How to Decorate Wood With Pictures & Varnish

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Botanical prints are good artwork for wood decoration.
Botanical prints are good artwork for wood decoration.

The decoration of wood with pictures and varnish is decoupage, a type of collage. Its aim is to make the artwork look like an inlay into the wood or other surface rather than pieces of attached paper. It can transform any old piece of wooden furniture into a fashionable attraction. The decoupage technique requires that a wood surface is clean, smooth and sealed before the pictures are assembled onto it.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden object for decoration
  • Paint stripper
  • Selection of natural bristle paint brushes from ¼ inch to 2 inches wide
  • Steel wool
  • Sandpaper of 220, 320 and 400 grit
  • Wood filler
  • Cloth
  • Wood stain
  • Acrylic wood paint
  • Pictures
  • White glue
  • Water
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Water-based paint or wood stain
  • Roller
  • Acrylic varnish or shellac
  • Oil-based varnish
  • White spirit
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Instructions

    • 1

      Brush paint stripper on any painted parts of the wood object and leave to dry for 10 to 15 minutes. Scrape away the remains of paint and paint stripper with the scraper. Use the steel wool to remove any remaining paint in crevices and corners. Allow the wood to dry for three hours.

    • 2

      Sand the wood smooth with 220-grit sandpaper. Fill any crevices or holes with wood filler and leave to dry for the period stipulated by the filler manufacturer. Sand again with 220-grit sandpaper. Remove the dust with a cloth.

    • 3

      Choose pictures, photos or other artwork for the decoration. Pictures with nothing on the other side of the paper are best. If using magazine pictures, brush a mixture of white glue and water in equal proportions on their reverse side. This will stop any print on the reverse side from showing on the top surface after varnishing. Leave to dry overnight.

    • 4

      Cut out the desired artwork shapes using scissors or a craft knife. Practice different arrangements of the artwork on the wood. Decide if the wood needs painting or staining.

    • 5

      Apply acrylic, water-based paint or stain to the wood if necessary and leave to dry. Seal the wood with acrylic varnish or shellac and leave to dry for three hours. Apply a second coat of varnish and allow to dry.

    • 6

      Arrange the artwork on the wood and fix them in place with white glue between their reverse side and the varnished wood surface. Run a roller over the artwork surface to remove any air bubbles. Leave to dry for at least 12 hours.

    • 7

      Brush the varnish over the artwork surface and remaining wood surface. Leave acrylic varnish to dry for at least three hours, and oil-based varnish to dry for 24 hours. Sand with 320-grit sandpaper and remove the dust with a cloth. Varnish and sand between eight and 20 times, depending on the effect desired. Switch to 400-grit sandpaper after the fifth coat of varnish.

Tips & Warnings

  • Brush varnish diluted half and half with white spirit on the reverse side of artwork on any thick paper. Allow to dry. Soak the varnished side in lukewarm water. Lift out of the water and peel the paper fibers to thin the picture.

  • Avoid using very thick paper artwork as it may not thin down to an even smoothness. Photocopy it instead if the picture is necessary.

  • Do not varnish on a humid day as this can create an orange peel effect on the varnished surface.

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References

Resources

  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

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