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DIY Collage Art Examples + How to Collage

I’m SO excited to share some simple collage inspiration, with DIY collage art examples and advice/tips on how to collage.  Recently I spent a few afternoons making collage art with my Mom – and then Hubby! – in an effort to just do something laid back, but still creative.  I discovered that collaging is not only incredibly fun – but also a deeply relaxing, stress relieving activity.  I hope you will enjoy creating collage art as much as I have!  Keep reading for a quick little collage history, collage supply suggestions, advice on how to collage with some tips, plus a look at my collage progression and collage art examples to get you feeling inspired to tackle your own collage art.

DIY Collage Ideas

What is Collage?

In this context, a collage is an artistic composition created from different, often overlapping materials.  To make a collage, different materials (like paper, photos, fabrics, etc) are cut out/torn, arranged in creative and often unexpected ways, and usually glued onto a surface (like a sheet of paper or canvas – although you can make 3D collage as well).  You can collage with just one form of media (like paper cut outs) or do mixed media collage, where you incorporate many different kinds of materials.  There are a few main types of collage typically referenced: paper collage (also called “papier collé,” it involves only pasted paper), mixed media collage, digital collage, 3 dimensional collage (also called “assemblages”) and photo montage collage.

What is Collage?

Brief History of Collage:

You might be familiar with collage from elementary school crafts, but it actually has a rich history – with some debate as to its true origins.  The term “collage” is said to have been coined in the 1910’s by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, pioneers of the Cubist movement.  (“Collage” comes from the French verb, “coller,” which means “to stick together” or “to glue”).  Collage continued to gain momentum with the post-WWI Dada movement (which was influenced by Cubism, as well as Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism).  Dada artists produced work in many media, which included collage.  Although these artists/movements are typically referenced as the origin of collage – when collage was first used as an artist’s technique – collage as a process is said to have actually been practised much earlier than this.  In fact, Japanese artists stuck paper to silk as early as the 1100’s, while in Europe the first paper collage was recorded in the 1400’s.  In the Victorian era, collage scrapbooks and collage Valentine’s Day cards were a popular craft.  Collage has maintained its popularity and there are many notable artists producing beautiful and thought provoking collage art today – but it is also a fun technique for beginners to get into creating, without the pressure of having to draw or paint.

Brief History of Collage

Common Collage Techniques:

There are many techniques one can use for creating a collage.  From how you cut out shapes (perfectly/imperfectly; with scissors or by tearing) to how you piece together the materials, there are so many opportunities for creative expression with collage.  While learning the ropes, these are some techniques I noticed were often relied on by collage artists:

  • Replacing or Revealing: cutting/tearing away a part of an image and replacing it with something else – or revealing an image beneath
  • Combining Pieces: cutting up images and using the pieces to assemble new shapes or altered shapes – that may/may not bear any resemblance to the original image
  • Layering Strips: cutting up multiple images into strips and then assembling them in jumbled order or lattice pattern
  • Drawing or Painting: doodling, drawing, or painting onto the image to add a new dimension and interest or highlight certain parts
  • Creating Texture: using materials, from glue to tape to paper, to add texture and dimensions

Collage Techniques

Is Collaging a Skill?

I think collaging is one of those art forms that is easy to get into (like alcohol ink) – but can have much more elevated levels.  The DIY collage art I made was fun and silly and, as long as you can wield a pair of scissors – or even just tear and glue paper, you can do it too!  But in searching for collage inspiration online, I found seriously awe inspiring collages with such an intricate level of skill clearly visible.  Plus there are numerous styles of collage!  So I would say that collaging is definitely a skill and an art form that you could really delve into and experiment with at much more sophisticated and complex level that what I made here.

Is Collaging a Skill?

Collage Supplies:

  • Old illustrated books, magazines, wrapping paper, old calendars, scrap paper, etc.
  • Sturdy paper for backing the collage (or a canvas works as well)
  • Sharp scissors (the shorter, the better)
  • X-acto knife or similar (plus something to cut on – I used an old cutting board)
  • Gluestick or Mod Podge
  • Ruler with a sharp edge (metal is best)
  • Paint pens, markers, etc (optional)

List of Collage Supplies

Notes on Supplies: my interest in collage was piqued when I shared an Instagram story from my local landfill of a box filled with old books.  My Insta-fam implored me to go back and scoop those books for collage.  I had no interest in collaging at the time, but I won’t turn down an opportunity to hoard craft supplies, lol, so I obliged!  Once I got into collage, I realized the brilliance of my Instagram friends because I found that books work really well because the pages are easy to cut and glue – thinner images, like from a magazine, can easily tear and show unwanted texture from layers beneath.  So books were my favorite supply but I did, however, also mix in magazine cut outs, old wrapping paper, old calendar images, etc., and plan to expand my collection of materials.  My goal is for this hobby to remain free, so I’ll be collecting slowly as opposed to buying supplies.  You can, of course, find all kinds of interesting materials at thrift or craft stores, but I think it’s more fun to see what can be upcycled for free.

Upcycling Old Books for DIY Collage Art

What Do Artists Use for Collage?

Collage artists use a variety of materials, depending on their collage “style”.  There are a lot of fun things you can collect and upcycle for collaging.  I recommend grabbing an old Rubbermaid-type bin with a lid to collect these items, partly so they don’t overwhelm your life/space, but also so that everything is in one place when you’re reading to collage.  Below is a list of things to start saving/collecting as you journey into making collages:

  • Old Picture Books
  • Old Novels with Interesting Covers or Text
  • Magazines
  • Photos (maybe duplicates or ones that didn’t turn out)
  • Newspapers and Flyers
  • Old Wrapping Paper
  • Old Calendars
  • Paper Scraps
  • Cardboard
  • Pretty Greeting Cards
  • Aesthetic Product Packaging
  • Tissue Paper
  • Receipts and Tickets from Travels
  • Defunct Currency from Travels
  • Interesting Tape (like Washi Tape)
  • Plastic Mesh from Fruit Packaging
  • Metallic Foil from Gum Wrappers

What Do Artists Use for Collage?

How Do You Make DIY Collage Art?

Here’s a simple guide to making DIY collage art, bearing in mind the collage techniques I listed earlier.

  1. Collect materials (magazines, wrapping paper, old books, etc., alongside paper, glue, and scissors)
  2. Tear out sheets that inspire you!
  3. Start cutting/tearing out images and set aside your favorites
  4. Brainstorm a loose theme or conceptual idea for your collage art
  5. Roughly lay out the collage, experimenting with different techniques (like replacing parts of an image or tearing away other parts to reveal what’s beneath)
  6. Glue cut outs and other media onto a sturdy piece of paper or blank canvas
  7. Continue layering – do not be afraid to tear away parts of the main collage and layer underneath as well
  8. (Optional) Use a paper cutter/scissors to trim the edges of the paper where any images may have gone off the page
  9. Draw or trace additional shapes, designs, text etc with markers, paint pens, etc (optional)

Here’s the Process I Followed – How to Collage:

How to Collage - Examples and Progress Pictures

Finished Collage:

Reveal/Replace Collage Example

Some Collage Tips:

  • Start by just tearing out a bunch of images that “speak” to you – don’t try to plan a collage until you have a bunch of images/textures/papers cut out.
  • Don’t try to copy a collage you like, instead let your mood and materials shape your collage.
  • “Dry fit” things first – I started to glue right away, and then wished I could have done more layering, so plan a little more than I did.
  • But don’t overthink it, it’s just paper! Get into it and…
  • Let go over perfectionism! Embrace ripples, tears, glue stains.
  • Don’t be afraid to add your own touch with your handwriting, doodles, etc.
  • Weigh down your final DIY collage art with a book while it dries to avoid it curling up as it dries, like some of my collages did.

Collage Art Tips to Get Started

My Collage Progression:

Let me show you a few of the collages I made, how I made them, and the different collage techniques I experimented with.  Note: all of my collages were glued onto a sturdier watercolor or construction paper.

How to Get Started with DIY Collage Art

First Collage:

This was my first collage.  I started by cutting out images from the vintage encyclopedias and putting together a color story I liked.  I had it in my mind that I wanted to mix together soft colors with black and white photography.  As I started to collect images, a theme of being in the sky emerged.  I realized I liked the raw edges instead of cut lines, so I tore and layered on photos, glittery wrapping paper, and a wallpaper sample.  I also tore away parts of the base of my collage and layered paint samples beneath for more color.  I drew in a chrome paint pen and teal watercolor pencils to add more interest to the raw paper edges.  Finally, I glued on images of birds, cut out pieces of the wallpaper sample, and text, adding a bit of color to the black and white photography.  My main approach here, after coming up with a theme, was to just keep layering and play with a subtle approach to texture to keep the overall effect very airy.

Collage Using Vintage Illustrated BooksDIY Collage ExamplesWhat Do Artists Use for CollageHow Do You Make DIY Collage Art?

Second Collage:

For my second collage, I had a theme/idea I wanted to unpack.  I had also gotten serious about researching collage techniques and wanted to try reveal/replace: cutting or tearing away parts of an image to either replace with something else or reveal what’s below.  I cut out an image of a plate and cutlery and tore out the middle to insert my own image.  I backed that onto a wallpaper sample and then tore that away too, before backing it onto a large calendar photo.  The final touch was cutting out and gluing on a butterfly, before highlighting areas in a chrome paint pen.

Surreal Collage ExampleEasy Art Idea for Beginners

Third Collage:

For my third collage, I wanted to play more with the surreal technique of revealing/replacing parts of an image.  I started with a black and white image, then cut out the coffee from a coffee mug image, replaced with a sky and glued it onto the photo.  I cut out and added the bird.  Then I focused on the top of the black and white photo, cutting away parts and gluing a piece of holographic paper onto the missing sky before layering on another image on a red sunset.  Finally I added text.

Collage Art ImagesExample of Reveal Replace Collage TechniqueCraft Using Upcycled Books

Fourth Collage:

For my fourth collage, I started with a wallpaper sample and then cut away a piece which I replaced with a night sky image.  On top of the wallpaper sample, I layered images and text in surreal proportions.  The wallpaper sample looked like a gilded gauge to me, so I played around with a theme of finding purpose, feeling trapped.  I just sort of went with it and with this one, collaging was kind of like journaling.

What to Do With Leftover Wallpaper ScrapsWallpaper Scrap ArtHow to Make Collage Art Tutorial

Fifth Collage:

For my fifth collage (which I showed the process of earlier in this post), I started to experiment with more dimension.  I still did the reveal/replace technique I like so much: cutting away a face and replacing it with a photo of butterflies.  Once again, I layered images, starting with a sunset, then the face/butterfly compilation I made, then the pigeon and finally the wave.  My last element was a butterfly cut out, which I backed with glittered paper and attached by only the body, so the wings still move and flutter.

Exploring Types of CollageCollage with 3D ElementCollage Art Images

Sixth Collage:

My final collage was supposed to be a different style: I wanted to cut out images into shapes that represented the landscape of my property/house.  As opposed to using images, I wanted to use big blocks of texture/color and cut them into new shapes.  You can see the house shape roughly cut out with the glittery paper representing our metallic roof.  But I struggled with this, with forcing something.  So I relaxed and created this DIY collage art, cutting away part of and layering images once again.  I actually might be kind of stuck in this collage rut, so I want to make a concerted effort to experiment with more techniques the next time I collage.  In the end, this collage ended up feeling like sort of a dream, which is what I was going for.

Modern Collage Art ExampleUpcycled Art with Paper ScrapsPaper Craft Ideas

Hubby’s Collage:

Excluding the last collage, I had worked on all of the other collages with my Mom – we had a crafternoon at my place.  I had so much fun collaging with my Mom, that I convinced Hubby to try it as well!  I found this process very relaxing and it was a good way to work through some thoughts and emotions, so I hoped it would be relaxing for him also.  At first he was reluctant, because he says he’s not artistic.  He’s wrong and now I have proof, because his collage turned out so well.  He cut away parts of a picture with an x-acto knife, and replaced those areas, and then replaced the horizon as well.  Additionally, he had the brilliant and creative idea of tracing the edges of every area he cut out with black marker, so the white page did not distract from the end collage.

Upcycle Illustrated Books Idea CraftStress Relieving Craft IdeasCoastal Art DIY

Why is Collage Relaxing?

I found collage very relaxing, and I actually want to get a big blank book where I can sort of collage/journal/doodle, because I found this a surprising way to work through emotions and feelings and frustrations.  After a VERY long break, I have gotten back into journaling for the last year or so and I can see this being a natural complement to that.  I think collage can be a very relaxing craft, for these (and so many other) reasons:

  • It’s low risk – supplies are cheap, so there’s no fear of “ruining” something.
  • It’s meditative – focusing on choosing images and carefully cutting them out also cuts out the noise in your brain.
  • It’s physically simple – unlike other crafts, which require fancy tools, collage can be as simple as tearing and gluing.
  • It’s creative expression!
  • It’s for any skill level or artistic ability – I firmly believe anyone can “do well” and make something beautiful with collage.

You can also combine collage with journaling, painting – or even travel scrapbooking – to enhance the creative experience.  I hope you try DIY collage art and I’d love to know your thoughts!

Beginner Collage ExamplesWhat to do with old books?

P.S. Don’t Forget to Pin for Later!

Upcycled: DIY Collage Art Tutorial and DIY Collage Tips

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2 Comments

  1. Eloise
    April 7, 2024 / 3:54 pm

    What a fantastic resource! I walk away having gained new understanding.

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