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!

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