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Getting Started With Decoupage

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 27 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Decoupage is a popular trend amongst papercrafters, but what exactly is it and what do you need to have a go at it?

The word decoupage originated from the French word decouper, which means, ‘to cut.’ The technique has existed for a long time, originating in Italy in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. However, the form of decoupage practiced has varied. It was traditionally used as a way to imitate various decorating styles, such as lacquerwork and inlay, but through using paper rather than other materials.

It is still used by many people today in a similar way, through covering objects with paper and then varnishing them. However, the type of decoupage commonly practiced by papercrafters today differs from this.

Usually, where you find the term decoupage used, it refers to the art of cutting images out of paper and then layering up the different sections to form an effective 3D image. Special decoupage papers are sold for this purpose. Images are printed on, with the first, base, image being complete, and subsequent images only featuring parts of the main image. This makes it ideal for cutting out the sections, then piecing them together to form a 3D picture.

It’s also possible, and cheaper, to use other papers for decoupage. For example, a good quality wrapping paper with a decent thickness to it, can be used for the same purpose, as too can scrapbook papers. For beginners, it’s possible to get die cut decoupage, which means the sections are pre-cut and just needed to be popped out and pieced together.

What Tools Do You Need?

Other than the basics of needing to have some paper to cut, you’ll need a good pair of scissors. They can either have straight edges or curved edges (curved scissors are often marketed as decoupage scissors) and should ideally be small so you can cut intricate images.

3D foam pads are often used to layer up the images and come in various shapes, sizes and depths. However, for very small images, silicone glue also works well and avoids the problem of the edges of a piece of foam showing, as it sometimes can do.

How Can I Get Started?

When you’re first trying decoupage it’s helpful to use a proper decoupage sheet, so you can follow the instructions and get the hang of cutting the pieces ready to layer up. Try and choose images that don’t look to complicated at first, for example with no teeny tiny pieces to cut.

Cutting the images does take concentration and it can be tiring on the eyes and hands, so sit somewhere where there’s a good supply of light, so you can see exactly what you’re doing. You may well end up with little bits of paper being cut up, so a table or tray is handy to lean over.

As you cut, let your hands move the paper towards the scissors, turning the image as you cut along the lines. As you cut each layer, you can either stick the foam pads on the back ready to piece it all together at the end, or leave all the gluing and sticking until everything is finished. Either way, make sure you remember which order the bits need to be stuck in!

Images can be further embellished, should you wish, with accents such as stick-on gems, pearls or glitter glue.

What Can Decoupage Be Used On?

As it’s a papercrafting technique, decoupaged images are commonly used in cards, scrapbook pages, altered art projects, journals and mini books, but how you use them is up to you. Often the images are so nice and effective when put together, that they make good pictures too and work well when framed.

If you’ve got children, decoupaged pictures can make an inexpensive way of providing them with pictures for their bedroom and you can incorporate any favourite action heroes or animals they like. When they grow out of them, they can easily be updated for something else of interest.

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