Easy Stencil Trick for Mixed-Media Collage Backgrounds

Is it possible to have too many mixed-media collage techniques in your bag of tricks? I don’t think so. Especially when it comes to backgrounds for collage.

Mixed media collage with stencils by Mary Beth Shaw
Collage art background made with stencils and magazine pages. By Mary Beth Shaw.

The technique below, from the book Stencil Girl: Mixed Media Techniques for Making and Using Stencils, looks laborious, but it’s actually quick and easy. Author and artist Mary Beth Shaw writes:

“This project uses stencils as rubbing plates underneath magazine pages. And it is indeed magical how quickly you can create a seemingly complex background.

“I selected my pages from decorating magazines and have found that some pages make better rubbings than others. Play around until you find out what works best for you.”

“These backgrounds are so fun and easy you’ll find yourself tearing pages out of magazines and saving them for later use. In one work session, you can make a bunch of rubbings at a time to build a supply of collage elements,” she says.

Sanded Stencil Background for Collage Art
By Mary Beth Shaw


  • Magazines
  • Stencils
  • Sandpaper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Palette knife
  • Canvas board, matboard or any flat substrate
  • Gel medium or collage medium (such as Pam Carriker’s Mixed-Media Adhesive)
  • Paintbrush
  • Craft knife

1. Select some pages from a magazine. Lay a page on top of a stencil and sand the magazine paper lightly, using the sandpaper. The outline of the stencil image will show through. Experiment with fine-grit and rougher sandpapers to see which effect you like best. Sand enough pages to create a series of horizontal strips that will go across the board. Carefully tear the pages into strips.

Sanding with stencils for collage art | ClothPaperScissors.com
Making backgrounds for collage gluing strips | ClothPaperScissors.com
Trim the edges of the collage background | ClothPaperScissors.com
From top: Lightly sand the magazine images
over the stencil. Affix the strips to your
painted substrate. Turn the board over and
trim the overlapping edges.

2. Mix up a background color that will coordinate with your magazine pages and paint the board. This is just in case your torn strips don’t line up sufficiently.

3. Using gel medium or collage medium, adhere your sanded strips to the board.

4. Allow the collage to dry, then turn the board over and trim the excess paper from the edges with a craft knife.

Now, you can screen print a focal point onto your background or add more collage designs.

P.S. What’s your favorite stencil trick? Leave your comment below.


Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques


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