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An Illustrated Tutorial for Napkin Decoupage

I've been crafting since I could hold a paintbrush. I love to repurpose random things. Most of my articles are about arts and crafts.

Decoupage Napkin Collage


Don't Toss Out Old Napkins

I first used napkins as my ‘paper’ in decoupage projects about sixteen years ago when I started making greeting cards. I often had napkins left over from birthday parties and I just couldn’t bring myself to throw them out. They were too pretty. So I incorporated them into my decoupage projects.

It’s inexpensive and results vary with every project. On its own, the napkin paper is tough to work with because it is so thin. Once it is fused to a paper backing it is surprisingly easy to work with though. Even a sheet a plain printer paper is sufficient. In this tutorial, I will show you how to decoupage a 3D design onto a small canvas. You can use this same method on thick card stock.

You Will Need:

Napkins with a design of your choice

White liquid glue (you could also use watered down Mod Podge)


Tacky Glue

A 6 x 8 inch (15 x 20 cm) stretched canvas


Sharp nose scissors

Printer paper

Double sided tape

Saved Napkins


Instructions: Covering the Canvas

Choose a napkin design that allows you to cut out parts that you can paste over your canvas base to create the 3D effect. Examples: a flower, butterfly, small animal, bird etc

Lay the napkin on the canvas and decide which part of the napkin design you would like to glue down.

Make a mixture of 1 part white liquid glue and 4 parts water and mix well.

Coat the canvas with the glue mix and carefully lower the napkin to the canvas.

Start on one side and smooth it down. A bit like hanging wallpaper.

Once the napkin is down, coat it with more glue mix and smooth your fingers over the surface softly. Don't over saturate the napkin or it will tear. Start with about 2 teaspoons and add more glue mix if you need it.

Scroll to Continue

Start in the middle of the canvas and smooth out gently with your fingers to push out any bubbles or wrinkles. Don’t forget to glue the napkin to the sides of the canvas too. You will cover it in ribbon later.

Allow to dry.

Once the napkin has dried onto the canvas, cut the excess tissue paper off along the edge of the canvas.

Instructions: Preparing the Cut Outs

While the canvas is drying, use the same technique to glue another napkin (or two) to some printer paper.

Allow to dry.

I decide on the parts (pictures) of the napkin design that I want to use as the 3D images. Then I cut them out and only glue those to the printer paper.

Once the paper is stiff and dry, cut out the image you are going to add to the canvas to create your 3D effect.

In this project, I cut out the yellow rose and the butterfly. In fact, I cut out two butterflies to give it a more layered look.

I used a sharp nose manicure scissors because it allows me to cut into small nooks and crannies.

Don’t be afraid to layer. It adds a lot of depth to your final project.

Instructions: Placing the Cut Outs

Once you have cut out the pictures from the paper, place a small piece of double sided tape behind each cutout.

Stick them on top of the corresponding picture on the dried canvas.

You could also cut out extra pictures and create your own collage.

Place these extra pieces randomly to add to the story on your collage. I did this with the bird and letter canvas by adding more birds. See picture in this tutorial.

Be careful with this next step because the paper could fold or tear.

Carefully turn some of the edges up to pull away from the canvas.

Example: Curl the tips of petals up a little to give them more separation from the canvas.

Finally, glue some ribbon or lace to the sides of your canvas. It will hide the overhang pieces of the napkin you glued to the canvas.

Flower and Herb Napkins

3D Napkin Decoupage


When you curl the image up you also expose the white printer paper underneath. It gives the project an unfinished look. Consider coloring the underside of your images with a marker before you stick it down. On the yellow rose, you could color the printer paper with a yellow marker.

Alternatively, you could decoupage the napkin to colored paper. The red rose could have been decoupaged to red printer paper. Just make sure it doesn't compromise the color of your image because the printer paper will shine through.

If you decide to do this craft on card stock expect the paper to curl a little because of the water in the glue mix. You can iron the paper flat again or press it for a few days under some heavy books before you layer the 3D effect.

Another way to use this craft is to make your own gift tags or book covers.

It’s a great way to make bookmarks or tags for a junk journal.

What do you do with unused party supplies?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Celeste Wilson


Celeste Wilson (author) on November 27, 2018:

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