Reader and friend, Aims of Big Blue Barn Designs, sent me this idea for flame cutting decoupage napkin paper on wood. She thought it was suitable for many of my laser cut wood blanks. But little did she know, the little pyromaniac in me would have a fun time with it. 

The video she sent shows Debbie of Studio MD demonstrating how she burns very thin paper to speed up the decoupage process of her intricate craft wood project. Trying to cut out so many curves in a larger item is a pain, hence the lighter! I chuckled at her delightful and astonished expression when she saw how well it works. 

She actually used printed tissue paper as well as paper napkins. She had great results with what she used. So I decided to try the technique with paper napkins. 

Some basic safety tips -  fire extinguisher or bowl of water nearby just in case.  I also worked on an old baking sheet to protect my surface. Trimming the paper as much as possible reduces the amount of easily combustible material or any flyaway lightweight embers. Use decoupage glue or some kind of white glue like Mod Podge. Do not use spray adhesives. And do not use the butane lighter other than a flame source - not a good thing to use it to poke at things as Debbie does in the video. The lighters are made of plastic which could easily crack with stress. 

I used a couple of different shapes from my laser cut wood collection - a simple round shape and a more involved maple leaf shape. First sand the wood pieces.

I like to brush off the dust with an soft paintbrush.

I then painted the backside each piece with acrylic paint.

I bought some paper napkins. 

Paper napkins come in 2-3 ply, so the layers have to be separated. There is usually stipples along the border which keeps the plies together. 

I found it easier to separate the layers if I first cut away this stippled area.

Then peeling off the top layer becomes a lot easier. 

The next step is to decoupage cut out sections of the paper onto the wood. I used Mod Podge satin but you can also use other water based glues like Decoupage glue or even Elmer's white glue. Avoid spray adhesives as these are flammable and not great to have around with a lighter!

It's very important to trim off any excess paper as much as possible. The reason why this technique works is because the combustible part - thin paper - burns off quickly as the fire quickly runs out of fuel and without getting hot enough to ignite the much more solid wood.  That is why Debbie found using solid paper much scarier to use! 

A simple long stem butane lighter works well. Or you can use a match - just be careful.  Touch the paper with the flame and let the little fire do its thing. Keep applying the flame as you work around the piece.

Contrast the above to a situation with excess paper. The flare up is much greater!

See the flaming process on my video:

The untrimmed experiment was a mess!  There was a lot more light ash which floated around - a fire hazard if it was still glowing and landed on something combustible.

I did get some scorching on the trimmed pieces as I reapplied the flame in places where the initial attempt was not successful. The scorching is much more obvious in small pieces compared to a large craft wood project. But those areas can be covered up with the finishing touches. 

I then painted the edges of the wood to cover up any scorch marks.

Sponge painting the edges to the front and back adds to the distressed style. Also covers up any slight scorching.

Once the paint was dry, it was time to seal the pieces.  I used either more Mod Podge or resin (Brilliant Resin from Little Windows.  Discount code : BG1516)  The thin paper covered up the holes. So I re-poked with a bead reamer to open the holes up again.

I also opted to add resin over the rose earrings which looked much lighter than the actual napkins.  

Other brands of napkin paper and printed tissue paper might well have different results.

The earrings are or will be in my Craftagems.


I used  my iPhone 8+ for final product photography in natural light. I used  the Orangemonkie studio which comes equipped with LED lights - for artificial light photography in my windowless basement studio. The Foldio2 Plus is excellent . I use the Foldio3 because I need the room for tutorial photography. 

My online class Easy Guide to Smartphone Jewelry Photography is now available. Read more about it here.  

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM