How to Fix Decoupage Problems

Learn how to fix decoupage problems.

Decoupage is one of my favorite ways to embellish furniture, but sometimes it doesn’t go as expected. Here are some fixes to common problems with mod podge and other decoupage glues.

how to fix decoupage problems

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How to Fix Decoupage Problems

Okay, for the record, Mod Podge is not my favorite decoupage glue. And I’m not just saying that because I was given glue by a different brand.

I want to love it because it has groovy packaging that reminds me of the Brady Bunch. And the name is cool.

But I don’t. It’s too thick, prone to problems, prone to staying sticky after it dries and it gets clumpy.

So my #1 tip for fixing decoupage problems is to try a different glue.

I love Decou-page glue because it’s so much thinner and easier to work with. Even after having the same jar for 2 years, it hasn’t thickened or gotten gross.

Another option is to use watered down white school glue. It doesn’t seal the piece, but I don’t like decoupage glue for a final sealer anyways. (I like polycrylic – spray for small projects and the paint on kind for furniture.)

My next tip is to practice on a small piece first to get the hang of how much glue to use.

decoupage glues

Bubbles and Wrinkles in Decoupage

Bubbles and wrinkles in decoupage paper can feel so disheartening. But it’s a pretty common problem that’s pretty easy to fix.

Causes of Bubbles and Wrinkles in Decoupaged Paper

  • Too much or too little glue. You want the paper wet, but not over-saturated.
  • Humidity. High humidity or temperatures can cause the paper to dry at a different speed than the glue and it shrinks.
  • Not smoothing enough as you work. Smooth the paper with your fingers as you go. You can also use a brayer, bone folder or even an old gift card.
  • Some papers are prone to bubbling and wrinkling. I find thin papers the easiest to work with, but I’ve head other people say the opposite. Try different paper thicknesses to see what works best for you.
Paper napkin decoupaged to tray
This tissue paper was wet, but it dried with a lot of wrinkles.

How to Fix Bubbles and Wrinkles

  • Lightly spray the piece with water to moisten the paper. Then apply more glue, smoothing as you go.
  • If the bubbles are larger, you can use a pin to poke holes and apply more glue (water it down a bit to make it easier to spread.) Try to saturate the bubble and smooth as you go.
  • Try different paper thicknesses to see what works for you. I find thick paper extremely hard to work with.
  • Give it time. Sometimes the wrinkles relax on their own as they dry more.
  • Sit something heavy on it. Use wax paper so that the heavy object doesn’t adhere to the glue.
  • Sanding. For wood or furniture, sanding is a good option that creates a subtle distressed look. Use a high grit sandpaper (400).

Streaks in Decoupage Glue

Don’t let streaks and brush strokes in decoupage glue ruin your decoupage project.

Causes of Streaking in Decoupage Finish

  • Applying glue over almost dry glue. This pulls the dry glue away from the surface and creates streaks. In the future, let wet glue dry even if it means skipping an area. Get that area in the next coat and work quickly keeping a wet edge.
  • Glossy finishes. Glossy finishes are prone to showing flaws and brush strokes more than matte finishes.
  • Uneven application. It may appear streaky because some areas have thick amounts of glue and some may be missing glue.

How to Fix Streaks in Decoupage Glue

  • Lightly sand the streaks with 400 grit sandpaper. This will not destroy the finish, but just polish the clear coat. (I use this same technique when sealing stain on furniture.)
  • Don’t use decoupage glue as a top coat. I prefer polycrylic, which will dry to a harder, more durable finish.
  • Apply several thin coats, rather than one thick coat. Water the glue down if necessary.
  • Always use a matte finish. It’s more forgiving and disguises flaws like brush strokes more.
  • Use a foam brush instead of a bristled brush. A foam brush is perfect for decoupage glue because it won’t leave brush strokes.

Tackiness in Dried Decoupage

It’s been days and your decoupage glue still feels sticky. This is an easy problem to fix.

Causes of Tackiness in Decoupage Finish

  • Humidity. High humidity makes it harder for glue (or paint for that matter!) to dry.
  • Not waiting enough time. Decoupage glue needs at least 2 days to dry completely.
  • Applying a 2nd coat before the first has dried. If the first coat isn’t all the way dry, it’s harder for the 2nd coat to dry.
  • Old glue. As decoupage glue gets older, it thickens. This can cause a sticky finish.
  • Glossy finishes. Glossy decoupage glue is more likely to stay tacky than other sheens.

How to Fix Tackiness

  • Give it time. It needs at least 2 days to dry completely.
  • Move it to climate controlled work area and let it dry out some more.
  • If it’s still tacky, seal it with polycrylic. This seals in the tackiness and provides a durable surface.
  • Use a different sheen. I prefer matte because it’s easier to work with.

Glue Dries White

There are many reasons why decoupage glue turns white when drying.

Causes of Decoupage Glue Drying White

  • Moisture issues. This could mean the piece itself is too wet or the environment is too humid.
  • Old glue. Old glue can get booger-y and clump up into white lumps.
  • Using too much glue. Thick coats of glue take forever to dry.
  • Glue isn’t dry. The decoupage glue looks white when it’s wet.
  • It can also happen on older pieces that you’ve gotten wet. (Just let it dry and it will go away on it’s own. But add a better top coat like polycrylic to prevent this in the future!)

How to Fix

  • Let the piece dry out. Try working in a climate controlled environment. Use a fan if necessary.
  • Re-wet the glue and try to remove the white clump.
  • Let it dry for longer.
how to fix decoupage problems

Starting Over

It’s happened to the best of us. What you thought would be an awesome project needs to be scrapped. I once tried to apply tissue paper to a shelf with disastrous results.

So the bad news is that you need to start over. The good news is that luckily most decoupage supplies are pretty inexpensive so at least you’re not our of money.

If possible, remove the paper while wet. If not, re-wet the paper with a wet towel until it’s saturated.

Use a plastic putty knife to scrape away as much paper as you can.

Add more water if necessary and keep scraping it until it’s gone.

Let the piece dry completely before restarting the project.

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