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And all this to decorate a small, heart shape box. Below, a brief photo tutorial with a short description ‘how-to’. For further advice, tips etc. please ask in comments.
Hope you’ll like this lil’ project of mine!

Stage I
The box was painted quite thinly with acrylic, blueish grey paint. Peel off stickers in a shape of a rose on a stem were arranged around the edges and firmly pressed down to avoid being lifted by the next coat of paint. Next, I used antique white paint plus several ink pads, baby wipes and liquid bitumen to distress the surface. The stickers are still staying put at this stage (It’s actually a pretty cool effect as well if used for monochromatic stuff – just paint over the stickers, frames for example, with the same colour as used for the background).

Using tweezers (a tip of a craft knife would do, too) I lifted and removed the stickers. What I had was a greyish rosy pattern for me to trace with a relief paint. You may do wonders with relief paint if you practice for a while. I definitely don’t have any paining, artisty talents, so I needed a little help on putting down the rosy design for my box. Well, some are able to draw roses like this without any prior sketching… certainly not me 🙂

Just  a small tip: overdoing acrylic paint = wet cardboard = dents and breaks 😦 ). I would actually start any paper mache box project from ‘sealing’ the box with a thin layer of paint. Thinly applied gesso primer is obviously working here as well. You can mix it with acrylics for a chosen shade.

Further distressing, applying, wiping off, applying again and wiping off again with a) fingers, b) wipes, c) paper towels. Distressers: obviously – bitumen (since the relief paint was silver I wanted to turn down the shiny in the rose :), metallic rub-ons, ink pads (love adding colour with them – hassle free use, easy to wipe off if you don’t like the effect. Often use brown/dark chocolate/pine cone etc. for darkening the edges of a box.

The bottom right shows rub-ons and some shadowing round the yellow rose paper cut-out (decoupage paper).

Place your motif (napkin won’t work – it’s too thin and thus fragile, unless you’re working with 3 napkin layers and bigger pieces) that is cut out from a paper print out (laser printer) or a decoupage, wrapping (other 🙂 paper and smudge’ round the motif, perhaps lifting it a bit in some places to add depth with a darker tone.

And finally, a proper piece of decoupage, at last – gluing 🙂

Any transparent, quite stiff piece of foil (e.g. a document file), Ocaldo craft glue (so affordable, so good) and kitchen paper towel are my tools for gluing down larger, non napkin, motifs. Picked up of course from the best in this craft business :). Thanks guys!

I always apply lots of glue, for paper thick like this at least 2 layers. These are thinly applied, the excess is absorbed by the kitchen towel when pressing down quite firmly but briefly with your palms. You want to make sure the paper piece will not lifted when varnishing at the end, or when further distressing to make the motif as if ’embedded’ into the box a bit more.

2 step crackling medium:

First step coat (the thicker the coat the bigger the cracks) was followed by the second step coat. At first milky, the first coat becomes transparent in time (everything from 30 min to 3 hours, depending on how thick the coat is). The box was left overnight in a dry place for the cracks to appear. Don’t rush it with a hair dryer, it may spoil the cracks. Let the second coat dry for several hours. Don’t fill in the cracks when it’s still sticky to fingers as the bitumen will dissolve the coat.

Filling in the cracks with liquid bitumen:

Apply the bitumen liberally onto the cracked surface. Using wet wipes remove the excess, be careful not to go over the same spot twice (bitumen plus wipes may wash off the cracks revealing the sticky coat underneath, and from this it only gets messier and messier). Also, only use clean part of each wipe. Work fairly quickly. Let it all set for a while.

Seal the cracks with polyurethane varnish (I use the spray version – look for it in any paint/hardware store). Applying acrylic varnish to 2 step crackle will make the coat crack even more and you will never get a smooth finish. Hence, sealing with polyurethane (use outdoors though, as it has a nasty smell).

Finish off with several layers of regular acrylic varnish or a couple of glossy varnish for decoupage by Maimeri. I haven’t tried Mod Podge yet, but will soon get the outdoor and the mat version and let you know whether it beats Maimeri products.

Et voilà!