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How to Make Mixed Media Art Projects

Updated on January 4, 2013
This page has the painted background completed, with the text page added.
This page has the painted background completed, with the text page added.

Mixed Media Art for Beginners

Everyone can used their inner creativity to make mixed media art. All you need is a willingness to have a go and release that inner child that used to love sticking things together and finger painting. Mixed media techniques are not all the different from those good old kindergarten days.

What is Mixed Media Art?
Mixed Media art is art work, decorative pieces or functional items make from a variety of different elements and brought together to express an idea, a theme or tell a story. But don't be put off by that; it doesn't need to be complex or deep and meaningful. A theme could just as easily be a colour (like blues or earth tones) or a season (things that remind you of spring).

There is a huge variety of elements to used in your mixed media work and many of these items are things you already have around you. Cardboard, paints, pencils, gluestick and a variety of papers are all you need to get started on your very first mixed media project. Other special elements, often called "found objects", like buttons, ticket stubs and shells, all add a personal touch to your project.

Lets get Started.
To begin your mixed media art project we will begin with some simple steps, using cheap, easily accessible materials, so you can let your creativity flow, rather than worrying about wasting money on those wonderful things you've bought, but never used (don't feel bad; we all have stashes of those special things that are just too nice to cut up or glue to a project).

We will start with on old cereal box (actual cereal removed), cut along the folds and open it up flat. The entire box is a little too big to begin with, so let's cut up one panel to about the size of half an A4 sheet of paper (approximately 20cm x 15cm or 8" x 6"). If you don't have a cereal box at hand (you'll keep that box next time you have one), you can use old book cover or a shoe box. As long as it's sturdy and fairly flat it will be fine.

Next find some paints, even if it's the set the children got for last Christmas. Choose a couple of colours. They can be contrasting (for example red and purple) or similar shades (for example light blue and dark blue). Squeeze some paint onto the cardboard and use a paintbrush or your fingers to move the paint around. Fill as much of the surface as you can. It doesn't need to completely cover the entire surface, but have a good general coverage. Your pattern could be a squiggle pattern or swirls or diagonal lines. Leave the piece for a while to ensure the first colour is completely dry. Then apply your next colour, again with a paintbrush or your fingers. This time make spots between the first pattern or make the lines go the other way; wherever the mood takes you. When you are happy with the overall look you have achieved, leave for the paint to fully dry. If you are unsure if you are happy with it, leave it overnight and revisit your work in the morning. Paint will change colours slightly when dried but often a fresh, morning perspective improves a piece no end.

Side note: By checking each layer of paint is dry before starting with the next, it will ensure that the paint layers are distinct and don't mix into a grubby, brown mess. This will allow each layers pattern to show through.

Now the background is finished, so we are going to add some visual texture and depth to our piece. The first layer is usually some background paper to semi cover the painted background. It could be an old dictionary page or text from a newspaper or magazine. This is stuck onto the background with everyday glue. Even a glue stick is fine, as long as you make sure the glue covers the paper right up to the edges to ensure it will stick properly. As we don't want to entirely cover your wonderful background, we can tear this sheet to give it an attractive edge. Then decide where you are going to place it, before adding the glue and attaching it. You may find it more appealing to place the text paper diagonally across your piece, or you may want to cover only the bottom third, creating a sort of horizon across it.

On top of the painted background with interesting paper on it, we will now add a focal point. Often in mixed media art, the focal element will be a face or image of a person. This could be an image from a magazine or a newspaper or old photo. Move it this way and that until you find the best spot for it. Stick it down, making sure the glue goes right to the edge, but doesn't ooze out.

To finish the piece, we need to add some embellishments. These embellishments can be found objects, like buttons, ticket stubs and shells, which all add a personal touch to your project. Text added as an embellishment also will draw the eye and engage the brain. Single words or phrases add extra depth both through the layering and telling the story of your piece. Simple words like "beauty" or "remember" may be all that is needed to complete your mixed media masterpiece.

Now we've finished, so let it sit to fully dry. Don't forget to sign and date your work.

Happy creating!

Some of my mixed media art for inspiration

Simple and easy to make, these moo cards convey simple sentiments
Simple and easy to make, these moo cards convey simple sentiments

Let's hear about your mixed media art masterpieces!

What is your favourite mixed media art substrate (object to start with)?

See results

Feel free to ask questions or share your mixed media art

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    • whitneywpanetta profile image


      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I love your page, great info! I am big into visual journaling, I recently started a blog about it ( and love seeing other people involved in it!

    • profile image

      Thank you 

      7 years ago

      This is a nice page

    • profile image

      Shari Green 

      7 years ago

      i would love to sign up for your monthly articles but every time i click on the name and email address boxes it takes me to a new page.

    • THIRD STONE profile image


      8 years ago from On an island in Maine, Acadia National Park is my back yard

      Nice and well written. I do abstract art pieces from digital photos, it's really fun. I love all forms of art.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Just lovely! This should bring out the "inner child" in almost everybody! Makes me want to get out there and start doing more...


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