Let's Get Your Creative Juices Flowing!!!
Creating a mixed media collage background is SO MUCH FUN and happens to be the first layer of my signature mixed media process called the Hamburger System.
Recently I received an email from a viewer asking me WHAT materials work best for collage backgrounds. I have hundreds of ideas, but here are my TOP 20 FAVORITES to use on canvas OR in my mixed media art journals!
Do you love collage or have always wanted to try it in your art, but aren't quite sure how to do it without making a HOT MESS? You need my FREE Hamburger System cheatsheet.
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My Hamburger System series on YouTube has been watched by over 140,000 people and even became a book, available on Amazon.
I LOVE starting my mixed media canvases and mixed media art journal pages with a layer of collage! There's something so simple and relaxing about this process that connects me with my inner child. It's honestly pretty brainless and kinda serves as an art warmup to get my head into a creative space.
Collage is also one of the BEST things to do to bust through creative block whenever it strikes (and trust me- it hits ALL of us).
Here are my TOP TEN favorite mixed media collage materials. Make sure you scroll down and watch the video to see TEN MORE ideas and watch a super fast mixed media collage tutorial I think you're gonna love!!
I LOVE a good scrapbook paper pad. This is the perfect collage material for people who have a hard time picking papers that go together and those who might be in a hurry or feeling lazy who just wanna grab and go!
With scrapbook paper, the work has already been done for you because EVERYTHING in the scrapbook paper pad only features colors and patterns that go together. All YOU have to do is pull out your favorites and start ripping.
Scapbook paper even tells you exactly what color paints to use for your acrylic layer! It's awesome :)
Make sure you click over to the video to see the mixed media collage examples I show you of how I incorporated scrapbook paper into BOTH the background and foreground of a mixed media portrait on canvas.
Phone Book Pages
This adorable mixed media fox painting was originally done on an upcycled record jacket I found in a thrift shop. I used the record jacket as my canvas. If you look closely at the pillow I had made of this canvas, you'll see some type in the background. Those are just phone book pages! So simple, right?!
Sheet music collage is a favorite of mine, super cheap, and beautiful to use in both the background and foreground of your mixed media art.
You can either turn an old book of sheet music from a thrift shop into an altered book art journal or rip old sheet music into collage pieces like I did below.
Isn't it beautiful how the music notes peak through the skin tones in the painting?
If you wanna create the piece above with me, it's one of the projects in my Mixed Media Magic book over on Amazon. Check it out!!
I LOVE a vintage dictionary! The really old ones have a yellow tone to them and rip SO easily for collage. They also have a distressed look to them already because they're old. I think these are fun to have peaking through the background in a mixed media face, or to use strictly in the background. Your options and endless (and SO CHEAP) here!
This art deco mixed media portrait project is available at Awesome Art School as a stand-alone project if you'd like to create along with me!
Lots of people don't even think of masking tape as a collage element, but it's weirdly a perfect surface to art upon and creates a lovely texture to your art. It also accepts gesso, acrylic paint, and all the mediums you would typically reach for to create mixed-media art.
Look closely at the piece below and you'll see some subtle, horizontal lines from my masking tape collage layer.
You can totally use TRASH as a mixed media collage element. Hilarious, right?! I've enjoyed using beer bottle labels (I love to collect these when I travel), foil candy wrappers (shown below), discarded tissue paper from a gift, you name it!
See this project being made in my cereal box art journal or create along with me.
I once found this pretty fabric with an adhesive backing to it that peeled off like a giant sticker. I used that to create the background of this fun Bathtub Babe in my cereal box journal. Don't be afraid to think outside the box with the collage elements you choose!
Washi tape is SO fun to use in mixed media collage. I love how there are SO many fun colors, patterns and thicknesses of washi tape. I use it a lot like how I use scrapbook paper. Sometimes it's strictly in the background. Other times I've used washi tape in the foreground as hair or clothing (like the tutu below) and it looks SO awesome!
Washi tape doesn't always adhere the best, so you'll want to go over it with a sealant to keep it in place.
Maps are becoming SO old school now, but they can be such a fun way to create an art piece based on a place you visited or want to visit. In this one, I have elements from a map of Inverness, covered them in gesso, and went to town.
You may not even know this, but duct tape comes in SO many fun patterns now!! I've used this kinda like I use washi tape- in the background or foreground.
In this Mixed Media Retro Girl project, I carved out my entire girl so I could use this fun camper duct tape for her clothes, shoes and hair. So cute, right?!
Just a quick warning on using duct tape as a mixed media collage element - it's super glossy, so can be tricky to paint on top of. Just make sure you seal it so the paint doesn't peal off when you're done.
This is only HALF my list!!
Make sure you click over to watch today's video to find out what my other TEN mixed media collage elements are. I KNOW there are some you haven't considered yet and just might love!!
Need more resources to get your creative juices flowing?
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I LOVE creating mixed media collage backgrounds using vintage book pages! They're EASY to create, and SUPER CHEAP because you can upcycle old books from your local thrift shop for next to nothing. Today’s video is another FULL LENGTH project, so if you love collage mixed media art & mixed media tutorials - this is for YOU!
What inspires you with creative ideas for your art projects? I'm often inspired by objects in my environment!
Today's project all got started with a glance at my 1950s record player that hangs out in the corner next to my studio. See it there to the right over my shoulder?
Before we continue, super quick announcement: All product links are Affiliate. I may earn a small commission if you choose to order through these links but by law there is never any additional cost to the consumer for doing so. I thank you for your support!
From the record player, my thoughts wandered to my collection of vintage books reserved for collaging mixed media backgrounds!
I totally LOVE thrift store shopping and digging around in used book stores in search of vintage dictionaries, old ledgers, magazines, books of sheet music, and books written in different languages! I find these pages look AMAZING in the background of my mixed media art - just peeking through whatever I paint or draw on top!!
When you're looking through this stuff for your own collage art - just bring home the ones that have pages with a super matte finish. These are the BEST for collage. The pages in these old books are super fragile and easy to rip. They're also really porous, which means they're gonna soak up whatever adhesive you want to throw at them!
Some people might be horrified by me tearing up old book pages, but I don't feel bad because I'm breathing NEW LIFE into them by collaging art backgrounds! Plus, I only upcycle books and magazines that are in really bad shape- without a cover, with missing pages- stuff that is mostly garbage to other people.
Your supplies for today's mixed media project are all pictured above. I'm working on wood canvas because I LOVE a hard surface when I'm doing collage art. A regular canvas has some "spring" to it, and that's not what I need here - I need a stable, sturdy surface that I don't have to be precious with.
I've also got my liquitex matte medium, my distress stains, stamps, a vintage magazine to upcycle as my collage paper, and my How to Draw Art Deco Style books out because I need a little more inspiration and direction regarding where I want this project to go!
I'm feeling the need for something sparkly, but don't know what it is yet, so plan to flip through the section on sketching jewelry.
Before I do that, I rip some chunks out of my vintage magazine. I feel like the sections with images are going to be too distracting, so steer clear of those parts. I also love using the CORNERS of these pages because then I have some nice hard lines to line up along the edges of my wood canvas.
Make sure you're using tons of matte medium under and on top of the chunks you're gluing down. If you don't use an "uncomfortable amount of product," this is how bubbles and wrinkles appear in your collage. Sometimes that effect is fun, and it's a personal preference too. Some people love that look, others don't. Using lots of adhesive under and over the collage paper is just one of MY TRICKS to keep the background as smooth and wrinkle free as possible while still showing a bit of texture.
Wondering WHY I'm using matte medium instead of mod podge? TONS of students ask me this all the time, so if you're new to me be sure to check this reference out!!
If I don't have a clear plan as to where a project is going (which I totally don't right now!!), I reach for matte medium as my adhesive because it's strong and specifically formulated to work with acrylic paint. Since I often paint with acrylics over my collage backgrounds, matte medium is my go to.
As I continue getting my collage layer together, I begin thinking I might like doing some painting with fountain pen inks on top. Since these perform much like watercolor, I decide to pull out my absorbent ground to add a thin coat of this in the center of my collage. Absorbent ground preps any surface that isn't watercolor paper to accept watercolor or fountain pen inks. It's SO magical!!
If you're not in the mood for watercolor or inks [SPOILER - OR if you watched the video already and saw I didn't actually end up using watercolor OR inks!!] - skip the absorbent ground and grab your gesso instead.
All we want to do is add a thin layer of white to the center of our collage so we kick all those words into the background. We still want to be able to see them, so if you're following along, keep your layer transparent. You just want to be able to work ON TOP of the words and bring whatever becomes your subject into the foreground.
Once I'm finished adding a thin layer of absorbent ground to my wood canvas, I use my hair dryer to get the area completely dry. Next, I move on to the stamp portion of the project because I'm in the mood to add a quote!!
While I'm thinking about sparkle, I suddenly get the idea to add ACTUAL BLING to my project, and feel as if I'm 5 years old again. LOL!
I taught kids FOREVER and have a TON of leftover supplies like these craft gems, pictured below. Some of them have adhesive backs. The big ones need a glue gun. I have THE BEST TIME sifting through the gems and working out a color scheme in my mind. In no time, I'm on a roll, and moving on...
By the way, if you haven't thought of this already, this is THE PERFECT ART PROJECT to do with a daughter or GRANDDAUGHTER!! Can't you just see her eyes lighting up as she hunts for the perfect gem for her canvas?!
I LOVE IT!!
After I stamp out the bulk of my text, I play around positioning my main gem, then start drawing in a winding chain so it looks like the necklace is casually lying on my wood canvas.
Then I pencil in the main word from my quote... SPARKLE, and add even more tiny craft gems along my chain for added interest.
You can use whatever you want to add detail in the chain and to the words of your quote. Paint pens and pitt pens would be great!
I end up falling in love with the look of a gold paint pen and keep that up throughout my piece for chain detail and to highlight the main word of my quote.
How CUTE is that?!
I used my distress ink stamp pads along the edges and borders to give the piece a bit more of a vintage-y feel and think it adds a fun frame.
My finishing touch is to run my blending stump under the chain line of the necklace to give it a little shadow and depth.
So love it, and so know exactly who I'm giving this to!!
I hope you have as much fun doing this project as I did!! Be sure to share your work in our Facebook Group. I'd LOVE to see what you created!!
Thanks for watching!! See ya next week!!!
Turn plain SCRAPBOOK PAPER into an AWESOME Collage Background for Mixed Media ART!
Scrapbook paper backgrounds are my GO TO for the mixed media art I create on canvas or in my art journal! Before I get into WHY - I want to show you some of the effects you can achieve with various types of collage material - in case you're new to the world of collage or creating mixed media backgrounds!
In the pic below you'll see a closeup view of one of my favorite mixed media collage projects from my book, Mixed Media Magic. See the wrinkly, raised bumps of texture? That happens when you collage with NAPKINS in your bottom layer!
Some people LOVE this kind of texture in their art (I'm one of them!!). From a distance, the texture in the background is very prominent. You can see the wrinkles and bumps from my napkin pieces. This is a look I was going for on purpose in this particular painting.
Some people aren't into this bumpy goodness, and that's ok! YOU do YOU!!!! In case you're one of them... here's what collaging with TISSUE PAPER can do in your mixed media art backgrounds!!
See the typewriter words smack dab in the middle of her face? That is a ripped piece of tissue paper! Tissue paper will give you a transparent effect in your collage, which I also LOVE!!! You can definitely see there are some bumps and wrinkles up close, but it's more chill than using napkins like I did in the previous piece. From a distance, the tissue paper texture is VERY understated...
The next example I'm going to show you is a piece I started with a collage layer of torn scrapbook paper pieces!
Look closely at the background of this mixed media girl painting. You'll see there are 3-4 sheets of scrapbooking paper that were collaged into my first layer of this canvas. I like to rip palm sized chunks from papers that have the same color scheme going on. It's SO easy to find matching colors with an assortment of patterns because ALL the craft stores sell these giant books of gorgeous sheets with repeating color schemes that are totally designed to be used together!
Personally, this is my FAVORITE collage material because you really DON'T get any wrinkles at all! This type of collage creates a smooth surface that is PERFECT to paint on. That doesn't mean it will create a "boring," or texture-less background.
Take a look at this painting close-up! As you can see below... there are pretty subtle, raised edges from each chunk of scrapbook paper I used. And I have to say, I'm OBSESSED with this look!! I really feel like it adds a layer of sophistication to my art. You can achieve some VERY rich, complex backgrounds that really pull your eye around the piece as a whole, and make it interesting to look at- both from a distance, and up close!!
In today's mixed media tutorial, I've got a FULL-LENGTH, FREE art lesson for you!! I'm showing you my EXACT mixed media collage process using scrapbook paper so you can play right along with me at home.
I find this process works amazing on canvas boards, wood panels, or as an art journal page or spread. It's a little harder to do on pre-stretched canvas because the middle of a pre-stretched canvas isn't super sturdy, so you have to be a bit more gentle.
When you do collage work, you add a lot of pressure to whatever surface you're working on, and I don't want to be precious about anything- so I reach for something like a canvas panel, because it's more substantial (AND they are super cheap!!).
Here is your supply list for today's project:
Go grab your supplies and meet me over on YouTube to get crafting with me!!!!
CLICK HERE or press the play button below when you're ready to start!!
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Founder of Awesome Art School. Mixed Media Artist. Author of 18 Instructional Art Books!
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