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Decoupage: Basic Tips and Techniques

Crafting with decoupage is a fun way to make colorful and interesting gifts and keepsakes

Decoupage is so easy and is great for family projects that will get the kids involved. If you need to brush up on your decoupage skills, here are a few tips and techniques to keep in mind.

Scissors or craft knife
Adhesive (decoupage or craft glue for pasting art onto surface)
Sealer (for raw wood)
Paint (for wood bases)
Sandpaper (for wood bases)
Paintbrush for paint or sealer
Soft brushes for topcoats (unless using spray type finish)
Polyurethane topcoat (satin, semigloss, or gloss)

Make sure all surfaces are clean before starting. Wood should be lightly sanded before applying sealer or paint.

Decoupage can be applied to many surfaces, including pottery, glass, metal, and wood. Metal may require a primer; new galvanized metals may need an acid wash.

Sealers are available in water-based or oil-based. Water-based is easier to clean up, but oil-based varnishes are longer lasting. Do not mix varnishes and topcoats; use either all water-based products or all oil-based.

When cutting, either with scissorsor a knife, angle the cuts to create a reverse bevel. In other words, cut with a slight tilt toward the back. This will keep colors from showing on edges. Be sure, though, to press the edges down and make sure they remain sealed.

Use a craft knife for delicate inner cuts. Make these cuts first before trimming the outside edges of the art. Work on a heavy piece of cardboard if a self-healing cutting board is not handy.

Soft-bristle brushes for varnishes keep bubbles from forming. Foam brushes will also cause bubbling.

Do not decoupage on rainy or high humidity days. This will adversely affect the drying process. Check all products for allowed temperature variances. You can work indoors with proper ventilation on colder days.

If paper is thick, try removing one or more of the back layers. Peel carefully or scan and print out a color copy on regular paper.

If paper is thin, it may not be workable if printed on both sides. When the paper becomes damp from the glue and/or the varnish, the backside could bleed through. Test the paper first if in doubt.

Any number of topcoat layers can be added; usually three is sufficient. Deeper finishes increase the 3-D effect. Allow plenty of drying time in between coats.

Clean decoupaged finishes carefully with mild cleansers. Do not use abrasives.

Practice on a small, flat item if trying decoupage for the first time. It does not take long to get a feel for the process, but a little practice does help.

For decoupaged items that will be used in high-humidity areas, such as bathrooms, add two additional coats of spray-on sealer. Otherwise, the varnish may become tacky from even minor moisture.

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