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How to Decoupage with Napkins: A Beginner's Guide

How to Decoupage with Napkins: A Beginner's Guide

At DecoupageNapkins.com, we often receive requests for guidance on how to decoupage with napkins, especially on separating the back layers from the top printed layer. Donna from Mason Creations etc. has created a wonderful video to address these questions and guide you through the process. Watch the video below for a visual guide, and follow the step-by-step instructions to get started.

Step-by-Step Decoupage Guide:

1. Choosing Your Napkins: Start with high-quality 3-ply napkins, like those available at DecoupageNapkins.com. These napkins are crafted from high-grade paper and inks that won't run when moistened, providing a silky feel that's perfect for decoupage.

2. Separating Napkin Layers: To begin, identify whether your napkin has 2 or 3 layers. (Most all napkins sold in our store have 3 plies). Gently rub the corner of the napkin with your thumb and forefinger to separate the layers. The small dots on the edge of the napkins are embossing dimples that hold the plies together. When you rub your fingernail over the dimples, they will loosen, allowing you to separate the layers. These dimples will flatten out when you decoupage and will no longer be noticeable. So it's absolutely fine to use the entire pattern on your project (even the areas with dimples!) Donna suggests using your fingernail to help burst those tiny dots. If you encounter difficulty, try another corner.

Once all two or three plies are separated, the top printed layer should be translucent with no white on the back side. Ensuring all layers except the top are removed is crucial, as any remaining layers can cause the design to wrinkle or buckle during decoupage. Remove any unnecessary portions of the napkin pattern by gently tearing away the excess. A helpful tool is a water brush which allows you to easily trace out the portion of the napkin you are going to use, then tear away the excess.

3. Preparing Your Surface: You will want a white or cream paint color behind your napkin in order for the design to really pop. White gesso is a popular base for decoupage. If you use a darker color, then the appearance will be muddy and drab. If you are decoupaging on a non-wood surface such plastic, glass, metal or ceramic you will want to first prime your surface with Polyvine Multi-surface Lacquer before applying paint or decoupage adhesives. This special formula creates a bond to that surface type, preparing it for next steps. In this video, Donna primes her ceramic tile with Polyvine Multi-Surface Lacquer and then paints over it with Dixie Belle paint in the color Drop Cloth.

4. Applying the Napkin: There are two main methods for applying the napkin: the dry method and the water method.

  • Dry Method:  Lay the napkin on the surface and brush Polyvine Decorators Varnish (or any other varnish, lacquer or decoupage adhesive). Work your brush strokes from the center outward to eliminate wrinkles. If preferred, a stippler sponge can be used instead of a brush. Lay a clear piece of plastic over your project while wet, to further smooth out any wrinkles. Donna suggests that this method works well on smaller surfaces, providing more control over the adhesive application. Some crafters like to optionally pre-coat their project with a very thin layer of adhesive like glue or varnish before laying down their napkin. If you do this, be careful as napkins are not easy to reposition once moistened.

  • Water Method: (A better choice method for little to no wrinkles!) Lay the napkin on a piece of plastic such as a cut out zip lock freezer bag. Spray the napkin with water and gently push the napkin away from the center, to smooth and expand it outwards. Next apply some decoupage adhesive to your project surface. Then place the napkin on the prepared surface. While it is still wet, peel away the plastic sheet. This method is particularly useful for larger projects as it eliminates nearly 100% of wrinkles. Donna demonstrated this method on a ceramic tile, showing how it can create a perfectly smooth finish.

5. Smoothing Wrinkles: To ensure a smooth finish, mist a piece of plastic with water and lay it over the napkin. Using your fingers, gently rub on top of the plastic to smooth out any remaining wrinkles. Be careful not to do this directly on the napkin, as it may tear. This tip from Donna is invaluable for achieving a professional-looking finish without damaging your project.

6. Finishing Touches: Once the adhesive is dry, remove any excess napkin hanging over the edges. A low grit sand paper can be handy for this purpose. For projects such as Coasters that need a durable, heat and water-resistant finish, apply several thin coats of Polyvine Heavy-Duty Wood Varnish. This top coat is particularly good for coasters and trays. It will adhere not only to wood but to painted or varnished surfaces as well. This varnish is also fast curing and food safe, making it ideal for coasters and other household items. Donna mentioned that is can be used on all surfaces but it is not recommended for shiny plastic, metal or ceramic surfaces. For these surfaces prime first with Polyvine Multi-surface Lacquer, then paint or decoupage and finally, top coat with the Polyvine Heavy Duty Wood Varnish to give it the added protection. Donna emphasized the importance of multiple, thin coats for ensuring longevity and durability. Make sure to watch the video in the product description to view a manufacturer demonstration on use of these products. 

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial by Donna from Mason Creations etc. Thank you, Donna, for sharing your expertise with us! Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get 10% off your next order. Happy crafting!