Techniques for Mixed Media Layering


Building up layers in mixed media art creates vivid colors and textures. Mixed media art has no limitations on what material you can use to create your layers. Presented here are appropriate choices because of their availability, price and malleability. Gesso is used to improve adhesion of other layers. Creased tissues, torn scraps, foil, rice paper, paints and encaustic also make great layering materials.


  • Gesso primes the canvas to improve adhesion of materials, especially paint. It comes in many colors and can be bought at most art stores, especially ones that specialize in painting materials. Gesso comes in bottles that are shaken before use to improve the consistency of the liquid. It's brushed on with sponges or paint brushes. Before artists place another material over the gesso, they let it dry completely, sand it, and brush another layer over it. The gesso stiffens the canvas in addition to improving adhesion. Usually artists make multiple layers to get the most out of their gesso.


  • Encaustic is a sophisticated painting technique using wax that was developed by the ancient Greeks. Artists mix beeswax, damar, which hardens the material, and pigments to create the encaustic medium. They paint the encaustic when it's hot, then let it cool onto the surface of the medium. They reheat the wax layer, enticing it to bond to the layer under it, then brush another layer of wax over it. This process can be repeated as many times as the artist wishes. A propane torch, brushes, wax, damar, pigments and holding devices such as cans are needed for the method.

Collage Paper

  • Collages are fun-to-make mixed media art that mainly involves gluing different kinds of paper to form an image. Nearly any paper is used in collages. The artist Ann Baldwin suggests using rice paper, corrugated cardboard, torn pieces of old paintings, and gold foils. These papers are bonded together using matte medium or gel medium. Painting with oil, acrylic and watercolors helps seal the paper together as well as emphasize the texture in the paper. According to Ann Baldwin, "Overlapping and building up layers of paper always makes for exciting textures."

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