How to Make a Frame Pretty--Decoupage

Paper crafting has been a passion of mine for quite sometime but decoupage is one of my newest ventures. I love the idea of preserving the pretty patterns of paper on decorated boxes or frames. Creating pretty things is wonderful, but if the "thing" has some functionality, that's even better! I have fallen in love with creating decoupage frames and wanted to share what I've learned with you today.

Naked wooden frame
Assorted papers
Decoupage glue
Small crafting knife
Bone folder
Vintage seam binding or other ribbon
Your favorite embellishments

The first thing to do when starting a decoupage project is to pick out the papers you want to use for your art. I find scraps from other projects work best because they are all different shapes and colors. Another perk is not wasting paper! What a great way to recycle scrap paper.

I like to place the papers on the frame before I do any gluing. Just to make sure everything fits.

The trickiest part of this project is making sure the edges of the paper and frame line up. I place the paper on the edges of the frame and trim to make sure no paper is sticking out. I repeat all around the frame, rounding corners and snipping excess paper.

Once all the paper is laid out, I begin to glue the pieces to the wood frame starting with the bottom layers.

I find that Martha Stewart's decoupage glue and sealer works best. Each bottle comes with an applicator brush. You can find these at craft stores like Michael's for $3.99. They go a long way. I can make about 6-7 frames with one bottle.

Apply a thin layer of glue on your scrap paper. The glue and sealer has a thick consistency so make sure you apply a very thin later to keep the glue from soaking through the paper. You can also you a strpong bonding glue stick or your favorite adhesive to glue the papers down. I like using this glue only because I am also using it as the sealer.

Use a bone folder to gently scrape across the glued paper to make sure no air bubbles are trapped. You want to get a nice, flat surface when you are finished.

Keep gluing the papers you laid out until each piece is placed the way you like it. You can always add more scraps and layer papers if you get some "naked" spots where the wood shows.

For this frame, I'm using an image and I want to put a pink dresden foil wing behind it. I went ahead and did this because the foil wing is flat enough to decoupage over. If you have embellishments that are on the 3-dimensional side, you want to wait and add it after you decoupage.

Once you make sure there are no air bubbles, you are ready to decoupage. Apply the decoupage sealer over your frame. This top coat will hold all your paper together and provide a nice glossy finish over your frame, so make sure you apply generously.

Hold your frame up to the light to see if brush strokes are visible or if you have empty spots. If so, go over with another coat of glue and make sure the entire surface is covered. Lay the frame on a flat surface to allow frame to dry. DO NOT leave the frame uprigtht as the sealer will droop. I always leave it to dry overnight.

When the glue is dry, it should have a nice finish to it. The colors of the paper will now be preserved! Only when your frame is completely dry, you can repeat to the back.
Cut and layout your paper and glue...

The only difference with the back of the frame is to make sure you leave the hole for the dowel. This is why I prefer to use thinner paper rather than cardstock for the back. This way, I can use a little blade and poke through the paper so the hole is exposed. I kind of scrape around the edges of the hole so the edges are nice and clean.

Now it's time to decoupage the back....

When the back of your frame dries, it is ready to be embellished! I like to use dresden foil trims...
or vintage paper posies....

....leaf trims, ribbon, lace, baubles, pearly pins and and endless other things. You can also leave the frame as it is. The only limit is your imagination!
For the sides of this frame, I find vintage seam binding is perfect. I lightly glue a strip or ribbon around the entire frame. Make sure you only apply a think layer as seam binding is thin and you will get wet spots of glue showing through.

And now you have your own beautiful creation on your hands.

I never know how a frame will turn out when I begin one, but always love the result. I plan on doing some themed frames for little girls, boys, or bridal showers. Once you do enough of these and find your own little techniques, there's so much you can do with them. They make great gifts for anyone. This one is off for a few more embellishments and then it's off to the LizzyJDesigns Etsy shop!

Hope you enjoyed this little tutorial and attempt to try this project. If you do, please let me know how it goes. If you have other tips and technique ideas, do share!


inge said...

Hello Lizzy,

glad that you commented on my blog ! Now I know you've been there and I come over to look at your work !

You gave a great tutorial and the result is very nice !
The frame can stand on it's own, it doesn't even NEED a photo !

Inge from Belgium

Estela said...

that is one awesome frame!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I tihink you have done a great job and made it easy for a beginner to follow, thanks

c.lack said...

Love your work!

Question about decoupage in general:
Can a finished project be washed/cleaned??? Or will the decoupage get sticky? How do you suggest cleaning?
Thank you!