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How to Use Mixed Media in Painting

Updated on January 29, 2018
theraggededge profile image

I've been creating since I was a child. My hobbies include watercolor, drawing, art journaling, painting rocks, sewing & crochet.


What Exactly is Mixed Media?

Mixed media is simply using more than one medium to create a piece of art. For example, acrylic paint and collage, or watercolors and markers, or combining even more media such as paint, glitter, inks, pen and rubber stamping. The permutations and possibilities are endless.

This article demonstrates how to build up a mixed media painting, later by layer. I shall be working in a Strathmore Visual Journal 9 x 12 inches. My art journals are simply collections of mixed media dabs and daubs; a place to experiment and have fun. If I don't like what I created, I can simply glue two pages together to hide the disaster!

Materials for Mixed Media

Supplies used in this piece: Pip Seymour acrylic paint, torn paper collage, Liquitex acrylic inks, black stamp pad, rubber stamps, vintage image, fabric netting, Caran D'Ache Neocolor ll water soluble crayons/pastels. These crayons are so much fun and so versatile for all kinds of art projects.

Moving acrylic paint around the page with an old credit card
Moving acrylic paint around the page with an old credit card | Source

Acrylic Paint - First Layer

I usually use acrylic paint for my base layer. Here I have blobbed some paint on to the paper and am spreading it around with an old credit card. I have no idea what it will turn out like - that's part of the fun. The colors are: Titan Buff, Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue. I keep scraping the paint around until it mixes on the page. It's messy but effective.

Scraping off the paint to leave a distressed background
Scraping off the paint to leave a distressed background | Source

Scraping Paint Off

The resulting green was a bit deep and overwhelming so I used the card to scrape it back as much as I could, leaving a sort of antique distressed look. Much better.

I didn't throw away the paint that came off the page, I immediately applied it to a couple of other blank journal pages in other books. Waste not, want not.

Adding torn paper collage
Adding torn paper collage | Source


The next layer is a few random pieces of print from an old falling-apart book. I still have no plan or any idea how this is going to turn out. The printed papers need to be 'knocked-back', so I paint a thin layer of gesso over them.

Dripping paint and ink down the page
Dripping paint and ink down the page | Source

Paint and Ink

More paint now. I blob on some Golden Titan Buff and allow it to run down the page. Then grab some diluted inks and spray them on as well. As I dry the page, I notice some interesting crackling happening. Don't you love happy accidents? I have to leave this overnight to dry properly.

Using black paint to create a grungy border
Using black paint to create a grungy border | Source

Main Collage

Found this image on my computer – I have a ton of vintage copyright-free images – and thought she would go well on the painted page. Notice there is a smudged shadow of charcoal all around her. This helps the collage piece to look as if it is part of the painting. I painted a black border around the edge of the page and then scrubbed it a little with kitchen towel to scruff it up. Added a little water soluble wax crayon as well. Then decided to give a sparkly netting skirt to the girl to preserve her modesty.

I'm not a huge fan of commercial rubber stamps; I prefer to make my own printing stamps from bits of styrofoam. I do have one commercial one that I use a lot; it has trilobites and script and I use parts of the stamp by inking on one area only. I have used that randomly over the page and really like the effect on the dried paint blobs.

Lettering | Source

Text in Mixed Media

It's not necessary to add text to a mixed media painting, but as mine are journals, then I usually add a quote or something. These pages do actually get journaled on but always at a different time. When I'm making art, I'm not in the right mind-set for journaling. I stamped the first part of the lyric, printed and glued the 'wonderful' and hand-lettered the last bit. Used a correction pen to add the white highlights and finally rubbed on a little gold powder here and there.

Finished Mixed Media Piece

Looking at the page the following day, I can see that there's pink on the girl but none anywhere else. I always feel that a color used in one area, should be echoed elsewhere to give the painting coherence, so I grabbed a pastel and smudged some pink around the page.

Hope you enjoyed this mixed media step-by-step, thanks for stopping by.


© 2012 Bev G

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    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

      Aw... thank you. This isn't my favorite piece, it must be said! When you start on mixed media - take photos/scan everything you do. It all comes in useful for hubmaking!

    • sandy73 profile image

      Pepper 5 years ago from A small town in Colorado

      I can't wait to try. I'm grearing up. Very informative & helpful for people needing a little instruction & introduction to mixed media. Love you!!!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

      Thank you, Brainy Bunny!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      What a great example of what you talked about in your other hub on techniques! This is wonderful, and I can't wait to try it out.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

      Thank you, Angelo and Laura. Angelo, yes absolutely on canvas. Just look online for 'mixed media canvas' and you'll find many examples.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Wow! This is so cool. You are quite creative and talented. This is a geat step by step process that encourages us novices to give it a try to not worry about messing up. Voted up.

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

      This is such a good idea. It seems the possibilities are endless. Liked the way you explained it all. Think this could be done on canvas? voted up +

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

      Thanks so much, GoodLady and Natashalh. Was definitely fun to do though I still haven't cleared up the mess I made while doing it!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Wow! If I just started spreading paint around, I know it wouldn't end up looking anything like that! This is such a cool step-by-step process that I feel tempted to try, though. Voted useful and interesting.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I LOVED it! So much fun. Thanks so much. Enjoyed how you described what you were doing as you went along, made it so dramatic and surprising - and artistic fun. Voting up, beautiful and awesome