Customize a bookshelf by adding a colorful accent to the back panel. 

Step 1

Disassemble Shelf

The easiest way to refinish the back panel of a freestanding bookshelf is to remove it, and refinish it while the panel is lying flat. Sometimes, this back panel is simply clipped in place behind the shelf. Other times, you might find that you need to remove the top of shelving unit in order to slide the panel out. If your shelves are built-in or the back panel is not removable, you can follow this same tutorial by trimming tissue paper to size for your specific needs.

Step 2

Trim Tissue Paper to Size

Tissue paper is inexpensive, light weight, and easy to install. It comes as large sheets that are often 36” wide, which is conveniently large enough to cover the width of many shelving units. Choosing vibrant colors and patterns in decorative gift wrapping tissue paper allows for a custom look. Measure and trim your tissue paper down to size, leaving a small overhang to allow for shifting. Be mindful of how sheets need to overlap if patterns are on the paper.

Step 3

Make Decoupage Paste

You can make decoupage paste by mixing equal parts white school glue and water. Mix them together with the tip of your paintbrush, and use the brush to apply the mixture to the surface of the back panel. If you’re seeking a less permanent approach, you can also wrap the tissue paper over the back panel, using clear tape to hold it in place.

Step 4

Apply Tissue Paper to Wet Decoupage

Align and lay the tissue paper over the paste while it is still wet. Smooth wrinkles in the paper, if any, as you press the paper into place. Using a soft towel over the tissue paper helps to prevent tears. 

Step 5

Trim Away Excess

Allow the paste to dry before you attempt to trim excess paper from around the edges. A utility blade or roller blade is perfect for gently triming excess paper from the edge of the panel. 

Step 6

Add a Top Coat

Mix another batch of decoupage paste – equal parts water and white school glue – and use the paintbrush to evenly apply it over the tissue paper to seal the surface/. This will provide a clear extra layer for durability and shine.

Step 7

Reassemble Shelf

Once the top layer is dry, reinstall the shelf backer in the bookshelf, and decorate to suit!