Here is a desk that I applied paper on. I first painted it with junk gypsy paint. And then I sized the wrapping paper on to the drawer fronts. I cut it jagged and then applied with modge podge. I then did some sanding so it would look old and torn. I then applied dark wax so it would age it.
The top of the desk I sanded down first. Using 80, then 120, then 220 to smooth it all. I then put on a wood conditioner. Then I used general finishes gel stain, java. It is a gel stain, easy to use. I applied the stain with a sponge brush. On larger surfaces I use a white foam pad with a knee high over it to make sure everything goes on smoothly. But on small surfaces a sponge brush works just fine. I think I did 2 coats on this desk. Follow the instructions on the can for drying time. I sealed the stain with gel topcoat urethane. I think I did 4 coats of the urethane. I apply the urethane with sponge brush. The gel urethane is always what I use on top of the gel stains. It is so easy to apply and doesn't show all the application markings as some acrylic sealants do.