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Frequently Asked Questions

“I have seen (in some high-end specialty stores in New York), beautiful decoupaged bowls with an image showing on the both the inside and the outside-but obviously with no image glued on the inside. How is this achieved?” (SW, Tampa, FL)
You can put two layers of a design on a clear glass object (such as a bowl), both from the outside. Put the first cutouts on the outside but facing in (seen from outside the bowl). Paint the background and allow to dry. Paint a second background and apply further cutouts facing out-to be viewed from the outside of the bowl. A coat of water-based varnish, followed by two coats of oil-based varnish, will allow the bowl to be washed gently. (Courtesy: Short Cuts, newsletter of the Guild of British Decoupeurs.)
How to use thick papers and cards for decoupage projects continues to be a popular question from our website readers.

Katrina Pitt, a member from Connecticut, has this suggestion:

“A method I use very successfully for thick postcards or greeting cards is one I found in Annie Sloan’s book Decoupage, A Step-by-Step Course. It is very simple and less time consuming than applying coats of gloss and varnish as well as sanding.”

  • Using a cotton ball or piece of cotton, apply ordinary white vinegar to the back of the postcard or card until it begins to soften.
  • Starting at the corner, along one edge, peel away the backing. Work patiently, continually applying more vinegar.
  • The wetter the backing becomes, the easier it is to remove. Rub it gently and pieces will roll or pull off easily.
“I want to follow my passion and turn my love of decoupage into a business…I am tired of the corporate world and working for other people. Can you point me in the right direction for help?” (B.K., California)

First I suggest you buy, beg or borrow a copy of Dee Overduin’s new book How to Make Money with Paper Tole. In addition, the latest Consumer Information Catalog from the U.S. General Services Administration lists the following booklets especially for small-business people:

  • Copyright Basics covers what may be copyrighted, who can apply, registration procedures, filing fees, what forms to use and more. The 12-page booklet costs 50 cents. (357G)
  • SBA Borrower’s Guide explains Small Business Administration loan programs. The 29-page booklet is free. (592G)
  • SBA Programs and Services lists phone numbers, online information, business counseling and training, lending programs and advice on starting or expanding a business. The 23-page booklet is free. (593G)

You can order any number of these brochures by calling toll-free (888) 8 PUEBLO, or by visiting the Website at

“I have some beautiful cards I would love to use for my decoupage, but they are too thick! What can I do?” ( G.B., Italy)

Thinning paper: It is important to keep the paper you use as thin as possible. However, that does not mean that you need to throw away calendars or greeting cards that you’d love to use but are too thick-you simply thin them.
Thinning can be done in two ways. The quickest method is to split the paper in half with your thumbnail and very carefully peel it apart-you can generally do that with greeting cards. Then using very fine sandpaper, gently rub the back of the print smooth and apply a coat of sealer.
An alternative for thinning thicker paper is to apply approximately five coats of Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish to the face of the print, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly, before applying the next. Soak the print in tepid water for about four hours, remove it and lay it face down on a piece of waxed paper on a flat surface. Using a damp finger, gently start rubbing away the paper. Be very careful not to rub through the print- leave just a thin coat of paper behind. As above, sand the print carefully and seal. (Reprinted by permission of decoupage author, Audrey Raymond, Australia).
(Headquarters has received many questions concerning decoupage problems over the past six months. Thank you to member Audrey Raymond for providing the answers below. Her book, TRADITIONAL DECOUPAGE-A practical Guide to the Classic Decorative Art Form is available from the author. Please contact her at PO Box 784, Maleny, Queensland 4552 Australia.)

  • LUMPS AND BUBBLES: If after gluing a print down you discover a mysterious lump (you could have left some Blu-Tack behind) or a bubble where there is insufficient glue, then take your scalpel and make a tiny sideways cut into the lump. Remove the remaining rubbish and use a toothpick to slip some more glue under the print before pressing it down firmly. If it is just a small air bubble, a tiny pinprick will often do the trick.
  • DAMAGED PRINTS: If you rub off some of the print face when sanding, fear not, just reach for your colored pencils and carefully repair it. For best results, choose a color that is fractionally darker than the print. Dip the pencil into turpentine first and then smooth the color over the damaged area. You could also use thinned paints. Seal the repair before you continue varnishing. Colored pencils can also be used to repair a print that has been tom or has come adrift during the gluing stage. Try to butt the two pieces together and then use your pencils to disguise any damage. If you tear a print before sticking it down, just put a tiny dab of glue on the back of the print and patch with tissue or rice paper.
  • MILKY BLOOM ON VARNISH: This is probably the only problem that is insurmountable. It is caused by dampness – either humidity or rushing the varnishing process and, being too impatient to let each coat dry thoroughly, before applying the next. It’s worth leaving the piece for at least a week in the hope it will dry out and it can then be sanded. If you have no joy at all, be brave, throw it away and call it character building!
  • WATERMARKS: At the final sanding stage, you may discover watermarks resembling shot taffeta or moiré silk. This can be caused either by dampness a few layers down in the varnish or by uneven sanding. Try removing the marks with wire wool. If that does not work, apply a few more coats of varnish. In a severe case, you may have to apply a final coat of satin varnish and leave it unsanded in order to hide the marks. NOTE: The importance of allowing each coat of varnish to dry thoroughly before adding another coat cannot be stressed enough.
  • CRAZING AND CRACKING: Crazing or cracking of an oil-based varnish is probably caused by dampness in the air. Don’t panic, leave it to dry thoroughly and then continue varnishing. Apply several more coats and you will find that by the time you come to wet-sand, that the problem has disappeared.
  • CHIPS: If you drop your piece of decoupage and chip some of the varnish, all is not lost. Although laborious, you can drip a little varnish into the chip, let it dry and repeat until it is filled. Finish by sanding smooth.
My decoupage looks good except for one thing…I have a disturbing white line showing around some of my images. I know it’s the cutting edge that’s visible; but I don’t know what to do about it. (S. G., Del Mar, CA)
While cutting, try holding your scissors at an angle away from you so the edge is cut on the slant rather than straight up and down. This method of cutting will help bevel and hide the white cut edge. When you are using particularly thick paper and the white edge still shows, try dipping a matching color pencil in turpentine and run it over the white edge. It will disappear.
I love doing decoupage under glass but I dislike the “shinies” that I sometimes get. What am I doing wrong?
Try this approach: spread glue on your project area. (It’s always better to use more glue than less.) Work glue back and forth with fingertips to eliminate as many air bubbles as possible. Place your print carefully in place on glued area trying not to move it too much. Pat your print lightly into glue. Using a damp cloth pat the back of your print softly to remove as many air bubbles as possible. DO NOT remove all the glue between the print and glass. This is the major cause of shinny spots.
Do not worry about the milky color of glue. This will dry clear. Go over your prints with your wet fingers to make sure all air bubbles have been removed and the edges are well glued. HOWEVER, if you find a stray air bubble after your piece has dried, do not despair. Pierce it with a pin and add glue. With fingers again, lightly go over the area and try to get the glue to seep into air bubble. The trapped air should disappear.
I love the beautiful glass-like finish I have seen on some fine decoupage pieces. I understand the artists used Micro-Mesh. What is it and how does it differ from regular sandpaper? AM, NYC

For years Micro-Mesh has been used in the aircraft industry to polish plastic surfaces. In decoupage, we use it to achieve a smooth glass-like finish. “Micro-Mesh has a thin layer of soft resilient material between the backing and the abrasive crystals which provides a cushion for the abrasives. Using a cushion design allows the relatively large abrasive crystals to recede into the resilient layer and float to an even cutting plane. Micro-Mesh produces a fine, even scratch pattern. It does not leave deep random scratches as with common abrasives.

It does not wear out as quickly as regular sandpaper because it doesn’t “load-up”, generate heat or fracture the surface. It outlasts other abrasives 5-7 times when used dry and 7-15 times when used wet. Also, the abrasive crystals are larger in Micro-Mesh and so it sands more quickly because more of the abrasive is in contact with the sanding surface.

(Courtesy: Micro-Mesh) Sources: MicroSurface Finishing Products, Inc., Box 818, Wilton, Iowa 52778 Tel: 319-732-3240 Fax: 319-732-3390 Micro Mark Catalog, 340 Snyder Ave., Berkley Heights, NJ 07922. ( Please do join our Guild to receive in depth instruction on this wonderful finishing material or send a SSAE for an instruction sheet.)

Helpful Hints


A tiny ball of Plasti-Tak or Hold-It on the end of a toothpick surpasses tweezers for lifting small pieces of prints, etc., onto a gluing surface. It also releases immediately.

If you sand through a print and don’t have the matching colored pencil handy, keep a #948 Sepia prismacolor pencil on hand with your supplies. Except for light shades, it fills in and blends perfectly with whatever color leaf, stem, etc., you have injured by your enthusiastic sanding.

A typewriter eraser with a brush on one end is an excellent tool for sanding in small, tight places.

How to rewire a lamp after decoupage?

Anyone can rewire a lamp by paying attention to the way it comes apart. When attaching the new lamp cord, look closely at the two wires. One side of the lamp cord will have smooth insulation and the other side will have ridges or a stripe running along its length. Connect the smooth side to the brass screw on the lamp and the ridged side to the silver screw on the fixture.

When wiring the plug, follow the same rules. If the plug is not a screw type, the smooth side will attach to the narrow blade of the plug and the ridged side to the wide blade on the plug. Getting the wires right is called observing polarity, and it reduces the likelihood of shock.

(Courtesy: MJ Toole)

Would you like to add beautiful 3-dimensional ornamentation to your decoupage boxes or furniture projects before painting, gluing and finishing?

Decorators Supply Company has composite ornaments for decoupage and home décor. They offer many styles from delicate floral swags for a box to tiny beading suitable to frame the doors of an armoire.
Molds are used to cast ornamentation from original carvings of Victorian or Georgian furnishings and architectural moldings. For easy home application, steam the ornaments to unfinished wood boxes, furniture, etc. The heat releases the glue, and the steam makes the pieces flexible, allowing the ornament to lay flat, or to conform to a curved surface.

The recommended method of steaming is over a roasting pan of water. Some people also use a hand-held clothes steamer to complete many pieces of furniture. Grasp the edge of an ornament with pliers and carefully hold the ornament in front of the steam. Depending on the size of the ornament, steam until it starts to become flexible. It will take no longer than 15 to 30 seconds. Then press the ornament to the furniture surface. The ornament will quickly dry, and will be permanently adhered. If you should have an ornament loosen, simply re-attach with glue.

Decorators Supply Company, 3610-12 S. Morgan St., Chicago, Il 60609, has composite ornaments for decoupage or home décor projects. To request a catalog or place an order, call 773-847-6300.