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Creating Layers in Mixed Media Art

Updated on April 5, 2013

Creating layers and depth in mixed media art is what draws me in; I love to look at a piece and discover hidden text and scratchings; areas where two colours have blended in an unexpected way; an unusual word or expression that conjures up images of far off times and places.

It has taken me many years to fully appreciate the complexity and depth of the mixed media art collages and paintings I see in the glossy magazines. And I often wondered why my pieces didn't reflect the same depth and character. After much study and trial and error, I have discovered that the way to get lots of layers and depth and intrigue is to add these layers one at a time. With a little knowledge you too can learn to create gorgeous mixed media pieces.


Gesso and Paints

If in doubt, begin with a layer of gesso; Always a good place to start. This provides a good surface that our paints and other layers will adhere to. Remember that this gesso layer can also be used to add some texture and creating marks and words and scratchings in the wet gesso will provide interest as the layers are built up.

Paints are the best way to add layers and colour to our mixed media art pieces. When starting out, choose two or three colours that go well together. And have a little black and white on hand. From these humble beginnings, great arty things can happen.

Mixed media paper ephemera
Mixed media paper ephemera

Paper Ephemera

Using old book pages and interesting fonts and texts add another dimension to our mixed media art collages. Add some pieces under the gesso. Save the more interesting pieces to add nearer the top of your collage. Tear, cut shapes, add with abandon; this is the fun part of creating mixed media art so play and lose yourself in the creative enjoyment.

You can stick these paper pieces down with a glue stick or PVA. For good adhesion, mixed media artist prefer to use gel medium that can be used to glue down pieces and to cover each piece, ensuring adhesion and providing the platform for the next layer.

Buttons as embellishments
Buttons as embellishments
Painted jigsaw puzzle pieces
Painted jigsaw puzzle pieces

Finishing Touches

Once your painting and paper layering are at a stage you are happy, then it is time to add the finishing touches. Embellishments can include wonderful found objects, like old bottle caps or buttons or beads or more modern types found in your local scrapbooking or craft store.

Consider carefully before adding these final items. It you want them to sit on top of your layering then leave the underneath paint and glued layers some time to fully dry before adding them.

I hope these few points have sparked a creative thought or image. With a little knowledge and practise, creating wonderful mixed media painting or collages is possible.

Happy layering!

And some more

Creating Layers in Mixed Media Art: A keep within reach reference for the "What do I need next?" moments
Creating Layers in Mixed Media Art: A keep within reach reference for the "What do I need next?" moments

To create rich mixed media art we add many layers - some seen and some hidden. Here is your go-to guide for what to add next!

Using these techniques you can create cute litte canvases like this!
Using these techniques you can create cute litte canvases like this!


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    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev G 

      6 years ago from Wales, UK

      I agree. It took me a while to get to grips with layering. I found it difficult to 'let' go of my backgrounds - I didn't want to cover them up - but it works! I use gesso in between layers too, so they ghost through.

    • creativespirit63 profile image


      6 years ago from Omaha, Nebraska

      I like the piece you created!


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