Homemade Mod Podge vs The Real Deal :: Which Works Better with Autumn Leaves?

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Homemade Mod Podge vs The Real Deal Face Off

When I was working on my fall crafts book, one of my editorial feedback team members suggested I include the recipe for homemade mod podge as an alternate to real mod podge in the leaf doodling activity.

I almost did. I’m all for homemade—especially when it works well.

But I hadn’t tested it myself and didn’t have the time then (this was the eleventh hour, as I remember, and I was scrambling with last minute edits and formatting) and so decided to leave it out.

I promised myself that I’d try out the two versions side by side as soon as possible, though. And that’s what I wanted to share with you here. The test and the results. Homemade mod podge vs the store bought mod podge. So here we go…

Homemade Mod Podge vs Real Mod Podge 01

First, of course, we did another round of leaf doodling and drawing. I picked up a fresh pack of metallic sharpies and Maia, Daphne, and I each drew on autumn leaves that we had pressed and dried.

Then I started the big face-off.

We’ve used store bought mod podge to preserve our leaves in the past. It helps restore the vibrant color to the leaves and makes them shiny and supple. Would homemade mod podge do the same?

Homemade Mod Podge vs Real Mod Podge 03

First, I mixed up a batch of the homemade mod podge.

Here’s the recipe:

1 part white school glue + 1 part water

This homemade version has been all over pinterest. I was sure I had pinned it myself, but couldn’t find the pin. I know I saw it and intended to try it.

Using a foam brush, I spread the homemade mod podge over one set of the leaves.

Homemade Mod Podge vs Real Mod Podge 04

And I brushed the real mod podge over another set.

Homemade Mod Podge vs The Real Deal Face Off 2

The glue mixture beaded and didn’t stay on the leaves well, as you can see on the left. The official mod podge coated the leaves thoroughly and stayed on.

Homemade Mod Podge vs Real Mod Podge 11

Once both sets of leaves were dry, I flipped them over and repeated the application of homemade and real mod podge on the backs. And let them dry again.

So, how did they compare? Let’s see…

Homemade Mod Podge vs The Real Deal Face Off 3

Homemade mod podge (shown on the left):

  • Matte leaves
  • Color unchanged
  • More supple than before

Real mod podge (shown on the right):

  • Shiny leaves
  • Vibrant color restored
  • Supple and flexible


The store bought mod podge definitely produced the results I was after with the leaves. I wanted to preserve the leaves and make them colorful, shiny, and not so brittle when handled. The glue/water mixture didn’t change the look of the leaves at all. What was surprising to me (since the mixture didn’t seam to stay on the leaves) was that it made the dried leaves more supple. I could bend them without breaking off pieces.

Is it worth using the glue/water just for the suppleness? It’s not worth it to me, but maybe it would be to someone.

There are other considerations to think of, of course, besides the look of the leaves, such as cost (homemade is definitely cheaper) and eco-friendly ingredients (I can’t find an ingredients list for the mod podge, but it’s smelly which makes me think less eco-friendly), but since the homemade mod podge didn’t perform in this case, I don’t think we need to get into all that.

Homemade Mod Podge vs The Real Deal with Autumn Leaves

So now we know. Homemade mod podge may work well for paper decoupage, but I’d stick with the store bought stuff for preserving autumn leaves for decor or craft purposes.

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  1. Lori N says

    I have read, in other reviews of homemade Mod Podge, that when used on paper it might look fine in the beginning, but it doesn’t age well.

  2. says

    I’ve used homemade on leaves before but I used a lot less water for my homemade mod podge so that might make a difference.
    I use just enough to make it spreadable with a brush but it is still thick like mod podge. So more like 1 part glue to 1/2 part water.
    Our leaves just started turning so we have to try the sharpie idea thanks!

  3. Carrie says

    I’ve actually seen a VERY different recipe for homemade mod podge and wonder if that one would work any better?

  4. katie says

    Thanks for the comparison ( and staying true to yourself and not including the recipe since you didnt test it out prior) !

  5. Sandie says

    One thing to consider is that real Mod Podge is waterproof and the home-made is not. May or may not matter…depends on the project. As an art teacher I have used both.

  6. says

    I should try again with less water! Also, MaryAnn Kohl e-mailed me to say that regular elmer’s glue and elmer’s school glue work differently and that she gets wonky results with the school glue sometimes. That’s what I used — wonder if it would work better with the plain old elmer’s glue? I need to do another test!

  7. [email protected] says

    We are doing this tomorrow.

  8. says

    I’d love to see this, too! I saw a recipe a couple of years ago that had glue, water and a water soluble varnish in it. Now I can’t find it online.

  9. says

    Great review! Some people think Mod Podge is Elmer’s Glue and water . . . it’s absolutely not. Also Mod Podge is waterbased and acrylic, so it’s safe. Just as safe as Elmer’s. ;D

  10. says

    Just discovering this article now and so glad I read it. I, too, have seen the Pinterest pins and felt guilty for not making my own when Mod Podge is so expensive but now I can feel justified buying Mod Podge. ;)

  11. says

    I love that you shared your test data and results here. A very helpful post for anyone tempted to try out the homemade version on their leaves. Definitely adding the link to my own tutorials. Thank you!!!

  12. Susan says

    Wonder what would happen with the glue if you used glaze instead of water? Think I am going to try it and see what happen.

  13. Roxann Winter says

    Jim, do u know if outdoor mod podge is really different than regular? Absolutely necessary for craft which will stay/be used for outside purpose? Thanks! RW

  14. Christina Nelson says

    I use regular Elmer’s, not school glue which is washable so is a lot more water soluble, and use about a 2/3 to 3/4 glue to water ratio. If you add some clear WATER SOLUBLE Polycrylic to the end product, it’s quite remarkable.

  15. dawn says

    I use regular elmers glue as well, no water. That seems to have the same results as the store bought Mod Podge.

  16. says

    Try using a standard pva glue from the hardware and adding just a little water, this works as well as modge podge alternative and is a LOT cheaper, also check out a product called paverpol from paverpol.com. great product.
    I have also seen a homemade recipe using 1.5 cups flour, .25 cup granulated sugar with 1 cup water and , some vinegar and a drop or two of vege oil, not sure how much vinegar, I suppose it is there to provide anti bacterial protection, will have to test this. More oil, more shine apparently.

  17. says

    yup, use regular Elmer’s glue. And definitely less water! I just add enough water to thin the glue to a brushable amount.
    That said, I have only used this homemade modge podge on paper. I didn’t have yellowing issues (I did this a lot as a kid/teen), but I only kept things for a few years, usually.
    I didn’t know you could buy modge podge until the last year or so when I really got into crafting websites.

  18. Lauralee Hensley says

    Read on other pages that if you want that recipe you gave above to have a glossy finish you have to add in about 1 tablespoon of clear varnish to the mixture. Never tried it myself though.

  19. Hippie_Hart says

    Found out the hard way.. Mod Podge is NOT waterproof when dry :) Do not use Mod Podge thinking it will waterproof your item… and in high humidity areas, it will get tacky even after its cure time!