One of my favourite ways of bringing new life to an object is decoupage. A bit of glue and some carefully selected paper and you’ve got a brand new look!

There are two kinds of decoupage, one called simply ‘decoupage’ (or découpage, if you’re feeling fancy) and the other ‘3D decoupage’. Both involve building up layers of paper to create an effect. In 3D decoupage, you take a series of identical images and cut smaller and smaller sections out and layer them up with adhesive foam pads in-between to create the 3D-effect. With decoupage, you simply glue layers of paper on a surface to create the desired effect, this is the kind of decoupage we like to do here at The Craft Room. Artists have been using this technique since the 18th century and it’s still a popular technique today – we love running decoupage classes as it’s a fun and easy way to create really striking items!

Decoupage clock made by Helen
Some plastic eggs we decoupaged for Easter

So, what can you decoupage? At the Craft Room, we mainly decoupage wooden, plastic or papier-mâché items, but you can decoupage on a wide range of objects – even furniture – so long as you have the right glue and/or varnish – check your labels! To create the patterns, you can use serviettes, fabric, a variety of weights of paper including decoupage paper, magazines – we’ve even used thin card on flat surfaces, like our clocks. The more flexible the material, the easier it is to decoupage on uneven surfaces. We mainly use decoupage paper as it’s thin enough to use on curved objects, like the plastic Easter eggs but, for children’s classes, we often use pages from magazines because the paper is a little more resilient.

I recently decoupaged a cardboard suitcase as the container for a care package to send to a friend in the UK and took photos of the process so you can see how easy it is to personalise anything using decoupage.

Finished decoupage suitcase

Materials – paper, decoupage glue, flat paintbrush

 For the decoupage suitcase, I used coloured paper and decoupage glue that doubled-up as a varnish (look for Lack und Leim on the pot if you’re buying in a German-speaking region!). I like using medium-stiff flat brushes as I find it is easier to push air-bubbles out and create a smooth surface when using them.

If your object is a dark colour and your paper is pale and very thin, you may wish to paint your object white beforehand otherwise you may need to decoupage more than one layer of paper as the brown of the box can show through. The paper I used was 80gsm – the same as your average printer paper – so it wasn’t necessary to paint this box.

I ripped the paper up by hand as it creates a more organic effect. If you prefer a more geometric effect, you can cut the paper with scissors. The smaller the pieces of paper, the finer-detailed your decoupage will be. On the one hand, smaller pieces of paper are easier as they have less chance of trapping air bubbles underneath them, but on the other hand it takes longer as you have more pieces of paper to decoupage! As a rule of thumb, I like to use pieces around the size of a 2 or 5-franc coin (2-3 cm).

Sealing the paper with decoupage glue

First, start by putting a layer of glue on the cardboard suitcase. Then place your patterned paper over the glued area. Seal the paper with another layer of glue. Don’t be stingy with the glue – you can always wipe it off later with a dry brush, but you need to ensure that there is enough glue underneath the paper for it to stick, enough glue on top of the paper, not only for the varnished-effect, but also for the next piece of paper to overlap and stick well to the surface.

Layered paper on the surface of the box

As you layer up your paper, keep repeating this process – glue the area you want to place your paper on, lay down your paper, overlapping the last piece you put down, run your brush over the top of the paper to add more glue to varnish and seal, pushing out any air bubbles.

If your piece has any metal fixings – like the handle on this suitcase –  that you don’t want to decoupage, use a craft knife or scalpel to cut around any paper that overlaps the fixing before you put the second layer of glue on the paper. If the paper is wet with glue, it will be difficult to make a clean cut. Wipe away any glue from the fixing with a damp cloth.

The finished suitcase with stencil

Once the whole surface was covered in paper, I made one final layer of decoupage glue to seal the paper in and give a nice, shiny finish.

To finish, I added some stencilled images to the front. I used a water-based acrylic gloss paint and applied it through the stencil with a sponge.

I filled the suitcase with lots of hand-made gifts – a pot of my home-made granola, an origami wall hanging, an embroidered napkin and a card. My friend absolutely loved it!

At The Craft Room, we often run decoupage classes. We have a wide variety of different patterned papers and we provide the objects for you to decoupage, boxes, clocks, hanging ornaments, piggy banks – check out our paper craft classes page to see what we have coming up soon!

Here are a few examples of decoupaged objects our students have made at our classes:

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