How to Decoupage Napkins onto Wood

Have you ever been inspired by a creative idea that you really loved and you wanted to try for yourself, but it took ages for the right piece to come along?  Meet this little crate that I recently found secondhand for a creative decoupage napkins project.

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

This post contains affiliate links so that you can easily find the same or similar products to do this project yourself.  Discover all my favorite DIY products and tools Here.

I’m no stranger to decoupage, but there’s a certain kind that I hadn’t tried before.  And I knew this would be a perfect makeover for Trash to Treasure Tuesday (you can visit my friends’ makeovers at the end of this post).

However, first I wanted to paint the wooden crate white.  (I left it rustic and distressed on purpose… you’ll see why soon.)

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

Then it was time for some fun.

How to Decoupage Napkins onto Wood

These napkins have been in my possession for almost a year, and I have been dying to decoupage them onto a piece!  Aren’t the colors bright and gorgeous??  (Find these and other colorful napkins on Amazon HERE.)

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

Click here for a more comprehensive guide on How to Decoupage Furniture of all types.

White and neutral are usually my thang but I could not resist these pretties.

When you decoupage napkins, the first step is to remove the two layers of white tissue paper from the back, if they’re 3-ply.  It may seem like there’s only one white layer at first – the second layer will be trickier to get off.

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

Once you have just the top layer, place it over one side and cut or rip it to the right size.  It doesn’t need to be perfectly lined up – we are going for imperfect anyway.  🙂

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

Next dip a small foam brush into matte Mod Podge and cover the entire side… don’t skimp, but don’t puddle it either.

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

Press the napkin onto the wood, lightly rubbing and pushing the tissue into the woodgrain.  Also, don’t worry if edges overlap or hang over – you’ll fix those later.

Yes, your fingers will get messy!  Take a break once in a while and go wash them to make sure they stay clean and the ink doesn’t spread over the white areas.

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

Would you like a free printable tutorial of this project for easy reference?  Click Here.
For the sides with the slats, I centered the napkin and glued it on like this, with smaller pieces on either side.

Note: If your napkins have a distinct pattern and you have to use more than one piece on a larger area, stagger the pattern so it’s not completely obvious and looks sort of weird.  (Rookie mistake)

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

How to Distress the Decoupage Napkins

Let the glue sit until dry, probably overnight.  Then you can use an electric hand sander, a sanding sponge block, or any sandpaper you have already.  I grabbed the closest to me which was 320 grit by 3M, usually used to create a soft, smooth finish on pieces you’re almost done with.  (Next time I do this type of project I’ll probably use a grit in the 200 range so it will rough up a little more quickly.)

Sand away till your heart’s content.  You want to wipe away the excess tissue between the slats, over the handles, near the edges, and anywhere else to give it a distressed, worn look.

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

Again – you will make a big mess when sanding.  You might want to go outdoors or have paper or cardboard underneath for easier cleanup.

When you’re all finished, the decoupage napkins on wood will look something like this:

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

Here’s a closeup so you can see the imperfect edges and the woodgrain peeking through.

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

I could’ve easily done this without painting the crate first, but I think the white background really makes the flowers pop even more.  For a more subtle look you could leave the wood unfinished or stain it a darker color first.

The side is a little more distressed, since a couple chunks came off during sanding.  The Mod Podge must’ve missed those areas.   Oops.

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

Another closeup of the crate:

Decoupage Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover -

If you like this decoupage napkins crate project, here’s a handy before-and-after collage to Pin and save for later:

Decoupage Wood with Napkins - Upcycled Wooden Crate - DIY Makeover - girlinthegarage.netI love to decoupage the outside of furniture, inside drawers, on crates, little wooden boxes from Goodwill, and I’ve even decoupaged glass bottles and artwork.  There’s so much you can do with decoupage and napkins, paper, wrapping paper, maps, book pages, etc.!
Would you like a free printable tutorial of this project for easy reference?  Click Here.

Here are a few more crates I’ve since decoupaged napkins onto:

Decoupage wood crates with napkins - Girl in the Garage

Annnnnnd now it’s Trash to Treasure Tuesday with my friends!

This is seriously one of my most favorite days every month.  I love seeing everyone’s creative transformations and being inspired, and I know you will too.  (You can view my T2T makeovers from other months HERE.)


Below are the Before photos – click the links below to see the After pics and the full tutorial on their blog.

Trash to Treasure Makeovers

  1. Bless’er House
  2. Prodigal Pieces
  3. Confessions of a Serial DIYer
  4. Artsy Chicks Rule


Lastly, if you liked this project then don’t miss my epic guide full of advice for how to decoupage furniture:

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Talk soon, friend! -Jen

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20 Comments on How to Decoupage Napkins onto Wood

  1. Yvonne
    December 13, 2016 at 7:40 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Jen-love your work! One question: how come you didn’t apply a coat of Mod Podge over the top of the napkins? Did you seal it with anything at all? If not, do you find that it’s okay not to seal Mod Podge projects? Sorry for all the questions, it’s just that I’m working on something now and I’m not sure if I should add Mod Podge on top. It’s paper and I sweat to get it wrinkle free when applying it-now I’m scared it will wrinkle up when I seal it. But at the same time, I’m afraid to leave it unsealed. Thanks!

    • Jen
      December 13, 2016 at 1:49 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks Yvonne! I didn’t use Mod Podge over the top of the napkins because it wouldn’t have been so easy to sand and distress it. Since this is just a crate, I didn’t seal it with anything. When I decoupage furniture, I usually do apply Mod Podge over the front of the paper also (but not always, if it’s not an area that won’t see a lot of wear and tear). Typically if I want an almost-perfect smooth look I will use thick scrapbook paper to avoid wrinkles and rips. Thin paper is just harder to work with. Here’s one of my popular decoupage projects, a desk I did a few years ago that might help you out more: Good luck!

      • Yvonne
        December 13, 2016 at 3:58 pm (2 years ago)

        Jen, thanks for your insight! That desk was absolutely gorgeous!! The paper I’m working with is on the thin side, and I (somehow!) managed to get it on my project wrinkle-free – and now, thanks to your advice, I feel completely confident not sealing it because it’s not going to be subject to any wear and tear at all. Thanks for your help!

  2. Susan
    December 13, 2016 at 8:18 am (2 years ago)

    I don’t usually like the distressed or floral look, but Jen, you’ve hooked me with this project. I can’t tell you how charmed I am by it. Luckily I have one of these boring wood crates and gallons of Mod Podge. Guess what I’ll be doing this weekend?

  3. Karla Rogers
    December 13, 2016 at 6:42 pm (2 years ago)

    Love, love, love this! I have done decoupaged lampshades with napkins before and they are beautifully semi transparent. This project is awesome and I love the sanded down look. It is perfect for the crate and the napkins were just the right happy floral pattern! Napkins are so easy to find and the colors, patterns, varieties and ease to work with make each project so much fun. I’m going to try your technique as soon as I find “just the right piece!”

  4. Eileen
    December 14, 2016 at 5:32 am (2 years ago)

    A hint! Use saran wrap to press the paper in place. It works well.

  5. Evija
    December 14, 2016 at 9:22 am (2 years ago)

    Absolutely beautiful crate!! I have a little obsession with napkins and can’t seem to pass the cute ones in the shop.. so many projects to do!!

  6. Rose Arroyo
    December 14, 2016 at 8:43 pm (2 years ago)

    I love the way this turned out.

  7. Stefanie
    January 10, 2017 at 6:34 am (2 years ago)

    This is amazing! I love that look! I’ve been dying to try that technique on something and you’ve inspired me! Your rock!!

    • Jen
      January 10, 2017 at 12:50 pm (2 years ago)

      Aww thanks so much, Stefanie! I’d love to see how it turns out for you! 🙂

  8. Jessica | Petal + Ply
    March 5, 2017 at 10:04 pm (2 years ago)

    This is one of my favorite techniques. So many napkins, so many design possibilities. I don’t use Mod Podge though because I’m not a huge fan of the tackiness. I tried using water based polycrylic and it works fabulously. I use the same polycrylic as the top coat too!

    • Jen
      March 8, 2017 at 10:35 am (2 years ago)

      Thank you Jessica! I haven’t had good experience with polycrylic over anything white (every type I’ve tried has yellowed, even water-based), but it might work fine over other colors. Thanks for sharing your experience using it.

      • Jessica | Petal + Ply
        March 8, 2017 at 11:01 am (2 years ago)

        🙁 bummer. I haven’t noticed any yellowing with the water-based myself but white is always tricky.

  9. Deborah
    June 30, 2018 at 8:19 am (9 months ago)

    Once you put the napkins on the glue do you leave them on until the glue dries? I can’t wait to try this!

  10. Marian
    January 23, 2019 at 9:18 am (2 months ago)

    There are lots of good napkin designs for $1 at… guess where?? Dollar Tree!! ☺️


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