Mixing the Media – 3 Simple Steps!

Three Simple Steps to Mixed Media Projects

Mixed media is fun, but it can be confusing – how to start, what to do next, am I done yet? Try simplifying to this 3 step process to get started. Having a process framework takes the guesswork out but leaves room for the creativity. This is how I approach my own projects – give it try and see what you think!

Mixed media describes art and journal projects that bring together different elements and materials in a variety of different ways. Pretty much any art or craft technique and medium you can think of can also be called mixed media when used together.  When you start combining techniques and media, the possibilities multiply and can become overwhelming.

That’s where a simple framework comes in – giving yourself some order and reducing choices can have the unexpected effect of freeing your creativity and helping you get started.

Limit Your Choices for Success

Before you start, go ahead and choose the media you’ll use and the colors. I often only use 2 or 3 types of media – such as paint and collage – and only 3 to 5 different colors. This restriction allows me to be more free in the application because I’ve made those decisons ahead of time. The piece in the picture was made with acrylic paint, stencils and texture paste with only 5 colors of paint.

Steps into Mixing Media

Choose a surface

First you need a substrate to work paint, draw or glue onto. There are many different things that you can use – from recycle bin cardboard and paper to canvas and fabric to wood and other rigid boards. But, before you grab the first thing at hand, think about how durable you want the finished item to be. If you’re making a journal cover, paper is likely too thin but cardboard would be about right.

Add Layers

Start by priming your surface with an appropriate sealer. Most papers and paper products can be successfully primed with gesso or even basic acrylic paint. Add more layers of paint colors and shapes and/or glue down interesting papers to fill in the space. Then paint over the papers to partially obscure them. Once you have an interesting surface, consider if there are any blank spots or places that are too busy.

Add a Focal Point and Finish the Details

Choose an image, or item, to be the main point of the work. It can be an image cut from a magazine or book, your own art, or a found item attached to the page. Make sure it’s large enough to work as a focal item: around a quarter page size or larger makes the point to the viewer.

All that’s left is to finish the details with smaller images and embellishments around the page. Knowing when to stop is the hard part – my advice is to stop when you have two more items and you’re searching for where to put them. Usually, the work is done at that point. Leave the whole thing to sit overnight and see how it looks the next day.

Wrap it Up

Once you’re happy with the piece, all that’s left is to seal it, if necessary, and use it as you originally intended: as art to display or as part of another project.

Let me know if the idea of simplifying and thoughtfully restricting design choices is helpful – I’d love  to hear from you!

More Art Journal Inspiration in the Shop:

Artistic Style – Do I Have One and What is It?

Style 1 Loose, delicate, light, and mostly empty


Recently, someone asked me a question about artistic style: do I have a style, how to develop it and what do I call my style? Perhaps you’d like to listen in on the answer.

 Do I Have an Artistic Style?

Style 2 Complex, colorful, filled, and textured

All artists have a distinct style. The analogy often used is it’s like handwriting for art.


And, much like handwriting, it takes some time after learning the basics for your style to emerge. During the time you’re learning the crafts of drawing and painting and understanding how to handle the materials and mediums, it may seem like you have no style at all or you jump around from one thing to another.

 How do I Develop my Art Style?

The only way to develop your individual style is by making your art – repeatedly. Your individual style will start to develop as you gain confidence and experience with each part of the process of making art. It’ll start to show in how you make your marks on the paper in preliminary drawings, the paper you choose to work on, the medium you prefer and how you apply it to the surface and every other element of the finished art. It’s the sum of all these individual choices that add up to an artist’s style.

What do I Call my Style?

I think a large part of the problem for artists trying to define their style comes from trying to pin it down with a label.  The more common descriptions, like cubism, expressionism, pop art or surrealism, are broad terms and a type of art shorthand for classifying works. While they’re helpful for broadly classifying a work and make a point of common departure to talk about a work, I think they can be restrictive and intimidating as well as corralling work into premade boxes. I like to think of artistic style in more descriptive terms (* see below)  then categorize it if necessary.

 What’s Your Style?

Individual artistic style marks a work as belonging to a particular artist and is more of a way of working and handling the materials than a label. Do you have a style? How would you describe it without using a standard classification? Drop me a note and let me know what your style is, I’d love to hear from you!


*Descriptive Terms

Like loose vs. tight, realistic vs. unrealistic, colorful vs. monochrome, soft vs. hard, rounded vs. angular, and so on. Here are some pairs to get you started:

Filled / Empty

Simple / Complex

Beauty / Ugly

Whole / Broken

Stability / Movement

Organized / Chaotic

Mechanical / Hand-Drawn

Large / Small

Grayscale / Color

Light / Dark

Fine / Coarse

Smooth / Rough

Sharp / Dull

Light / Heavy

Stable / Unstable

Fast Tips for Crisp Stencil Edges

I just got a great question via email and having sent the answer off, thought you might like to hear it too.
The question was about how to get crisp edges when using stencils and did I have any tips?
My Answer:
I’ll make an assumption that you’re having a problem with the edges when you use paint with a stencil – that’s the most common medium that causes problems. My experience has been there are two things that may be at fault: the application tool being too wet and the stencil moving around.
First, the application tool. Paint is inherently wet and stenciling is an inherently dry art form – thus the smudgy edges. I’ve found that using a sponge applicator (either a cosmetic wedge or special purpose sponge brush) is a better way to apply paint. Brushes are difficult to get dry enough and often “push” the paint under the stencil edges.
The trick with using a sponge is to dip it into the paint and then dab most of it right back off until the sponge is barely damp with paint. Then gently tap it onto the area straight up and down. Of course, it may take more than one coat to get the color build-up you want, but the edges will be crisp and, personally, I like the look of the differences in coverage – it gives the work a more lively quality.
Second, the stencil itself. If the stencil moves while you’re painting, the edges will smear. If you’re working on a project that allows, go ahead and tape the edges of the stencil down with low-tack blue tape. That will keep everything in place for the duration of the project.
But, if you’re like me and move that stencil around to get different angles, that won’t work. In that case, I hold the working area down firmly with one hand (up close to where I’m working) and apply paint with the other. One other tip with this is to gently twist your wrist as you lift the sponge so it doesn’t pull the stencil up with it. It takes a few times of practicing but it really does keep that stencil down so the edges stay secure. Finally, be sure to wait long enough before picking the stencil back up – it shouldn’t be long at all if the application was dry enough.
Now, this is just my experience and your results may vary – do you have something that’s worked for you?
Try out your stencil technique with this Paper Lantern Stencil in the shop!

Happy Friday – Special Digital Printable Card Bundle – Alice, Shells and Florals

Happy Friday – Special Digital Printable Card Bundle – Alice, Shells and Florals

Happy Friday!

It’s time to share this week’s bundle special. I heard you saying that a weekend wasn’t long enough, so special bundles will now be available for the whole week.

This pretty bundle has all your favorites on printable cards ready to make your journal and papercraft projects special. Each one is ready to print on letter size paper, then just cut them out and embellish!

You get all three card sets for the price of two! Best of all, they are ready to download immediately – no waiting!

Introducing the Shiny Designs Designer Debut Program

Shiny Designs Designer Program

The Shiny Designs Designer Debut Program

If you’re a digital designer interested in stepping up your game, the Shiny Designs Designer Debut Program is for you. Don’t worry, you don’t need a ton of experience packaging and selling your designs – you just need mad design skills and a passion for learning.

As a member of the Designer Debut Program, you’ll learn how to plan product collections, workflow tips and tricks, how to perfectly package the actual product, marketing and promotion ideas and so much more from a successful, experienced designer. No more fumbling around in the dark, wondering if you’re doing it right.

Best of all – you’ll earn an industry standard commission on your sales! You’ll get a monthly payment for your skills and talent. Just head on over to the Designer Program Information Page to learn more and sign up!

Mixed Media and Digital Art Journaling for Everyone