How to Make a Collage

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A collage may contain text, words or both.
A collage may contain text, words or both. (Image: danr13/iStock/Getty Images)

Making a collage is a way to turn scrap materials into art. Old magazines, outdated maps, colorful advertisements and even damaged books become supplies for your project. Collage is simple enough that even a beginner can do it, yet fulfilling enough even for accomplished artists to create interesting works. There is no right or wrong way to assemble a collage -- simply arrange and rearrange materials as you see fit until the design is pleasing to your own artistic sensibility.

Things You'll Need

  • Discarded or unneeded paper matter such as books, magazines and flyers
  • Scissors
  • Plastic tablecloth or newspaper
  • Posterboard or art canvas in desired size
  • Glue stick
  • Decoupage medium
  • Disposable plate
  • Foam brush

Scan through the books, magazines and paper materials on hand, thinking up a theme fitting for your collage. For instance, if the magazine feature exotic places, themes may include travel, a jungle, animals or volcanoes. Cut out images and words suited to your theme, cutting out more than necessary, as the theme or idea may change slightly as you compose the collage.

Cover the work surface with an old plastic tablecloth or newspaper, setting a sheet of posterboard or an art canvas atop it. Firm materials such as poster board, cardboard and canvas work better than flimsy materials such as thin paper; moisture from glue or decoupage medium may wrinkle paper.

Arrange the paper cut-out words and images to come up with a design on the canvas or posterboard. For a science-fiction-inspired scene, for instance, arrange a series of large ants carrying leaves to a crater on the moon, with smaller images of people riding the ants or performing other activities in the background. Using images out of their usual contexts adds visual interest to the collage. Fill the entire canvas or posterboard with imagery, leaving no plain space between images.

Lift each piece and glue it down one by one with a glue stick to secure it permanently, starting with pieces farthest in the background or touching the actual canvas or posterboard. Continue gluing and layering until all pieces are glued down.

Pour some decoupage medium onto a disposable plate. Dip a foam brush into the medium and brush the liquid over the entire collage to seal and protect the work. The decoupage medium also helps keep the pieces from coming unglued.

Tips & Warnings

  • For a mixed media collage, paint the canvas or posterboard a series of colors, or paint a specific backdrop, such as a city skyline at sunset, before gluing paper images and text atop it. Add more painted designs, as desired.
  • If you enjoy creating collages, ask libraries and thrift stores if they will give you some of their damaged reading materials that would otherwise be recycled. If not, neighbors and friends may offer you their magazines and ad flyers after they read them.
  • Wait until the entire collage is arranged before gluing pieces down -- it is not uncommon to completely rearrange parts of a collage before finally settling on a suitable layout. If the pieces are already glued down, lifting them to rearrange the collage may damage the cutouts.

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