Mixed Media Collage

In this tutorial we will learn how to make a mixed media collage. Things we will need:

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1. Acrylic paints (or other paints of your choice).
2. Some brushes.
3. Golden Gel Mediums (you don’t have to use this particular brand, but I find it to be better than other mediums on the market).
4. Gator Foam (a piece of wood will do as well, or hard paper although paper tends to warp).
5. Crafts Roller.
6. Scraps: images, printouts, nicknacks etc. Before doing anything, I suggest gathering your scraps and picking a theme. It could be a color theme, a particular concept, a certain style – pick one. A theme will give your work a more organized professional (for the lack of better words), unified look. I like earth tones and I love red and yellow. Most of my work tends to circulate around these colors. I picked the topic of World War II and the memorabilia of that time. So my theme is pretty much set. Lay out your scraps, see what you like, what you don’t like, what goes good with what. There is no sense in laying out the whole collage, because I guarantee that no matter what you pictured in your head, your end result is going to be different. In fact, I never know what I am going to end up with. It takes a life of it’s own. I lay things out, I play with them, but in the process, I remove images, I add other images, I remove colors, I add colors. At one point I look at it and decide that it’s done.

Before I do anything, I usually paint my surface. I mix the paint with a gel medium to make it a little translucent in case some spots are visible through the images later on. Whether to use use gloss or matte is up to you. Pick a couple of colors or one color and apply it to the surface. I picked red and yellow.

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Don’t try to be perfect. Just slap it on. Wait until everything is dry and lay out your images again just to get some idea of where things are going. Once again, perfection is of no issue here.

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From looking at it I eliminate a few things. The kneeling lady has to go. I don’t like her there. The tanks with the soldiers are not sitting with me well also. I will remove these and save them for some other time. Now before I search for more images, I am going to apply the ones that I definitely like. This will give me a starting point. I applied them using the same gel medium. Gel mediums serve as an excellent glue.

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I applied the picture of a crying girl. I love that image. I always use it. The girl must be about 80 years old now if alive at all. In it’s original format, the photo is black and white. I found some old white sheets and transferred the picture of a girl onto the sheet using the gel medium (I will explain how to do it later). Then I dipped it in colored water and let it dry. Moving on. If anyone is wondering how I got the paper to appear stained and old – I used coffee (Old Paper Tutorial). Take a plate large enough to fit a standard piece of paper. I used a basin because I was making a whole stack of papers and envelopes for future use. Put some water in and dump some cheap instant coffee in it. I put a lot. Mixed it up. Submerge the paper (or whatever you want to color) in the water. How long to keep the paper in the water is up to you. If you want it darker, keep it longer. To get the dark spots, just sprinkle the grains of coffee where you want them. They will dissolve slowly with the water and form those dark spots you see in the picture. I would suggest doing the sprinkling after you take the paper out of the water but before it is dry. Lay it flat to dry and sprinkle coffee on it. If you want those spots a little lighter, just rub it a little with your finger while paper is still wet. Experiment with it. I laid everything out again. I found some new images to use.

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I glued on a couple of more pieces.

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And some more. Don’t worry about not liking what you see just yet. You can always apply other images on top of the ones you don’t like. That will only give your piece more depth.

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Before we continue, I will show you how to transfer images onto other surfaces. In this case I am transferring onto a cotton sheet. I like the way images transfer onto fabrics. Print your image but raise the contrast a bit. I am going to use this image of an eagle. Dip your finger into the gel medium and apply it directly to the image. Make sure to cover everything.

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Flip the image over with the ink side down (you should have the gel medium on the ink side) and press into the fabric. Use a roller and go over it a couple of times. Make sure it’s glued to the fabric.

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Wait until everything is completely dry. Dip your finger in water and start rubbing the paper.

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Use more water if necessary. After a while you should see an imprint start to appear on the fabric. Be careful not to rub off the ink. Continue until all the paper is gone and you are left with the image imprinted on your fabric. Now add some color into the water that you just used and dip the fabric into it. I put a little bit of red color that sank to the bottom.

When I dipped the fabric into the dish, I rubbed it against the bottom of the plate to get some red on the fabric. This is what the end result looked like after it was dry.

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I glued some more pieces on

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And some more images on.

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You can continue with putting more images on or stop right here.

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Cover the canvas with a gel medium of your choice (glossy, matte) to secure everything in place and to provide a coating. And you’re done with your mixed media collage. To see more examples of mixed media collages, check my photography page.

 

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