Quick Picture Frame Decoupage Makeover

I have adored decoupage ever since I was a child and saw Georgian and Victorian examples in museums and stately homes. Of late, I have found myself working more and more in this medium when revamping our finds. I have gradually perfected working with tissue paper and napkin decoupage, which has taken my decoupageing experience to another level (especially as I have also perfected printing my own tissue paper – which I will cover in a future blog).  It is an extremely versatile medium and I find the end result with tissue paper decoupage is always very satisfying and absolutely stunning. I simply adore the transformation of the delicate paper into a really tough, hard shell surface which, once varnished, can even make a resilient table top surface. This is a quick, easy project, and a very good starter piece if you are decoupaging with tissue for the first time. 

For This Project You Will Require:

A picture frame that can be removed from the glass and backing.

PVA glue or Modge Podge

Paint brushes or sponge brushes

White chalk paint/undercoat (optional)

Decorative tissue paper

Cling film

Roller/decoupage tools (optional)


Decorator’s type varnish (optional)


I picked this photo frame up at a recent yard sale for £1.  Shows you how old it is, as it was originally from Woolworths!

For this project use a frame that can be separated from the glass and backboard (I will do an example of a frame you have to work with in situ, as it were, in a future blog).

Separate the frame from its other parts and give it a quick clean – a little water and washing up liquid will be sufficient to remove any dirt and grease from the frame, and the paint/tissue will adhere far better to a clean frame.

Although you could decoupage directly onto the frame, this one is very dark wood and I am using a light coloured tissue paper so I am going to give it a quick coat of light coloured chalk paint just to ensure the darkness of the frame does not detract from the delicate colours of the tissue paper.  I find it is best to stand the frame on old paint cans so I can work with it lifted from a surface, it makes it much easier to work on the edges. Paintwise, you could use an undercoat, I am using chalk paint because I have it to hand, it adheres to most surfaces without any preparation and it dries very quickly. When it comes to chalk paint I tend to make my own nowadays, but I have used most of the known brands (more on this in a later blog, plus how to make chalk paint yourself). Once painted, leave to dry completely – not just touch dry.

I am using a large sheet of decorative tissue paper, which I then cut into strips which would amply cover each side of the frame – you want a good overhang here, not cut to size.

For the glue, you can use Modge Podge, though good old PVA type glue is basically the same, and much cheaper. It should be thinned with water to a ratio of about 1 part glue to 2 parts water. Although, I am not that precise with measuring and weighing so for those of you who are a bit slap-dash like me, you are aiming for a very runny consistency when you mix the glue and the water.

Apply the glue along one side of the frame, making sure it is well covered, especially into the nooks and crannies of any mouldings, but not on the underside of the frame. I favour using a sponge brush for this, but a paint brush will do just as well. If your glue is as runny as it should be this will be a very messy job, so make sure you have your work area well protected before you start. You want to ‘float’ the strip of tissue into place. I cannot emphasise enough how delicately you have to lay the paper on. DO NOT press it down at this stage or you will end up with a nasty, pulpy, disastrous mess (believe me, I know what I am talking about as many of my early projects will testify). Floating is the best way to describe how to lay the paper down, and if done well you can gently maneuver it if it isn’t in the precise place it needs to be, as it should be hardly touching the glued surface, but try hard to get it in place first time — tissue paper is not very forgiving if handled too much. You should have a good overhang of paper at the edges.

Now, tear off a strip of cling film large enough to cover the area you are working on. The cling film is the secret of working with tissue paper – without it you will be making papier-mache, which was exactly what happened to me the first time I attempted this technique. Once it is covered in the cling film you can use your hands to press it into the glue and secure it into place with a gentle firmness. It moulds beautifully and you will find the fancier the frame the better. I also find that disposable gloves help, too, not essential but saves your hands from getting overly sticky and they tend to stop you damaging the wet tissue if you happen to touch it accidentally – but definitely not an essential.

I have invested in a roller and flat tool (made by Modge Podge) these are not essential either, as your fingers work just as well to press the tissue into the frame, but I do find these make the process a bit easier, give a slightly better finish to creases and edges and are invaluable for working on larger areas. Don’t worry if your tissue crinkles a bit, this is inevitable with tissue but I find a few crinkles often enhance the end result.

Once you are happy that the tissue is well applied, you can gently pull back the cling film and apply the next strip in the same way. If there is a cross over at the corners this can be gently trimmed back, or you can let the paper strips cross, either gives a good result.

You can use the same strip of cling film over and over, but be careful to make sure the glue side is face down onto the tissue each time. You can also use scrunched cling film to apply more pressure to difficult areas, if needs be. Once all fours sides of the frame are covered you can very gently go over the tissue paper once more with the thinned glue in a delicate dabbing motion — a sponge brush or an old sponge is best for this. It just helps the tissue adhere well and seals it.

Leave the frame for an hour or two to dry thoroughly. Once completely dry it should be set hard onto the frame. You can now trim off the excess tissue with a small piece of sandpaper by lightly brushing it along the edge of the frame with small sweeping motions. This leaves a beautiful, clean finished edge and is extremely satisfying I find, almost like magic in the perfect finished edge that it leaves 🙂

You can now seal the frame with a coat or two of PVA or Modge Podge, or varnish. I have found decorator’s varnish to be the best top layer for this sort of work, as it gives a good robust finish – it comes in dead flat, satin and gloss, depending on your preference. I finished this one with satin.


Do Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, and if you have a go at this project do post pictures of it, I would love to see them. I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial – many more to come.

 Janis x