Creative Prompts and Ideas for Getting Started Making Collages
By Cate Prato, Cloth Paper Scissors Today editor
Collage is one of the easiest ways to get started in mixed-media art. At its essence, collage is about putting pieces together in an artistic way by cutting and pasting (or cutting and stitching). But with some creative collage ideas and a set of basic materials, you can quickly expand your collage art repertoire to include found objects, paint, textures, stamping, and fiber.
Basic Materials for Mixed-Media Collage Techniques
Look around you: you probably already have the materials you need to get started making a collage, even if you don't have a lot of "art supplies." In her Cloth Paper Scissors Workshop™ Collage Fast & Furious, mixed-media collage artist Julie Fei-Fan Balzer offers this "List of Stuff You Already Have" as a starting point.
List of Stuff You Already Have for Collage
Other supplies you might want to add include:
To make this beginner collage project, Karen Michel's "Use Up Little Bits" collages from Collage in Color I, and get more ideas for collage prompts, just keep reading.
Beginner Collage Project
Now that you have some materials together, you'll want to learn how to make a collage.
Karen Michel's tutorial for making miniature wood block collages is a terrific way to start, because each piece is a mini-collage. This is also a terrific collage technique for experienced collage artists, because it's a fun way to use up the little bits of this and that you have collected.
Note: If you don't want to use wood as the base for your collages, you could use stiff cardboard (such as book board or canvas boards) and substitute heavy gel medium for nails.
"Use Up Your Little Bits"
By Karen Michel, Collage in Color Vol. I
One of my favorite collage techniques involves creating a series of miniature wood block collages. These three-dimensional collages are a nice home for all of those little bits, bobs, and paper scraps we all seem to collect along the way. Adding paint, pins, and found objects integrates these elements quite nicely.
I like wood because you can easily and neatly adhere both flat and unusually shaped objects to it with glue, a few nails, or even bits of wire.
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1. Wipe the wood pieces with an old rag to remove any debris, and then measure and mark the wood to the size(s) you like. I like to vary the sizes slightly so I don't necessarily make them all the same. Generally I make my blocks about 2½".
2. Cut your pieces to size, and then sand the edges to remove any rough spots.
3. Paint the edges of the wooden pieces first, and then paint the rest of the piece. I like to use acrylic or latex paint because it seals the wood. Allow the paint to dry.
4. Once the paint is dry, start collaging. Add your paper bits and any other two-dimensional elements with acrylic medium.
5. Use the nails to add any 3-D embellishments. Think beads, sequins, jewelry bits, buttons— anything that has a hole in it will work well. Use nails alone as design elements, too.
Tip: In creating these small collages, I like to use items that are related in some way: by color, theme (hearts, birds, etc.), or maybe objects that were all collected from the same place. This helps keep the inspiration flowing and gives the piece direction.
Ready for more collage inspiration? Collage in Color Vol. I is where texture, color and collage meet. Break your creative block with mixed-media collage techniques, interviews, videos, stamping tips, using watercolor paint and more. Plus, get 10% off with coupon code SAVELP!
Collage Inspiration and Art Prompts
Where do you go from here? Whether you're new to collage or are looking for creative collage ideas to jump-start your next project, some of our collage artist contributors offer the following art prompts for collage inspiration.
Keep a color journal. Dedicate a journal to your color observations and reflections. Record hues and color combinations that inspire you. Then, use one of your observations as a prompt and concentrate on that single idea in a short painting or collage session. – Alisa Burke
Take your brayer out of storage and set it on your worktable. Try using it to spread paint or to adhere layers together in your next project. – Barbara Delaney
Go with the glow. Try adding a resin finish to the surface of a piece of finished art. – Cindy Wunsch
Repurpose your stamps. Check out your stash of acrylic stamps and try cutting one apart to make a new impression. – Julie Fei-Fan Balzer
Paint papers. Gather a selection of papers and take them outside for a paper painting party to create a stash for a future torn paper collage painting. – Wanda Edwards
Set a color limit. Pick a favorite set of complementary colors and try working exclusively with those two colors in a sketchbook, art journal, or on a small canvas. – Jenn Mason
Start a scrap collection. Find a couple of small clear tubs and label them "fabric scraps" and "paper scraps" so that you can start collecting great scraps for future art projects right now! – Jill Russell
Prep some wood. Search your house for small bits of wood that could be the base for little collages. Cut and sand them so that they are ready for collage chaos at a moment's notice. – Karen Michel
Brush up. The next time you stop at your local art supply store, pick up a new type of paintbrush that you've never owned before and give it a try. – Barbara Delaney
Think positively and negatively. Try your hand at making one continuous cut for a paper collage and use both the positive and negative parts of the cut to make two different pieces of art. – Lendon Noe
Make collage hors d'oeuvres. Cut windows in a stack of cardstock pieces and save them near your workspace. Use these to make a tag with the scraps of each project you work on at the completion of the artwork. – Erin Daniels