I am not one to pronounce that I have the BEST way of doing anything.
You could call it nice, Midwestern humility or you could (more accurately) call it lack of confidence.
I just feel like the second you say “I have the best way” of doing something the natural next step is for someone to say “there is a better way.”
But despite that, when Christopher asked me how I avoid wrinkles in my Mod Podge projects I thought to myself “I have the BEST way!”
I didn’t invent this and it’s not really earth-shattering or anything but I don’t see it mentioned very often. (Also when, long ago, I included it in the steps of a tutorial people kinda freaked on me so I thought perhaps I was just making things more difficult.) But I’ve been doing this for years and years and it works really well for me every time.
For the purposes of this tutorial I’m just going to make one of my 6×9 patent signs.
Here are the basics of what I used
- Matte Mod Podge (in a squeeze bottle – explanation below)
- Laser Print Out of my graphic
- Roller tool (totally optional)
- Foam Brush
- Paper towels
and what is my big secret!?
a bowl of water.
Yeah, I wish it was a more exciting reveal too but what can I say? It works!
OK to lay some basics out.
Printing: For this to work you must have a laser (or toner based) print. Ink jet prints wont work. I have a laser printer at home and for larger print jobs I go to Staples or Kinkos.
Paper: For most of my work I use Staples Brand Laser Paper, bright white 28lb. But I have also used just plain copy/print paper and all kinds of commercially printed paper like scrap book paper, wrapping paper etc without any problems.
The only paper that hasn’t worked? Tissue paper (too thin) and cardstock (too thick).
Matte Mod Podge: This is the formula I use to stick things down. There are a lot of different Mod Podge formulas and I use may of them but I almost always start with Matte
Squeeze Bottle. I do a lot of Mod Podging. I mean A LOT. Every day a lot. So, I find it’s easier to just pour the Mod Podge into a squeeze bottle. It’s quick, simple, neat and I can control how much Mod Podge I use and I waste a lot less. (side note, I lost the cap to the squeeze bottle several years ago and it doesn’t seem to make any difference!)
Water: Soaking the paper in a shallow bowl of water for just a few seconds lets the fibers of the paper relax a bit which makes it much easier to smooth into place.
So, here what I do and the order I do it in for all my Mod Podge Projects.
1) Squeeze out the Mod Podge onto the surface of the wood
2) Drop the image into the water.
3) Spread the Mod Podge around in an even layer.
4) I pull the paper out of the water and (sorry I couldn’t take a picture of this) holding the paper in my left hand I use my right index and middle finger to gently remove any excess water. Just a couple of swipes.
5) I then lay the paper down on the wood and smooth out with my fingers. There is also plenty of slide-ability at this point so I can move the image around until I get it where I want it.
6) Once the paper is in place I use the roller to get rid of any air pockets.
The roller is a very recent addition to my arsenal and I only use it for larger items like this. For years I just used my fingers and that’s all I use on things like my coasters.
7) I then use a small section of a paper towel to lightly wipe away any excess water or Mod Podge.
8) Once the whole thing is thoroughly dry I go back in and trim away any excess paper and apply whatever sealing coat I’m using (Hard Coat Mod Podge, Gloss Mod Podge etc).
Soaking Time: I let the paper soak just as long as it takes me to spread the Mod Podge around – so maybe 10-20 seconds depending on the size of what I’m doing.
I’ve seen advice to let the paper soak long enough that it curls up and then uncurls. I find that makes it more prone to tearing – esp if you’re working with basic printer paper.
Sometimes my paper does curl up a bit but it I just smooth it out when I apply it to the wood.
THE ONLY DOWNSIDE
The only downside that I’ve found with this method is that as the paper relaxes it sometimes expands a little bit. That’s only a problem if I’m working on an inner surface (like a tray or the inside bottom of a box) and I have to be super precise.
Aaaaand……. that is my big secret! Soak the paper in water for a few seconds. It may take a few trys before you get the method down but I would say it works and works beautifully for me about 99% of the time.
I hope that’s helpful to you when next you Mod Podge. If you have any questions fire away and I’ll do my best to answer.