Updated: 13-Mar-2021

Napkins are perfect for decoupage on wood. When you apply Mod Podge to napkins and distress the design with sandpaper they become translucent revealing hints of the natural wood grain below. This would enhance any wood but it was just right for the secret window I uncovered in my kitchen.

The rickety old kitchen in my 200 year old cottage had to be replaced and this was an opportunity to expose the original stone wall. I had been told that at some time in the past a previous owner had made a serving hatch from the kitchen into the lounge. At a later date the serving hatch had been blocked up with wooden boards and was now used as a storage cupboard.


As I removed layers of MDF I discovered that the “hatch” was in fact the original stone window.


I decided to restore this feature leaving the wooden boards in place. I decorated the wood with decoupage to create an original niche.

Materials you will need

  1. The greatest impact on the effect achieved is the choice of napkins. After a long search I chose a design with a bold repeating pattern and a pale uncluttererd background. These napkins can be lined up alongside each other particularly well as they don’t have a separate border pattern (all napkins do have a textured border but this disappears when Mod Podge is applied).


    Caspari White Blossom Paper Luncheon Napkins, Pack of 20
    available from Amazon UK

  2. Mod Podge is the ideal glue for napkins decoupage as you can use it to do two jobs. First use Mod Podge to affix the napkins to the surface and then as a sealer coat over the top for a protective finish. I prefer matte when creating a distressed look.


    Mod Podge Matte 16 oz
    available from Etsy UK

  3. When applying Mod Podge it is important to use a foam brush. This avoids the brushmarks that are produced with an ordinary bristle brush. I have learned this lesson the hard way!


    Foam brushes
    available from Etsy UK

  4. (Optional) You may also use a brayer to smooth out any wrinkles but I found a foam brush alone was just fine. Some people protect the sticky napkin with a sheet of cling film to help avoid tearing while smoothing them out – this may be more of a problem with low quality napkins.

  5. 7 easy steps to create decoupage on wood with napkins

    1. Before beginning make sure the surface is smooth and dust-free.

    2. Give the wood one coat of matt white paint and allow to dry according to the directions on the tin.

    3. Sand the wood all over to remove some of the paint and highlight some of the grain.

    4. Prepare enough napkins to cover the area. Napkins comprise two (or in some cases three) layers of tissue, the pattern on the top and a plain backing layer. Separate the top layer of each napkin and dispose of the backing (napkins peel apart easily if you start in one corner).

    5. Using a foam brush apply Mod Podge to the wood. Work in sections.


    6. Place each napkin in position on the glue-covered wood. Try to lay the napkins flat but do not worry about wrinkles as these will add to the distressed effect when sanded.

    7. Carefully apply another coat of Mod Podge over the top of each napkin. This makes the napkin more translucent and dries to a hard protective layer. As you apply the Mod Podge, use the foam brush to smooth out the surface. At this stage some people use a layer of cling film and smooth the wrinkles with their hand, but that is optional. Continue until you have covered all the wood. Leave to dry overnight.

      Napkins decoupage edges

      Do not cut the napkins to fit the area you are working on. Let the edges overhang until they are dry then carefully tear them off and sand to create a natural soft edge.

    8. Sand the surface in a random pattern to reveal more of the grain and distress the napkin pattern. The surface is now hard so you can use a medium grade of sandpaper.

      Wood-decoupage-distressed result

    9. Give the wood one or two coats of protective varnish. Matte or Satin will enhance the distressed look.


    Rember that the aim is not to cover the wood but to complement it with a translucent pattern. I hope you like these results!

    Yes, that is a cooker hob in front of the niche… I am a messy cook so I will need to cover the space with a museum-style sheet of glass to act as a splashback. That is a project for another rainy day.

    A floral pattern adds a little bit of nature to your home. If you like this idea you will find other pointers in the ebook.

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