Using Decorative Papers

If  over time, you find you or the kids have created a whole stack of decorative paper, it can be a problem what do you do with it all. Personally I find it really therapeutic to create decorative paper – there’s no (entirely self-inflicted) pressure to perform, and quite often when I’m creating it, I have no end purpose it mind, so they just get added to the collection, then when the time comes that I need some, the resources are there, ready and waiting.

Of course the range of uses for these is endless, and you could just as well use commercial papers if you don’t have any of your own, but there is something especially satisfying about using your own unique papers that no one else has.

However, if you find you don’t have anything to hand and really don’t want to buy anything specially, consider using any colourful or printed material you have to hand and that you no longer need, for example:

Old magazines, leaflets, posters and advertising material. (I could also add books here, except that personally I cannot bring myself to cut up a book!!)

Old postcards and greetings cards, maps, packaging materials, e.g. sweet wrappers, sheets of old wrapping paper, envelopes, – the list goes on!

So here are just a few ideas to get you started for using some of those materials in creative work. These include some of my own projects, and related inspirational books (affiliate link).


For Lining Paper

Some of the oldest uses for traditional decorative papers could be found in the book, box and furniture trades, where they were frequently used for lining, for example on the bottom of drawers, or the inside of boxes and chests. Old marbled and paste decorated papers can often be found in these locations. 

Use it also to provide a decorative mount for a photograph, or another piece of artwork.

For Book-Making

Decorative papers can be used to back the exterior of books, line the interior, or very beautiful and inspiring books can be created by using decorative paper for the book pages themselves.

For Gift-Wrapping

This is one of the more obvious uses for decorative papers, but extends beyond wrapping paper to creating cards, gift-tags, decorative boxes, gift-bows and bags.

For Collaged Artwork

Collage is of course an artistic discipline in its own right. It’s great for instilling confidence in creating artwork amongst those who feel they cannot draw and therefore cannot create worthwhile art, and has a long and distinguished history from the paper cut-outs of Matisse, to the photographic collages of pop-artists in the 1960’s. 

Artwork of this kind can have an added dimension (literally) by creating layered or textural pieces created using torn edges, crumpled surfaces, or even full-scale dioramas

For Paper Sculpture

Paper is the perfect medium for making decorative mobiles. It is also effective for making puppets, and of course for origami. From paper weaving to paper flowers and paper cut dioramas, the sculptural possibilities of paper are endless… For the books, click on the image to explore further or purchase.

For Home Decor

Decorative papers are perfect for making Christmas decorations – everything from the humble paper chain, to more sophisticated decorations for hanging can be created using cut and folded paper. Even the simplest of shapes can be especially effective with a beautiful home-made paper.

Other ideas for uses around the home, include as a decorative mount for photographs and other artwork, to creating your own wall decals, and to provide decorative shades for lamps and lanterns

For Jewellery

Ranging from creating paper beads, to folded origami, paper jewellery may not sound especially lasting, but a coat of protective varnish can make it quite robust. Paper can of course also be mounted in glass or embedded in resin to make it more permanent. Click on the images below to explore or purchase.

For Decoupage

Overlapping slightly with collage, I am referring here specifically to the technique of decorating a 3 dimensional item with decorative papers. It is most suitable for very thin paper that will easily mould to the shape of the item it is being used to decorate.

For Stationery

Perfect for creating your own unique cards, envelopes, bookmarks, writing paper, etc.