How to Decoupage and Transfer Designs

Updated on July 20, 2019
Rock Artist profile image

I am a rock painter, jewelry maker, and Mod Podge expert! Decoupage is one of my favorite crafts.

With decoupage, you can transfer images to various surfaces like wood, rock, slate, or glass (just to name a few).
With decoupage, you can transfer images to various surfaces like wood, rock, slate, or glass (just to name a few). | Source

Learn How to Make Beautiful Crafts With the Art of Decoupage

Over the past few years, I have become interested in the art of decoupage and using design transfers in my work. When I found out about decoupage, I wanted to learn more about it right away. With all the graphics available today, there are so many fun and interesting images to transfer to wood, rock, slate, glass, or even tin cans (just to name a few).

You can easily learn to make beautiful accents to decorate your home or give away as beautiful one-of-a-kind gifts. Or perhaps you could even start your own craft business. If you can print a picture from a computer, cut with a pair of scissors, and use glue, you can make projects just like the ones pictured here. I will give you step-by-step instructions on the different methods that I personally use to make floral creations like this. If you have any problems with the instructions given, please don't hesitate to send me a message with your questions, I would love to help you out. Like I always say, "Be creative, and be happy!"

Free butterfly clip art is everywhere! No painting skills required: print out butterflies with a color printer, cut them out, and decoupage onto your projects. Easy peasy!
Free butterfly clip art is everywhere! No painting skills required: print out butterflies with a color printer, cut them out, and decoupage onto your projects. Easy peasy! | Source

What Supplies Do You Need for a Decoupage Project?

  • Something to decoupage onto, such as a wooden plaque.
  • Images of something you would like to decorate your plaque with, like flowers. Always make sure you have the rights to adapt or use someone's design.
  • Color printer, or you can use transfer paper if you only have a black-and-white printer.
  • Large scissors to cut out your flowers or designs that you choose.
  • Small nail scissors, possibly with a curved edge, for more detailed cutting of your design that gets close to the edges as possible.
  • Colored pens, pencils, or markers to enhance the color of the designs you cut out. You can use a pen to outline or stencil the word you choose and then fill it in with a Deco paint pen (these are decorative paint pens, and if you use the fine-point pens they are great for filling in letters—A.C. Moore carries a good supply). You can also color in the letters with a nice black jelly pen, which you can also buy at most craft stores.
  • Alphabet or letter stencil to write a word such as ''Welcome," or perhaps a family name, if you so desire.
  • Drill to drill holes in your wooden plaque (this is very easy to do).
  • Mod Podge (sealant) to use as glue for your designs, and then to seal your plaque with once designs are glued down.
  • Paintbrushes to apply Mod Podge to the back of cutouts and also for sealing your plaque. You can use small brushes when you apply your designs to your plaque, and then larger brushes for sealing.
  • Craft wire to thread through the holes to hang your plaque.

You can use a mix of paint and decoupage cutouts to create a fabulous welcome slate for your home (butterflies are hard to paint, but easy to decoupage!).
You can use a mix of paint and decoupage cutouts to create a fabulous welcome slate for your home (butterflies are hard to paint, but easy to decoupage!). | Source

What Can You Decoupage Onto?

Wooden Plaques

Personally, I like to work with wooden plaques when it comes to decoupaging. Wooden plaques come in all different sizes and can be purchased at most local craft stores, and they are not expensive. In addition, they make very attractive background canvases for working with decoupage and design transfers. In my opinion, the finished product is just as nice as if you were working on a much more expensive surface, such as slate. Michaels, A.C. Moore, and Jo-Ann's Fabrics & Crafts all carry wooden plaques. They are not expensive, and there is a weekly coupon available online.

Slate Plaques

Slate is a bit more expensive to purchase than wood, and quite frankly, I think painting a wooden plaque with a slate-gray acrylic paint works just as nicely to this effect. Plus, it lowers the chance of it falling down and breaking in half like the one I made for my mom years ago.

I know A.C. Moore used to carry nice slate pieces with hangers already attached, but I am not sure if they still do. There is also a place online called Kulps that sells slate plaques. Slate does make an exceptionally eye-appealing canvas for decoupage and the transferring of designs. It's really up to you as an individual what you think looks the nicest. The possibilities are as much fun as they are endless!

Other Ideas

  • Wooden eggs
  • Dishes
  • Picture frames
  • Candles
  • Clay pots

Tips for Using Craft Store Coupons

You can print out a weekly coupon and use it interchangeably at Michaels, A.C. Moore, and Jo-Ann's, as they all accept competitors' coupons (although don't hold me to that, because their policies change from time to time). All you have to do is go to Michael's or A.C. Moore's website and click on the "Store Coupon" button to print out the current coupon and make sure you have the current date on the coupon.

Also, make sure when you click on the picture of the coupon you hit "Print Preview" in the upper corner so that you print the coupon with the barcode on it or they probably won't accept it. A lot of times, these stores will also scan the coupon straight from your phone. (Yay! I love saving money.)

This may look difficult to make, but this lovely dish has been decoupaged with napkins!
This may look difficult to make, but this lovely dish has been decoupaged with napkins!

Video: Learn How to Decoupage a Picture Frame

How to Decoupage: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Prepare Your "Canvas"

If you are using a wooden piece for your canvas, sand the edges to get a nice smooth finish.

Step 2: Choose Your Design

Decide what design you are going to use to decoupage with. Print out picture(s) and arrange them on your piece WITHOUT glue to see where you want everything to go.

Step 3: Make Your Initial Cuts

Cut out the design(s), first around the whole picture using large scissors.

Step 4: Cut Your Design More Precisely

Define the print by using a pair of curved nail scissors and carefully cutting as close to the edges of the print as possible.

Step 5: Enhance the Color

Lay the design(s) on a scrap piece of paper after it's been cut out. Go over the design(s) with colored pens, markers, pencils, or acrylic paint to enhance the color and make the designs more vibrant if you wish (this is optional but I feel it gives your designs a more professional look).

Step 7: Adhere Your Design

Once your design is color-enhanced and dries completely, apply white craft glue or Mod Podge to the back of the design. Carefully place it in the position you have decided on with your fingers (or tweezers) and just smooth the design on to the background. You may want to use thin craft gloves or you can also use a damp rag to smooth it over, but make sure there's not too much water on the rag or paper towel, as you don't want to saturate it.

Step 8: Continue the Process

Continue this process until the piece looks the way you would like it to look, adding flowers where you feel they look the best. You might want to mix flowers in with other kinds of images, but to avoid mistakes, try to decide before using the glue.

Step 9: Use a Stencil to Add Words

After it dries, and using your best judgement as to how long the word is that you want to stencil, position your stencil. Using a pencil, stencil the word or words onto your piece. Once you are satisfied with their placement, go over the letters with a black jelly pen or a black Deco art pen with a fine point.

Step 10: Drill Holes

Place two pencil marks at the top of your design where you think a hanger would look nice and, using an electric drill, drill the holes (I was afraid of using a drill until I actually tried it, and I'm happy to say it's not difficult at all).

Step 11: Cover Your Piece With Mod Podge

Using a large brush, cover your piece with Mod Podge at least three times, waiting for it to dry in between each coat.

Step 12: Add Craft Wire for Hanging

Thread your craft wire through the drilled holes from the back to the front and curl the ends a few times with a pair of pliers (or your fingers, as craft wire is very flexible) in the front after the wire goes through. This gives it a beautiful and professional look and also keeps the wire from falling off.

Where Can You Find Pictures to Use For Decoupage Projects?

Napkins offer a wide variety of images that can be used for decoupage. Simply cut out the images, peel the layers of paper off of the back of the napkin, and glue to your project! Pinterest is also a great resource for finding images to decoupage with. The best resource for clip art, however, is Dover Publications.

Dover Publications

Dover publishes a wide array of books that you can use to print pictures for decoupage projects. The ones I highlighted here come with their own CD so that you can print out any of the royalty-free designs in them! If you're anything like me, your head can spin with ideas and you might feel like you don't know which one you would start with. All I can say is that you can't go wrong with any product you choose from Dover Publications.

My absolute favorite, though, is Ladies' Flower Garden: it's the one I used for my mom's welcome plaque. I had been wanting to make a welcome plaque for my mom as a gift, so when she was visiting me last year in June I gave her Dover Publications' Ladies' Flower Garden (a book of flower bouquets) to look at so that she could select which flowers she wanted on her plaque. It actually took her almost two hours to make a decision because there were so many to pick from (192), but she finally decided on the ones featured in the image below.

We decided together that a light gray background would be best to enhance the color of the flowers and the best color choice to complement the outside of her house. So simple and lots of fun—it's not as difficult as it may seem to get this outcome.

A welcome plaque pictured above from a distance.
A welcome plaque pictured above from a distance.

How to Save and Print Color Clip Art

This is an easy way to save clip art and print from your own computer! When you start to decoupage, you will need resources for the actual pieces to cut out. If you have a color printer, you can print out these pictures from your computer using the following method:

  1. In your browser, type the name of a flower, such as daffodils. Position the mouse over the "Images" button. Hit Enter.
  2. You will see all sorts of pictures of daffodils as a result.
  3. Choose one you would like to work with (try to choose one that will be easy to cut out, with defined lines). Position your mouse over the picture. The picture should get a little larger.
  4. Now right-click on the picture you've selected and it will bring up a menu. Select "Copy Image."
  5. Open up a word processing document in another window.
  6. In the word processing document, right-click and select "Paste."
  7. Your image will appear, and you can resize it simply by left-clicking again over the image, which should outline it with a black border and dots to mark the edges. With the size of the piece you're working on as a background in mind, resize the picture to fit by moving the mouse.
  8. Print on a color printer. Cut it out and paste it to your piece using Mod Podge. A simple white craft glue like Elmers also works just fine to adhere your design; however, you will need Mod Podge to seal the piece when you are finished designing it. This will give it a polished and beautiful finish (in addition to protecting it from the weather if it is to be used outside).

This is an easy and inexpensive way to get flower pictures to use for decoupage projects!

How to Transfer Designs With Transfer Paper

What If You Only Have a Black-and-White Printer?

If you only have access to a black-and-white printer, you can print out the Dover Publications pictures (or any color picture from the web for that matter) in black-and-white, transfer the picture to your project, and use acrylic paints or artist markers to colorize your designs once they are on the surface.


To transfer designs, you will need:

  • a picture of something you want to transfer
  • transfer paper
  • a writing implement with a strong point (you can use a regular pen)
  • something to transfer your picture onto such as a wooden plaque or frame, a rock, or a piece of slate

Transfer Paper

Transfer paper can be purchased in all different colors. So, for instance, if you paint the background of your surface black, use a white or light-colored piece of transfer paper to transfer your design.

For lighter backgrounds, you can use a darker piece of transfer paper such as black or blue, it really doesn't matter as long as you can see what has been traced through to your surface.

Transfer paper can be purchased at most craft stores, and you can also use what's called graphite paper for transferring onto light backgrounds. I know graphite paper can be purchased by the roll in some stores but not all of them.

Transfer paper sheets can be used more than once, so don't be too concerned about the fact that they only come with a few sheets. They really do hold up well use after use. Of course, everything wears out, so you will eventually have to replace them if you use this method of design transfer for your projects.

Video: How to Keep Decoupage Projects Wrinkle-Free

Video: How to Use Napkins to Decoupage a Clay Pot

What's Your Experience With Decoupage?

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    • profile image

      Eugenia Burton 

      3 months ago

      Can I use white glue instead of decoupage glue?

    • profile image


      11 months ago

      Hi Rock Artist, Thanks for sharing such beautiful information, Can you please share information on how to create and decorate glass vase like this

      Please consider this Link and ignore previous

    • profile image


      11 months ago

      Hi Rock Artist, Thanks for sharing such beautiful information, Can you please share information on how to create and decorate glass vase like this

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      I have not done decoupaging yet but all I have seen this in all the sites I've seen this is the best ones to teach and furnish pic's too. will let you know what I've done.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      I tried a small wooden craft picture frame for my first decoupage project. It turned out better than I expected. I have a small wooden jewelry "chest of drawers" I got as a birthday present when I was very young. I'm searching now for the right images to decoupage this with. I'm excited about it but I don't want to make a mess. The frame was almost too easy, leaving me apprehensive about the next project.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      6 years ago from USA

      Yes I have, but I'm not that good at it. Thanks for the info and tips, I'll share this for sure. Giving it a tweet as well.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very thorough! Thanks for this summary!

    • Jogalog profile image


      7 years ago

      I hven't done it since I was a kid either but I'd love to have a go again.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      We did a lot of decoupaging when I was a kid. Might be time to get my own daughters interested. The butterfly ones look beautiful.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Maribel here to say hi, I like your decoupage design transfer lens. I have done this with our little ones on rocks, and wood. Great fun!

    • Rock Artist profile imageAUTHOR

      Rock Artist 

      8 years ago

      @julieannbrady: Thank you so much!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I can honestly say that YES I have tried decoupage in art class in school years ago. My one sister is THE artist in our family, so I worked at being the creative writer and literary type. Love your creative work.

    • LouisaDembul profile image


      8 years ago

      My friend usually do decoupage with my kids, they all love it!


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