Tips for Decoupaging Paper Napkins Onto Furniture

Decoupage is a popular technique, but it takes a little practice. There are so many pretty paper napkins out there, you can add a lot of pizazz to your piece for just a few dollars. I got my napkins for this project at a party supply store.Tips_for_decoupaging_paper_napkins_onto_furniture

decoupage table1

I got the table upstairs in our shop, All Things New Again in Leesburg, Virginia. It was up there all summer, but nobody bought it so I finally took it home to paint. We have a lot of great project pieces up in our attic, but like this table, most of the stuff needs a little TLC. This table has a great shape, really cool rope molding around the tabletop … and two big chunks of veneer missing.

decoupage table_before

After scraping off the remaining veneer to reveal a smooth surface underneath, I painted the table off-white with hints of pink and blue around the edges and the rope detailing. I thought pretty floral napkins would look great on the tabletop. I have decoupaged photographs onto furniture before, but this was my first time decoupaging paper napkins. They are fragile!

Here are some tips for decoupaging napkins onto furniture:

Crumple up the napkin.

DSC_0041I’m sure there are Expert Decoupagers out there who can apply their napkins super-smooth with no wrinkles, rips or tears whatsoever. I am not one of them! I knew the wrinkles would be an issue so I decided to embrace them up front. I crumpled up the napkin to make it wrinkly from the start. This hid the deep creases from where the napkin was folded inside the package and it gave my tabletop a timeworn, vintage look. I did it on purpose! Really!

Separate the plain white backing.

DSC_0042I’m not 100% sure why you do this, but every tutorial I saw online says to do it. I guess it is so your image adheres to the tabletop and doesn’t separate from the backing later.

Brush Mod Podge onto the tabletop.

DSC_0045Don’t put it on too thick or your napkin will get too wet and tear. It would probably be better to let the Mod Podge set up a bit so it is tacky and not dripping wet when you place your napkin on it, but you guys know I’m impatient and can never wait that long. Once all of your images are in place, let everything dry. Then come back with more Mod Podge and brush it—GENTLY—over the entire surface.


I can not emphasize this tip enough. If you are not gentle, you could end up with a big hole in your project like this …

DSC_0046I had an air bubble that wasn’t completely smoothed out and the first coat of Mod Podge wasn’t completely dry. (I’m impatient, remember?) When I pushed the bubble with my brush, the napkin ripped. After this happened, I found a tutorial from an Expert Decoupager that suggests gently popping any air bubbles with a pushpin before brushing on the top coat of Mod Podge. Sounds like good advice to try next time.

But what about the giant hole I had now???

I could not find any tutorials online to address this issue. (Thanks for nothing, Expert Decoupagers!)

If my vintage buffet debacle has taught me anything, it is that bad stuff happens to the best painting projects and you just have to keep trying to figure out a way to make it work like it is NO BIG DEAL.

That “keep trying” part is hard, but it is what makes you good at painting and running 5K’s and figuring out that your 3-year-old isn’t screaming for no reason, he’s screaming because all of the blocks he carefully stacked up just got knocked over. That “keep trying” part works for re-stacking knocked-over blocks when you are 3 and angry. It works for running up that big hill in your neighborhood one more time when you are almost 40 and your legs feel like concrete.

That “keep trying” part is pretty much what makes makes you good at anything in life.

Even decoupaging paper napkins onto an ugly little table in an effort to make it pretty again.

I did learn something else from the Expert Decoupagers online. You can cut out specific images from the napkins by drawing a line around it with a wet paintbrush, then gently tearing it away. This works better than cutting it out with scissors because the edges are feathery and blend into the rest of the design.

That’s what I did to make a patch for the hole in my tabletop, trying to cut out an area to match up with the hole. I applied it the same way as my original napkins.



It worked!


(I did the same thing in a few other spots, but I’m not telling where!)

When the patches were dry, I brushed Mod Podge over the entire tabletop again.

Here’s my table:

decoupage table2

decoupage table_closeup2

decoupage table_tabletop

decoupage table_closeup1I am hooked on decoupaging now! Check out these links to some of my other decoupage projects:

Cherry Blossom Table

Ikea Table Makeover

Happy Decoupaging!

~ Courtney

* * *

 We’re linking up with these awesome parties this week. Check them out!

 Miss Mustard Seed ~ Furniture Feature Friday
Embracing Change ~ Creative Inspirations Linky Party 
Power of Paint ~ Party #246 
Green Willow Pond ~ What We Accomplished Wednesday #66
The Dedicated House ~ Anything Blue Friday Week #76
Beyond the Picket Fence ~ Vintage Inspiration Party
Ladybug Blessings ~ Handmade Tuesdays
The DIY Dreamer ~ From Dream to Reality #144
Posed Perfection ~ Creative Ways Link Party
My Romantic Home ~ Show and Tell Friday
DIY Vintage Chic ~ Friday’s Five Features #67





8 responses to “Tips for Decoupaging Paper Napkins Onto Furniture

  1. Gorgeous Work !!! I’ve done quite a bit of decoupage with napkins on furniture and have a tip you could try the next time. Instead of mod podge (which is very thick for the delicate napkins) try watering down Elmers glue (50/50 glue to water). Lay the napkin down on the surface you are decoupaging and then with a nice flat brush glue over the napkin – this minimses wrinkles and makes it much easier (in my book!).

    Re the tears, I would do exactly as you odid and patch or often it “inspires me” to add on a motif from another napkin to cover up!!! Or tear out a big motif frm the same napkin so it covers the hole.

    Another technique is to rip the napkin up into smallish pieces at the beginning and stick on randomly slightly overlapping. You end up with a whole other design (more abstract) and that makes filling in bo-bos very easy!!!!

    Delighted to discover your blog and look forward to catching up on past posts over the Christmas break!

    • AWESOME! These are great tips. Thank you so much for sharing. I will try the 50/50 water/glue mix next time. I just bought a bunch of pretty napkins. I am so hooked on this technique right now, I want to do it on everything! Merry Christmas! ~Courtney

  2. I just read the if you apply clear plastic paper over the napkin on the modge podge the you can smooth it out without tearing, leave till dry before removing plastic. I have not tried it yet bit I am going to

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