Floral Wood Tutorial – Using Napkins!

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Hey – im back with a quick blog post about how im getting all those cute floral prints on my furniture and on wood!  Ive been posting ton of pics on FB lately about these fun florals and lots were asking for a tutorial – so here goes!

I saw and bought a piece of scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby months ago when i was working on another project and the print was some faded florals on barnwood and i loved it.  Then i bought some photography backdrops a few months back and it was also the same type of image – and i knew i wanted to recreate it.  While looking at something online maybe about a year ago or so, i had come across someone using napkins to cover a shelf or something and that had always been stored in the back of my brain somewhere – so when i put the two together, napkins and barnwood i knew i could make it look awesome!   Obviously there are 1000’s of tutorials online for mod podge projects, but this is how i do mine :)

Since then, i have been using napkins on lots of projects and i love it!  I love the look it gives and i especially love it over the barn wood – my fav.

Sweet Pickins - Napkins on wood

For this piece – i made some crates out of cedar fencing posts and covered them with napkins….

Sweet Pickins - Napkins on wood

Same concept on this one, napkins on fence posts and then i put it on the back of my new (half finished) hutch….one day soon i will have an entire wall done like this (plan for my daughters room, cant wait!!).

Sweet Pickins - Napkins on wood

On this piece, i used the napkins in a classic way – just mod podged them right on the furniture.


Ok – this is a super simple process but it looks amazing!  Im obsessed with finding fun napkins – the best place i have found them so far is just on Amazon – they have a good selection and shipping is super fast.

These pics are awful – so sorry!!  I was working in the dark garage and didnt want to open up the door for sunlight – to chilly outside!

For the napkins on wood, i just start with some stained fencing slats.  I stained these using my vinegar stain that i talked about here.

Sweet Pickins - Napkin on wood tutorial

To apply the napkins you will need good old Mod Podge and a paint brush.  I happened to be out of mod podge, so i used our SafeCoat thats available in our online shop – it works the same.  I actually liked the SafeCoat better because it didnt dry out so fast.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

And of course you are going to need napkins – i like the larger ones rather than the cocktail ones.  You could also use tissue paper and then you wouldnt have to peel off the plys – i havent been able to find any tissue paper i like though.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

This is the most important step.  Your napkins will be 3 ply – its super important if you want a distressed look that you remove the 2 white sheets behind the printed one.  On most of the napkins, the one sheet will come off really easy, but you  really need to get your fingernails under the 2nd sheet to peel it back.  Throw away the 2 white sheets and your just going to use the printed one.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

After you have peeled your napkin, apply the mod podge to the board.  I tend to apply it a little heavy so the napkin will really get into all the wood groves and so that the napkin is really soaked up and almost looks transparent.  This will make it look more like its printed or painted directly onto the wood rather than just laying on top of it.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

After i brush on the mod podge, just lay the napkin on the wood.  The napkin is thin, but its really not going to tear or break on you and if it does, then dont worry about it because you will be distressing it in the end.  I dont do anything special to apply the napkin – just push down and smooth it out with my hand.  I just make sure to press it into the wood, the napkin will start looking transparent so you will know when its done.  And dont worry if you have wrinkles or creases – they will look fine in the end.  IMPORTANT  – DO NOT mod podge over the top!!  If you do – you will not be able to distress them very easily.  Now – you may not want them distressed for your project and then your fine to go over the top, but in my case, i never mod podge over the top.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

In this pic below, notice all the wood grain showing through?   That gives you an idea of how transparent the napkins become.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

To cut the napkins where they hang over, the easiest way for me is just to use a sanding block.  I just move it up and down real quick over the edge and then just pull off the excess.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

Normally i will end up with a seam somewhere.  If im doing the napkins on wood slats, then im not going to worry about how the seams line up since they are going to be pretty distressed.  But on furniture, i would take my time and line up the seams so the pattern matches up.  Ive also been asked if i use the napkin part that has the little nubbies on it, normally around the edges – and yes i do, they pretty much disappear so i dont worry about cutting those off.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

After the napkins have dried, they look good and could be used like this, but i prefer to distress them, i think that makes all the difference!

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

To distress, i use my trusty orbital sander :)  I just make sure its set on low and then use a fine grit paper.  You can also use a sanding block – but this goes so much quicker!  Whatever you use, just sand until you like the look.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

And after its distressed, it looks like this!!!  Isnt it amazing?!  I want to cover the world in napkins!

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood


Again – use it over wood or cover anything your little heart desires!!  If using it on furniture, i do it basically the same way, except that i do apply some type of protective finish after i have distressed it.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

You can also glaze or dark wax over it to tone down the paper a bit – i did that on this EAT sign…

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

And i couldnt help putting them over this cute lunch box that i painted!

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood

Just one more….this one i made for my soon to be collage wall in my entry way – i love this one!  For this one, i painted the wood yellow 1st rather than staining it – i love how the color showed through.

Sweet Pickins - napkins on wood


And thats it!!  Super simple way to add some amazingness to anything!!

**Edited to add**

A Couple more recent projects done with this technique

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Pantry Door Hutch collage

Sweetie Jane memo board

94 replies
  1. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth says:

    Thank you so much for providing this tutorial! I really want to do this now! Think this might call for a walk to the garage to see what treasures I have which would lend them to some floral decoration.
    Thanks again Miss Pickins.
    Cheers, Liz in Australia.

    • Judy Watson
      Judy Watson says:

      Hi There
      I followed your instructions but when lightly sanded all the tissue ripped off ( I had used plenty of modgepodge and a very light sanding????

      • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
        Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

        Are you sure that you were all the way down to the one ply of your napkin? Also, maybe your sanding grit was too low?

  2. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    I love the look. Definitely going to give it a try.

    You might want to try this tip for removing the layers of ply :

    Roll 2 small pieces of *”Prestik” and sandwich the napkins between the two, then gently pull them apart.
    The top and bottom layers will stick to the respectve lumps of prestik.

    * This product may be called something different in your country, but if you google Prestik you would know what it is. In South Africa it is sold in the Stationery dept.

    Hope this works for you

  3. Rose
    Rose says:

    Love this project. Had seen something similar in a magazine and now I am reminded of how much I like this. Just a question for you. The boards that you distressed in the pictures seem to be on white painted and distressed boards. Or was it just a white background on the napkins that made it look that way?

  4. mari
    mari says:

    Hi! Love this! Where did you get all those gorgeous napkins?

    Tried this on panels on a cabinet tonight, I’ll send you a picture of how it turns out.

  5. peppi
    peppi says:

    i have used paper napkins on everything from furniture to lampshades. i cut out a lot of the images and layer them on. have sold quite a few furniture pieces with this method. do you have a christmas tree shop? that’s where i get my napkins. $1 for 20 and $2 for 40. love this method.

  6. myra
    myra says:

    Hi, I just love this but can’t find any napkins I like but did find some scrapbook paper I like, it’s not super thick, would that work as well?

  7. Michele
    Michele says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. What is your recommendation for the top sealer over the napkins once you are done with sanding??
    Thank you very much. So glad I came across this website. .

  8. Stacy Rivera
    Stacy Rivera says:

    You do amazing work! Could you tell me, how are the wood pieces held together in the picture frames?

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Molly Contos
    Molly Contos says:

    It is clear! I need to quit my job and work on all the projects you have shown. Love them all! You girls,are so clever!!!

  10. Marcia MacMurray
    Marcia MacMurray says:

    I love this idea! I started collecting napkins in different floral designs quite a few years ago..best places to get them were gift shops. Now I know what to do with them!
    Thank you for your beautiful idea!

  11. wendy christie
    wendy christie says:

    Oh my goodness! Absolutely beautiful! Love it, gonna do it on EVERYTHING ! My poor husband is going to be living in a girlie house soon! Thanks soo much for posting, I am sooooo excited ! Second hand shops……here we come!

  12. susano
    susano says:

    Sausha, I’ve been following your blog for a while. I was Googling images of napkins used in decoupage and this post popped up. You have finally solved a problem for me. I have this bench in my mudroom:


    It’s just like that; unfinished. I could never decide what to do with it it. Stain it, paint it, what color, etc. I hate that bench. Then I saw your decoupaged boards and that’s it! I’m gonna do it and it will be awesome, I’m sure. Thank you sooo much for the inspiration and rescuing my ugly bench. I’m thinking stain it, first, so when distressed a darker wood shows through. The Mod Podge won’t make the stain bleed through? When I do it, I’ll send you before and after pics.

    You are so talented and such a great blogger with all of your detailed instructions. I LOVE your site and you, too :)

    • Amanda C.
      Amanda C. says:

      All I have to say is, “Wow!” This is so cool! Can’t wait to try it! I think I’m going to cover a wooden block with a napkin for a cute background for a picture! LOVE this❤ Thank you and God bless!!

  13. theresa
    theresa says:

    Beautiful work im just getting started on all this napkin craze..can you pls tell me what you coat with when your finished your piece..ive tryed with matte finish varnish but i dont like the smell and take to long to dry..is there a non toxic coating in matt finish please..i will be giving all my work the Distressed look as i love this finish.

  14. nicki
    nicki says:

    Do you have a problem with the napkins ripping when you sand them? And also how do you get the napkins to go on smooth? I love this tutorial and the look of the finished product:) Thanks!

  15. karen
    karen says:

    Wow! Thanks, this will look so lovely on a sun porch floor. I’ve done a little decoupage but not with napkins. I’m going to start looking or napkins.

    • Cindy
      Cindy says:

      Karen, did you ever do your sun porch with napkins? I want to do this also to my kitchen floor only I bought tissue paper, any why wanted to know if you like it or not and what was your last step in the process. for protecting all your hard work? I did this process on my kitchen cabinets and LOVE it.

      • Sheri
        Sheri says:

        Did you ever do this on your floors? I’ve been looking to do something unique when I remodel my kitchen and loved this. Would of course space them out and integrate. If so, can you advise as to what steps you took and of course and pics?

  16. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    So I tried this and completely failed. I am not sure what I did wrong. To much Modge podge? My sander completely destroyed it. Tip

  17. Lili
    Lili says:

    What kind of protective finish you use for furniture? I want to do my dinning room table… Thank you so much for your time

  18. Isabel
    Isabel says:

    Sausha, Thanks so much for sharing your expertise. We found your blog with specifics on decoupage using 3 ply napkins on wood about a year ago, used your techniques again and again, and loved the results every time. I reviewed them again tonight before tackling the drawers on a Jacobean sideboard and they really helped streamline the project – four drawers done in less than 2 hours, perfect!!! Truly appreciate your generosity and ingenuity – Bravo!!!

  19. Eileen
    Eileen says:

    I found this – and your gorgeous blog – through Pinterest. Of course, I repinned it. Some great decoupage tips here. The look is just lovely! Thank you for sharing.

  20. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Just wanted to say I love this! Had a quick question though, I modge podged mine let it dry and then sanded it but mine doesn’t look like yours does. Yours look almost like it melted into the wood which is beautiful, I just wondered if I was missing a step?

  21. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Love this! I am doing a dresser and am going to use wax as a last step. Do I need to put something else on top of the wax to seal it as well?

  22. Kathy T
    Kathy T says:

    It looks great. I love to decoupage. Another great source for Napkins is on Etsy. I also like to use Rice Paper. Comes in many patterns, it is thin so it settles into cracks but it more durable than the napkins. You might to a napkin with on a old fashioned vintage pattern. Those are some of my favorite

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      for sure!! I would just either lighten up the stain with mineral spirits 1st to thin it out or test in a small area to see if its going to be dark before applying to the whole thing

  23. Jani Miller
    Jani Miller says:

    Love love love this idea! I have a question: How long do you let the board dry before distressing? I know it has to be super dry before hitting it with the sander! Thank you and I can’t wait try this!

  24. Paige
    Paige says:

    Do you mind answering a question? I’ve googled until my head is swimming! I decoupaged a wooden pallet today with scrapbook paper (a first for me). After it dried, I attempted to distress it lightly. All I managed to accomplish was removing the top of the paper apparently. The paper part is still there but the colorful part is now gone. I’m assuming that you do not distress after using scrapbook paper??? Do you have any tips for distressing after paper (NOT NAPKINS) decoupage? Thank you very very much!

    Your work is so beautiful.

  25. Erin
    Erin says:

    Beautiful!! Thanks so much for the tutorial. Here’s what I did after reading this: https://www.instagram.com/p/BPGFzD0Dbmz/. I’ll put the boards together for a little feature wall. Also, I found all the napkins at Tuesday Morning (so many that I could barely decide on my favorites!) and & Dollar Tree (small selection, but they had a couple nice ones, and cheap!)

  26. jan landis
    jan landis says:

    Love, love this idea but I have a big project…would love to do a runner in my antique shop on the very old and rustic floor…could this work with tissue paper? It would be probably 30′ long by at least 27″ wide and I don’t know whether I can line up that many napkins before I plan to close to do some renovations next month.

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      maybe not enough mod podge or you didnt have all the layers of the napkin peeled off before applying it?

  27. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Does wrapping paper or scrap booking paper work pretty well? I am sure they work but do you have to apply extra modge podge or do anything like that? Thank you!

  28. Sonya
    Sonya says:

    I just did this on a small foyer table top. The hardest part of the entire job was peeling away the 2nd ply. That is what took the longest. I didn’t distress it though because it’s for a friend of mine and not the look she’s going for.

  29. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    So glad I stumbled upon this ! If the wood has a surface finish would you recommend scuffing it first to ensure the napkins adhere to the wood?
    Beautiful idea!

  30. kaye Murray
    kaye Murray says:

    Hi Sausha,just to let you know if you can not find printed tissue paper, you can print your own. You will need an injet printer tissue paper foolscap paper and adhesive spray used for phorographs lightly put a dot of spray i n each corner of the foolscap paper attach the tissue and smooth out , choose the print you want and insert thr foolscap with tissue attached and print. Great results and I muse it all the time when I can not get napkins

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      I would just use a good floor protector. Ive used Varathane in my shop and its awesome.

  31. Carol
    Carol says:

    Have you ever tried rice napkins for this. They are already transparent and come in beautiful prints. I used them to decorate eggs. I can’t remember where I got them though but you might try Amazon.

  32. Terry
    Terry says:

    Hi Sausha, I just did this project, and it worked great…however I used old fencewood that was stained (but weathered gray). When i applied the napkins, the color was perfect, however once dried, the images turned very dark on the wood and weren’t pretty anymore. Should I give the boards a whitewash of paint first next time?


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