Decoupage is the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf and other decorative elements. Commonly, an object like a small box or an item of furniture is covered by cutouts from magazines or from purpose-manufactured papers. Each layer is sealed with varnishes (often multiple coats) until the “stuck on” appearance disappears and the result looks like painting or inlay work. The traditional technique used 30 to 40 layers of varnish which were then sanded to a polished finish.

Découpage Known in Italy as “poor lacquer” or “poor art”, it was introduced in the eighteenth century by Venetian furniture makers to shorten the time of realization of lacquered furniture in chinoiserie or with gallant scenes typical of the eighteenth century gluing cropped and painted molds; great producer in the card industry was the Remondini printing press in Bassano del Grappa. Simple technique that does not require particular artistic skills is widespread today, with a great flourishing of magazines and specialized fairs and professional materials. The variety of papers, glues, brushes, objects and scrap-art is so vast that even a beginner can approach this technique and produce impressive decorations.

3D decoupage (sometimes also referred to simply as decoupage) is the art of creating a 3D image by cutting out elements of varying sizes from a series of identical images and layering them on top of each other, usually with adhesive foam spacers between each layer to give the image more depth.

Pyramid decoupage (also called pyramage) is a process similar to 3D decoupage. In pyramid decoupage, a series of identical images are cut into progressively smaller, identical shapes which are layered and fixed with adhesive foam spacers to create a 3D “pyramid” effect.

The word decoupage comes from Middle French “decouper”, meaning to cut out or cut from something. The origin of decoupage is thought to be East Siberian tomb art. Nomadic tribes used cut out felts to decorate the tombs of their deceased. From Siberia, the practice came to China, and by the 12th century, cut out paper was being used to decorate lanterns, windows, boxes and other objects. In the 17th century, Italy, especially Venice, was at the forefront of trade with the Far East and it is generally thought that it is through these trade links that the cut out paper decorations made their way into Europe.

The first traces of this technique in Europe since the Middle Ages, when the scribal monks enriched their manuscripts in this way. The history of modern découpage has however beginning with the passion that the European courts showed towards a particular technique, arrived from Chinaalready in the 16th century and which was established in Europe especially at the end of the seventeenth century: lacquering. This consisted of a very complicated procedure that made furniture and objects embellished with decorations under tens and tens of layers of very shiny lacquer. The cost of Chinese lacquered objects was so high and the production was so inadequate compared to the request that skilled Venetian furniture makers thought to propose an imitation product on the market, which consisted of cutting out oriental prints, gluing them and protecting them under sandrace finishing layers.(a resin of natural origin), to obtain an object very similar to the original: the so-called Venetian poor art (lacquer of the poor) was born, which over time would be enriched with objects of great chromatic and compositional taste. Soon the technique spread to France and then to England, and the culmination of fame came in the seventeenth centurywhen in the homes of the English aristocrats feverish Print Rooms (prints depicting European cities, which were glued directly to the wall and embellished with decorations and frames of outline). The style of découpage changed completely in the Victorian era: in fact, around a central print rotated flowers, rural scenes, images of children overlapping with each other at random. After almost a century, découpage returns to fashion, because it allows to decorate furniture and objects with great ease, and the use of new products has also greatly simplified the work, making the execution easier and faster.

The option of decoupage technique is found in Russian iconography: the technique is usually called applique on a wooden base. This decorative technique consists in scrupulous excision of images from various materials (wood, leather, textiles, paper and the like), which are then pasted or otherwise attached to different surfaces for decoration. In Russia such a technique was not known until the 17th century, it was brought to the Armory Chamber by Western artists. In it, in particular, the icon “Savior Emmanuel” from the collection of the GIM was executed.

Florentine decoupage
Artisans in Florence, Italy have produced decorative objects using decoupage techniques since the 18th century. They combined decoupage with other decorative techniques already popular in Florence, such as gilt with gold leaf and carved wood designs. These older techniques were already used to produce articles such as furniture, frames for paintings, and even tooled leather book covers. Known as Florentine style crafts, these items are now highly collectible antiques. Florentine artisans made use of decoupage by adding it to the space within a carved gilt frame, or by adding the decoupage to a wooden plaque. Artisans used pasted reproductions of famous artworks, nearly always religious depictions. Florentine triptychs using decoupage images of such Biblical scenes as the Crucifixion are a common motif. As society became more secular in the early 20th century, and non–Roman Catholic tourists began buying more crafts from Florentine artisans, decoupage images became less religious in orientation and more reflective of famous Italian artworks in general.

The découpage technique is to cut out illustrations or strips of paper without any finishing and to use them as decoration. The découpage in recent years has seen “aggregate” various techniques. These were superimposed on the découper technique and made the achievements of the numerous artists even more complex. There are many books on the market that explain various techniques. Découpage is a technique now accessible to everyone, young and old and the only obstacle seems to be that of the high price of products. Initially the découpage was applied to furniture: today it is used for the decoration of various objects, of different materials, such as wood, fabric, glass and metal.

The most common techniques are: pictorial, craquelé, trompe l’oeil, stencil, découpage base with paper, découpage with brushes or pastels, découpage with and on fabric, on all types of surfaces such as wood, marble, glass, plastic, flowers pressed, wax, metal, 3D, mosaic, and then we also have imitations of materials such as marble and wood. The decoration of canvases and tiles has also become very popular lately.

Paper, which can have different types of thickness, can be a hand drawing, photocopy or newspaper clipping. It can also be plain paper, rice paper for backgrounds or backgrounds, voile paper, paper napkin, which simplifies the gluing operation: removed the lower white layers, simply place it on the surface to be decorated and brush it with glue, which is absorbed by the napkin fibers.
Brushes, used for finishing, but also for the simple application of colors and glues or paints: whale tail, drip, finishing brush, touch-up, fountain, fan,
gold, silver and bronze leaf;
medium for cracks, also called craquelé, which can be single-component or bi-component,
acrylic colors.
Until a few years ago découpage was considered one of the slowest manufacturing techniques, as the only products that can be used for painting, aging or for some particular effects were based on oil and required, in addition to the use of toxic solvents, even hours or days of drying.

Once the selected decorations have been cut out and the final composition is established, they are glued onto the chosen object with vinyl glue. Subsequent painting and sanding will make the surface uniform. As finishes you can use glossy, opaque or satin finishes or the craquelé, composed of two varnishes that, overlapping, create more or less large cracks, to be highlighted with bitumen or gold dust.

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Particular trompe-l’oeil effects are obtained with the pictorial technique, which recalls colors and shadows.

Materials for decoupage crafts
Common household materials can be used to create effects. Here is a short list of supplies:

Something to decoupage onto. Examples include: furniture, photograph albums, plates, ceramics, shelving, frames, mirrors.
Pictures to decoupage with. These can come from myriad sources: newspapers, magazines, catalogs, books, printed clip art, wrapping paper, greeting cards, fabric, tissue paper, lace, paper napkins
Cutting utensil. Scissors, craft knife or razor blades can be used.
Glue. Standard white glue works best if it is diluted with a little water. Specialty glues can be found in most crafting stores.
Smoother. Popsicle sticks work well. A brayer is a specialized tool like a miniature rolling pin designed to help remove wrinkles, remove excess glue and smooth pictures.
Glue spreader. Many things around the house can be use for this: cotton swabs, paint brushes, sponges.
Rags, sponges, tissue paper to help wipe up glue and other clean up.
Sealer. Glue or other decoupage medium can be used as a sealer. Alternatively, polyurethane, spray acrylic, epoxy resin or other lacquers are usually used.

Notable decoupeurs
Someone who does decoupage is known as a decoupeur, or “cutter”. At the age of 71, Mary Delany achieved fame at the court of George III and Queen Charlotte of England thanks to the 18th century decoupage craze. In 1771, she began to create cut out paper artworks (decoupage) as was the fashion for ladies of the court. Her works were exceptionally detailed and botanically accurate depictions of plants. She used tissue paper and hand colouration to produce these pieces. She created 1,700 of these works, calling them her “Paper Mosaiks [sic]”, from the age of 71 to 88 when her eyesight failed her. They can still be seen in the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum of Art. Jay (Terry) Jones, a notable decoupeur from Waynesburg, PA holds multiple Guinness World records for his extensive decoupage collection.

Now this old technique has become fashionable again and is widespread in various countries when decorating handbags, hats, trays, Christmas ornaments, sundials, caskets, dishes, packs, etc., as well as when creating exclusive interior items, when decorating clothes and manufacture of fashion accessories.

Now to the traditional technique of decoupage added napkins, from the fabrics and on fabrics, introduced computer innovations, allowing to use three-dimensional decoupage, and printed on a printer or copier pictures of different content.

In addition, the so-called rice and decoupage maps are actively used. This is a specially prepared image, printed on a special paper on a special paper.

A variety of materials appearing in stores, allows you to decorate any surface: candles, ceramics, fabric, wood, metal and so on. And the use of various techniques, such as plating, sostarivanie (brushed, crackle, Shabby ) decoupage art, volumetric decoupage (with modeling compound, and other materials) to give unlimited space for imagination.

The revival of the long tradition of decoupage markedly influenced the increase in the number of masters employed in this ancient technique.

Types of decoupage
There are five main types of decoupage: direct (classical), reverse, volumetric, smoky (artistic), deco patch.

Decoupage styles
Currently in the decoupage popular styles: Provence, Victorian style, country, cheby-chic, simplicity, military, ethno. This is due primarily to the current trends in the stylistics of interiors.

Source from Wikipedia