Decoupage: No Fail Tips and Tricks

I operate under the assumption that everyone knows how to decoupage just as everyone knows how to wipe their own ass. It’s a basic benchmark of childhood development. I’m not saying they should include it in one’s Apgar scores, but I’m also not saying they shouldn’t. Everyone needs to know how to decoupage. Boys, girls, young, old…everyone. That said, you can imagine how disturbing it is to run into and adult who is unfamiliar with this art. Or worse, someone who knows how to decoupage but avoids it for fear of mess, frustration, or unpleasant results. Unbelievable.

With that in mind, I thought I would write a post of tips and no-fail tricks that yield great results every time. If you are already a decoupage fan you might as well skip this, but if you find the process difficult or intimidating or not-worth-the mess, read on!

Let’s start with materials.

Here are the essentials…

*Adhesive. You can use most any diluted water-based glue, but favorite is Mod Podge Super Gloss. It’s thinner than the regular glossy Mod Podge and seems to absorb into paper and fabrics a little better. The finish is uber glossy and if you use a wet brush, it dries brush-stroke free. Stroke marks make the difference between something looking like a handmade treasure and a homemade craft project. A smooth finish is key. Around $8 a jar, it’s great stuff.
*Origami Paper. Any sort of paper will work, obviously, but thin paper is good paper, and porous paper is best. Most thin paper is coated (think pages of a magazine) but origami paper is typically left raw to allow for easy folding. It’s super thin, super absorbent, and the patterns are glorious. Thicker paper tends to sit on top of surfaces, whereas origami paper blends into it like a new skin. Like a new and sparkly kabuki show skin. Excellent alternatives: newsprint. tissue paper, coffee filters and non-coated wrapping paper.
*Firm brush. Find something with especially sturdy bristles. Something from the hardware store or that was made for toddlers to stomp around. You need something that can shift big gloopy adhesive around with as little brush strokes as possible (see under adhesive: stroke marks = bad)
*Metal cans. The beauty of decoupage is you can resurface almost anything (I even decoupaged my kitchen cabinets), however, I find these extra large cans come in hand for all sorts of storage purposes, and there is a nifty flower trick I’ll show you in a sec.

The Basics
1. Use a wet brush to swipe a thin layer over the surface of the object.
2. Crinkle the paper in your hand. Crinkling is important because it will create cracks in the paper for the glue to sink into, and that will ward off lumps or air bubbles. Crinkled paper dries much smoother on the surface than non-crinkled paper, which seems backwards, but it’s not.
3. Use your fingers to smooth the paper to the surface, not the brush. Your fingers will do a much better job of smoothing it out. It will ruin your manicure, but that’s the sacrifice we make for art. Also, pay attention to edges. If you can help it, keep edges clean/non-ragged. If you can’t help messy edges, use some other accent paper to band off the edges in round 2. Again, this is one of those little steps that make a big difference!
4. After it dries, get out your wet brush again and wipe on another layer of adhesive (in my case, Mod Podge). If it looks streaky or gloppy, mist it with water. The water will dilute on surface and smooth things out.

BUT. Even if you do all that, the decoupage fairies may decide they hate you and your surface will dry rumply and less-than-perfect. That’s okay because there is a wonder drug of craft supplies: gold tissue paper.

Just shred the gold tissue into strips or splotches and add another layer on top. Don’t ask me why, but you can make anything decoupage look special by adding little pieces of gold tissue paper. It’ll cover imperfections, add contrast, looks great with everything. Plus, it’s gold. Gold reads THIS IS SPECIAL. You like that.

Oh, and this is why I like those jumbo 28oz tomato cans; they are the perfect size for holding 18oz plastic cups. See…

I made a bunch of these for a wedding once. The cans were a strong pattern and the flowers weren’t even flowers, just a bunch of greens. It actually pretty striking. And dirt cheap.

They make a nifty prom dress for the bulb flowers from the grocery store that last a couple of weeks.

Cute. Ness.

Happy decoupaging 🙂


  1. Anonymous says

    Thanks for the great tips. My all time favorite decoupage project? Taking bland big box store light switch plates and decouping them with cool wrapping paper. Took the backsplash wall of my kitchen to another level. Dressed up the wall so beautifully, now I don’t have to waste my time searching for, buying and installing expensive tiles for said back splash. Gotta love it . . . and I do:-)

    • says

      I love a good light switch cover too! Some of mine are leopard, the others origami pattern. Such a fun touch. I should take some pics for a roundup post — thanks for the idea.

  2. Deb in Oklahoma says

    Ah, decoupage! One of the all-time great craft inventions. How did the world manage until the development of Mod Podge? You must be a child of the 70’s (like I am), because only people who were alive during that decade will understand the awesomeness of do-it-yourself decoupage. Thanks for sharing good tips and tricks!

    • says

      I think it’s coming back around. Once folks give it a chance it’s hard to not get hooked!

  3. scarlett says

    This is astonishing! I have just bought a cheap photo frame that i want to transform into something gorgeous using decoupage. Your tips, none of which I knew, are just fantastic. I just love your blog Peaches. Here I am sitting in London and there are you in Chicago teaching me these wonderful things. Aint life wonderful.

  4. says

    Such a timely post with great info about glossy Mod Podge. I am re-doing the top of a patio table that I snagged from a yard sale. I checked online for recipe for making Mod Podge I like your suggestion of using Glossy Mod Podge which would enhance the finish. Thanks.

    • says

      There is actually a glossy Mod Podge specifically designed for furniture (and outdoor furniture too!) that is pretty good. I think Plaid’s website has a breakdown of all the varieties — worth a gander if you have a minute.

  5. says

    Is it bad that I thought you were gonna use that can as a way to hide your beer in the 18 oz plastic cup (like a koozie)?? oh lord.

  6. says

    I LOVE decoupaging. I am currently working on inventory for a line of children’s furnishings for an Etsy craft show in May. You can see examples on my Portfolio page, I would welcome your critique/suggestions.

    • says

      What fun! Love the name too. Not enough aardvarks running around 🙂

  7. Wanda Hoff says

    I am trying to put a picture on a bowling pin can it be done I have never done decoupage before It is a project I want to do for my grandson who is on a bowling team I hope you can help me

    • aunt peaches says

      Yes, Mod Podge will work just great on bowling pins. I would use two coats. Have fun!

  8. linda says

    just mod podged a world globe for my newest grandson’s nursery with pictures from WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and it turned out precious! Now grandma is hooked on decoupage!

  9. Carol Mazur says

    I enjoyed your humor and aside from laughing out loud, I feel inspired to decorate all the metal cans I’ve been saving. Everything in my house will be decoupaged.

    Thank you!

  10. Lynne H says

    You are a riot! I’m so glad I happened across this page. I’m getting frustrated with decoupaging. But, since it’s 10 degrees and a wind chill of minus something or other, I’m going to try again today. I like the idea, but my edges are rough and then I can peel the whole thing off. Frustrating.

    OK, I got the “ass” part down, so I’ll try this.


  11. Tori Davis says

    Great tutorial! I have an old globe that I really want to decoupage with a cool fabric I found. Have you ever decopaged something round? If so would you reccomed that I do patches or should I just try to cover it in one large piece? Thank you!

    • aunt peaches says

      yes, patches. One big piece on a round object will blob up on you. Good luck!

  12. Mozley says

    I work as a Stylist for a major Arts & Crafts store. As part of my research, I read tons of blogs and scour Social Media. When I read the first sentence under DECOUPAGE: NO FAIL TIPS AND TRICKS, I cracked up. I’m hooked. Love your style and your humor!

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