects.
Decoupage is often used to cover defects on damaged thrift-store finds. Lamps, trays, picture frames, and furniture can be given a new lease of life with decoupage. Because decoupage is versatile, requires few materials, and can be done by beginners, it has become an extremely popular hobby.
Although you can buy supplies made specifically for decoupage, you can also use supplies that you probably have lying around the house. This makes decoupage one of the cheapest crafts around.
Decoupage is now one of the fastest growing crafts worldwide. It requires relatively little capital outlay, can be done from home, and appeals to people of all ages.
One of the advantages of decoupage is that it requires very little equipment, and it’s likely that you already possess the tools that you need to get started. However, there are items that can be helpful in your decoupage, if not strictly necessary. These will vary according to the exact work you plan to do.
Favorite decoupage subjects are flowers and fruits, birds and butterflies, and angels and fairies. You can use any type of paper for decoupage – postcards, seed packets, greeting cards, wallpaper, and old children’s picture books. Many decoupeurs hunt for old papers at antique and junk shops. There are also books of motifs made specifically for decoupage.
It’s best to avoid very thin images as they may tear. It’s also preferable to avoid papers that have images on both sides, because when glued, the image on the other side may show. Images can be scanned into your computer and printed; this is useful if you want to color them yourself.
If the image you plan to use is printed on paper that is too thick, it is possible to thin the paper. This often applies to calendars or greeting cards.
The quickest method is to split the paper in half with a nail and carefully peel it apart. Using very fine sandpaper, rub the back of the print smooth and apply a coat of sealer.
Alternatively, apply a few coats of varnish to the face of the print, allowing each coat to dry. Soak the print in tepid water for a few hours, remove it and lay it face down on a piece of waxed paper. Using a damp finger, gently start rubbing away the paper. Be careful not to rub through the print. Sand the print carefully and seal.
Decoupage is an old and venerable art form, and you can see examples in many dating back many hundreds of years. It was extremely popular in the eighteenth century, and became popular again during the late Victorian era. Today, decoupage is rinsing in popularity, and new technology and easy access to computers means that it’s easier than ever to create new images.