The Five-Minute Muse's Quickie Collage Workshop

By Molly Anderson | Posted 10/4/05 | Updated 8/16/23

October Afternoon Creative Journal (front)Want to make a collage, but not sure how to start? Specific questions about materials, process, and themes? I can help! I hope to inspire you to create fun collages while answering a few common questions.

Collage is an easy, fun art form that allows you to work with a variety of materials. The thing I love about collage is that you produce an absolutely unique work of art every time you make one.

Gather all of your materials, and put a protective layer of newspaper over your work area. Use a piece of cardboard or wood for the base. This could get messy, so wear a smock or old clothes.

When making a collage, it's important to use the right glue to hold everything together! If you are working with thin paper like newsprint, white school glue will make it wrinkle, tear, or curl up at the edges. Try a "dry" glue instead — a glue-stick or some rubber cement will do the job nicely. For best results, use only a small amount and spread it in a thin, even layer.

If you have never worked with rubber cement before, check the container for tips on using this product safely, and always work in a well-ventilated area. Another alternative? Use some cool stickers to hold the corners in place. You can also make a photocopy on heavier paper, to make it easier to work with.

After your work of art is complete, you can use a spray-on shellac to preserve it. (This is definitely the best option for collages with photos attached.) Another idea? Mod-Podge: a thin veneer that can be brushed on, and dries clear. The best technique? Use a large, soft brush and apply in thin layers. Allow to dry completely before adding another layer. It can also be used as an adhesive — to add something to a collage using Mod-Podge, brush a thin layer over the surface of the collage, place your materials on top, then seal with another thin layer.

Working with photos presents a real challenge to the fledgling collage artist. Photographic paper is delicate, and easily ruined. It is wise to print doubles of your photos before making a collage, in case it doesn't turn out exactly as you planned.

When attaching photos to your collage, apply a small amount of rubber cement to the back of each photo, and place it carefully on the surface of the collage. This will allow you to remove the photo easily, without damaging the image or ripping it. You can also use stickers, adhesive photo-corners, or photo sleeves to attach a picture to your collage.

Hot, Fresh Sources For Collage Ingredients

October Afternoon Creative Journal (back)Question: "I love doing collage, but I find my sources of material limited… magazines, calendars, etc. I want to make my collages classier. Where do I go for free or moderately-priced material?"

If you're on a tight budget, collage is the perfect art form for you. You don't have to rush out and buy a bunch of expensive supplies to get started. Look around with artist's eyes — collages are a very flexible art-form, and can contain almost anything! Beads from a broken necklace… a beautiful airmail stamp… words or pictures cut from an old birthday card.

One way to add complexity and depth to your work is to explore three-dimensional materials. Use boxes, bottles, or other objects as the base for a collage — the results can be stunning!

Thrift stores and garage sales are an excellent source of cheap art materials. You can score outrageous deals on fabric, beads, and cheap jewelry. You can also find affordable and delicious ingredients for your next collage at a local toy store.

I hope I have inspired you, and answered some of your questions about collage. May you belly-dance bravely with your Inner Artist!

©2005 by Molly Anderson. All rights reserved.

Rain GoddessMolly Anderson is a a highly creative writer and artist from Durango, Colorado.