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Decoupage has been a workhorse of the craft world for many years, with its versatility and simplicity. The basic premise of decoupage is very straightforward- cut out decorative pieces of paper and apply them to an acceptable surface with a thin white lacquer that dries clear. That's all there is to decoupage. But the results can be dramatic, especially when using decoupage techniques to create decorative items.

Lampshades are one such item that take very well to the idea of decoupage. They usually have a generous surface to work with, and most lampshade materials take well to the decoupage lacquer itself. When decorating a room to a theme, you might find it necessary to change your lamps to match the new decor. By using some decorative paper and a little decoupage, you may be able to match the lampshade to the new scheme without spending more money on a new lamp. Here's how you can create a new look for an old lampshade using decoupage.

1. First, decide on a theme or color scheme for your new lampshade. If you chose a nautical theme for the room, then you might consider a nautical theme for the shade. Look for wallpaper samples or giftwrapping paper that feature a nautical design, or look through magazines for pictures that match your theme. One caveat is that a lampshade will illuminate from behind your picture, so you don't want to use pictures from a magazine if they have articles or other distractions on the back. If your new decorating scheme has a predominant color, then look for paper or cloth that are in that color, or would provide a good contrast. You want the paper to be thin enough to allow some light to pass through.

2. Cut out strips of the chosen paper or cloth that will reach from the top to the bottom of the shade. You'll be putting these strips together as seamlessly as possible later, but you don't want to create a one-piece 'wrap around' when using decoupage. The process does not do well on large areas. You'll be adjusting the strips to remove air bubbles and other wrinkles, so you want manageable pieces.

3. Make sure the lampshade is clean and dry. Pour out a little decoupage lacquer into a paint tray, and use a sponge brush to apply. Take one piece of the decorative paper and place it face down on a flat, non-porous surface. Brush on a layer of the decoupage lacquer, and carefully lift the piece to the lampshade. (For easier application, position the lampshade at a comfortable angle. You don't want to stretch too far to reach the surface you are working on.) Place the piece of prepared paper or cloth directly on the lampshade, and allow the excess material to hang over the top and bottom of the shade. If you can do it neatly, you might even fold the excess over both ends and hide the ends of the material inside the lampshade. If not, trim the excess off later.

4. Smooth out any wrinkles you may see on the paper. Use a small roller to press out any noticeable bubbles of trapped air. You may need to prick larger bubbles slightly with a pin, then roll out the air inside. When the paper has been placed exactly where you want it to be, prepare another strip exactly the same way. Apply it next to the first piece, and examine for wrinkles or air pockets. Continue applying pieces around the lampshade until completely covered. You may have to do some creative cutting to accommodate the final piece, but it should fit fine eventually.

5. Take a generous supply of decoupage lacquer and start applying it carefully to the lampshade. You want to use short, controlled strokes, going in the same direction and avoiding bubbles. Apply several coats of decoupage lacquer to the lampshade, following the specific directions on the bottle. Some decoupage lacquers create an 'antiquing' effect as they cure, turning yellow and crackling. That may be an interesting effect for your lampshade, but don't use antiquing decoupage if you really don't care for the effect.

Some decoupage enthusiasts suggest that you use a very light sandpaper to smooth out any irregularities you notice and to eliminate brush strokes. You might want to wait until the piece has cured, approximately 48 hours or so from the last coating, to see if you need such burnishing.

You should end up with a lamp that matches and accents your room's decor, and looks attractive in both the daytime and nighttime mode.