If you’re on a quest for collage art ideas, I’m glad you clicked through here. In this post, I’ll share a lot of cool stuff with you so you can start making collages right away and enjoy it.
You can read about collage as an art form, what makes a good collage, where to get materials, the steps for collage-making, and of course, plenty of collage art ideas.
Let me just say that I consider my work a collage even when I only glue one or a few elements on the paper. Also, all my collages have paint on them, even journaling, because I love incorporating all of these onto my page, and I hope you’ll get ideas and inspiration to try them out.
Is collage art?
Collage is definitely an art form. If you think of Picasso’s work, he did a lot of collage. And he’s one of the pioneers in this area.
It’s a modern way of making art and it’s amazing because anyone gets to do it. We teach kids in school basic collages, and people often do it without realizing they’re actually creating this art form.
The amazing thing about collage art is that it can be easy to do and it’s so enjoyable.
It involves collecting, cutting, tearing, and gluing images or paper scraps into a story, an image that has its own word and universe.
That being said, collage offers irresistible freedom of creation without wondering if you’re doing the right thing. It can be super creative and relaxing. Collage art lets you choose images you love and use them to create a unique, I mean…totally unique piece of work.
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What makes good collage art?
There are no rules written in stone when it comes to collage art. And that’s what makes it irresistible. You can do anything you want as long as you enjoy the process. The end result is always fun. At least in my experience.
However, if you want to take it to a higher level, when collaging, focus on color choices and composition. This is my best piece of advice.
Composition in art is extremely important because by knowing a few designer tricks, your collage art can become amazingly attractive, visually appealing, and unique.
But how to get good at composition? Well, not to be a party breaker, but it takes a little bit of time to get to know these design tricks. But once you get the hand of at least one, you’ll be super pumped to experiment and explore all the possibilities with it.
For example, the rule of thirds. It’s one of the most important designer hacks. No matter what kind of piece of art you’re making, a painting, a photograph, collage, or film, using the rule of thirds will transform your art for the better.
The rule of thirds says that when we put the most important part of collage, a painting, or a photo, in a certain place on our work, it just opens up to us, and invites us to inspect it.
These places of interest are determined by dividing your piece of art into 9 squares. Like in the tic tac toe game. Then, you get 4 intersections of these lines (stars in the image above) and these are the focal points you can use for your most important statement.
There are too many composition hacks and ideas to go over them in this blog post, you can explore the rule of thirds for now and later on discover some new composition ideas.
Disclaimer: Some links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something through that link, I get a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
What materials can be used in a collage?
I don’t wanna say everything, but there’s actually no limit to this. Besides all the 2D elements you can use such as paper, you can also use 3D elements such as lace, strings, buttons, bottle caps, fabric, etc.
This just depends on what you want to create, what you’re creating it on, and whether you want to show off that bad boy or keep it to yourself.
For example, if you want to hang your collage art on a wall, you can add as many 3D elements as you want. However, if you’re creating in an art journal, then you’re limited to mainly 2D elements because an art journal wouldn’t close otherwise.
Also, if you don’t prefer gluing down heavier objects like buttons, feathers, or leaves or don’t have the proper glue that can hold them, you stick to 2D elements (paper).
Here’s a quick list of collage materials you can use:
- Magazine images
- Book paper
- Book illustrations
- Comic books
- Wrapping paper
- Playing cards
- Concert tickets
- Newspaper headlines
- Images from paper packaging
- Your old work or scribbles
- Scrapbook paper
What tools to use for collage art?
Besides all the cute thingies you’re going to use in your collage, what tools do you actually need to apply these materials?
Here are the basic tools you’ll need for creating collages:
Any type of scissors will do. However, there are cute little craft scissors that can be used to cut even the smallest ideas.
I use ordinary scissors and that’s why my images aren’t usually fussy cut to perfection. I just don’t care.
Just remember to use scissors that fit really comfortably in your hands, otherwise, your fingers will hurt from all the cutting.
It’s a great cutting tool if you have enough healthy nerves to use it. I can only use it on certain occasions. It seems I cut too slowly with an X-acto knife. But I’m impatient.
You, on the other hand (if you’re a patient person), can use this knife to really cut out your images in detail. You can also use it to cut shapes inside your images, which is harder with scissors.
Lastly, if you’re going to use an X-acto knife, you need to have a cutting mat of some kind. Otherwise, you’ll ruin the surface you’re working on. So, have that in mind.
This is a must. You can’t make collages without some sort of glue. There are many adhesives people use for collage art: sticks, school glue, Mod Podge, etc.
Below, I’ll share all the adhesives I’ve used and tell you why they’re good or not.
Tweezers for tiny pieces
No matter the size of your fingers, it’s usually hard to adhere tiny collage pieces and do it perfectly. That’s why I use craft tweezers. Maybe you can try ordinary tweezers, they should work the same.
Glue gun for 3D pieces
This is an amazing tool to have if you want to glue down thicker and heavier elements like buttons or feathers.
Try to pick a glue gun with a tiny tip, so you can glue details, too.
I usually use a collage brush with liquid glue such as Mod Podge and collage medium. It’s a neat tool for this because it’s to be sturdier than regular brushes and can move the glue easier.
If you want to cut perfect lines quickly, use a ruler and an X-acto knife. But still, watch your fingers.
A cutting mat is only necessary if you’re using an X-acto knife. Otherwise, scissors are enough.
They come in different sizes and shapes. Some have rulers and grids on them for alignment and cutting.
Something to iron out the glue
I don’t know the official name, but this is any tool you can use to spread the glue evenly once you’ve already glued down the image. Use it to iron the image so the glue under it doesn’t create any bumps.
I use a strong old credit card, or a piece of plastic, and sometimes a bone folder.
What Is the best glue for collage?
I must be honest, I don’t believe I’ve found an adhesive that does a perfect job every time with any material.
I’ve tried a few adhesives and I’ll tell you about each of them.
But remember, your surface needs to be the right one for a glue stick. It works best on smooth, non-textured surfaces.
Mod podge is a decoupage medium that can be used in collage as well. It serves as glue but can also be a sealer.
Unlike PVA glue, it is easily spread out with a brush and is thin. This makes it perfect for collage.
Ranger Ink Distress Collage Medium
I’ve used this collage medium for a long time and I can say it’s a neat thing to have for collage. It’s similar to mod podge and can be applied with a brush or a foam brush.
I like using an ordinary, firmer brush rather than a foam one because foam brushes tend to keep a lot of glue and are soft.
I have one with matte and vintage finishes. They’re both great and the vintage one has a browny finish so you can go over your image with it for a vintage vibe.
It will also seal your papers. Similar to Mod Podge.
You might be surprised that you find acrylic paint here. However, when you put a thin paper on top of wet acrylic paint, it’s going to stick.
When acrylic paint dries, it acts as glue, it keeps any paper you stuck to it. However, the paper is probably going to wrinkle. But this can have a great effect on your collage. It’s worth trying out.
A glue gun is an excellent tool if you want to glue down heavier elements like buttons or lace. You just need to be careful not to overdo it with the glue because it will show on your piece once it’s dry.
Also, there are craft glue guns that have tiny tips so you can use them for the tiniest elements.
This is one of my favorite adhesives for collage. You can use the tape with paper or images but it takes a lot of planning and cutting the tape.
Double-sided tapes are usually strong, so fixes are harder to do. Be aware of that.
They do come in different widths so you can choose the one that suits your vision.
Everyone is in love with washi tape. They’re cute and easy to use, and you can choose from many different designs. Although they don’t hold very well, you can use them more as decorative elements.
If you don’t care for a complete flat adhesion, washi tape can make an interesting, textured effect.
What I usually do is glue my image down with stronger glue and then add washi tape for the corners of my images, or to connect two pieces of paper together. Visually, this is really nice.
Liquid white PVA glue
We mostly used it in school projects, but if you have this one in your stash, you can still use it. I suggest using a brush to spread it across the surface, so it doesn’t create lumps of glue under your paper.
What is magazine collage ART?
It’s pretty self-explanatory. You use magazine images and cut-outs as your collage elements.
Here are some ideas for using magazines. You can cut out:
- Single letters
- Photos of people
- Photos of objects
- Colorful pages to cut into shapes
- Text pages for cutting into paper scraps
So, every page in a magazine can be useful. Look for interesting color combinations, patterns, unusual objects, headlines, text, and even ads.
What magazines are good for collage art?
I’d say any. If you have a magazine ready to go, just cut it out and use it.
The only difference I’ve noticed is with the glossy pages and matte ones. Matte pages in magazines can be tricky because sometimes their ink can smear when you add liquid glue or paint over it.
I’ve mostly used glossy pages from fashion magazines, National Geographic, and similar. They’ve never smeared and I find a great number of elements in them.
For the sake of this post, I’ll list some types of magazines where you can find amazing images:
- Any fashion magazine
- Nature or garden magazines (a lot of animals and flowers)
- Specialized magazines about Earth and the universe can fill up your stash with amazing images
- Music magazines
- Old magazines that have a retro vibe
Steps for a collage
These are my suggestions for starting with collage. There are no rules, but I found this process below to work for me.
If you’re into collaging, then you collect images all the time. It’s not just before a project. Whenever you see something that attracts your eye, save it.
When people want to throw out wrapping paper, I take it. Maybe not all of it, but I save some if I really love the paper.
If you don’t have time and will to cut out things all the time, just collect them, and you can cut them out in detail later. For example, when I see an image in a magazine that I love, I just rip out the whole page, and later I cut out the image.
Collecting collage elements can be tricky and you can find yourself overwhelmed with all the bits and pieces. So, good collage organization is always a plus. Figure out what works for you and follow that system.
Fussy cut or tear your elements
The way you’re going to cut them out depends on your style and preferences. Some artists fussy cut their elements, while others leave a white line around, while some just tear their paper scraps.
All of these methods are interesting in their own way. You decide which look you like better. Or, use all of them. There are no rules, remember?
Decide on composition
Besides collecting elements, deciding on composition is also fun. However, I know many people struggle with that.
Composition is important in collage-making. It dictates how you’ll arrange the elements, their colors, size, and where to place them. I already talked about composition above and how you can improve your collage with some tricks.
When deciding on composition, ask yourself these questions:
- What color combinations am I going to choose? ( eg. Choose your main image and then all other colors according to that image)
- How many visible elements will I have? (One main image, or more)
- Will I layer my elements?
- How will I make the background? (If any)
- What colors to choose?
- Where can I place my elements so they’re connected?
- Where can I place my main element so it pops out from the rest of my collage? (Rule of thirds)
- Am I going to have any supporting elements to go with the main one?
Look, this doesn’t have to be complicated. If these questions seem too much for you, skip them. Use only one question from above and focus on that. With time, you’ll develop a sixth sense for these things and they’ll become easier.
Layering is always fun, it creates amazing effects of depth and gives a certain dimension to your work.
If you want to layer things, place elements on top of each other, and leave the parts of the bottom layers also visible. You can play with layering a lot and explore what you like doing and what final result you like seeing.
However, here are a few tips for layering in collage art:
- Don’t make one stack of elements too thick
- Put larger pieces at the bottom and smaller ones towards the top
- Mix and match before you glue things down
- Add paint as a visual layer under your elements like images
- Paint over images as well
This is a neat idea and can be really cute-looking. What I usually do is outline my fashion magazine images with a white Posca pen. And I don’t stop there, I add more lines spreading out from that outline.
Also, you can use a black or white pen/marker to draw lines around the subject, spread from it towards the borders, or create a geometrical feel with multiple lines and their directions.
Draw on images
This is especially great for images of people. When I use a magazine image of a model, I often draw on her face. These are marks or symbols I love. You can also add marks on hair, tattoos on arms or legs, etc. There’s no limit to your imagination.
Write on images
If you’re into art journaling, you can add writing to your images. For example, sometimes I journal on the clothes of a woman, her hands, and even her hair. Again, you can do anything.
I like using waterproof markers for this, but if this is your last layer, use any pen or marker that can write on your finished collage.
Collage art ideas
I bet you’ve gotten some new collage art ideas so far, but here’s the list of the ones I’ve done. I also share examples so you can see what I’m talking about.
1. Face/people collage
You can use many different elements and materials to create a face collage.
First, you can use paper scraps and glue them down like you’d be doing when painting a face. Here, you need to be careful of colors, shadows, and highlights. It includes cutting out tiny paper scraps and arranging them to create a face,
Honestly, for me, this is too much work.
To simplify things, you can use a face from a magazine and then add details to it. Use an eye from another image and glue it on this face. Or add sunglasses, and attach something to her head like flowers, pots, or animals.
Also, you can just use two circles and add them as cheek colors to your face.
You can close her eyes completely by gluing a piece of paper or washi tape over her eyes.
Oh, endless possibilities!
2. Story collage ideas
Telling a story with collage art is exciting and really rewarding. If you want to do this, think about these things:
- which elements will you choose and how are they connected? They can be connected with themes or colors, for example.
- what are going to be your main elements, the protagonists, of the story?
- which elements support the main ones?
- what is the relation between your elements? How do they talk to each other? This relation between elements is what tells your story.
If you look at the image above, I used two women as my main elements. Everything else is just supporting them and their relationship. And all the elements together tell a story. This story isn’t one-dimensional. It will be different for each person looking at it.
The photo below shows a very simple collage art idea with a simple story. I used only four elements. They’re similar in color but you can see what my main element is and there’s a story between the woman and the things in the sky.
Also, using yellow in the background emphasizes the collage elements because yellow and blue create contrast and things just pop. If you want to explore colors more for your collage art ideas, color theory can help you a lot. But don’t overwhelm yourself.
3. Altered photo collage
An altered photo collage is when you take a photo and change it by adding things to it. This can also be a magazine image, not only printed photos.
It can be really interesting if you choose a black-and-white photo and add colorful elements or vice versa.
You can replace facial features with objects or if you have a photo of a door or window, you can draw mountains or anything else behind the openings.
4. Mixed media collage ideas
Ok, I believe that most of my collage work is actually mixed media collage. I rarely use only collage elements without paint or pens. This just makes things more interesting. And not to mention all the possibilities mixed media offers.
So, in mixed media collages, you use a lot of different media and materials. So, besides the paper scraps and images, you can use:
- acrylic paint
- relief paste
One of my favorite collage art ideas is creating unrealistic collages, forming things that don’t exist, and enjoying the imagination.
In the example above, I created a weird-looking face with different elements, gave one head the fish body, etc. Experiment with these things and do WHATEVER you want. Nothing is stupid and you can create interesting art this way. Not to mention it’ll be perfectly unique.
My best advice is to mix and match elements first, before gluing them down. Also, make some kind of background before that. It’s easier to work on something than a blank page. However, if you like a clean look, then forget about the background.
6. Abstract collages
When I say abstract, I mean anything that doesn’t look like something specific. Hope I didn’t confuse you more. Stay with me.
I shared an example above where I glued some paper scraps and a hand from a magazine. Although the hand is concrete and specific, I get an abstract vibe from this page because I see it that way.
Your eyes may be completely different. If you want to create abstract collage art, focus on shapes, objects, and lines, rather than people, faces, etc.
7. Put things where they don’t belong
In none of the two examples above things are ordinary. I put flowers instead of a head, and this girl swims around a big head. This can also convey a message, like a metaphor.
8. Minimalistic collage with women figures
I love doing these simple collages and making my ladies magical and mystical. All I did on this page above is add two elements, some light paint, and doodles.
I was also mindful of color choices because I wanted it to look airy and light.
9. Use only paper
You can make wonderful collage art using only paper scraps and glue. If you choose the scraps according to a color scheme, you can’t go wrong.
While preparing the paper scraps, tear them for more texture and a vintage vibe, and cut them out with scissors for a cleaner, modern look.
Pick papers with different thicknesses and surfaces so you can create interesting textures when you combine them.
When you arrange paper scraps, don’t forget to layer them and create some contrast by putting them at 90 degrees angles rather than tilting.
10. Use geometry
You don’t have to always fussy cut your images. Using shapes like squares is also a nice choice. In the example above, I created a geometrical background and kept the same vibe with my next steps (washi tape, lines).
11. Mini collage
Mini collages are amazing and super fun, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s maybe easier to make something smaller to get the creative juices flowing.
For this, you’ll need only a few elements, up to three. And just arrange them together, layer them, and add some interest with paint. And that’s it.
12. Traced silhouette
Another fun way of collaging is to cut out a silhouette. You can create it by using a magazine image and tracing it, or any shape that you draw and cut out.
Then, use a thin piece of paper, and glue paper scraps on it. After that, use your silhouette, trace it on the collaged paper and cut it out.
And voila, you have interesting collaged shapes to add to your artwork.
13. Split elements
If you love using faces in your collage art, split them in half and separate them on the page. Or use only half of the face.
Add some paint, and cover the elements, too. Let them sink into the background.
Then think about how to connect these two halves, especially if you can see a story behind them.
Splitting elements like this can give great results with flowers, buildings, planets, etc.
How can I make my collage art better?
- As I already said, composition is important in collage art. The more you learn about that, the better your collages will be.
- Choose your collage elements according to color. You can create monochrome collages, or according to color schemes that artists and designers use.
- If you want to fussy cut your elements, the easier way is to cut a tiny bit inside of the lines.
- Make sure your surface can support all the elements and adhesives you use on it.
- Get inspired by famous collage artists
- Just enjoy it. There really are no rules to this. Play with your paper, create unusual things, mix and match all the gorgeous images and just…play.
Create amazing collage art in an art journal freely and without any overwhelm
Join my free art journal course and get ideas & inspiration for creating whenever you want, without blocks or the fear of making mistakes.