How to Decoupage Furniture

Hello, friend!  I’ve done lots of projects where I decoupage paper or napkins onto furniture and home decor, but I’ve never done an all-in-one post where you can find all my best tips to decoupage furniture… until now.

We’ll go through a few examples of different types of decoupage makeovers so you can easily follow along – one example is this petite bookcase I’ve shared before:

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Today is Furniture Fixer Uppers day with my creative blogging friends!  You can see their makeovers at the bottom of this post.  Also, this post contains some affiliate links so you can easily find the products I use and recommend.  See an updated list of all my favorite DIY products here.

You can read the entire blog post for this floral bookcase makeover here.  But here’s a few tips for getting your piece prepped for decoupage (the photos below come from several makeovers):

First, make any necessary major repairs or structural updates.  I removed the rail on the bookcase and filled the holes (I now recommend this Elmer’s wood filler instead of Minwax.)

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Then, if your piece is very shiny, lightly sand it all over with 220-grit sandpaper.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

If you’re doing the back of a bookcase or cabinet, it’s typically easier to remove the back panel before painting or papering.

Next you may want to prime your piece with at least 1-2 coats so the paint can stick to it better.  I recommend priming laminate pieces, raw (unpainted) wood, and any type of wood that might bleed through like cherry – or oak which tends to drink up paint.  Here’s a link to my favorite primer.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Sand the piece with 320-grit sandpaper so it’s smooth to the touch.

If you haven’t already, decide where you’re going to decoupage.  It can be the back of a bookcase or cabinet, on the front of dresser drawers or cabinet doors, inside drawers (excellent for hiding old ink spills!), or maybe even the top of a table.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

There are many paper options when you’re planning to decoupage furniture: scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, wallpaper, napkins, maps, sheet music, book pages, even fabric.  Choose one that you like (thicker papers are easier to work with if you’re a beginner) and then paint the piece in a coordinating color.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Give it at least 2 coats of paint depending on the color you chose (white, red, and black usually need more but it depends on the type of paint).

Then measure the dimensions that you’ll need for the paper.  For antiques (and inside drawers), measure the length of every side because parallel sides might not be exactly the same! 

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

For smaller sheets, I always cut with my handy paper cutter so the lines are perfectly straight.  For larger paper like gift wrap, I use a yardstick, draw lines on the back side with a pencil, and then cut with scissors.

Lay out the paper to make sure it will fit perfectly.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Next when you decoupage furniture, use a product like matte Mod Podge so if you get a little messy, the glue won’t dry shiny and obvious.  Also I like to use a foam brush – you can buy a big pack for cheap.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

For the little bookcase makeover, I used the floral napkins above.  Napkins can be trickier because they’re so thin – pull apart all the layers (there are usually 2 or 3) and only use the patterned layer.

I’ve also used napkins to decoupage wooden crates and they turn out so pretty!  Read more about how I decoupage crates with napkins here.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Here are some gorgeous floral napkins available online.

If you have a large area, work in smaller sections – maybe 8-10 inches at a time.  See how much you’re comfortable working with.  You’ll get into a nice groove after 1-2 sections.

Gently brush a layer of Mod Podge onto the section, covering it completely.  Don’t make it too thick or too thin.  It dries pretty fast so try to work quickly.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Once the area is covered, oh-so-gently lay the paper onto that area starting with the edge first and then pressing away from it.  Rub the paper for a few minutes, pressing out any trapped air bubbles. 

If you rub with your hands, the ink may transfer onto your skin.  You may want to rub with something else that won’t tear the paper.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Keep going until all of the paper is completely glued on.  Leave it alone to dry for at least a few hours.

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Depending on where the paper was glued, you may want to protect it with 1-2 coats of matte Mod Podge over the top of the paper.  For example, the back of a bookcase wouldn’t get much usage like a drawer or door would.

Here’s how the sweet decoupage bookcase turned out:

How to Decoupage Furniture - Girl in the Garage

Adorable!  Here’s the link again to the full tutorial for this bookcase makeover.

p.s. I am planning to offer my animal dolls for sale starting soon, if my fingers can sew faster!  Follow my new Thread and Cloth Studio accounts for updates:  InstagramFacebook – Etsy shop

And here are other decoupage furniture projects I’ve done – some were referenced above in this post:

Decoupage furniture makeovers by Girl in the Garage1. Cabinet Makeover with Gift Wrap – 2. End Table – 3. Napkin Crate
4. French Desk  –  5. Repurposed Drawers to Shelves –  6. Garage Organizer
7. Antique Vanity  – 8. Bookcase Makeover  –  9.  Dresser with Paintable Wallpaper


* I would so appreciate if you would pin or share this post with a friend – thank you! *


Plus it’s also Furniture Fixer Uppers day with my creative friends…

Below are the Before photos – visit the links underneath to see the Afters and to learn how they did it.  (I can’t wait to see them myself!)

Furniture Fixer Uppers1.  Confessions of a Serial DIYer
2.  Just the Woods
3.  Petticoat Junktion
4. Prodigal Pieces
5.  The Interior Frugalista

How to Decoupage and Distress with Napkins

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6 Comments on How to Decoupage Furniture

  1. Christy James
    December 21, 2018 at 1:59 pm (3 months ago)

    Love all of these, Jen! Pretty paper just adds so much! Merry Christmas!! XOXO

  2. Pam K
    December 25, 2018 at 3:33 pm (3 months ago)

    I spray my decorative paper with a clear acrylic spray sealer (Mod Podge brand has one) before I apply it to the surface of my piece. This only works with paper…not napkins or tissue. It helps to reduce bubbling and reduces the risk of tearing.


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