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Mixed Media Techniques: Tiny Art Tags

Updated on November 26, 2020
theraggededge profile image

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

Make These Art Tags

Text & photos: TheRaggededge
Text & photos: TheRaggededge | Source

Using Garment Labels

D'you ever find yourself reluctant to throw away garment labels? Or even labels and tags from other items? Some of them are lovely and sturdy, and quite beautiful. I've been collecting mine for years now. I knew that one day I was going to do something arty with them.

Artists' trading cards have been around for years now – they are small pieces of art, often given in swaps, no more than 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches. There are lots of beautiful examples online and, indeed, there are several books devoted to these wee pieces of inspiration. This would be the perfect thing for my labels. Plus... recycling waste into art is eco-friendly.

My labels are different sizes. Some are folded, others are just a single thickness of card... and treating them as small substrates for artwork is very appealing. So I decided to give it a go. Here are the results of my first foray into the teeny-tiny world of trading cards (or home-made gift tags, or journal charms, or whatever purpose you can imagine).


Materials Required

The only supply that you can't manage without in this project is gesso. It covers up the existing printing on the label and provides a good surface to work on. After that, you can decorate anyway you like, using collage, lettering, paint, pens, or anything you can think of. I am including my list of supplies so that you can see exactly how these tags were created.

  • Assorted labels
  • Gesso
  • Paint brushes: a large flat for applying gesso, and some small rounds for decorating later
  • Acrylic inks, diluted in spray bottles
  • Stencils
  • Watercolor paint
  • Rubber stamps
  • Sakura Pigma Micron pen, black 05
  • Assorted media such as watercolor paint, pencils and markers
  • Uni-ball Signo pen, white, broad nib
  • Decorative chalks

Give the tags one or two coats of gesso.
Give the tags one or two coats of gesso. | Source

Prepping with Gesso

Remove the cords and strings from the labels. The first step is to prepare the labels for painting. Make sure you have covered up your work surface as this stage can get messy. It's a really good idea to apply gesso and leave the tags overnight. I did not do this, so the surface was a little bit soft when it came to the later stages. Two coats of gesso is recommended unless you want some of the original printing to show through. I did both sides of my labels but that's up to you. If the reverse sides are blank, you might want to leave them to add a written message.

Lay down the labels close together – treat them as one single surface. Open up any folded ones. Apply a thin layer of gesso with your large brush. Leave the labels to dry or use a heat gun to help them along. Be careful of getting too close or the gesso will bubble and burn. Ask me how I know this. Apply a second coat, if necessary. Once the first side is touch dry, you can turn them over and do the other sides. Let the labels cure overnight if you can.

Lay down some stencils or random objects on the tags.
Lay down some stencils or random objects on the tags. | Source

Stencilling the Tags

Once the gesso is thoroughly dry, lay down some stencils on top of them. You can use anything with a pleasing design. Raid your children's stencil collection or just use things like rubber bands, paper-clips, scissors or any other object that would leave an interesting pattern.

Lightly spray one or two colors of inks over the stencils and tags, leave for a minute and then very carefully lift the stencils up. What I usually do at this point is to take my paint covered stencils and lay them face-down on clean paper or a clean page in my journal and press the excess ink off them. Instant background for another piece of art.

As you can see in the photo below, my yellow wasn't in the mood for spraying and just dripped. This is fine. I like blobs and drips.

You can also use alcohol sprays such as Tim Holtz Adirondack by Ranger, but avoid the ones that can be reactivated with water such as Dylusions. You want this background layer to stay put so that it shows as interesting shadows through subsequent applications of color.

Spray acrylic ink or thin acrylic paint over the stencils.
Spray acrylic ink or thin acrylic paint over the stencils. | Source
Apply watercolor washes of varying colors.
Apply watercolor washes of varying colors. | Source

Adding Layers of Color to Tags

You can do this in several ways. It's best to use a watercolor medium of some sort, as it needs to be both colorful and transparent enough to let the stencil sprays show through. I used watercolor paint washes. You could use Tombow Dual-tip brush pens and add plenty of water to spread out their intense hues. Or lightly scribble with Neocolor lls and activate with a water spray. However you do it, just get a transparent layer of color down over the acrylic spray.

Draw, doodle and stamp the tags.
Draw, doodle and stamp the tags. | Source

Draw, Doodle and Stamp

Once the background is dry, you can start to play. I used a script stamp and a green ink to add a little more to the background. Then drew a few flower and leaf doodles with black pen and stamped some words with an alphabet rubber stamp set.

You don't have to follow my example - you can do faces or birds or random shapes. Or just use rubber stamps, or how about some collage?

Finished tags... notice the 'helpful' paw coming in from the top - that's our black & white cat, Doodle!
Finished tags... notice the 'helpful' paw coming in from the top - that's our black & white cat, Doodle! | Source

Finishing the Art Tags

Color in the doodles and/or stamps. If you added collage, consider outlining it with charcoal and then rubbing gently with a blending tool to make it become one with the background. If you like you can add borders with pastels, crayons or pen. Use a white pen to make your design sparkle. I like to rub on some decorative chalk or pastel to make the tags even more colorful – you just can't have too much color! Don't forget to tie on the string or perhaps some interesting lengths of yarn.

Art Tag Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Doodles finished with watercolor pencils.Flowers and leaves colored with watercolor paint.Watercolor again. The border is done with a white correction pen and a black marker.I used metallic paint for this oneFlowers colored with markers.Doodles filled in with Tombow Dual Tip brush pens.
Doodles finished with watercolor pencils.
Doodles finished with watercolor pencils.
Flowers and leaves colored with watercolor paint.
Flowers and leaves colored with watercolor paint.
Watercolor again. The border is done with a white correction pen and a black marker.
Watercolor again. The border is done with a white correction pen and a black marker.
I used metallic paint for this one
I used metallic paint for this one
Flowers colored with markers.
Flowers colored with markers.
Doodles filled in with Tombow Dual Tip brush pens.
Doodles filled in with Tombow Dual Tip brush pens.

© 2012 Bev G

Do you hate throwing away those attractive labels?

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    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      8 years ago from Wales, UK

      Thank you europewalker, Ann1Az2 and savingkathy. Hope you have fun making mixed media tags!

    • savingkathy profile image

      Kathy Sima 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What a fun and creative idea! Your tags are beautiful! Thank you so much for providing the instructions for this. I think I will try to make some gift tags using your techniques.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image


      8 years ago from Orange, Texas

      What a cool way to recycle! I'll bet you could use these for gift tags, too.

      Well done.

    • europewalker profile image


      8 years ago

      Those are really cute, what a crafty idea! Thanks for sharing:)

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      8 years ago from Wales, UK

      Thank you Natashalh and Robie! I'm glad you liked the hub.

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Wonderful hub, very inspiring, I love the step-by-step instructions, and your photos add so much! I shared it on HP and also pinned it. Great job!

    • Natashalh profile image


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      These are so pretty! Thanks for the great instructions. I've always been reluctant to throw those tags away, but I couldn't come up with any good reason to keep them. Now you've given me one!

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      8 years ago from Wales, UK

      Thanks, Judi Bee and Claudia. I must get round to finishing the reverse sides and add them to the hub!

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 

      8 years ago from Mexico

      Your tag art is beautiful! These technique can be fun for kids too; I like them to play and learn to do creative, productive stuff all at the same time, instead of just playing. Great hub.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      8 years ago from UK

      Very useful and beautiful - will have to give them a go for Christmas. Always love your hubs!

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      8 years ago from Wales, UK

      @RTalloni: You are very welcome. Ooh it's great when people take an idea and then adapt it and expand on it and make it grow. You could also do a hub based on the techniques you develop from this.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      It occurs to me that making signature tags for my work would be a neat use of this idea. The fact that they would be all shapes and sizes would not matter, it's the technique you demonstrate here that would unify them. I could use them for gifts as well as for selling. Thanks!

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      8 years ago from Wales, UK

      That would work brilliantly, DreamerMeg! Make sure you point out to people that you have included an original piece of art with your gift!

    • DreamerMeg profile image


      8 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Yes, I do hate throwing them out - it seems such a waste but I could start collecting them now and build up some Xmas tags!

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      8 years ago from Wales, UK

      Thank you so much, Carol777, RTalloni & Joy56. Your enthusiasm and encouragement are worth so much to me.

    • Joy56 profile image


      8 years ago

      You are giving me lots of ideas for my classes.......... I absolutely love your work, your hubs are so clear, and i just wished you lived nearer, then i could meet you and get one to one tutorials from you...... Wonderful

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Oh wow, another reason to go shopping! :)

      Seriously, this is a fabulous idea. To think of all the tags that have gone out in the trash--but now I know what to do with them.

      Your examples are delightful.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      These tags are gorgeous. What a clever and creative idea. I had fun reading this and may even try. Great instructions. Voting UP.


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