How to Make a Collage: Getting Started

Collage is probably my favorite artform. I like paper collage, fabric collage, and mixed-media collage. I think it’s my favorite because collage art gives me the chance to use pretty much every supply in my studio. Plus, I just love cutting and gluing.

how to make a collage art by jenny cochran lee
Collage art by Jenny Cochran Lee.

In fact, with so many possibilities for how to make a collage, getting started can be kind of overwhelming. Sometimes I have to really focus, narrowing my choices to a particular color palette, mood, or theme.

If you’ve never made a collage or if you are so overwhelmed that you find it difficult to get started, you may find the strategy I’ve outlined below helpful.

1. Get inspired. What inspires you? Flowers? Architecture? Texture? A color? Snap photos, cut out pictures, draw images that inspire you. Collect swatches of fabric or paint chips. Lay paper or fabric on top of a grid or brick pattern that inspires you and take a rubbing with a crayon.

2. Keep a sketchbook. A sketchbook can be an actual paper book that you draw, write, and glue in; it can be an app that allows you to capture images and drawings; or it can be a simple folder you stuff with ideas, drawings, and your swatches. When you sit down to create your collage, you’ll have your source material in one place.

how to make a collage art by julie fei fan balzer

3. Choose a substrate. When you’re getting started, you may want to choose a piece of heavy watercolor paper or a canvas board on which to create your collage, rather than a stretched canvas. But it’s your choice. The point is to choose a substrate that you find easy to work with and that doesn’t seem too “precious.” You should feel free to experiment.

4. Assemble supplies. You can incorporate just about anything into a collage, from natural materials, to fabric, to found objects. But for the basics, you’ll want at minimum: found papers and other ephemera; a clear-drying adhesive such as matte medium; scissors made for cutting paper; coloring agents and tools such as markers, paints, colored pencils, and brushes; baby wipes or a damp paper towel; and your inspiration materials.

5. Play. Lay down a background of papers or paint. Cut and glue images. See what happens when you  overlap images. Try painting over areas and wiping off some of the paint. Draw and write on your collage. Walk away for a while. When you come back, assess: Is something missing? Is the collage balanced? Don’t be afraid to collage over something you don’t like or cut out parts and use them on something else. Everything you do will teach you something valuable.

Another way to get started with collage is to follow someone’s example. Artists like Jenny Cochran Lee and Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, for example, not only make wonderful collage art, they are talented and enthusiastic teachers who can show you how to relax and enjoy the process while learning easy collage techniques.

Collage art and wisdom from both artists is included in our new Exploring Collage Starter Kit. This kit, available only in March, has been curated to contain a variety of fun supplies,top instruction, and exciting inspiration at a budget price. Whether you’re just getting started with collage or are looking for more collage ideas and supplies to play with, the Exploring College Starter Kit will stimulate your creative senses.

P.S. What’s your favorite collage inspiration? Leave a comment below.

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Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques

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