How To Incorporate Mixed Media Into Your Paintings

What is Mixed Media?

In the last couple of years I have been venturing into creating mixed media paintings – in fact in the true sense I have been using mixed media for a lot longer as I have often used things like gold leaf, string and sand in my paintings. Mixed media can include a lot of things but in my mind it is really anything other than paint! Of course there are also other art materials such as gesso and structure gel that you can use to enhance your paintings but for the benefit of this article I am including such things as paper, foodstuffs, hardware items etc

I will go through each item in the order that I would likely use it in a painting. Most of my paintings are abstract in nature and so I can use mixed media to create various abstract ideas.

I added sting to the base of this painting which I applied with pva adhesive.
I added sting to the base of this painting which I applied with pva adhesive.

Adding Media to the Base of the Painting

If you have read my other articles you will know that I use a lot of texture in my paintings and in fact I make my own texture most of the time. There are many things that you can add to this texture as a base for your paintings and the list is almost endless so I will suggest just a few:

Plastic Items: I have a stock of things that I have bought mostly at hardware stores to add to my texture, the one I have particularly at the moment that I will use in one of my future paintings is tile spacers – I can see that I could make really interesting patterns with these and if they are put into my texture they will dry hard and I can paint over them. Other items you could use are small plastic figures (you may want to either enclose these in texture or add them later if they are already painted).

Other items to add to texture could be string, nails, screws, shells, glass beads, fine shingle or very small stones. You can either mix these in with your texture or else place them on wet texture that you have already put on the canvas.

A collage which incorporates items of mixed media including personal photos, newspaper cut outs and tissue type paper.
A collage which incorporates items of mixed media including personal photos, newspaper cut outs and tissue type paper.

Adding Items on Top of the Painting

When adding items on top of the painting I always try to make sure I have done as much of the actual painting as possible. In particular I am talking about adding any paper items (pictures of relevant things) onto the painting in the fashion of a collage. The worst thing is if you add the picture and you realise you want to do more painting or add different colours and you have to work round it.

So, there are a couple of things that you can add in terms of pictures: you can add photographs of your own. I often do this and find the best way is to print them on plain paper. I also might manipulate the photograph so that it has a tint to it that matches the colour scheme of the painting, then it looks more part of it. Another thing I like to add is newspaper clippings. You can add these in the same way as paper although you need to be careful of the back of the newspaper showing through to the front. You could also add things like old sheet music and old maps to your paintings.

Once you have the items that you want to add, put the painting down flat and position the items where you might like them to go. Move them around until you get a composition that you are happy with. There are a number of substances that you can use to apply the paper items onto the canvas: pva glue, paint but my preferred medium is decoupage medium which is made for that purpose. 

In a portion of this painting I applied a photo printed on paper with decoupage glue and painted round the edges to match the rest of the painting, so hiding the join.
In a portion of this painting I applied a photo printed on paper with decoupage glue and painted round the edges to match the rest of the painting, so hiding the join.

Apply the decoupage medium to the back of the paper and stick it to the painted canvas. One you have all the items stuck down then you need to really paint around them so that they are incorporated into the painting. Paint round the edges so that they are not so stark and also you can apply a glaze on top to hide the items a bit and camouflage them (if that is the effect you want).

As well as applying paper items to your canvas you could also use marker pens to draw or write on your canvas. A sharpie will be permanent and you can even glaze over it a bit to disguise it. I have used poems or wordings that I have made up myself or also used a thick marker to draw on more noticeable words. Sometimes I will cut a template out and use this to put in some markings.

This collage is mainly made up of newspaper cuttings to spell out the words of a song.
This collage is mainly made up of newspaper cuttings to spell out the words of a song.

Applying Gold Leaf

Gold leaf can be added to paintings by using gold size. Apply this and then wait for it to become taky before applying the gold leaf. Often on the bottle this says wait for 40 minutes but I have found that it is tacky after about 15 – but that may depend on atmospheric conditions. Applying gold leaf can be quite tricky and I recommend that if you have not done it before, try it on a test canvas first as once it is on it is very difficult to get off so you want to get it right! Once you have left the gold leaf and size to fully dry then cover it with a coat of goldfinger varnish which will protect it from tarnishing over time.

Mixed Media is Fun

So, here are a few ideas for using mixed media/collage in your paintings, the main thing is to try different things, experiment and see what happens. It can be fun to use different items in your paintings and they can build up on a theme that you might have.

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Comments 6 comments

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Very nice...I especially like the collage that does the word for a song.....great hub...very interesting


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks very much Cogerson :-)


Mixed Media Art profile image

Mixed Media Art 5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

Great article - love your word collage with the purple border.


jewlery 5 years ago

very nice collection


rosettaartist1 profile image

rosettaartist1 5 years ago from United Kingdom

I love the idea of playing and exploring techniques. Thanks.


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 5 years ago from UK Author

Glad you like it Rosetta, it's always good to experiment in art I think!

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