Elmer’s Glue Decoupage

I’ve been working on a project for several days.  Not that it was difficult and should have taken that long, but I finished it once, didn’t like it and started over.  It doesn’t make me happy when I feel like throwing something away, but it does when I can just go right over the top of it.  Evidence of failure – gone.

If you’ve ever done decoupage, you probably used Mod Podge or something like it.  If not, you might be wondering why we just stepped back to the sixties.  Decoupage is basically gluing pictures or fabric on an object and then covering it with more glue.  Mod Podge is the glue.  It was created 40 years ago and is short for Modern Decoupage.  If that’s not enough information for you, check out the Mod Podge website.

I’ve used Mod Podge many times.  It works great.  However, I heard you could use diluted Elmer’s Glue instead.  Sometimes you don’t want to buy a specialty product for one project, so I wanted to give it a try.  It seems like we always have several half-used bottles lying around.

I used Elmer’s Glue-All.  School glue might work, but I didn’t test it.  I mixed three parts glue with one part water in a plastic cup.  I did the project twice with about 8 ounces total, and had quite a bit left over.

Then I spent WAY too long cutting pictures and words out of old magazines.  I spread the glue mixture on a terra cotta flower pot, and stuck the pictures on, smoothing down with my fingers.  I used a sponge brush to apply the glue, which is basically a sponge on a stick, but a paint brush would work too.  I continued all the way around until the pot was covered.  It looked ridiculous.  You couldn’t tell what any of the pictures were.  I was now the proud owner of preschool art.

Here’s the good news…you can pretty much decoupage over anything, including other decoupage.  The only exception that immediately comes to mind is anything printed using an inkjet printer.  It will smear the ink. 

The glue mixture did work well.  I think it’s thinner than Mod Podge, so the pictures wrinkled a little, but it wasn’t a bad look on the clay pot.  But I decided since I was experimenting I would try fabric this go around.

I cut some fabric scraps into 1 inch by 2 inch rectangles.  I used the same procedure as the paper, slightly overlapping the fabric pieces as I went around the pot.

When it was completely covered, I went over the whole thing with a layer of the glue mixture. 

I let that dry overnight, then realized it needed yellow fabric stars, so I added those and gave it another coat.  I waited a few hours for that to dry and gave it one last slather of glue.  If you keep the unused glue mixture covered between coats, it won’t dry out.

The verdict:  you can use Elmer’s Glue to decoupage.   The finish seems less shiny than Mod Podge, but I like it.  A spray of clear laquer will help protect it, but you’ll still want to keep it out of the weather.    

When the end of the school year rolls around and your kid brings home that half-empty bottle, give it a try.  Cover something ugly.  If you’re not happy with it, cover it again.  If you still don’t like it, it was already ugly anyway.


15 thoughts on “Elmer’s Glue Decoupage

  1. I would like to point out that, first of all, I’m human. No, this isn’t a thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters. I made a mistake in this post – it’s 3 parts glue to one part water. It’s corrected above, hopefully before any of you tried it!


  2. Hi CraftyStaci, I so like what you had to say here:

    “It looked ridiculous. You couldn’t tell what any of the pictures were. I was now the proud owner of preschool art.”

    LOL! I’m so glad I’ve found someone who is like me! It’s funny how folks get mad at me for telling preschoolers their art looks ridiculous and confusing. I’m like, “What’s the problem? You can’t tell what it is.” They would tell me, “It’s actually really great for what they know.” Whatever. Last time I checked, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, well I’m a beholder who feels their work more times than not displays ugliness and can probably make for a good ridiculous joke – lol.

    I’m not going to lie to them because in my heart it looks ridiculous, shoot. So out of my mouth my heart speaks. Maybe it’ll move them to come up or realize art is just not their forte. It’s best to learn early, right? Hey, there’d be better adult artists in this world if someone was honest with them as a preschooler. There are only a handful of true artists in this world, and well, they happen to all be dead. But I’m pretty sure they became who they were because some adult was honest with them in their preschooler days and told them to cover it up (just like you did in your article – lmao – my point exactly). Honesty pays off in the end.

    Now, I can say that you are right along side me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping my argument with these folks. That’ll shut them up now and stop them from trying to ostracize me like I’m the only one.

    This article was right on time! You so made my day! =)


    • I’m afraid you may have misunderstood me, Ian. I’m actually a big fan of preschool art. I think everyone has the ability to be creative in some way, and if they choose to pursue that it should be encouraged. Maybe everyone isn’t destined for a gallery and a life as a professional artist, but there’s nothing wrong with letting their artistic streak fly anyway. How will we find the great artists if kids aren’t encouraged to try it when they’re young? And by whose definition is art great anyway? I think every single child should be given the opportunity to participate in art of some kind. You are right about one thing – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It would be sad if my view of it was actually that narrow. Kids, be creative, display your art proudly, and don’t listen to the critics!


    • Now this is only the world according to Lisa, but even if in the end it is not what you were aiming for, it’s the process that gets me centered and relaxed and forget the world for a while. If my project does come out right, then it’s an extra thrill.


  3. Thank you CraftyStaci… I do a lot of scrapbooking and often feel that my work looks like a child did it and think “what did I do wrong?” so I get what you meant. I can’t believe how Ian took it and what he said however… discourage preschoolers?! All great artists are dead?! What a snob! Preschoolers rock!


    • Thank you for understanding my real meaning! I didn’t want to delete Ian’s comment because I believe everyone has a right to their opinion, but I wanted to make sure everyone understood I didn’t share that one. I think preschool art is fun, happy and an important step in the learning process!


      • I definitely understood what you meant in your post.. It happens with my projects more often than i’d care to admit!

        I was actually pretty surprised by Ian’s comment.. I’ve never met anyone who would tell a 4-year-old that their artwork sucks and that they should cover it up, or worse, just give up?!? Thats crazy! I really hope this guy doesn’t have kids. And i’m glad you were so honest in your response instead of just trying to be nice. (not that it wasn’t nice, cuz u definitely said it in the nicest way possible!)

        I do believe that some people unnecessarily praise/reward their children for everything (think: the Huggies “First Flush/Potty Party” ads), and spoiling them in the long run. And yes, usually it is good to be honest with kids..

        But when it comes to preschool art, there is no wrong way to do it. No matter what the end result looks like, you get to see an expression of their creativity, and how they interpret something in the world or in their imagination.. A child’s artwork is pretty amazing, IMO.. So their dinosaur drawing might look more like a gummi bear.. What do you really expect from a 4yr old??

        When they get a little older, then you can give them guidance and instruction on how things are done, and in some cases, point out where they went wrong if they aren’t getting the hang of something, but even then i would never criticize someone’s work. That’s uncalled for, rude, and not even helpful.. At ANY age. There are no boundaries in creating art.

        Sorry for the rant, and i realize it’s an old post, i just get carried away sometimes when it comes to the outrageous things people say in the comment sections.

        Love the blog! Have a great day.. Or night!


        • No need to apologize Kaylee – I agree with everything you’ve said here! I have a feeling that original comment was meant to get us all a little riled up, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with explaining how much we disagree with it anyway. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!


  4. Hi!!! Just found your site and was encouraged by your project with school glue! I am just now learning how to make rolled paper beads which I hand illustrate each one (today, 18 various kittens!). But, I have no Mod Podge. I cover each bead with undiluted Elmer’s glue. Works great! I then varnish them with glittered nail polish!!


    • I remember making those beads! My mother-in-law and some ladies from her church taught me how to make them with my leftover wedding programs. I’ll bet your hand illustrated beads are beautiful!


  5. This it’s awesome! Plus your sence of humor made me belly laugh on my patio at 1 a.m lol. I also spend WAY to much time on research and preparing for a protect…

    Ah the life of a crafter!

    Thanks for sharing your tutorial and humor you made my middle of the night! 😉


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