DIY Tutorial: How to Make Wrinkle-Free Paper Decoupage with Golden Medium

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.

How to Make Wrinkle Free Paper Decoupage Collage

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 Gloss and Matte for Decoupage

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:

Paper Collage with Golden Matte Medium

Shiny finish with Golden Polymer Gloss Medium:

Paper Collage with Golden Polymer Medium Glossy

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.

Papers for Decoupage

Golden Medium on Decoupage Collage Paper

Drying Paper

Coating Substrate

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.

Layering Papers in Collage

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:

Hangar 9 Heat Sealing Iron Collage Decoupage

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:

Heat Sealing Iron for Decoupage with Golden Medium

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.

Heat Sealing Decoupage Collage

Sealing Decoupage with a Tack Iron

The final result should be a wrinkle-free collage! Woo hoo! Yay!!!

No Wrinkles in Decoupage

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:

Arch

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.

Supplies Needed

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
  • Scissors
  • Paper towel

MONEY-SAVING TIP

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!


This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of compensation at no cost to you if you purchase after clicking the link. I post affiliate links when I have purchased from the company or used the product, and I can confidently share the company or product. This helps offset the cost of running this blog for you! For more info, see Disclosures & Policies.


Elei Fabric from Samoa

So, I had always intended to help people around the world with microloans through an organization like Kiva. But as happens with many good intentions, I never did it. Well I did now. I came across Kiva and saw they are encouraging microloaning to female entrepreneurs right now, in a campaign for International Women’s Day. For only $25, you can help make a difference in a family’s life.

I decided to see if any women were doing the things I like to do, as the path to feed their families and educate their children. I browsed the Arts lending category at Kiva, and found women in Samoa who make fabric! It’s called Elei and they make it with paint, stencils and carved wood patterns! I contributed microloans ASAP. I hope the loans help make the business dreams of these women come true, for themselves and their families.

And that’s when I discovered the art of Elei fabric …

I learned that Elei fabric artisans often make stencils with old X-ray film. The stencil designs make wonderfully bold patterns, like these pillows from JO’LI Elei Designs:

JO'LI ELEI Fabric Pillows

From Samoa’s Elei Crafters & Events website, wouldn’t this tablecloth pattern mix wonderfully with today’s popular bohemian/tropic/jungalicious style?

Elei Fabric Pattern

And oh goodness, if you want to see more pattern deliciousness, click through to A’au-Elei and see more, much more, like this:

aau_elei-Elei-Fabric-Design

A series of photos on Flickr shows you some of the process, from a fabric printing workshop at the Museum of Samoa:

Elei Fabric Printing from Museum of Samoa

The Gift Hutt’s catalog of resort wear on Slideshare gives you an idea of the pretty and very “vacationy” caftans and dresses that can be made with Elei fabric and patterns:

The Gift Hutt Resort Wear Elei Fabrics

The Gift Hutt Elei Fabric Caftan

And now, I’m itching so bad to jump on an airplane for a tropical vacation on a Pacific Island. Of course I would come back with a suitcase loaded with Elei fabrics!

DIY Tip: Wrinkle-Free Decoupage with Golden Polymer Medium Instead of Mod Podge

Oh my goodness, how I’ve wrestled with wrinkles! Not so much on my face (yet …) but with paper! If you’ve ever decoupaged with papers, you know what I’m talking about. Some people say wrinkles make texture, and that’s a good thing. I suppose they can be a good thing. It depends on the look you want. Maybe I need to loosen up, but I so hate wrinkles that I’ll even iron a t-shirt and jeans before wearing them! So I personally don’t want wrinkles in my scrapbook paper collages. But, wrinkles have happened:

Decoupage Wrinkles

Again and again, wrinkles happen. And again and again I spend hours Googling, trying to find a solution to the problem. I shared some wrinkle prevention tips on my most popular post about scrapbook paper wall art:

  • Try Aleene’s Tacky Glue instead of Mod Podge.
  • Use thicker papers.
  • Let glue dry for a bit before applying paper.

But those aren’t fail-safe solutions. Wrinkles still happen to me, and probably to you too.

I recently decoupaged scrapbook papers on a big 4.5-foot by 5-foot wall art project:

Scrapbook Paper and Stencil Wall Art

There are some wrinkles in it, but not too bad. I used a professional grade bookbinding glue found at Blick Art Supplies. It worked much better at preventing wrinkles than Mod Podge or Aleene’s Tacky Glue. But I’m setting the bar high, like zero tolerance level. I’d really love a 100% wrinkle-free decoupage project.

Now, I found the solution!

The Solution: Golden Medium + Heat Seal Method

I found this solution at Laura Lein-Svencner’s website. I learned more and got some products from Jonathan Talbot’s website. Both artists are collage artists. Today I’ll share what I learned from them, and then I’ll post separately a DIY tutorial to show how to create wrinkle-free collages using these supplies:

Decoupage with Golden Medium Supplies

The three most important keys to a wrinkle-free surface are to:

  1. Use Golden Polymer Mediums
  2. Coat papers with the Golden Polymer Medium
  3. Heat the papers with an iron

The Golden Polymer Mediums come in Gloss and Matte finish and I’ve tried both. They both work to adhere papers. So the choice depends on your personal preference. I personally prefer a Matte finish. Here’s the Matte finish — it is non-shiny and looks like the original paper surface:

Paper Collage with Golden Matte Medium

Here’s the Gloss finish — it has a shiny finish:

Paper Collage with Golden Polymer Medium Glossy

The shine is only showing up where light hits these pictures, but the whole collage is shiny like that.

Also note: Do you see any wrinkles? While there are some brush strokes, no, you don’t see wrinkled paper! Woo hoo! So far I’ve made many paper collages using this method, without any wrinkles.

In the next post, I share the step-by-step tutorial that shows how to make wrinkle-free collages with Golden Polymer Mediums, and how to use heat from an iron to fuse the papers together. Visit that post to see how to do this yourself!

More Info

If you want learn more:

  • Laura Lein-Svencner put together a useful reference list about various glues and mediums for decoupage and collage. It explains Mod Podge vs. Yes Glue vs. Golden mediums and more. She shares pros and cons like what to use if you want craft vs professional-level results, what glues might yellow over time, etc.
  • Jonathan Talbot wrote an easy-to-understand post that shows how to fuse papers together with Golden Medium and heat.
  • Here is another post about this heat fusing method.
  • Another another post describing the method, along with some pretty and inspirational collages.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of compensation at no cost to you if you purchase after clicking the link. I post affiliate links when I have purchased from the company or used the product, and I can confidently share the company or product. This helps offset the cost of running this blog for you! For more info, see Disclosures & Policies.