Tag, You're It

Posted by Traci Vanover on

Manila shipping tags. On their own, they aren't all that exciting.

They're kinda just vanilla.

Fortunately, the addition of a few magical items from your craft stash can transform these bit players into superstars in their own right.


TIP: - I prefer using the makeup wedges over the Ranger tool for the Distress Inks - but you are welcome to use your tool of choice.

Shipping tags are SO useful, it is well worth splurging on the 1000 count box, and having them on hand. They can be stamped, tea dyed, decoupaged, and I could go on and on. If you prefer to cut your own with your cutting machine and die, that works as well. I do a bit of both - but find I gravitate to these Avery versions out of convenience.

Get yourself a shallow lid or plastic dish (one you won't be using for food) or something similar. We won't be using much decoupage at a time, and there is no sense in letting what you have dry out on you.

The poly brushes are perfect for use with decoupage because they minimize brush strokes, and they have a lot more control than the wider brushes do. They are great for using to cut in detail work in refinishing and other paint projects as well! I use them for so many things that I tend to buy these in bulk and stash them away. I have tried other brands - and they are NOT all created equal! I always come back to these.

For my work surface, I like to place a piece of waxed paper, with the waxy side up (grab these cheap at your local Dollar Tree) - use a piece about 18" long. This will give you a work area, as well as a small place for drying your batches.

1. Separate the plys of your napkins. We only want a SINGLE, printed ply. Most of the nicely decorated napkins from the finer retailers and Amazon have (3) plys, but if you find some as a discount store or Dollar Store, those tend to be (2) plys.

TIP: I like to use my bookbinding AWL to separate the plys of my napkins. The sharp point is perfect for separating them at the corner - and then they pull off easily.

2. Once you have your napkins separated, hold onto those white plys, and tuck them away for another day. They will come in handy when you are decoupaging and want to cover a pesky pattern and use less of your pretty paper. They can also be used for crafty cleanup!

3. When unfolded, your cocktail size napkin will be 4 squares. You may want to lay out a shipping tag on a napkin segment to check placement, and remember that you don't have to place them all vertical, or all horizontal. If your napkin has a larger design on it, you may want to place the tag edge along the napkin edge, then you can wrap it to continue on the back side. There are NO wrong choices! Mix it up a bit and have some fun with it.

4. Once you know what you want to do, lightly dip the end of your sponge brush into your decoupage, and coat a thin layer over the full surface of one side of your tag.

Working quickly and gently, lay your napkin over the surface, and smooth gently with your brush, applying a bit more glue as necessary. Remember that LESS is more. This won't be our only coat here, so take it easy. Set that tag aside, and proceed with your next one, until you have 3-4 finished up and dried.

5. You'll repeat the process on the other side of the tags. Since I typically place my tags along the edges of a napkin, I can usually just fold the napkin over onto the second side. If you can't do that, or don't like the way the design looks that way, just use another napkin segment. Don't worry about trimming them yet - we're going to wait until they are completely dry to do that.


6. If you aren't the patient sort (and I am most certainly NOT), you can always work ahead on some more tags, and just put down extra wax paper to allow them to dry. It is VERY important that before you proceed with any of the other steps below that you check (2) things: the first - make sure BOTH sides of your tag are COMPLETELY covered with a thin layer of the decoupage. You can hold your tag close to a light source to see any spots you may have missed. We don't want any paper exposed. Second, don't proceed if your tags are even the LEAST bit damp or tacky. Put on Netflix, have a cup of coffee, and wait it out. The results are worth it.

7. Next, we want to trim off the excess paper along the edge of our tags. I tend to hold them up in front of a desk lamp so that I have a clear view of the edge, and just trim off the excess slowly, making sure NOT to cut into your tag. Don't worry about the holes. Repeat this process until you have them all sized up.

8. Place a small bit of ink on your sponge and gently rub over the surface of your tag. You aren't going for total coverage here - think about when you see old books at the library. The pages don't age at the same rate. To make our tags look more authentically aged, we want to mimic that effect as much as possible.

TIP: If you'd prefer to match up your inking to the color scheme of your tags (as I did in the sample photo), or even blend a couple of colors together - you'll end up with a completely different, but equally stunning result.

9. Once you've aged and accented your tag surface, you can go around the edges (GENTLY!) and add a bit of color there as well. Another option is to wait until the very end, and use some Distress Paint in a metallic shade to really take these tags up a notch.

10. Now we want to seal those masterpieces you've created. Again, paint a thin coat of decoupage over the surface of each tag (both front and back - waiting until one side is fully dried before attempting the other side). Remember - PATIENCE!

I typically do two coats at the end, as it not only strengthens the tag itself, but it makes sure that your ink work is protected. I let them dry overnight (really, I do!) and then add my finishing touches the next day.

11. Use your favorite standard size hole punch to remove the paper from the center circles on your tags. If you want to ink your edges with paint, this is the point where you would do that.

12. Take your desired ribbon length from your spool of seam binding. I suggest white because it is quick and easy to custom dye your binding to match your project, and it is FAR less expensive than trying to buy all the colors you think you may need. You can use coffee, tea, Distress Inks, or my personal favorite - Glimmer Mist.

If you have a pair of rubber gloves for crafting, I'd recommend using them for this - otherwise, grab a box from the local pharmacy. It is well worth keeping the ink off your hands. Just roll the length of seam binding into a small, loose ball, and hit it with a few spritzes of Glimmer Mist, or a mist of coffee or tea. Work the color through the entire length of the ribbon by rolling it around in your hand, until you have all of it covered. Lay it out on your wax paper to dry.

Once the seam binding is dry, you can thread it through your tags and they are ready to use!


  • great tutorial. can’t wait to try the Jen poly brushes, because so far my decoupage luck with brushes has been abysmal. These disposable ones are a brilliant idea!

    Heather D on

  • Good tip on how to dye seam binding! Thanks ?

    Meg on

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, I wanted to know how to use the napkins.

    Peggy Arenburg on

  • I’m going to love this!!!!!!!!
    Can’t wait to try it. Let’s see got to go get….

    Vicki on

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