Buying mass-produced Christmas decor gets expensive, and there's nothing fun or crafty about it. Making your own DIY Christmas balls can be a more affordable way to create personalized decor that you can hang from your tree, use in holiday centerpieces or even give away as holiday gifts.
Decoupaging Styrofoam (aka polystyrene) balls with festive paper is a simple craft project that even kids can help with. The biggest challenge is that a flat sheet piece of paper won't wrap around a ball neatly. Even if you trim the paper to be just slightly larger than the ball, you'll end up with creases, bumpy layers and gaps.
Video of the Day
The best way to prevent that from happening is to use a paper mache approach. Use small pieces of paper cut into random shapes or strips or choose paper with distinct designs (like large snowflakes or Santa faces) that you can cut out and attach to the balls. Thin paper, like tissue paper, is ideal for this project. The thicker the paper, the harder it will be to get it to curve and stick to the rounded shapes.
How to decoupage on Styrofoam balls
Things You'll Need
Skewers or chopsticks
Decorative Christmas paper
Paper plate or bowl
Glass or other container
Sealant spray (optional)
Ribbons, beads and other notions (optional)
Super glue or hot glue (optional)
1. Prepare your materials
Press a dowel or skewer an inch or so into each foam ball. This creates a handle you can use to hold the ball as you work without having to touch the glue. Cut the paper into strips or shapes. Pour some Mod Podge into the paper plate or bowl.
Depending on how messy your crafting projects tend to end up, it's probably a good idea to spread newspaper over your work area to protect your table from Mod Podge and make cleanup easy.
Do I need to paint the Styrofoam?
Paint isn't necessary for this project unless you plan to cover just part of the ball with paper and you don't want the white foam to be visible. In that case, water-based acrylic paints are the best paints to choose. (Never use regular spray paint to paint Styrofoam; this type of paint might cause the surface to slightly melt or dissolve.)
2. Apply the first pieces of paper
Paint a thin coat of Mod Podge onto a section of the ball. Grab one of your paper pieces and paint a thin layer of Mod Podge on the back. Then, press the paper onto the ball. Paint more Mod Podge on top of the paper. (Check out a video tutorial online for step-by-step instructions if you're new to decoupaging and want to see the process in action.)
If you're unfamiliar with using Mod Podge, it's a decoupage medium that's readily available in craft stores and on Amazon. It looks and functions a lot like white Elmer's glue but doubles as a sealant. You can choose a matte, satin or glossy finish depending on preference.
3. Repeat to cover the ball
Repeat the process with a second bit of paper. If you want to completely cover the Styrofoam with paper, arrange this piece so the edges slightly overlap with the first. You may be able to slightly adjust the positioning of each piece just after applying it, but they'll start to harden in place very quickly.
Continue like this—painting Mod Podge onto the ball, onto the individual bits of paper and then over the most recently applied paper—until the ball is covered and you're satisfied with the results.
4. Let it dry completely
Stand up the skewer in a glass or other container (fill it with dry rice or gravel to help skewers stand up). Let the ball sit until it's completely hard and dry. How long this takes depends on how much Mod Podge you used, but it should be dry within the hour.
5. Apply a sealer coat
Paint the entire ball with another thin coat of Mod Podge or take it outside and use Mod Podge sealer spray to give the ball a solid protective coating. Let the ball dry completely again and then remove the skewer.
6. Add finishing touches
Once Styrofoam balls are covered with decoupaged paper, there are a bunch of ways you can decorate and finish them.
- To make balls into hanging ornaments, fill the hole left by the skewer with super glue or hot glue and tuck the ends of a ribbon loop or other ornament hanger into the hole. Add more glue at the top of the hole to keep the hanger in place.
- Paint more Mod Podge onto the ball in lines or patterns and sprinkle glitter on top.
- Wrap ribbon around and tie it into a bow on top or glue thin strips of ribbon, beads or sequins all around the ball in even intervals to create stripes.
- Make a DIY Christmas wreath using the decoupaged balls and foil tinsel on a wire coat hanger base.
If some of your Christmas balls don't turn out like you pictured, you can easily make more or even cover an existing ball with a second layer of decoupage and change the look completely.
Even if you're new to crafting, making Styrofoam Christmas balls is so easy that you might want to make another batch for Valentine's Day!