Every time I post a Bible page or project on social media using the napkin decoupage technique, people always ask “Did you draw that?” So right from the beginning let me be transparent by saying I have pretty basic drawing skills and nearly no real painting abilities.
As I’ve mentioned throughout the life of this blog, I in no way claim to be an artist. I am, however, creative, as I believe each of us is in some way.
The entire premise of His Palette is to show people a variety of ways to create without the need for a specific skill set. Napkin decoupage is one of my favorite techniques and a surprisingly simple way to create a page or canvas that includes beautiful pictures, without having to draw or paint them yourself.
Wait! What Is Napkin Decoupage?
For anyone who is unfamiliar with this process or what it looks like, please see the samples below.
Napkin decoupage is a way to take the artwork on napkins and adhere them to paper or canvas or any number of things, so it appears to have been created directly on the surface you’re using.
Below is a one-minute video, sped up, so you can see the process in action.
What I Use
First things first, I have seen many different decoupage techniques taught online and in videos. These are the supplies I use for my own napkin decoupage pieces.
- a napkin of your choosing
- matte gel medium (I use Liquitex)
- a large flat paintbrush (I use a size 1)
- a non-stick craft mat
- a craft heat gun (optional)
Why I Page Prep
You might be thinking…page prep? Really? But let me tell you why.
I am not an “always or never” kind of person. However, I can tell you that I’ve witnessed many mistakes made when people only wet part of the page with medium.
I have two suggestions:
- Page Prep – I’ve figured out that prepping a page with gesso prior to adhering the napkin gives the page a sturdier base. Paper changes when it encounters moist mediums. This is what I do to lessen the chance of cracking and warping areas of the page.
- Cover It – If you don’t want to prep the page, I suggest, when brushing on the top layer of matte gel medium, cover the entire page (not just the napkin). I’ve seen others cover just the napkin and it’s cracked and warped. The wet napkin area reacts differently than the dry area of the page, causing unpleasant results.
My Best First Tip
When attaching a napkin to a surface, you want the napkin as thin as possible. Therefore, I suggest removing all the napkin layers, leaving only the very thin layer with the design printed on it. Depending on what you find, napkins can be one to three-ply, so remember that when trying to remove the back layers.
To Rip Or Cut?
When I am using an entire napkin panel that will be placed on the page and blended in, I rip it.
Ripping around the edges of the image creates a more natural and imperfect look for when you later blend the colors of the edges into the page.
A quick and easy way to rip carefully without making a lot of mistakes requires a small paint brush and some water. All you need to do is dip your brush in the water and run it around the artwork you want to rip out.
Wherever you place the water-dipped brush will become damp and make it much easier for you to remain in control of the direction of your rip.
#1 Full-Panel Technique
The first technique I’d like to discuss is based on using the entire panel of a napkin. There are a wide array of napkin designs and sometimes I want to place them into my project as-is. Doing that generally leads me to use watercolor paints in addition to the napkin itself.
After removing all the extra layers from the back of the napkin and ripping around the design you want to use, you have two options, depending on the thickness of the napkin.
First, if your napkin is thick and not absorbent, lay down a thin layer of matte gel medium to the surface in which you are trying to attach the napkin to. Then carefully position your napkin on top of the medium.
If the napkin is thin and absorbent, simply lay it onto your page or canvas exactly where you want it attached to the page.
For both options, dip your flat brush into your jar of matte gel medium, making sure to scoop up a good amount. Then while holding the napkin down with your other hand (if no bottom layer), take the brush and very gently apply the medium from the center to the edge of the napkin and onto the paper around the napkin in one careful stroke.
Repeat this step, always starting in the center of the napkin, until your napkin is completely covered with matte gel medium. Take time to smooth out the medium with your brush, so that what remains is an even layer over the napkin and over the surface you are working with.
#2 Piece-By-Piece Technique
For this technique, I suggest scissors. If you plan to arrange pieces of the napkin to create a design or picture, carefully cut them out.
This technique is the same as the full-panel technique, but with just a couple of adjustments.
When working piece-by-piece, position one napkin piece at a time. Once you have one fixed to the page, you can start on another piece. Do not attempt to brush on medium over the entire page and then place the individual pieces onto your surface in one step.
Matte gel medium is not always predictable. It may not give you ample time to position all your napkin pieces before it begins to dry.
To Blow-Dry Or Air-Dry
One of the things I struggle with IRL is patience. So whenever I create, nine times out of ten, I use a craft heat gun to speed the drying process along.
I use a Ranger Heat It Craft Tool, which I purchased on sale for approximately $15. Generally, I can find one full price between twenty to thirty dollars.
Because it isn’t a huge investment, I suggest getting yourself a heat gun. However, I’ve heard of others using hair dryers on a low setting to help dry their napkin decoupage. I don’t know the risks of using a personal blow dryer versus a craft gun, so if you choose to do so, please be careful and know there are risks.
[Check out our review for the Ranger Heat It Craft Tool HERE.]
If you decide to let your page air-dry, remember to make sure it is completely dry before using anything like a felt-tip marker on it or you run the risk of ruining your pens.
Also, I think I’ve only let my napkin decoupage project air-dry once and I noticed it was much more wrinkled than when I used my heat gun.
Once your page or canvas is completely dry, you have an opportunity to enhance your work with a small addition.
First, as I mentioned earlier, if I am using a full napkin panel, I often like to paint with watercolor around the napkin to help it blend more into the surface. So if the background of your napkin is yellow, then find the same color or a close match in your watercolor paints and lightly begin painting from the edge of the napkin.
Napkin decoupage is not meant to fool anyone about your skills as an artist. It is simply a great way for those of us, more artistically challenged journalists, to be able to use a creative technique without the need for special talents or skills.
If you have additional questions about the napkin decoupage technique that I didn’t cover, please leave them in the comments below. I will add your questions to this post and include my answer or solution.
[Check out our review for Jane Davenport’s Collage Paper HERE.]