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Learn How to Mod Podge for Beginners

If you’ve never decoupaged before or just have some questions, use this resource to learn how to Mod Podge. Includes FAQs, videos, how-tos and more!

Learn how to Mod Podge

Do you want to learn how to use Mod Podge? You can decoupage with Mod Podge – a glue, sealer, and finish. I’ve been doing it for 16 years now and I love it.

This post provides an overview of Mod Podge and how it is used, with FAQs. You should read this post BEFORE you ever start Mod Podging. Learning about this decoupage medium is a good idea before you use it.

I’ll ask you to first watch this video below, then visit my post on how to decoupage.

I also have a YouTube channel, and I’d love for you to GO HERE and watch the beginner videos. Are you ready to jump in? Here’s what you’re going to learn about!

Table of Contents

Learn How to Mod Podge

I’ve compiled a list of 101 Mod Podge uses that I think you have to see before you begin. It’s going to get you excited about the possibilities, and then you can keep these uses in mind as you go through the learning process! The FAQ is below.

About Mod Podge

Is Mod Podge really Elmer’s glue?

No. MP can glue things down, but it is also a sealer and a finish. It has “special” ingredients that school/craft glue doesn’t have.

It’s much stronger than Elmer’s, especially over the long haul. Read this post about why you shouldn’t make your own Mod Podge.

Is Mod Podge waterproof when dry?

No. It is waterbase and acrylic, which is great because that means it’s non-toxic. You can use it with your children without fear. But all these things mean that it’s not totally waterproof

Even the Outdoor and Dishwasher Safe formulas are only highly water-resistant.

If you want to make your project essentially waterproof, I recommend a clear acrylic sealer or resin when your project is complete. Make sure that the final layer of decoupage is completely dry before spraying.

how to use Mod Podge

What is the dry time and cure time for Mod Podge?

It feels dry within an hour, but I wouldn’t hang up a project or use it until it’s been dry for 24 hours. For Hard Coat, the recommended dry time is 72 hours. Since Hard Coat is typically used on furniture, wait for 72 hours before putting anything on the furniture.

Curing is when solvents in a product evaporate and a product reaches its maximum strength. Curing is a chemical process. Even craft paint goes through this process, as does wall paint, etc. This takes 28 days approximately for Mod Podge.

Does Mod Podge have a shelf life?

The experts have told me two years if unopened. If opened, it will be about six months to a year.

Is Mod Podge food safe? Can I use it on a plate?

No, it’s not food safe. It’s non-toxic, but becoming food safe requires a product to go through FDA approvals – not typical for art supplies. You should use decoupage on the back of a glass plate, and then you can put edible items on top.

You can put Mod Podge on the top of a plate, but you’ll need to put a clear glass plate over that before putting your food down.

I’ve heard you can make your own Mod Podge. Is this true?

No. I’ve had more than a few readers e-mail me with a ruined project, very disappointed after having used a homemade formula. Please read the article I wrote about it here.

Can I use Mod Podge with paint?

Absolutely – well mostly. You can use it with acrylic paint, and I highly recommend FolkArt Acrylic Paint as my brand of choice. I do not recommend using Mod Podge with latex paint.

I’ve never tried it, but I have more than a few reports telling me that decoupage medium makes the latex paint bubble up and causes a huge mess. So if in doubt, do a test.

Where can I buy Mod Podge? Where can I buy it internationally?

Mod Podge is available at AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann, Michaels and WalMart. It is also available in smaller craft outlets and even online. has a store locator, but this is for stores that carry any Plaid product. Call to confirm that the store carries the formula you are looking for. And if you are overseas, you’ll want the international distributor locator.

Mod Podge Formulas

What formula should I use for what project?

I wrote a formula guide that you can find here.

I’m on a budget and I can only afford one formula. Which one should I buy?

This is a very hard question for me to answer, because it really depends on the application. But if you have to get one formula, I would get original Gloss if you want a shiny finish or original Matte if you want a flat finish (no shine).

What formula is the most durable?

Hard Coat. I use it for all of my furniture projects.

What Mod Podge is best to use for an area that will be exposed to moisture (bathroom, kitchen backsplash)?

I’d just use the Hard Coat formula with another sealer over the top of it. I recommend Minwax Polycrylic or another brush-on sealer. You don’t want to use a spray sealer indoors.

Is there such thing as colored Mod Podge? Can I tint Mod Podge with paint?

There is no such thing as colored Mod Podge, but you can tint it with food coloring and even paint. You can even create a stained glass look with it. I made these clings that you can peel and stick on glass.

Is Mod Podge Outdoor waterproof?

You can’t submerge an item that’s been Podged with Outdoor for an extended period of time, so it’s not technically “waterproof.” But it’s really, really close.

different formulas of Mod Podge in bottles

How to Use Mod Podge

What tips would you give to a beginner?

  1. Start with a simple project. Purchase a $1 frame and a cheap piece of scrapbook paper.
  2. Have patience. Don’t rush the project. Put the kids down for a nap and take your time. You MUST allow for proper dry time to avoid wrinkles.
  3. Practice. Don’t expect your first project to turn out perfectly. Mine didn’t, and now I can Mod Podge like a pro. Be kind to yourself.

What is your Mod Podging process? How can I get the best results?

You can watch the video in this post, but here are my steps as well. I first prepare my surface by sanding wood, washing glass or tin, etc. I paint the surface with several coats of acrylic paint (if desired).

Let that dry. I cut my paper or fabric to fit the surface – I typically use a ruler and craft knife over scissors to get the most precise fit.

I apply a medium layer of my formula – enough so that it’s visible (white) on the surface. I apply Mod Podge to the surface as well as to the back of the paper or fabric. I work quickly since Mod Podge dries quickly. I smooth the paper or fabric onto the surface and roll out with a brayer.

I let that dry for 15 – 20 minutes, then I decoupage over the top. Let that dry and then give the whole project 2 – 3 more coats. Let dry before using.

How can I prevent wrinkles and bubbles?

This is the #1 question I get – and it’s such an important question that I made this video. The key is using enough Mod Podge during application, and allowing the Mod Podge to dry long enough between layers. Please watch the video for all the details.

PS – sometimes you’ll see wrinkles even if you follow my process, but many times they go away when the project is drying.

My Mod Podge project is tacky/sticky when dry. What can I do?

The Gloss formula is more likely to be tacky – the rule I’ve found is that the more glossy the formula, the more “tacky potential” it has. It really depends on the climate, drying time and a variety of factors.

If you find that your Mod Podged item is still tacky even after drying, just use a clear acrylic spray or brush-on sealer on top. Though Mod Podge is self-sealing, the sealer gives your project an added layer of protection.

Applying Mod Podge

Do I need to prepare a surface before Mod Podging it?

Absolutely! Here’s what you should do:

  • Wood – Sand smooth with fine grit sandpaper, wipe off sawdust.
  • Glass – Thoroughly wash in warm, soapy water to remove dirt, dust, and grease film. Then rinse in warm water and let it dry.
  • Canvas – Wipe primed canvas clean; if unprimed, apply 2 coats of gesso primer or acrylic paint.
  • Plaster – Wipe clean with damp cloth.
  • Plastic – Clean with soap and water. You’ll need to test the surface though as Mod Podge doesn’t stick to all plastics (see the next question).
  • Paper-mache – Wipe clean with damp cloth.
  • Terra Cotta – Wipe clean with damp cloth.
  • Tin – Wash with soap and water, then wipe with a white vinegar dampened cloth if it’s really dirty.

What surfaces can I NOT Mod Podge on?

Plastics. You’ll need to test the plastic first with a small square of paper or fabric. Mod Podge the paper/fabric down and let it dry for 15 minutes. If it peels off really easily, it’s not going to work.

If it is more difficult to peel off, then you should be safe to Mod Podge the item. You’ll still be able to peel off the Mod Podged paper/fabric, so don’t worry about ruining the surface. Items coated with a polymer, like Teflon, are too slick.

Felt. It feels really rough when it’s Mod Podged, plus it soaks in and you have to glop a lot on. Touching Mod Podged felt gives me the yips! This is just personal though – you might not mind it.

I want to decoupage photographs. What do I need to do?

I don’t use original photographs; rather, I make photocopies on a laserjet printer so that I can preserve the originals.

If you want to go ahead and use photos, just make sure to use a lot of Mod Podge, because it takes more than normal. You’ll have to hold the photos in place for several minutes after you apply the Podge, so that they don’t come up.

If you want to make copies or computer printouts of your photos, see the next question.

I want to Mod Podge computer printouts – how do I handle inkjet versus laserjet prints?

Inkjet ink bleeds, laserjet doesn’t. You don’t want to print on photo paper; you should print on regular printer paper because it doesn’t have a coating on it. I use 20 lb. paper, but you can go thicker if you need to.

Read how to decoupage with any printouts for more information.

How thick should each coat of Mod Podge be?

I use a “medium” coat when applying one surface to another. By medium, I mean that I can visibly see the white completely covering the surface.

If it’s clear in some areas before you apply paper, it means the Mod Podge has already dried and the surface needs more.

You are better off applying too much than not enough, because you can always wipe away excess. Not enough will cause wrinkles. The coats to seal don’t need to be as thick. I would use a few thinner coats to seal your project.

How many coats should I apply?

I would use two – three coats to seal a project. You’ll want more coats depending on how much the project will be handled. If it’s a piece of furniture under heavy use, I’d even go up to five.

How should I smooth out paper?

I recommend a brayer and squeegee like in the Mod Podge tool set. The brayer is good for big, flat surfaces and the squeegee gets into corners.

Are there certain types of papers that don’t decoupage well?

Tissue paper and napkins are more difficult. But there is an iron on method you can use that will give you the desired results. Read my post on paper napkin decoupage.

what is mod podge

How should I handle Mod Podging edges of a project?

I always trim my paper or fabric to fit my surface exactly so that I don’t have to mess with overlap. It can be very difficult to trim edges of paper or fabric after a surface has been Mod Podged.

Having said that, you can sand the edges and add more Mod Podge if you need to. Use a nail file or fine grit sandpaper.

How can I minimize/eliminate brush strokes?

Use a soft bristled brush and then sand between coats. To do this, apply the Mod Podge and let it dry an hour. Then use #0000 steel wool and lightly sand the entire surface. Do this between every coat. After the final coat, sand and then spray a clear acrylic sealer to finish.

Can I use a blow dryer on my project to speed up the drying process?

Yes, but keep the blow dryer back at least 12 inches and don’t use an uber-hot setting. You will definitely melt your project or the Podge if you get too close or use too hot of a setting.

Finishing Your Project

Do I have to use a sealer to finish the project?

You don’t HAVE to use a sealer after Mod Podge (it’s self-sealing), but I always do, just for extra protection. Plus sometimes Mod Podge stays tacky in certain climates, so I spray it to prevent that.

Any clear acrylic spray sealer will do (the Mod Podge brand sealers are good) . . . though if an item is going to be exposed to water, you’ll need to use a waterproof/enamel sealer. You can also use resin.

What sealer should I use with coasters or other items that need to be waterproof?

There are waterproof/enamel sealers on the market (ask at your local hardware store). Minwax Polycrylic is amazing for sealing and making Mod Podged items waterproof. Resin is awesome too. Check out our tile coasters.

How do I send a decoupaged project in the mail?

I know a lot of people sell their projects online, and therefore want to ship their items. Read my instructions here for doing it without ruining everything!

Mod Podge Tools

Get my list of essential decoupage supplies here.

What type of brush should I use to apply Mod Podge?

You can use regular taklon or natural bristle brushes found at your local craft retailer. I use a soft bristled, 1” brush in most instances. Sometimes I go smaller, but the 1” brush works for most of my projects.

A foam brush can also be used, but I find that my soft bristled brush minimizes brush strokes.

What is the best way to clean brushes? Do I need to use a new one each time?

You should always wash brushes immediately after Mod Podging. Regular brush cleaner or non-abrasive soap works very well for cleaning brushes. You don’t need to use a new one each time as long as you wash the brushes out thoroughly before anything dries.

Special Situations

I need to send a Mod Podged project to someone – how do I pack it?

I recommend using Glad Press N’ Seal around the entire project before packing it. Wax paper also works, I just like Press N’ Seal because it’s easier to press around edges and round surfaces.

Mod Podge smears my marker/stamping ink. What can I do?

Spray both sides of the paper with workable fixatif (several coats) and let it dry. Paint with a thin layer of medium on both sides, let it dry. Then you can decoupage as normal. It sounds like a lot of steps, but it’s not that difficult – you just have to make sure it all dries.

I actually wrote an article about this very thing here – you need to check it out!

Will my project yellow over time?

Yes, it does yellow over time. But it takes a long time, and it’s very slight. I’ve had things for years that are not yellow.

Good luck Mod Podging! You are, without a doubt, going to love it. And let me know if you have any more questions!!

Learn How to Mod Pod Podge Web Story


Thursday 18th of July 2024

Can mod podge diamond top coat be used if the piece is made on plastic


Thursday 18th of July 2024



Tuesday 4th of June 2024

So I wet the picture and rolled off the paper but there is still some paper on it and if I keep trying to take it off the picture starts coming off as well. How do I do it right


Monday 20th of May 2024

I have a set of pancakes with animal portraits painted on them. I applied 3 coats of mod podge and it all looks fine except . . . I need to straighten them out (flatten them). I know I can use heat to soften them but do not know how much heat is safe. Does anyone know?


Thursday 15th of February 2024

i just completed a jigsaw puzzle and would like to keep it and frame it. How do I apply it and should I do both sides?


Thursday 15th of February 2024

Hi there! I wrote a post about it!


Sunday 4th of February 2024

Hi if you have sealed crushed glass on canvas can you reapply modge podge. And then reseal again? I’m wanting to reapply more crushed glass and glitter. Please help Thank you!