2 easy ways to decorate plain shells

Last week I shared the results of my experiments with sealing some plain clam shells saved from a seafood meal in a restaurant.

Today I’ve 2 ideas to decorate plain dull shells and turn them into pretty items you’ll want to display. I’m joining the Do It Over Designers, a bi monthly challenge where I get together with some of my creative friends and we all give something a makeover.

If you’ve read my post about sealing shells then you’ll have already seen the backstory to these rather dull and boring looking clam shells and why I wanted to turn them into something to keep. I saved them after a meal in a seafood restaurant when we were in Canada visiting family last summer. I had sat next to my Auntie Cecile and we both had the pasta seafood dish. At the end of the meal we both simultaneously started wrapping our empty shells up in a paper napkin to take home, laughing about how neither of us could leave anything like this behind because you never know when they might come in for a craft project! Sadly Auntie Cecile passed away at the beginning of this year (I created this heart embroidery design in her memory) so these dull clam shells are the embodiment of a lovely memory and I wanted to do something with them.

So following on from my experiments in sealing these dull shells to make them more glossy and display worthy I was left with some shells that were still rather plain and dull. A perfect opportunity to “do them over” again so I can display them in our home.

I tried 2 ways to decorate these plain shells, let me show you:

Decorating plain shells with paper napkins

It is easy to decoupage pretty much any surface with pretty paper napkins, including shells.

Decoupaging shells with paper napkins is very easy. Separate the layers of your paper napkin so you only have the very thin top layer then cut a shape a little larger than your shell. (You can also cut the shape of paper napkin first and then separate the layers, whichever you find easier) Apply a layer of Mod Podge over the shell then lay the thin paper napkin layer on top. Press down lightly all over and then leave it to dry. At this stage the less you fuss the ultra thin napkin the better, if you touch it too much it can easily tear. Sometimes it can be helpful to cover your hand with a plastic bag or plastic wrap to smooth the napkin.

Once it’s completely dry give it another coat of Mod Podge then leave this to dry again.

Take a pair of sharp scissors or a craft knife and remove the excess paper.

Paint your shell white first if you want a lighter brighter effect.

Decorating plain shells with paint pens

Paint pens make decorating objects with paint SO easy, especially if you like simple patterns made of dots and line.

To decorate your plain and dull shells with paint pens all you need to do is give the paint pen a good shake, dab the nib on a piece of scrap paper to get the paint flowing and then start dabbing dots onto your shell.

You can plan your design in advance on a piece of paper or just wing it and see what happens. I opted for the later and just dotted and dabbed until I was happy with the design.

You will want to leave a few minutes between each colour to let the paint dry or you’ll risk it smudging.

Make your designs as simple or complicated as you like. Once your design is finished you can seal the shell using one of the methods I tested out before if you want to.

I added my decorated shells to a decorative bowl. This bowl holds an eclectic mix of sentimental bits and pieces; mostly shells we have collected over the years from holidays, a couple of hag stones (there has to be a better name for them than that!), some beads, a wooden darning egg that used to be my nan’s and a decoupage Christmas ornament. My pretty new shells fit in perfectly.


Now let’s take a look at the other projects that my creative blogging friends have been giving a new lease of life to with the Do It Over Designers challenge.

The Apple Street Cottage

Birdz of a Feather

Exquisitely Unremarkable

Little Vintage Cottage

Purple Hues & Me

Southern Sunflowers

Sum of Their Stories