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A Guide to Decorating Wooden Furniture

How to Apply Decals to Furniture

© Soak the decal in warm water until the paper backing loosens; then smooth it into place and peel off the backing.

Decals or decoupage can add a down-home, cheerful touch to informal wooden furniture. They shouldn't be used on expensive furniture, but they look right at home on some early American reproductions. And, Pennsylvania Dutch decals or other country-look designs can be very attractive on kitchen furniture or in a child's room. Home center and hardware stores often carry decals, but you'll probably find a better selection at a craft or art supply store.

Application Techniques

A surface to be decorated with decals must be clean; remove all wax and dirt. Decals consist of a painted or printed image on a varnished or lacquered paper base. To apply a decal, soak it in warm water until the paper loosens; then carefully smooth the decal onto the surface to be decorated. Peel off the backing paper. Follow any specific instructions provided by the manufacturer.


If you don't like the effect of a decal, or if it isn't positioned correctly, peel it off while it's still wet, dip it into warm water again, and reapply it. To remove dry decals, buy special decal-removing strips. Soak the remover strip in warm water, as directed by the manufacturer, and place it over the decal to be removed. Let it set for about 30 minutes, or as directed, and then peel it off; the decal will come with it.

Protecting the Surface

To prevent damage to the decals, the surface should be sealed with varnish. Apply the varnish directly over the decals.

You have many options to consider when decorating furniture. Whether you want to add a worn-out look, gold tint, stencils or painted stripes, the key is making sure your materials are compatible and knowing how to use them correctly.

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