How to Decoupage Pictures on Wooden Letters

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Decorate wooden letters using decoupage glue and pictures clipped from magazines, photocopies or a gazillion other sources to decorate wooden letters -- wall-hanging or free-standing. Using decoupage, you can artistically express what the letters spell, while complementing a room's decor. Decoupaged wooden letters adorn a wall, table or shelf in any room in the home; teens can make their own to express their identities. The letters also provide a seasonal greeting on your front porch or inspire, instruct and delight children in their classrooms.

Tip

    • Make the pictures wrinkle- and bubble-free.
    • Brush on as many layers of decoupage glue as it takes to make the picture flush with the wood.
    • Create visually appealing designs, using colors and styles on each letter that harmonize with the other letters. The pictures needn't be the same, but usually the style of the design is consistent with the room's decor, whether vintage, minimalist, Victorian or country. 

Things You'll Need

  • Blank paper, one piece per letter

  • Pencil

  • Sharp scissors

  • Wooden letters -- free-standing or wall-hanging, ready-to-decoupage and in a font style that best matches your room.

  • Fine sandpaper

  • Dust cloth

  • Acrylic craft paint (optional)

  • Sharp scissors

  • Craft knife (optional)

  • Pictures from sources such as magazines, catalogs, seed packages, gift wrap, maps, sheets of music, greeting cards, personal photos and prints from online. Make color or black-and-white photocopies when you want to preserve the original. Make photocopies of book pages that contain pictures you want to clip. Use bright, white and thin paper when printing or photocopying.

Step 1: Plan Your Design

Tip

  • Wooden letters with beveled sides are more difficult to decoupage, but if you are decoupaging only the fronts of the letters, you can easily paint the sides. Free-standing wooden letters are best decoupaged on all sides.

Turn a wooden letter over on a piece of paper, and trace around and inside of it. Do the same on other pieces of paper with your remaining letters. Cut out the templates.

Arrange the templates on your work table, spacing them as you want them to look when decoupaged. If you haven't done so yet, thumb through your picture sources for ideas. You may decoupage a single picture to the letter; multiple stand-alone images, such as pictures of boats and boys on the letter "B" for a classroom; or a collage of images. Or, you might add small pictures over larger pictures, such as a butterfly on a plant. Sketch and make notes on your templates to help later with placement.

Step 2: Prep Your Letters

If the letters have any rough spots, use fine sandpaper to smooth it. Wipe off all dust before decoupaging. Using a color of craft paint that will complement your design, paint the parts of the wooden letters that won't be decoupaged but will be on display. Painting a surface that will be decoupaged is optional. It will prevent the wood from absorbing glue; if you leave the wood au naturel, add more glue before laying down your pictures. Some decoupage artists spray on a primer before painting, but this is not required.

Step 3: Clip Your Pictures

Warning

  • If you must use an ink jet printer instead of a laser printer, be absolutely sure the ink has dried before handling the picture. And test your glue to ensure it doesn't smear the ink. If the ink bleeds, try a different decoupage glue or take your pictures to a print shop.

Using your sharp scissors or craft knife, cut out the pictures. To avoid ending up with white or back color showing on the edges of decoupaged pictures, angle your scissors or blade slightly away from where you are cutting to create a downward beveled edge. When cutting, take care to not chop off the finer details of a picture's edges.

Tip

  • To decoupage a picture cut from a greeting card or other thick paper, take a cue from the National Guild of Decoupeurs: Dab the backing with a cotton ball dipped in white vinegar, and then carefully peel away the backing, layer by layer, moistening it as you go along.

Step 4: Let the Layers Begin

Brush the decoupage glue liberally onto the face of the letter. With decoupage glue on your fingers, gently lay your picture in place, smoothing it with your fingers as you position it to prevent bubbles and wrinkles. Brush the top of the picture and the wood with more of the glue. Allow it to dry; this may take about an hour. Then add your next picture, and repeat the process. Or, if you are working with a single image, brush the decoupage glue over the image and wood, wait until it dries and then add another layer of glue. Continue this process until the picture or pictures are flush with the wood so that your wooden letter looks as if the pictures were painted.

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