How To Decoupage Furniture: A Step-By-Step Guide (With Pictures)

Whether you’re making a piece of furniture over or just want to add some decoration to old furniture, decoupage can be an excellent way to do so.

One of my first ever furniture makeovers I did on wood furniture when I started blogging was using decoupage to makeover this Woven Decoupage Table using gift wrap. After the success of that decoupage furniture project, I Decoupaged the Top of a Hand-Me-Down Dresser that I still use in a guest room.

How to paint wood furniture with chalk paint

Decoupage adds style and personality to a piece of furniture that paint or stain alone can’t. In this post, I am going to show you how I refinished the top of this Set of Tray Tables for a second time.

Yep – you read that right – round two makeover. That alone tells you that I have been blogging for a long time that one of my DIY Decorating Projects was in need of a refresh.

How to paint thrift store wood furniture and transfer type to the surface.

7 years ago I painted a set of thrift store TV Tray Tables, white. I then used a transfer method to paint typography on the tops of each to make them over. I loved these and still do.

The tables get used daily for many different uses since they are easy to move anywhere you need an extra table, both inside and outside the house. With all the use, the tops were beginning to get worn.

I thought of replacing the tables, but they were perfectly functional and I liked that the tops had a decorative shape. All they needed new a new finish for the tops.

wallpaper on furniture - wicker print on top of a wood tray table

Instead of repainting them, after sanded the tops, I covered each table top with a sheet of Wicker Pattern Gift Wrap I found on Etsy.

Old white tray table gets a makeover using wallpaper.

I like the new look and so does my husband Ed, who never says much about my decorating projects, but he likes these.

I also like how the tray tables coordinate with the Natural Grasscloth Rug along with the Wicker Basket Side Table and the Serena & Lily DIY Knock-Off Side Table I have in my living room.

What is Decoupage?

Decoupage is a type of craft that involves using glue or decoupage medium to glue paper onto a surface and then sealing it under a clear top coat. It can be done with paper as well as fabric as I did in this Decoupaged Drawer Makeover. The process can range from simple applications using one piece of paper to more complex and intricate designs using cut-outs of paper.

It is a great way to bring an old piece of furniture back to life and make it look unique, or to create something truly special from scratch when you find a paper or fabric you love and need a way to use in when decorating your home.

What Paper Is Best for Decoupage on Furniture?

a roll of wicker print gift wrap

The kinds of paper to use when decoupaging furniture can be any type of paper like tissue paper, paper napkins, or sheet music – but wallpaper or heavyweight gift wrap work the best on furniture.

I used wrapping paper to redo my set of wood tray tables. You can find it here: Wicker Print Gift Wrap. There are 5 sheets in a roll. Each sheet measures 20″ x 29″.

How to Decoupage Furniture

When decoupaging furniture you can use a decoupage medium like Mod Podge as it does double-duty as a glue for attaching the paper to the surface as well as a sealer that will protect the surface. It is what I used on this Decoupaged Old Dresser I have in a guest room. It comes in many formulas from matte to glossy as well as for use on exterior projects.

When using larger pieces of paper, I prefer to use the spray version of Mod Podge as it goes on more evenly.

When decoupaging furniture, paint the piece first with an acrylic paint and let it dry completely before applying the decoupage. Some research has shown that Mod Podge doesn’t work as well on latex paint, so try to use other types of paint like acrylic or chalk paint when painting the piece of furniture you plan to decoupage.

If decoupaging over an existing painted surface that is sealed, you will need to knock down the sheen from the surface before applying the paper.

supplies needed to decoupage furniture:

  • A piece of furniture
  • Decorative paper – wallpaper, gift wrap, maps, scrapbook paper, sheet music, book pages or any type of paper.
  • Sharp scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Sand paper 100 -160 grit
  • Pencil
  • Mod Podge Decoupage Medium or you can also use a spray adhesive and a water-based clear polyurethane sealer over it.

Time needed: 1 hour and 10 minutes

How to Decoupage Furniture – Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Determine How The Furniture Will Be Used

    If you are planning on using the top of the furniture for serving drinks or food, the decoupage paper you use should be more heavy weight and you will need to seal it with a few layers of water-based top coat.

    If you are planning to decoupage the front of drawers where nothing will ever sit on top of them, then any paper will work.

    Free printables for TV tray tables

  2. Prep The Surface

    In a well-ventilated area, begin preparing the surface by removing any hardware on the furniture. Use 100 grit sandpaper to sand surface and repair damage. Fill holes with wood filler and clean the surface well using a tack cloth.

    how to sand furniture before decoupage.

  3. Prime & Paint

    If needed, paint the piece, first using a coat of primer or use a paint-and-primer-in-one formula of paint to ensure the paint will adhere well.

    Let dry completely before decoupaging the paper onto the surface.

    Note: I did not paint the sanded tops on the tables since I knew I would be covering them. I did touch up the legs with paint.

  4. Cut Paper To Size

    Place table upside down on gift wrap. Trace shape of tray top on paper to size needed.

    The top on my tables had a border that was lower than the center section, so I had to trace the top and then subtract an inch all around to get the right size for the paper.

    tray table placed upside down on wicker print paper so a tracing of the top can be made to perfectly fit the top shape.

  5. Cut Paper

    Carefully cut shape out with very sharp shears that will allow you to simply push the tips of the shears through the paper. Cutting out the paper using this method creates a smooth cut.

    If there are any areas that have detailed cuts, use a small pair of scissors for those areas.

    How to cut paper to the shape of the tray table top.

  6. Make Sure Cut Paper Fits

    After cutting paper, lay it on the surface of the table to make sure it fits
    before gluing it down on the surface.

    Wood tray table set getting a makeover using wicker print gift wrap and decoupage.

  7. Apply Decoupage Paper to Furniture

    You can use decoupage medium, like Mod Podge to attach the paper to the surface of the furniture. I prefer to use spray adhesive to attach the paper. It creates a smoother bond.

    If using Mod Podge, apply thin coats. If using spray adhesive, spray evenly over the back of the paper as well as the surface for better adhesion.

    Note: Decoupage medium does tend to wrinkle thinner papers so you may want to test a small piece on the underside of the furniture you are making over.

    APPLICATION TIP: Once paper is attached, use a plastic spatula to carefully run over the surface to push out and remove any wrinkles or air bubbles that may appear in the paper.

    Work from the center out to the edges. Check every 10 minutes to make sure no new wrinkles have appeared. If they have, push them out again with the spatula being careful not to apply too much pressure that could rip the paper.

    Wicker print paper glued onto tray table top using spray glue instead of Mod Podge

  8. Trim Around Edges

    If necessary, use a sharp pair of small scissors or a craft knife to trim the edges of paper around the border of the top.

    craft knife trimming the edge of wallpaper on furniture.

  9. Clean Surface Again

    Use a tack cloth or microfiber cloth to make sure all dust or dirt is removed from the glued on paper before sealing with a topcoat.

    decoupage furniture - a set of tray tables being done with spray glue for a quick and easy application of decorative paper on the surface.

  10. Apply a Clear Coat Sealer Topcoat

    To seal decoupage on furniture, you must use a water-based sealer or topcoat. If you use and oil-based sealer or lacquer, over time your pretty paper will yellow. Apply two coats of sealer, letting the first coat dry before adding the second coat.

    Mod Podge is a popular brand of decoupage glue that comes both in a brush-on and a spray formula that I recommend for sealing especially if sealing with a gloss finish as there won’t be any brush strokes showing up in the dried finish. I didn’t have spray Mod Podge, but did have Rustoluem 2X spray Matte sealer that is also non-yellowing and worked well.

    When using a spray sealer, follow the product directions on the can. Basically shake the can well and spray a light even coat over surface with the can about 8 inches from the surface. Apply a second light coat about 5- 10 minutes after the first.

    If using brush-on top coat sealer, use a high quality paint brush, a bristle or foam brush. Don’t use a chip brush as the quality is poor and bristles will come out and get sealed into the surface.

    a can of Rustoleum 2X Ultra Cover matte clear sealer can be used to seal decoupage.

  11. Optional: If Making Over More Than One Piece of Furniture

    If you are covering a set of tables, make a template out of the first table top shape you trace and cut out. It will save you time as there is no need to have to trace around each table.

    how to cut out paper to decoupage it onto furniture. Use food cans to hold paper down.

a set of 4 wood tray tables in a living room showing how nice they look after getting a makeover using wallpaper.

All done and ready to get back to work, not only in my living room, but when needed in any room in the house.

A tray table with a top covered with wicker pattern wallpaper.

Do you use tray tables in your home? My set of 4 came with a stand that I place out of the way in a corner of the room.

The tables are so versatile – from eating dinner off of when binge watching Netflix to holding my computer when I want to work in my living room to using as a side table next to our dining table when we are entertaining and there isn’t enough room on the table for all the serving plates and bowls.

Stylish Sets of Tray Tables

Wicker pattern gift wrap on top of a tray table. Text overlay says Transform Furniture With Wallpaper of Gift Wrap

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  1. Hi, I’m decoupaging a sewing table. Actually, it will be used for cutting fabric and doing other crafts. I’ve already decoupaged my pieces down which are flowers and butterflies. They only cover a small area of the table. On the outer edge of the decoupaged pieces there is a small area of decoupage glue. I used napkins. So there was no putting the glue on the paper and placing it down. It had to be applied to the table. There is a little bit of a shiny area surrounding the decoupaged pieces. Will that “disappear” when I apply my satin acrylic sealer? I used flat mod podge. But, even with the flat there is a slight sheen. Also, the mod podge says to let the project cure for 28 days before sealing. I’ve seen instructional videos of people that do not allow it to cure. They do let it dry well, though. I don’t want to make a mistake on this table. I already have a lot of time in painting several coats and watching a zillion decoupage videos on youtube. Thanks Much, Jeanette

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Jeanette – Sorry that I haven’t been able to respond to your questions about the sheen around the decoupage on your sewing table. As far as the sheen, if you use a satin sealer over the whole area, it will all dry as a satin finish. Best to use one light coat, then once that is dry, another light coat to make sure the satin finish is even across the surface.

      As for the drying time for curing. If the label states to wait for curing, then that is what the manufacturer has tested and found works, so I would go with what they say. Many videos just don’t get into those details and their projects may look good in the video at the time, but they don’t show you what it looks like in 6 months. If you want the table to come out beautifully, I would follow the label instructions.

  2. Really nice Diane – it matches the rug. I love it – –

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Jane – Thanks – The table tops were in need of a redo. Decorating them with the paper is a lot faster and easier than when I added the words to each. Ed and I use them all the time.

  3. Brenda Pruitt says:

    Till you said it was paper I thought it was real! Love it!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Brenda – I found the wicker pattern wrap before Christmas and was going to wrap my gifts with it, but never got to it. I really like it on the tables – only wish that the weave was bigger for a really realistic wicker look and texture.

  4. What a great idea! Love how the trays turned out. Wish I was as creative as you😊. You have inspired me to rethink our wood tv trays. Not a fun shape but I could probably come up with something.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks June With so many patterns and colors of wallpaper and gift wrap, there are so many options for you to find one that will work with your decor. Having a plain shape tray table top will make the tops easier to cover, no curves to have to cut around. :-)

  5. Wonderful idea, you would never know that was paper. Thank you for all the info and ideas you bring to us. I use my TV tables everyday. Time to make them pretty!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Joan – I am a huge fan of tv tray tables and have been using them for years with my first set from Tupperware that I won at a Tupperware party back in the mid 1980’s. Each one was a different color that Tupperware made at the time. Blue, Pink, Lt Teal and Grey. My older daughter took that set when I got the wood ones. They are so handy to have around. Have fun making yours pretty.

  6. Fantastic. Homegoods really inspired you!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Karen – I do get lots of inspiration from HomeGoods. :-) as I have been seeing lots of wicker and Tommy Bahama style of furniture there.