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Creative Prompts and Ideas for Getting Started Making Collages

Collage Art: Collage Fast and Furious Video Collage papers by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer

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

  • Toilet paper roll (stamp)
  • Plastic fork (texture tool)
  • Pages from old books (foundation)
  • White glue (to use as a resist and to glue pieces of the collage)
  • Scrap fabric (collage bits and texture)
  • Junk mail (for collage bits and as a foundation)
  • File folders (foundation)
  • Old notebooks with doodles and notes (collage bits)
  • Catalogs (collage bits and as a foundation)
  • Bubble wrap (texture tool)
  • Facial tissue (texture tool)
  • Spray bottle of water (texture tool)
  • Masking tape (texture tool)
  • Pencil with a flat, unused eraser on the end (stamp)

Other supplies you might want to add include:

  • Paints (acrylic, fabric, watercolor)
  • Gel medium (heavy and regular)
  • Scissors (at least two pair, one specifically for fabric and one made for paper)
  • A black permanent marker
  • Paintbrushes (Round and flat)
  • Colorants (such as oil pastels, water-soluble crayons and pencils, pigmented spray mists, and Crayola® crayons)
  • Gesso (artist primer)
  • Found objects (small shells, buttons, rusty metal pieces, wooden game pieces, and other odd bits)
Discover this beginner collage project and art prompts with Collage in Color 1 eMag.

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.


  • Wood: paint stirrers, meter sticks, wood rulers, or other small flat pieces
  • Rags
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Cutting tool (craft knife, Dremel® tool, or saw, etc.)
  • Sandpaper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Acrylic medium
  • Papers and/or photos for collage, a variety
  • Embellishments: charms, beads, sequins, buttons, etc.
  • Hammer
  • Nails, 1"
  • Wire


Check out these top picks for collage inspiration and overcoming creative block with art prompts!
Plus get 10% off* your favorites with coupon code SAVELP

Collage Techniques Video: Collage Fast and Furious Video

If you loved the tips above from Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, you'll love this workshop video. Her quick and reliable methods are sure to inspire your collage art. Order the DVD or download the video instantly (also an HD download).
Learn More . . .

Creative Collage Ideas: Add To, Undo and Redo Video

If you've ever thought stress-free art was impossible, you're going to love this video. Learn to create backgrounds, collage elements and finished pages with ease. Order the DVD or download the video workshop instantly.
Learn More . . .

How to Make a Collage in Layers: Mixed-Media Collage Working in Layers Video

Learn how to make a collage step by step starting with quick and easy backgrounds, then building up your collage before adding finishing touches. Grab this essential video on DVD or download instantly.
Learn More . . .

Mixed-Media Collage Techniques: Collage in Color 2 eMag

Collage in Color is back with volume II, providing even more tips for how to make a collage with color and texture. With tutorials on using gesso, ink, stencils, and paint, plus videos and more, you're sure to love vol. 2!
Learn More . . .

*One use per customer, final discounts will be displayed within the cart for qualifying items. Discount not valid on pre-orders, value packs, subscriptions, and 3rd party products. Other exclusions may apply.

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.

Intarsia Knitting Video: Inside Intarsia with Anne Berk Learn More . . .

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

Cate Prato

Cate Prato is the editor for Cloth Paper Scissors Today.

If you let Cate loose in an art supply store with a fistful of cash, she'd take one of everything, then head for the nearest fabric store to spend the rest. She has been with Cloth Paper Scissors since its inception in 2004, first as features editor, then editor of Studios magazine, and currently online editor. She is the author of Mixed-Media Self-Portraits and Inside the Creative Studio. Her goal in life is to collect and sort all the art supplies she has around the house and create a functional studio once and for all.