What is Napkin Decoupage?

Sheri Cyprus

Napkin decoupage is the craft of applying large pieces or cutouts from paper napkins to a project surface. This surface may be wood, glass, metal, cardboard or another material. Each napkin piece or cutout is coated with a liquid decoupage medium before it's applied to anything. Final coats of a clear protective finish are used to protect the napkin-decoupaged surface. The paper napkins used for this type of decoupage may be full or cocktail sized; they also may be used alone or in combination with other types of paper in a project.

Precise shapes can be cut from napkins and other thin paper using a craft knife.
Precise shapes can be cut from napkins and other thin paper using a craft knife.

Crafters who do decoupage work with paper napkins tend to seek out interesting napkin designs found in food specialty and gift shops as well as other stores. The motifs and designs printed on paper napkins range from whimsical to elegant. For example, picnic paper napkins may have cartoon-like drawings of a chef barbecuing a steak, while those meant for a party or luncheon might feature photographic images of beautiful rose buds.

Since such a large range of design options is available, napkin decoupage can be used for many types of craft projects. For instance, paper napkin cutouts of colorful butterflies and flowers could be applied to a plain baby crib to add some design interest. The same types of cutouts could also be used in napkin decoupage to create pictures for the walls. While any type of napkin cutouts can be applied to wood plaques before coating with a clear varnish or polyurethane, they could also be matted and framed as a print or photograph would be. Strips from around the edges of the napkins can be used to border pictures or other projects as well. Purchasing paper napkins in packages also can help ensure the same basic pattern and colors are used in making sets of pictures or other items.

Other than using cutouts, completely covering the surface with napkins may also be done in this form of decoupage. Since only the front of printed napkins may have a picture or pattern, while the backs might be a solid color, both parts could be combined to cover an entire plate, box or even a chair. For example, an inexpensive folding metal-framed chair can get a new design with napkin decoupage. Strips of the paper napkins must be carefully wrapped around the chair legs, and after the entire chair is covered with napkin strips and/or cutouts, it's important to use a good clear coating to protect the finished project from the wear and tear of repeated use.

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