If you've decided your lamp shade is just too plain and boring, but you don't want to replace it with a new one, consider giving the old shade a brand-new look using découpage techniques. According to the National Guild of Decoupeurs, découpage is "the creative art of assembling, pasting and varnishing paper cutouts for decorating objects." If you've never tried découpage before, it can be a good beginner project. Your design options include essentially any shape or picture you can cut out of paper. Practice a design on paper or look at pictures of lamps you like for inspiration.
Cut out the pictures you want to put on your lamp shade, or draw shapes on coloured paper and cut them out. Use sharp scissors or a craft knife, whichever you are most comfortable with.
Hold the paper cut-outs up against the lampshade to decide where you want to place them. You can cover the entire surface with cut-outs or just place a few standout motifs around its perimeter.
Dampen your paint brush with a little water and dip it in P.V.A. glue. Working with one cut-out at a time, paint a thin layer of glue onto the shade and immediately stick the first paper cut-out down. Smooth the paper carefully with your fingers, pushing out any wrinkles or bubbles.
Continue pasting the paper cut-outs to the shade in this manner until you have used them all. Wait for the glue to dry completely.
Paint a thin layer of P.V.A. glue over the entire surface of the lamp shade, covering all the paper shapes. Don't worry about the appearance at this stage -- the glue will dry to a clear finish. When the glue is dry, add a second layer, then when the second layer is dry, add a third.
Potential sources for pictures to use or copy include clip-art programs, gift wrap, old illustrated books (scan or copy them if you don't want to ruin the book), scrapbooking papers and patterned tissue paper. You can also use personal photographs, which you can edit on the computer and print onto regular paper. Change colour photographs to black-and-white or sepia for a vintage look. Consider making colour photocopies of your pictures before you apply them to the shade so that you have spares. If you are using an old lamp shade, wipe it with a damp cloth to remove any dust and debris from the surface before starting your découpage application. Wash and dry your hands as soon as they become sticky, or you risk making a mess on your paper cut-outs when you smooth them down.