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Decoupage is an art and a craft. It involves gluing paper shapes on to an object and sealing the surface with glue. The shapes you glue can be simple or they can be complex. They can be patterns you design yourself, or those you buy, or even hand-painted works of art.

"I've always loved cutting things out. About 10 years ago, I began doing all sorts of decoupage. I love it. It's my favorite form of art expression," says Linda Spencer of Washington.

People who work in decoupage are called decoupeurs. "It was actually quite easy to learn, and it's a delight to put bits of this and that together to make a pleasing piece," says Spencer.

If you've never seen decoupage, it may be difficult to envision it as true art. But if you visit a few of the Web sites mentioned here, you'll change your mind. You'll see that decoupage can enhance everyday objects such as hairbrushes and toilet seats. It can also turn a ceramic bowl or wall print into a work of art.

Decoupage is the art of gluing paper shapes on to an object. You can decorate almost anything.
Courtesy of: Denise Bush

Some of the projects Heather Avery works on are "feathering, animalizing, and wedding invitations framed in a shadow box for a nice gift for the bride and groom." Denise Bush has exhibited some of her finer pieces. She also makes jewelry boxes to sell.

You need things like paper, scissors (or "squizzers" made especially for decoupage), various kinds of glue, paintbrushes, and something to create a pattern from, whether computer-generated or hand-drawn. "I use wallpaper, magazines, wrapping paper or whatever appeals to me," says Spencer.

She explains the process. "Some people recommend using an X-Acto knife. However, I find using a very sharp pair of tiny scissors, I get much better results. I apply a small amount of Mod Podge to glue the snip to my piece very, very carefully -- be sure every single air bubble is removed," she says.

"In my experience, it is very, very important to check the piece over carefully to be sure each piece is adhered. Let the piece 'rest' overnight. When it's thoroughly dry, put several coats of Mod Podge on the top, drying between each coat.

"I think the most difficult part of the process for the beginner would be laying out the piece so it is visually pleasing. This just takes some practice."

Bush says different techniques result in different quality products. "If you are doing the 'traditional' process with multiple layers of varnish, then an absolutely smooth finish is necessary for exhibition or competition," she says.

"However, I do not finish all my things to this degree if they are being sold at market. A couple of coats for protection and strength will do. If the one-coat resin is used, this makes the finish absolutely smooth in one application. This is also good for surfaces which will be exposed to heat, like trays, placemats, and coasters."

Some people can make a living selling their creations at shops or craft fairs. You can create art to exhibit and sell, or set up shop locally or on the Internet to sell your wares and supplies. You may even teach workshops.

Getting Started

"My suggestions for the beginner would be to skip the kits. There are too many resources to limit creativity by using a kit," says Spencer. "Magazines are endless resources. Begin with a tray or box, painted to your liking. Pick things that please you to clip, then spend a lot of time clipping perfectly."

"I suppose decoupage is fairly easy to learn in theory, but to create a beautiful composition does not always come easily," says decoupeur Colleen Kingston.

"Also, you need to learn quite a bit about paint finishes. Each step must be done well to end with a beautiful finish. As a beginner, find a teacher whose work you admire and who is willing to impart their knowledge," she adds.

Bush doesn't feel that a kit is a bad way to begin. "It limits the number of products the newbie has to choose from and keeps it simple," she points out.

Roy Larking is president of the British Decoupeurs Guild. "My advice to any young person is to have a go. They will surprise themselves," he says.

"There are many excellent publications available from which they can learn the various techniques. Of course, a knowledge of design and color will be an advantage, as will learning hand-coloring, faux paint finishes, gilding and, of course, cutting skills."

Educational materials, links to suppliers, and info on workshops through local chapters are available from the National Guild of Decoupeurs (NGD). The NGD also offers certification in a decoupage program.


The American Craft Council
72 Spring St.
New York , NY   10012-4019
E-mail :

National Guild of Decoupeurs (NGD)
1017 Pucker St.
Stowe , VT   05672


How to Decoupage
Here are the basic techniques

History of Decoupage
How it all began

Decoupage Birdhouses
Step-by-step decorating project

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