How To: From “Clippings” To “Art”

I have a love-hate relationship with collage material. If I don’t alter it, I feel like I’m lying by calling my art original. Collage material gives me imagery that I probably would not have been able to produce myself, but it seems like stealing if I don’t modify the pieces in some way. In this post, I will be sharing some of the ways that I alter collage material and incorporate it in my art.


Adhesives, collage material, and a WIP page in my art-art journal.

1. Washing multiple pieces of collage material with the same color to create a subtle but interesting background. This effect is best done with gray scale imagery or pieces of collage material that are of similar color to the wash. Watercolor’s transparency is great for this technique and absorbs into magazine clippings instead of just sitting on the paper’s surface. (Acrylic paint works well to camouflage the papers edge where it is adhered to the background.)

Collage wash steps.jpeg

Steps for washing collage material with watercolors and layering with acrylic paint.

2. Using pens, markers, and/or paint on top of images by tracing and coloring the original picture. This is an amazing technique for non-drawers who would like to incorporate imagery into their art. It works for both main focal points and smaller background imagery.

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T-B & L-R, Art journal page close-ups of: Goodbye Friend; Angered Flight (1); Angered Flight (2); Artistic Eruption; Bite.

3. Creating the look of texture by using a photo that contains no focal point, or photos of complex line work. For example, if you found a photo of a boat on the water, you would use only the water part of the photo The waves have a textured appearance out of context, and may not even be recognizable as “water.” This is especially effective in backgrounds. The collage material used below was from a photo of graffiti, but is now too fragmented to be determined as such.

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Close-up of art journal page “Not All That Bites is Bad,” showing collage material beneath text.

4. Covering it up completely by allowing the imagery to inspire rather than controlThis may not sound like helpful advice, but completely cover your collage material! I do so in almost every spread that contains magazine clippings. If you use numerous collage material pieces per spread, your eyes will roll over multiple images, perhaps finding inspiration. For example, you might include a picture of pink zig-zags, think of lightning, and then end up covering that bright imagery with a dark and stormy landscape. Sometimes it just happens; you become absorbed by the process of art making, become paint-happy, and cover the imagery without even realizing it until the page is finished! (It’s 100% okay to get paint-happy, by the way, so no worries.)


Lines where collage material is meeting the paper, but the imagery is hidden beneath paint.

There are so many ways to alter collage material, but this is how I do it. If you’re still struggling, check out Teesha Moore‘s gallery. She is famous for art that combines usual art supplies with different pieces of collage material. This style, called Zetti, is used to construct unique faces, animals, backgrounds, and more. I’ve never tried my hand at Zetti, but I appreciate it’s beauty!

Let me know if this post gets you excited to rip up some old magazines and whip out your gel pens by commenting below! I’ll see you Wednesday with my latest WIP and (hopefully) a video!

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