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THE SECRET to WRINKLE FREE Mixed Media Collage Backgrounds with Paper Napkins!!
Happy Friday!! Mixed media collage backgrounds with paper napkins are EASY to create and can add a gorgeous pop of color to your mixed media art journal. Today’s video is a FULL LENGTH project, so if you love collage mixed media art & mixed media tutorials - this is for YOU!
I know what you’re thinking about collaging art journal backgrounds with napkins...those WRINKLES!!
Don’t worry - I've got collage techniques that will make your napkins BEHAVE so there is a little texture, and your collage background can PEEK through your mixed media portrait, without taking over your whole art journal page!
Grab your art journal, a beautiful paper napkin, TONS of liquitex matte medium, some gesso, a black stabilo all pencil & come play with me!!
Today I'm working in my favorite Strathmore watercolor journal. These thick, beautiful pages can take anything I throw at them, which today is gonna be a vat of liquitex matte medium!!
If you haven't used paper napkins to create an art journal background - you totally need to give it a try! There are so many beautiful patterns and colors out there! The possibilities are endless. A pretty napkin can also create a no-fail color scheme for your mixed media project if you intend to do a little painting, like I did. Just look to the colors you see in your napkin, find paint shades to match, and BOOM. Solid win!
Napkins can be a bit tricky to work with because they are SO fine. To make matters worse, we need to separate the plys EVEN MORE so we're only working with the ply that has the pattern. If you haven't done this before, just work your nail into the edges of the napkin like I show you in the video, and slowly pull the plies away from each other. Sometimes the pretty napkins are 3-ply, like mine is today. So just watch for this so you isolate only that thin sheet filled with the pattern you love.
When you're ready to glue this down into your journal, I suggest working with liquitex matte medium as your adhesive. I love this stuff because it's super fluid, and WAY LESS gloppy than mod podge for this type of work. Plus, matte medium was CREATED to work with acrylic paint. So if I decide to add a painting layer to this piece, my surface is already prepped and ready to go.
Some people like to try and glue down the whole napkin sheet at once, but I find it's easier to manage and I can control the wrinkles a bit better if I work with smaller sections of my napkin at a time. Your napkin sheet is going to be fragile, so gently tear chunks of it apart.
Now, here is my HUGE SECRET... you need a TON of matte medium to work out the wrinkles that will inevitably pop up while you're gluing. No matter how tiny your ripped pieces of napkin are- you're till gonna get wrinkles!
To combat this, I pour my matte medium directly onto my art journal page and use what many would think is an "uncomfortable amount" of product. If you don't have an uncomfortable amount of it on your page right now- dump some more.
Don't be precious about your matte medium - you want a TON of it both UNDER and OVER your napkin pieces, so they are sopping wet. Any areas that aren't soaking, go back and add more product to. This helps you get rid of any psycho wrinkles trying to creep up!
My SECOND TIP for you to create a wrinkle free surface has to do with your foam brush technique! If you just drag your foam brush around, it's going to be easier for your napkin pieces to tear. Try using a pouncing motion with your brush to tap the napkin chunk onto your paper. This tapping motion will help your under layer of matte medium rise up and soak into the napkin. Watch the video to see what I mean.
After you've pounced a napkin chunk into position, try to systematically smooth the wrinkles out on top. Going slowly will help you not rip the napkin. Trust me! You'll see I rammed through a couple of them too quickly and had to slow myself down. LOL!
As you work around your art journal page, and sections begin to dry - just add more matte medium to edges that try to pop up on you. This will knock them back down.
When I'm done gluing all my napkin pieces down, I use a hair dryer to dry the page instead of a heat gun, because a hair dryer won't get hot enough to ruin my work, and it's faster because of the "blower" part. A heat gun doesn't have that kind of air flow/power so takes longer. And if you know me- you know I'm in a hurry and don't have the patience to watch wet stuff dry!!
I decide to add gesso to the center area of my page because I want to draw a face on top. While the background pattern from my napkin is beautiful, it is too dark and busy to draw anything over. To dial that back a bit, I turn to my gesso.
I have 5 favorite ways I like using to apply gesso and demo them in today's video. My favorite gesso application method for under a face is just using a foam brush or my flat gesso brush. If I want more of an edgy look and want the texture to really pop forward from any wrinkles that do show up in my background, an old credit card is perfect to rake your gesso over the page with.
I also love to pounce the gesso down with a sponge wherever I want it. This is primarily the technique I ended up using today. Then I pulled out my brayer to spread the gesso out a bit further and to draw a little texture into the foreground.
After I hit this with the hair dryer once more, and everything is completely dry- it's time to do a little mixed media drawing! As you'll see in the video, I ALWAYS sketch in my face drawing guidelines. They're too important to skip and will set you up for success.
I start my sketch in regular pencil, then when I'm happy with my lines, switch over to my stabilo to darken my lines.
As you can see, my stabilo lines are actually fairly light. When I hit them with my paintbrush and some water- it's pretty magical, what happens. Look...
Isn't it amazing how easily the stabilo is to activate with water?! It literally melts as soon as my brush touches it, and can be spread around like watercolor. This is one of my FAVORITE mixed media techniques!!
I typically do my stabilo in 2 -3 layers for a drawing like this. After I activate the first layer, I let that dry, then add more dry stabilo marks wherever I feel like there needs to be a little more definition. Sometimes I activate that second layer of stabilo too - it just depends on the look I'm going for!
For the finishing touches, I use my favorite white paint pens- posca and sharpie, along with my pentel pocket brush. Look at how just a few lines of ink from the pocket brush and a couple of dotted white highlights in and around the eyes and on the nose really make her pop!
Look at how the texture of that napkin peaks through, up close! LOVE IT !
In the end, I decided to add some of my Noodler's Ink around the edges in the background to tie into the florals of the napkin together, and I'm LOVING how that looks!!! So fun!
I hope you enjoy this mixed media tutorial / art journal project!!
Thanks for watching!! Stay tuned for Monday's Whimsical Women of the World Portrait Drawing prompt!!
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Founder of Awesome Art School. Mixed Media Artist. Author of 18 Instructional Art Books!
"Karen is flipping hilarious and she's very real...I like the way she teaches in a way that really gives you confidence, whether you're a beginner or advanced there's always something new to learn!"
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