How to découpage

  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • Update anything, from boxes to mirrors or even frames, our easy dé

    coupage video shows you how to revamp using this fun technique.

    Cut motifs from wrapping paper, leftover wallpaper, greetings cards, photocopies, or buy printed sheets of motifs (decals), and arrange them over your item. Whether you choose to keep it simple, build up a scene or completely cover the surface; team with paint or use alone – découpage is so versatile and simple to do.

    You will need:

    • Small art brush for applying glue
    • Scissors

    • Item todecoupage, we used little trinket boxes
    • Gift wrap or wallpaper
    • PVA glue
    • Natural sponge
    • Clear acrylic water-based varnish (or découpage coat which glues and coats)

    How to découpage

    1. Decide on which paper you’ll be using then tear into small pieces, you don’t need to be too precious about the style or sizes, the more mismatched the better.

    2. Once you have a pile of torn paper, put to one side then dilute the PVA glue with a little water and, using a small paintbrush, paste PVA glue onto the item you’re decoupaging.

    3. Next, carefully place the torn up pieces of paper on your item, making sure you layer up and that the paper covers the surface of your item right up to the edge, 
but be careful not to overload. For ease, start at the centre and work outwards.

    4. Make sure that all edges are stuck down and use a damp sponge to remove excess glue and smooth out air bubbles. Continue to build up your design, once complete, leave the box to dry overnight before using.

    Top tips

    • Have more copies/sheets of paper than you need, so that you have plenty to play around 
with and in case you 
make mistakes.
    • Slightly textured papers will need more layers of varnish. The aim is to 
have a smooth surface, 
so sand lightly with fine glasspaper between coats to eliminate bumpy edges.
    •  For more intricate cutting, use nail scissors, and position with tweezers when glueing.
    •  Keep your hands and motifs clean by wearing latex gloves for messy stuff.
    •  Use a water-based varnish, if possible, as it will dry quicker, allowing you to re-coat motifs 
more quickly.
    •  Use as fine a brush as possible when varnishing to avoid brush marks.
    •  When decorating large items with big designs, use wallpaper paste. Apply the paste to the item you are decorating, not the paper. For a smooth, bubble-free finish, use a roller.

    More ways to découpage

    • Transform lamp bases, furniture, headboards, pots, shoe/stationery boxes, trays, mirrors and photo albums, 
as well as cardboard blanks (undecorated items).
    • Decorate with postcards, labels, sheet music, pretty notepaper, magazine cuttings, stamps, old letters, newspaper and photocopied images. When using thicker paper, such as card, you will need to peel off some of the cardboard layers before gluing. You may also need more layers of varnish to cover the object.
    • Enlarge and reduce images on a photocopier.
    • Tint black-and-white images using watercolours, acrylics, coloured emulsion, coloured pencils or crayons. Seal the colour in before gluing, using a fixative or even hairspray. It’s a good idea to test this out on a scrap piece of paper before applying to your image.
    • Look out for books with pictures/templates that are copyright free.
    • Give your piece an aged look by staining the paper with shellac or tea, or using 
a non-clear, oil-based varnish, which will give it 
a yellowish-brown tinge.
    • Combine with paint techniques/finishes, such as gilding, distressing, washing and silver leafing.
    • Look out for packs/
pads/ sheets of decorative paper, from HobbyCraft 
and Paperchase.