Don’t be afraid to decoupage furniture!

Decoupage is a popular technique for furniture makeovers, but it takes a little practice.

There are so many pretty paper napkins out there, you can add a lot of pizazz to your furniture for just a few dollars. I usually get my napkins to decoupage furniture at a party supply store (or sometimes the grocery store has a nice seasonal selection.)

Remember: It doesn’t have to be perfect … and there are lots of ways to fix your decoupaging mistakes if you mess up like I do. These 5 Tips for Decoupaging Paper Napkins onto Furniture will help you create a beautiful look on your next furniture makeover project.

Tips for Decoupaging Paper Napkins onto Furniture | All Things New Again

decoupage table

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 onto furniture.

Napkins are fragile!

Tips for Decoupaging Paper Napkins onto Furniture:

1. Crumple up the napkin.

Decoupage Furniture Tip 1: Crumple the NapkinI’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!

2. Separate the plain white backing.

Decoupage Furniture Tip 2: Remove the white backing from the napkinThis step is important if you plan to distress your furniture like I did on this Cherry Blossom Decoupage Table. If you remove the backing first, the napkin’s design will just “melt” into your surface and look like it was painted on. If you leave the white backing in place, your sandpaper will remove the design completely leaving you with a big blank, white space. (I *may* have forgotten to remove the backing once or twice and learned this the hard way!)

3. Brush Mod Podge (or another decoupage medium) onto the tabletop.

Decoupage Furniture Tip 3: Brush Mod Podge onto surfaceDon’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 …

Decoupage Furniture: How to Fix a Hole, Rip or Tear in the Paper NapkinI 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.

5. Make a patch to fix decoupage mistakes

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.

Decoupage Furniture: How to Make a Patch to Fix a Mistake

Decoupage Furniture: It is Easy to Make a Patch to Fix a Decoupage Mistake

It worked!

Paper Napkins Look Beautiful Decoupaged onto Furniture

(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 to seal it.

Here’s my table with the paper napkins decoupaged on top!

Tips for Decoupaging Paper Napkins onto Furniture | Decoupage Table | All Things New Again

Don't Be Afraid to Decoupage Furniture! Here are our best tips. | All Things New Again

Decoupage is a popular technique for furniture makeovers. Here are our best tips for making it beautiful! | All Things New Again

Paper Napkins | Decoupage | Furniture | All Things New AgainI am hooked on decoupaging furniture now!

Check out these links to some of my other decoupage furniture projects:

Cherry Blossom Decoupage Table

Ikea Table Makeover

The Hydrangea China Cabinet

And here’s a video we did over on our Facebook page with more great tips and tricks for decoupaging paper napkins onto furniture. Please follow us on Facebook for more DIY painting tips and tutorials. And join us over on Facebook every Friday at 12 noon (eastern) for Furniture Painting Friday, our free weekly mini painting lesson.

Happy Decoupaging!

~ Courtney

* * *

 All Things New Again is a family-owned furniture and paint boutique in Leesburg, Virginia (about an hour or so west of Washington, D.C.). We sell our unique brand of hand-painted (and sometimes decoupaged!) furniture and several lines of paint for your next DIY project. We also offer fun painting classes and workshops. Please stop by the next time you are in town!

And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook! Tune in every Friday at 12 noon (eastern) for Furniture Painting Friday, a live video and free online mini paint lesson.





16 thoughts on “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!

    1. 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

  3. How did you get the edges so neat? I have only ever decoupaged things that don’t have a trim/border so I have been able to paper the whole side and then use a craft knife to cut away the excess leaving a clean edge. But I want to decoupage a table that has a trim like yours. Not sure how to approach! Any tips would be gratefully received!

    1. Hi! When the Mod Podge dried, I just ran an exacto-knife around the edges, but the molding provided a straight-edge to run the knife against. I just jammed the knife kind of underneath the trim a little bit and it provided a straight edge. You can also use one of those little scraper tools to hold it against the paper and run your blade across the scraper for a straight edge…just working your way down the side. I hope that makes sense. 🙂 ~ Courtney

  4. Courtney,
    I’ve been wanting To decoupage the drawers of a dresser with napkins. Your info is helping me get over the insecurity hurdles (afraid I’m going to mess it up and not be able to fix it)
    Which mod podge is best for this? I have matte and gloss types.

    1. Hi Danna,

      Go for it! It’s just napkins…if you mess up too badly, you can always sand them away and paint over it. 🙂

      For the Mod Podge, either one will work. It is just a personal preference if you like a flat matte finish or glossy. I don’t prefer one over the other. I usually just use whatever I grab first off the shelf. Both look good.

      Good luck with your project!
      ~ Courtney

    1. Yay! I’m happy my tutorial was helpful. Good luck with your project Susan!

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