Sunday, June 10, 2012

How to Decoupage a Suitcase

I picked up a vintage Samsonite briefcase and another "off" brand case while on my junk run this weekend.  I'm not always sure what I'm going to do with them, but it never takes long to be inspired.  

It was the vintage school workbooks that became my muse.  I picked these up at "the digs" for mere change.  The pages were showing signs of old age, browning along the edges, but the nostalgia I felt when I spotted them was just too strong.  I had to rescue them.  I knew I'd have to figure out how to incorporate them into a project or risk losing them completely to the process of disintegration.  I'd had such luck with the last suitcase I decoupaged, so I thought I'd do the same with these two.  

I'm including the directions on how to decoupage a suitcase for anyone out there who might be inspired to try it out.  It's very simple,
even a non-crafter can be successful with this project.  

STEP ONE:  Gather together hard-side suitcase, craft brush, selected paper to be decoupaged - I'm using vintage school workbooks pages, a craft straight-edge cutting tool, and some decoupage mixture - I use Mod Podge.  I prefer the matte finish to the glossy as brush strokes don't show up as much after drying.

STEP TWO:  Using your brush, spread the decoupage mixture onto the surface of your case. Work in a small, manageable area so the mixture doesn't dry before you attach your paper. 

STEP THREE: Apply torn paper to the gluey area and brush with a thin layer of decoupage mixture.

Repeat until the desired surface is covered. I decided to cover both front and back of one case and just the front of the other. 

Allow decoupage to dry completely.  Read product directions to get specific drying times.

As you are working the edges and corners, just take your time and know that you will trim any overhanging paper when the decoupage glue is dry.  

Helpful Hints for Tackling Corners

Corners can be tricky, but they're certainly not impossible.
Through trial and error, I've discovered a few techniques to get corners covered neatly.

The "U" shape:  Tear a paper scrap into a rough "U" shape.  

Align the bottom of the U to the bottom straight edge.

Position the "U" shaped uppers in place.

If you have a gap, create a tear in the curve of the "U."
Position one side of the tear in place...

position the other side overlapping the torn piece.

The "Pie" or "Vermont" shape:  Tear a paper scrap into a rough "Pie" shape.  Use the original straight edge of the paper at the wide bottom of the "Pie" shape when possible.

Position the torn paper with the straight edge aligned to the straight edge of the case.
In the example above, you see that one side of the "Pie" is actually straight.  I positioned this right at the center of the corner. 

Glue the top of the "Pie" in place.  

If/When a gap is formed like the one above, 

make a small tear in the center of the gap.

Glue one side of the gap down, then glue the other, overlapping to avoid bubbles.

The Long, Narrow Strip:  Tear your paper into a long, narrow strip, retaining the original straight edge the length of the strip when possible.

Using the existing straight edge of paper, align it to the straight edge of your case lid.  

Wrap it along the edge around the corner of your case.

Glue in place.

The "Bunny Ears":  Tear you paper into a "Bunny Ears" shape.  Retain the existing straight edge of the paper at the base of the "Bunny Ears" if possible.  

Align the straight edge of paper to the straight edge of the case.  The "Bunny Ears" should straddle the corner.

Fold over and glue down each of the "Bunny Ears."

The "Long, Skinny Finger":  Tear your scrap of paper into a "Long, Skinny Finger" shape retaining the existing straight edge of the paper at the base of the finger.

Place the straight edge of the paper along the straight edge of the case lid centering it right on the corner. Glue in place.

Fold over and glue the "Long, Skinny Finger" in place.

STEP FOUR:  Using your craft straight-edge cutter, trim any overhanging paper.

STEP FIVE (if desired): Create an adornment for your case using a shipping tag, scrapbook paper, string, and a button.

Use or display your funky chic decoupaged case.

All photographs taken by Paulette Rodriguez.


  1. How long did this take... Start to finish excluding drying time?

  2. To just do the decoupage? less than 1 hour. The only thing that takes time is finding the case and the paper you want to use to decoupage. This project is very easy. I love it because it is forgiving; it's hard to make a mistake. Drying time is surprisingly fast, especially in this Texas heat.

  3. Love the project! Wondering if you need to finish with some sort of sealant if you're actually going to use the suitcase, and not just for decoration? Thanks :)

  4. I use one of my cases as a sewing box. It gets used quite a bit and the Mod Podge seems to keep the case protected - no nicks, dents, or scratches. I also use one of my cases for my laptop. It gets knocked around a little as I take it to and from school in the back seat of my car. Again, no scratches or nicks. The Mod Podge seems to be enough protection.
    Not sure if I'd be willing to hand any of my cases over to luggage handlers, though.

  5. Thank you for the reply, Paulette. I think that I'll try making some of these as unique display pieces in my soon-to-be antique booth. The worst that could happen would be that I'd need to display them in the how-not-to-do crafts department.. lol

  6. those are some amazing looks! I really love to use hardside luggage when I travel. I like the idea of giving it my own personal touch.

  7. I love your suitcases! I have some old, vintage luggage that was my grandmother's. I am absolutely going to do this to my pieces! I can't wait!

  8. I just made my first one last night. It was so much fun and I loved the way it turned out. I had problems with the corners though and keeping all the glued papers flat with no wrinkles. No matter how many times I went back and forth to push out the air bubbles, sometimes it still happened. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know! Maybe it adds to the vintage look, I don't know. :-)


  9. Marion, that's not an unusual experience. As the paper dries, it will shrink back up and smooth out the wrinkles. I find that if.when I use large scraps of paper it's more of a problem then when I use smaller scraps. Also brush the Mod Podge over your paper very thinly, repeating layers between dry time. Because I'm in Texas and our sun is intense, my dry time is very short. If you live in a more humid climate, you may need to allow extended dry time.
    As far as the corners go, through trial and error, I have figured out that using smaller paper pieces work best. I will try to take some pictures to show you how I "work" the corners. They definitely are the most difficult part of the project, particularly if they are very rounded. Hope to have the additional pictures up later today. Thank you so much for your comments and questions.

  10. Paulette,

    Your right. Now that it dried overnight it's not as bad. There are some wrinkles but it's ok. Some of the paper I used was larger pieces so it was definitely more challenging. I will try smaller pieces on my next luggage. Can't wait to see your pictures.


  11. Another you sand and seal your luggage? I read somewhere that sanding with 400grit sandpaper is a good idea to get rid of any streaks from the glue. Some people spray with a sealer, but is it necessary?

  12. GREAT tutorial! Wonderful upcycling ending in cool, classy items that I would love to give or receive!!!

  13. Hi, I always dip my bits of paper in water first, then glue. This helps with the bubbles and wrinkles. Also aids moving the piece around. :-)

  14. Do you use any sealer when done in case of water.

    1. Lori, I don't seal my cases with any other product. The 3 or 4 coats of decoupage seems to provide enough lest for my needs. Most of my cases are used as display pieces, or sewing box, etc. though, so I don't know how they would hold up to water or rugged use. I do, however, use one of my cases as a laptop case, and it has held up beautifully despite being deposited in the trunk of my car and on the floor of my office.

  15. I love your cases! I think you're right though....the hardest part is waiting to find the right papers you want to use! I've done some cases, and I have a few more here I want to do the outsides of.

  16. Great post.I'm glad to see people are still interested of Article.Thank you for an interesting read...

    Nexus 5 Case

  17. Hi this article is really helpfull as i have a suitcase for display my handmade jewelry. My issue was should i paint it and how....but love your decoupage idea better. The only difference is I'll be using something colorful.....but i will follow all your procedure. Thanx a lot and God Bless all my fellow Crafters ������

  18. thank you for showing what you do with the corners...
    always had trouble with them

  19. Now I'm going to redo an old suitcase and use it to store some of my vintage lp's! Thanks so much!

  20. This is really an awesome article. Thank you for sharing this.It is worth reading for everyone.

    Nexus Mobile Cover

  21. I'm in the process of doing deco on a train case. I've taken all or most of the cards that I've received from my daughter thru the years; cutting flowers, butterflys, ribbon, etc out and decopaging to the case as a keepsake for her. Along with a few of the messages from some of the cards. It's looking really pretty an colorful.

  22. Thank you very much for the detailed info! I really needed the basics. I'm going to try this for my granddaughter.
    Mary K.

  23. Just on the hunt for some vintage suitcases now. They seem to be a little be more$ than I thought! My parents tossed a set last year and I didn't grab it- I'm so stupid!! Any ideas other than eBay where I can find them and how much they should be? I'm looking for the cosmetic case and a small suitcase (samsonite, hardcover). I also thought I could use a tackle box for makeup. Any thoughts?

  24. Best tutorial ever! You covered all the basics, possible issues and final master pieces...PLUS lots of pictures for the visual artists like myself. THANKS so much!


I welcome your comments. It may take a little time for your comment to post. Thanks in advance for your patience.