I explained in a previous post about how I’m wrestling with wrinkles. For wrinkles on my face, I found AHA facial masks helped minimize those wrinkles. What I didn’t have a solution for until recently is wrinkles in paper decoupage! Because this is a DIY/design blog and not a beauty blog, today I’ll talk about solving the wrinkle problem in paper, because decoupaged paper gets wrinkles too.
Here are the keys to a wrinkle-free surface on decoupage projects:
- COAT with Golden Polymer Medium (Gloss or Matte)
- DESIGN your collage as you usually would
- HEAT with a heat sealing iron/tack iron or household iron
Step 1: COAT
To learn why I recommend Golden Polymer Mediums, see my previous post that explains why you should use Golden Polymer Mediums and not glues like Mod Podge or Aleene’s Tacky Glue.
Yes, Golden Polymer Mediums might cost more than Mod Podge or Aleene’s Tacky Glue (see a money-saving tip below). But trust me, if you don’t want wrinkles in your decoupage projects, the money spent on Golden Medium, plus following the steps I share below, is worth it. For years I wrestled with Mod Podge and trying to smooth wrinkles, poke wrinkles, or slash them with an xacto knife and smoosh out the air, etc. etc. etc. None of it worked. Every project got permanent wrinkles.
I now follow the COAT – DESIGN – HEAT steps, and the messy wrinkle days are over!
Golden Polymer Medium is available in Gloss or Matte. I use both Gloss and Matte for the COAT – DESIGN – HEAT method. Both work for me. Your choice depends on whether you want a shiny surface or not. Here’s the difference:
Non-shiny finish with Golden Matte Medium:
Shiny finish with Golden Polymer Gloss Medium:
The shine is showing where light hits these pictures, but the whole collage is shiny like that.
Golden Polymer Medium is a professional artist supply, so you’ll find it at art stores like Blick Art Supply (Gloss and Matte). You can get it on Amazon (Gloss and Matte). I’ve seen it in the art aisle at Michaels.
Coating Paper with Golden Polymer Medium
Once you have your choice of Gloss or Matte Golden Medium, next follow these steps:
- Choose the pieces of paper that you want to use for collage. I usually use colored, patterned scrapbook papers.
- Using a soft paint brush or foam brush, brush a thin layer of Golden Gloss or Matte Medium over one side of the paper.
- Let the medium dry. It will dry quickly. Your paper may bend a bit when it’s wet with the Medium, but it will flatten out. (Note: Don’t let the papers touch each other when the Medium is wet – the papers will get stuck together!)
- Turn the paper over and brush a thin layer of Golden Gloss or Matte Medium on the other side of the paper. Let the medium dry.
- Choose a surface you want to adhere the papers to. You can use a heavier scrapbook paper as a base. Some collage artists recommend using thick 140 lb watercolor paper. You can also adhere papers to wood boards, canvas (be sure the canvas is stretched very taut), foam core board, etc.
- Brush a layer of Golden Gloss or Matte Medium onto the surface you want to adhere the collaged paper to. Let the medium dry.
STEP 2: Design
Now it’s time to create your collage! The fun stuff!
- Arrange the papers into a collage.
- Cut the papers, rip them.
- Layer the papers and build up papers on top of each other.
If you coated papers on both sides with Golden Medium, just layer your papers on top of each other — after the next heating step, they’ll all stick together. You can even add other things like string or yarns, lace, etc. Just be sure to coat these things with Golden Medium too, so everything will fuse together in the next step.
This Design step is all up to you — your time to have fun and be creative!
STEP 3: HEAT
When the papers are arranged the way you like them, next you will set the papers with heat. This will activate the medium and make everything fuse and stick together. Without wrinkles!! For this step, you can use a “tack iron” or “heat sealing iron.” It’s a small iron:
I got the Hangar 9 Heat Sealing Iron. Because it’s small, it’s good for decoupaging on smaller surfaces where a regular size household iron won’t fit. I’m decoupaging papers in boxes to make decorative niches, and this Hangar 9 iron is perfect for getting into the little corners:
If you don’t want to invest in a heat sealing iron, you could use a household iron, but be careful to test it first at low settings, so you don’t heat it up too hot.
You will also need a special paper between your Medium-coated collage papers and your iron. You don’t want to put your iron directly onto the Medium or it will cause a mess and possible flammable hazard. I used the Release paper from collage artist Jonathan Talbot. Look for silicon and teflon papers that are designed to protect things while heat pressing. The good thing is, the papers are reusable for a long time to stretch your dollars — you can re-use them for years. Here’s some Teflon sheets at Amazon.
Fusing Everything Together with Heat
- Plug in a heat sealing iron, also called a “tack iron,” or use a household iron.
- Lay a release sheet (silicon or teflon sheet) over the paper collage.
- Push the iron lightly over the release sheet, heating all areas of the collage. It doesn’t have to get too hot. I set my tack iron at heat setting 3, the mid-way point, and that’s working fine.
- Take a look at your collage, check to be sure all papers are adhered. If some areas are still loose, run the iron over those areas.
- It’s also possible that if you missed applying Medium to some edges, the edges won’t adhere. Simply dab some Medium on areas where it’s missing. Let it dry. Then heat the area with the iron.
The final result should be a wrinkle-free collage! Woo hoo! Yay!!!
I know it’s hard to see here, but this surface is as smooth as glass! No wrinkles or bubbles anywhere!
I’m not done with this project yet. You’ll see in posts to come, this will become a bejeweled niche with a Rajasthani-style arch, inspired by Jaipur, the Pink City of India. I cut an arch with the Cricut Explore Air, and next need to cut the arch from plywood with a jigsaw. This is what’s next:
Storing extra papers
You might have pieces of paper left over that are coated with dried Medium. You can use these papers later for more collages. But when you store them, separate the Medium-coated papers between pieces non-stick release paper or wax paper. This way, your coated papers won’t get all stuck together.
Here’s a summary of the supplies:
- Golden Polymer Medium in Gloss or Matte
- An iron: a heating sealing/tack iron or typical household clothing iron
- Silicon or teflon release paper
- A surface to adhere paper to: thick 140 lb watercolor paper, or other surface like thick paper, wood, canvas, other hard panels
- Soft paint brush or foam brush
- Paper towel
I’ve used 40% and 50% off coupons on Golden supplies at Michaels, which cuts the cost considerably. My local Michaels has both Golden Matte Medium and Golden Polymer Gloss Medium. I do enough decoupage that I buy the 16 ounce size bottle.
I will also buy Golden products on sale at Blicks Art Supplies. If they have 40-50% coupon discounts, I am not aware — if they do, someone please tell me!
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