Decoupage (from the French découpage “cut”) is a technique of decorating objects by gluing cut-out images on them and then coating the decor with varnish. An important advantage of decoupage technique in comparison with application is that a transparent varnish film significantly increases the preservation and durability of the composition.
Decoupage is a kind of decorative and applied art available to a wide range of people. A wide variety of materials are suitable for creating an original decor, and the minimum set of necessary tools for work is probably available in an ordinary city apartment.
Types of decoupage
Decoupage is a general name for a decorating technique, which can be divided into the following types:
- Straight or classic. In this case, the decor is glued to a previously prepared surface from the front side of the object, and then varnished. This method is the easiest to execute and the oldest known.
- Back. It is used only for decorating transparent objects (usually glass). The decor is glued to the back of a plate or other glassware. When using this technique, the composition is behind the glass, and the front surface of the object remains untreated.
- Volumetric or 3D. In this technique, the artist first creates the details of the embossed decor using modeling paste, putty or other plastic materials. Then the master sticks the volumetric elements on the surface of the object to be decorated and varnishes them.
- Art. During work, the artist uses not only pasted cut-out compositions to decorate the object, but also additionally paints its surface with paints. Thus, the master combines the background and the pasted picture into a single piece of art.
- Decopatch. In this case, the object is decorated with many small pieces of multi-colored paper, which is torn by hand or cut with scissors, and then glued tightly to the surface. The result is a one-piece background with a patchwork effect, imitating the texture of various materials (fabric, fur, stone).
Basic decoupage styles
In arts and crafts, you can also distinguish a lot of different styles of decoupage. Among them, the most popular are:
- Provence, which is characterized by the dominance of cold colors, an abundance of images of field grasses and rustic motifs, as well as simplicity of forms.
- Victorian style, which, on the contrary, is dominated by warm muted tones, as well as straight clear lines, strict aristocratic patterns and elongated planes.
- Military, in which the army colors and an abundance of contrasting colors are clearly distinguishable, there are elements of brutality and aggression.
- Ethno-style, which includes objects of art created on the basis of ideas from folk art, with characteristic national features (Japanese, Indian, African, Chinese).
- Shabby chic, which in its essence is a skillful imitation of the luxury of bygone eras, as opposed to modern trends in art.
- Simple City, in which the simplest materials (newspapers and magazines) are used for decoration, and the works of artists are distinguished by simplicity of composition and deliberately indicative negligence of execution.
Scope of decoupage
In addition to the above, there are many other types and styles of decoupage, as well as a large number of materials available for decoration. Therefore, the scope of application of decoupage covers all kinds of interior items:
- tables and chairs;
- armchairs and dressers;
- cabinets and beds;
- cabinets and boxes;
- trays and plates;
- bottles and picture frames;
- album covers and flowerpots;
- curtains and breadbaskets;
- cutting boards and clocks;
- tea sets and mirrors.
With the help of decoupage, professional artists still create real masterpieces of art today, and ordinary people independently make charming decor items for their own home.
Decorative effects in decoupage
Skilled decoupage masters use special decorative effects in their work to change the texture of the treated surface. The most commonly used for these purposes:
- Abrasions (by rubbing with wax and grouting with sandpaper on certain areas).
- Craquelure or artificial cracking (with the help of special varnishes, on the surface of which cracks appear after drying).
- Patination (by applying a dark layer of impregnation on the edges and corners of the object).
- Shading and toning (to create smooth color transitions in an artistic composition).
- Leaf, gilding and silvering (to give the surface the effect of inlaid with precious metals).
- Decorative effects also help give items a unique look and add value. This greatly expands the artist’s ability to make exclusive decor based on the most common interior items.
The history of decoupage originates in Asia, or rather, in China. The first mentions of decorating objects with decorative paper and subsequent varnishing date back to the 12th century. Even then, Chinese artisans learned how to make unassuming decorations for caskets, tables and chairs, but for a long time this technique remained inaccessible to Europeans.
Only in the 17th century, thanks to the active development of trade relations, the first examples of decoupage art appeared in Europe, in the Republic of Venice. Italian craftsmen have appreciated the unique possibilities of the new decorating technique. In that era, elite inlaid interior items made in the countries of the East were in great demand among the European nobility.
Florentine artisans from the beginning of the 18th century began mass production of furniture, boxes and picture frames using decoupage technique. The use of carved pictures on paper or canvas for decoration instead of the expensive technique of inlay made it possible to drastically reduce the cost of products. But the customers were ready to pay substantial money for such items.
Works of art with pastoral scenes and religious motives were in particular demand among buyers.
The fashion for them in a narrow circle of the wealthiest people has not become obsolete for about 150 years.
Gradually decoupage works of art spread throughout Europe. The peak of the popularity of this technique in France came in the era of Louis XVI, on the eve of the famous bloody revolution. A little later, in the middle of the 19th century, a craze for decoupage began in England, which soon spread to the United States.
With the beginning of the twentieth century, interest in decoupage began to fade steadily. Gradually, this technique became the domain of amateur artists and self-taught folk artisans. Unique masterpieces of European masters of the 17th-18th centuries are still of great value to collectors. But the supply of such works of art is severely limited in the modern art market, and the few available samples quickly find their buyers.