Eryka Garbutt Designs

International artist with a passion for recycling. special orders welcome.

Decoupage, not just an obsession.


My obsession is decoupage, which is the creation of an image or abstract using paper, or leaves or fabric. When you apply enough varnish the background and paper edges seems to disappear and you achieve this glass like finish.

I have always admired the decoupage artists. However working full time and bringing up two children and a dog I never felt I had the time to indulge. I now regret that decision. All those years I could have been creating. Yes, decoupage is a time-consuming passion, but after the initial fun of creating a picture, the layering of the varnish only takes minutes, as you need to leave time between each layer for the varnish to dry. A minimum of three hours but 24 –48 hours is also fine. Then there is the sanding-I think that is what really put me off. I actually rather enjoy this process, this is how you get that smooth surface and it is quite therapeutic, and good exercise. Finally, you polish your creation. I am still experimenting but currently use a high-quality diamond finish car polish.

The technique is actually very simple. Getting it right takes practice. The saving grace is that if you are not happy with something you just sand it back and start again. I am horrified at articles I have read that say you use a bit of glue and a couple of coats of varnish and call it decoupage.

Admittedly you can create something rather nice but it is not decoupage.

Well, let’s get started. You need a picture or nice paper, glue and something to decoupage. Start with something simple. Fist cut out your shapes and rearrange to the manner you find pleasing. This is the difficult bit and takes some time, be patience, and experiment with adding different colors.

You then need to seal your pictures and for this, I use “Liquitex” gloss medium and varnish.  If you are a novice, you can get away with just using this for the entire project.  There are other brands around but I only ever use this one.

When they are dry you glue the pictures to your project.  Start from one end and gently lay your paper down smoothing as you go. I just use my fingers they are washable. Try to remove as many air bubbles as possible by massaging with some sealer.  Leave to dry and then come back and remove those pesky air bubbles that popped up overnight.  Stick a pin in them, for bigger ones a small cut with a scalpel or craft knife. Massage with sealer so the sealer gets under the paper. This step is important. Then you paint on a couple of layers of sealer, leaving time to dry between coats.

Now you paint on your layer of varnish. I use Estapol water based varnish. There are others on the market but I find this one has fewer bubbles. A tip here is pouring a small amount of varnish into a resealable jar is a really good idea. If you use it straight from the tin it goes off and thickens. You want the consistency of pouring cream. You lay the varnish on not really paint it. Hold the brush flat and draw across your project. Try to avoid brush marks but do not get too obsessive. How much is enough? After about 10-15 coats, all of a sudden the paper edges disappear and the image underneath is not lots of pieces of paper but one beautiful picture. This is the magic of decoupage.

Then you sand back with very fine sand paper, wet and dry sand paper, I sometimes use an emery board that is used for acrylic nails. The idea is to remove all the shine and give a surface that feels smooth to the touch.  They varnish. Not happy well let the varnish dry and do it again, it takes several attempts. Then varnish and only lightly sand.  It is at this stage I usually open a new tin of varnish to get that really perfect topcoat

At this stage, I polish with car polish and leave it to be admired. This is the technique I use. It depends on the finish you want. You can sand back and polish with car polish or one of the many polishing systems around. Sorry but this is where you will need to do the research and experimentation. Check out what the other decoupage artists do. Nerreda Sheridan is a great inspiration.

I use this technique to create earrings and pendants using Japanese papers for the fabulous colors and patterns, which are almost, like fabric. I also use Indian paper for their textures. Currently, I am experimenting with making my own handmade paper to use on my jewelry. The results are tremendously textured and very unique.

The problem with having an obsession is what to do with your creations. So I have opened an online store.  Not everyone has an obsession with the creative process they just enjoy beautiful things.

So please visit my store where I showcase and sell my creations.

Eryka’s Place  at

If I have inspired you please feel free to contact me. My contact details are on my website.

%d bloggers like this: