Last week I felt like I had a bad case of ADD, a million ideas running around in my head with no ability to harness them and complete anything. So I tackled the never-ending chaos in my office instead, which usually gets me going creatively because I end up poring over tiny bits and pieces and eventually make something instead of cleaning up. Except this time, I didn't just make something - I went over the edge into OCD land, which is where I've been residing for the last few days.
It started with several glass plates in my office, left over from an assignment, along with some printouts of vintage postcards. I figured I'd do a quick decoupage project and use them in my home instead of storing them. So...I did just that, using my trusty bottle of Mod Podge. But when it dried, I realized there were some shiny spots here and there. Nothing terrible, just distracting. (John Derian would not be clamoring to hire me!) So I launched into research, investigating the best ways to decoupage on glass. And then I did it over and over and over again...and then a few more times after that.
Here's what I learned -
1. It's harder to decoupage on glass because it's not a porous surface. The decoupage medium dries through evaporation and any areas that contain air bubbles or not enough glue will turn shiny when the medium is dry.
2. It's a balancing act. If you don't press the air bubbles out, you'll have shiny spots. If you press too hard, you'll remove too much glue and you'll still have shiny spots and possible streaking.
3. Even after you complete a piece, you can always go back and remove the decoupaged paper with warm water. This means you don't waste your glass plates just because you made a mistake.
4. Mod Podge isn't necessarily the best medium for decoupage on glass.
It was during the removal of the dried paper that I started to think about different decoupage mediums. I noticed that my Matte Mod Podge still had a shiny coating when I removed it from the glass. I moved on to Elmer's Glue All diluted with water. Not as much spotting, but still shiny when the spotting occurred. Again, when I removed it, I noticed it had dried to a shiny finish. So I moved on to Liquitex Matte Medium and started to get better results.
The first time I used the fluid Liquitex Matte Medium I quickly dipped my paper into water first to relax the fibers and then blotted the paper. I noticed that the damp paper was easier to work with, but that the Matte Medium was thinner than the other mediums I'd used, which made the paper slide around more and didn't grab as quickly as I'd hoped. When it dried, I noticed that there were areas that would normally be shiny with other mediums. But this time they looked more like "texture" than shiny spots because they weren't reflecting the light. I was making progress, and for the first time, I had a completed project I'd be happy to give or keep for myself. But still, I thought I could do better.
(See around the edges where the medium must have thinned out too much. Those spots would normally be shiny, but as a matte finish, I think they give the paper more of an aged quality. This wasn't the easiest method for handling the paper, but I'm happy with the results.)
Next, I tried the Matte Medium again, this time with dry paper, but I found it wasn't as easy to work with. The damp paper definitely helped. I moved on to a Gel Matte Medium, diluted with a just a bit of water. I dipped and blotted my paper as I had before, so that it was just damp. It was a thicker consistency than the fluid Matte Medium, allowing me greater control, less slippage, and a faster grab, but the overall finish wasn't as nice as it was with the fluid Matte Medium. It had some diffuse, overall spotting, as if the Gel Medium hadn't fully penetrated the paper.
So FINALLY, I went back to the fluid Matte Medium. But this time, instead of dipping the paper into water, I brushed a thin coating of the medium onto the surface of the glass and the surface of the paper. The medium relaxed the fiber in the paper, making it easier to work with, but didn't further dilute the already thin medium on the glass. Once the paper was in place, I brushed a thin coat of medium on the back side of the paper and used my fingers to gently push out the air bubbles without pushing out too much of the glue. I was sure this was the brass ring. I was wrong. I still liked the results with the Liquitex Matte Medium and damp paper the best.
Did I achieve absolute, John Derian perfection with all of my experiments? Nope. But I was able to achieve results that I can display. Knowing which technique was the most promising for me, I'll continue to work from that point, next time experimenting with different weights of paper as well (I used 20 lb. paper throughout, though I've read that 28 lb. paper is good). And at the end of several days, I can say this - I think John Derian might be willing to hire me now (as an apprentice with potential, anyway). So I've come a long way.
Copies of clip art or illustrations, resized if necessary
Liquitex Matte Medium
Shallow tray of water
Craft knife and cutting mat
White acrylic craft paint
Colored acrylic craft paint, if desired
Prep: Wash glass pieces with soap and warm water, then dry. Wipe the back side (the side you'll be decoupaging on) with rubbing alcohol or vinegar to prepare the piece for decoupage.
Step 1: Print out your desired clip art, first resizing it or changing the hue with your photo software. (I printed my illustrations using an Inkjet photo printer (Epson R1900) and didn't encounter any issues with the ink running or smearing. However, if in doubt, check how your ink responds to moisture. If it runs or smears, you'll need to use printouts from a laser printer or copier - or spray it with a fixative first.)
Step 2: If you're making layered decoupage, cut out individual pieces with sharp, fine-tipped scissors. Personally, I like my Fiskars Micro-tip scissors (which you can find in craft supply stores), but small cuticle scissors also work.
Tip: When cutting, angle your scissor blades to the right. This creates a softer, slightly beveled edge that blends more seamlessly into the second layer of paper. Also, for easier cutting, move the paper that you're cutting, not the scissors.
Step 3: If you're doing a layered design, apply Matte Medium to the front of the first cutout and apply it to the glass plate. Gently push out any air bubbles and wipe off any excess. Let it dry for a little while (at least 30 minutes).
If you're only doing a single layer, skip down to Step 4.
Step 6: Brush Matte Medium evenly over the back side of the plate (Note: The picture above shows Mod Podge which is thicker than Matte Medium, but get as close to this level of coverage as you can.)
Step 7: Place the damp paper over the medium covered glass and adjust as necessary. Quickly brush a little medium onto the back side of the damp paper and use your fingers to gently push out air bubbles and excess glue. When you're finished, let the plate sit until it's completely dry, anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on humidity (if you're in a hurry, you can use a hair dryer to speed up drying time).
Step 8: When the plate is completely dry, turn it face up and trim the excess paper from the edge using a craft knife, such as an X-acto knife. You can also use the edge of the blade to remove any excess medium from the edges of the plate.
Finishing: Paint 1-2 layers of white acrylic craft paint onto the back side of the decoupaged plate. This will prevent any color distortion of the image resulting from colored paint. Once the white paint is dry, paint 1-2 coats of paint in the color of your choice.
(The overall winner)
Glass blanks from Behrenberg Glass Company
Clip art available from sites such as The Graphics Fairy, Vintage Printable, The Vintage Workshop, and Etsy (the mushroom image is from Etsy vendor Tabitha Emma). However, I've created a board of clip art on Pinterest and will continue adding to it. (Also, if anyone else finds great clip art, please leave the link in the Comments section and I'll add it to the Pinterest board as well.)
All other supplies available from craft and art supply stores.