Creating Layers for Mixed Media with Seth Apter

I’m thrilled to let you know that Seth Apter has two brand new Creative Workshop videos: 10 Techniques for Mixed Media Artists, and 10 Techniques for Painting Layers. If you’ve seen Seth’s incredible artwork, you know that he’s an expert at creating layers for mixed media with tons of depth and texture. Wonder no longer how Seth makes his magic—he reveals his great techniques in these videos. Seth joins us with a blog that offers a taste of his unique layering process! ~ Jeannine

Mixed media is all about layering. Creating depth and dimension through the addition of multiple layers is the key to making your artwork dynamic. In one of my new video workshops from ArtistsNetworkTV, 10 Techniques for Painting Layers in Mixed Media, I share my approaches to creating complex, mixed-media surfaces using acrylic paint. One of my favorites of these techniques is translucent layering.

seth apter
In the video 10 Techniques for Mixed Media Artists with Seth Apter, you’ll learn how to make and fill a reference journal with fun techniques such as heat embossing, working with die cuts, and photo altering.
seth apter
Discover ways to add paint to create sensational backgrounds for mixed-media artwork in the video 10 Techniques for Painting Layers in Mixed Media with Seth Apter.

Acrylic paint has multiple properties, both within and across brands. When we’re choosing which paints to use for a project, most of us typically base the decision on color. My go-to palettes are usually blues or browns. To take your mixed-media work to the next level, you can also consider the level of transparency and opacity of your paint.

Simply put, when paint is opaque it fully covers the layer beneath it. When paint is transparent or translucent, you can see see (to varying degrees) the layer below. Transparent paint is particularly effective in creating layers for mixed-media art because it allows you to add color and depth to your work without obliterating the layers you have already created. This is demonstrated in the tutorial below.

Prior to using transparent paint in my work, I create a detailed background to work over.

Working on Canva-Paper by Canson (primed paper with a canvas texture), I added a layer of white gesso. Once that was dry, I added several layers of opaque acrylic paint in a variety of colors. Following this, I added details by randomly stamping background stamps over the surface. For this process, I always use permanent ink pads, such as StazOn® from Tsukineko, so that there is no bleed when I paint over this layer.

You are going to use multiple colors of paint for this technique. I often use colors that are different from those on the underlying surface of the piece. Choose a color to start with, and add 3 or 4 small drops in different places on the paper.

Spritz each drop with water, using a mister. Rub the wet paint into the surface with a paper towel. Even though the color has shifted, you can still see all the detail in the layers below.

Repeat this process with additional colors of transparent paint, adding small drops in different places each time.

creating layers for mixed media

As you do this, you’ll begin to see the level of depth that is building up, and the color shift that’s occurring. You can still see all the detail from the layers below, making this process perfect for mixed-media layering.

creating layers for mixed media

Add these two videos to your library and you’ll never run out of techniques for creating layers for mixed media art!


Seth Apter is a mixed-media artist, instructor, author and designer from New York City. His artwork has been exhibited in multiple exhibitions and can be found in numerous books and national magazines. He is the voice behind The Pulse, a series of international collaborative projects that are the basis of his two books: The Pulse of Mixed Media and The Mixed-Media Artist, both published by North Light Books. He is also the artist behind six mixed-media workshop DVDs, also from North Light. Seth is an instructor at Pratt Institute in New York City, and his live workshops have been held throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and the UK. He is a member of the Association for Creative Industries, and designs products for Spellbinders Paper Arts, StencilGirl Products, Impression Obsession, and PaperArtsy. See more of Seth’s work at sethapter.com.

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Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques

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