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How to Make a Good Collage

Updated on July 21, 2011
Collage art by Jean David
Collage art by Jean David

I was introduced to the art of collaging when I was thirteen-years old. A friend of mine was spending the night at my house and asked if I had any old magazines I wouldn't mind cutting up. Of course, at that age, I had dozens of periodicals such as "Seventeen", "YM" and "Jane". She explained to me that she had recently seen a collage beneath the glass surface of a coffee table and had become fascinated with this art form. Enthralled by anything crafty, I quickly caught on to her enthusiasm and we spent the evening collaging shoeboxes, then posterboard, then notebooks and binders. It was an activity that would keep me busy for the next ten years, well into my twenties.

Collage is defined as a technique of composing a work of art by pasting on a single surface various materials not normally associated with one another, as newspaper clippings, parts of photographs, theater tickets, and fragments of an envelope.


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More collages by Jean Davidby Barbara Burkard
More collages by Jean David
More collages by Jean David
by Barbara Burkard
by Barbara Burkard


  1. Any printed material such as old magazines, newspapers, advertisements, brochures
  2. Scissors, the smaller the better as you will sometimes need to cut out very tiny words
  3. Glue -- I recommend Mod Podge because it's a glue, sealer and finisher all-in-one, and you can choose between a matte or glossy finish
  4. A usable surface. Virtually anything can be collaged--a shoebox, the cover of a book, a picture frame, a wall. One of my favorite things to do was to go to either IKEA or the local craft store and purchase wooden picture frames, magazine racks, desk organizers and keepsake boxes for a couple of bucks and collage them.

"Where the Saucers Come From" by Peter Lewis
"Where the Saucers Come From" by Peter Lewis


Sometimes it's a good idea to have a theme in mind, such as "summer", "love" or "friendship" to help get you started. Flip through the magazine and clip anything that catches your eye--an image, a phrase, an advertising slogan, etc. Don't worry about cutting them out neatly (you'll trim them up later) just get them out of the magazine and put them to the side. Once you've got about 50 snippets, you're ready to start trimming them to scale. Cut off any jagged edges and trim as close as you can to the actual image, trying not to leave any blank space around the perimeter. You can either cut them into square and rectangles, or round the edges for a softer look.

50 snippets is a good starting point, but you'll most likely have to cut out more as you go along. I usually like to start with one main image, whichever one speaks to me the loudest, and place it at the center of my surface. This will become the main focal point, and all the other clippings will circle around it. Using a paintbrush or sponge applicator, apply a thin coating of glue to the surface and then adhere the clipping. Arrange the other clippings around it, overlapping the edges so there is no white space. After you've finished pasting all the different elements, use Mod Podge to apply an additional thin layer of glue over top of the entire surface. This will smooth down any stray corners, protect the surface by sealing the collage in place and create a nice, polished finish.


  • BOXES -- shoeboxes, trinket boxes, index card holders, keepsake boxes
  • PICTURE FRAMES -- wooden frames, metal frames, or collage a piece of paper that goes inside the frame
  • BOOK COVERS -- sketchbooks, journals, binders
  • BOOKS -- make an altered book by collaging not only the cover, but the inside pages of the book as well

Family photomontage
Family photomontage


A photomontage is a combination of several photographs joined together for artistic effect or to show more of the subject than can be shown in a single photograph. It is arranged in the same style as a regular collage, just do NOT apply any glue over the photographs once you are finished as this will smear and blur the ink on the pictures and ruin your design. In addition to making great gifts, photomontages are also customarily seen as memorials honoring the life of someone who has passed, or creations celebrating a marriage, birth or graduation.

An assemblage is another type of altered art that uses flat, one-dimensional images and cut-outs along with 3-D objects to enhance items such as a spice rack, picture frame or napkin holder.


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by Teesha Moore
by Teesha Moore
by Teesha Moore


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    • profile image

      desbelewoldemariam 5 years ago

      I hate college!!!

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 5 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      I adore making collage - I go to an art studio every Saturday where I spend the entire day working on collage - sometimes in journals other times on paper of mat board. Collage is for me healing and a wonderful way to get in touch with my inner bliss. Best, Kartika :)

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 5 years ago from Indiana

      great article, i've been doing this for years on my own, then i started doing them for special themes at work, but it wasn't until this past summer that i felt that someone really appreciated it.

      my current thing is dressing up my writing binders, but i'm about experiment with some romance novel covers that are too steamy looking to read at work.

    • profile image

      wiccanfemme463 5 years ago

      when i got divorced i made my first was very liberating!then i covered a large cork bulletin board i bought at the thrift was just random pieces of my life and i found it brought back good memories and celebrated who i was at the i'm beginning my next piece which concerns my retired life and the freedom i have!!thanks HubPages!!

    • PrairieRain profile image

      PrairieRain 6 years ago from Midwestern U.S.

      I love assemblage! Great info. and interesting examples.

    • EyesStraightAhead profile image

      Shell Vera 6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I love to make collages. Thank you for sharing various kinds of collages...I had never known there was a word "assemblages" to define the 3-D ones! I am a huge fan of that type of art on canvas and own several of them. Great information!

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 6 years ago from Indiana

      I've been doing it on and off for a few years on poster board, but usually for a special occasion at work. Recently I began dressing up binders that I write in, loving the end result.

    • profile image

      jackbrando 8 years ago

      I recently started making collages and this info was helpful. thanks and love your art.


    • profile image

      Peter Lewis 9 years ago

      Just found this article - thanks for featuring some of my work, and I'm glad to have inspired you :)

    • bluerabbit profile image

      bluerabbit 9 years ago

      Great article! Many useful resources.

    • Stuff You Love profile image

      Stuff You Love 10 years ago from Idaho

      I am addicted to making collages. Everything I see, I see in a way that would relate it to something else....COLOR is my main criteria for collecting things to be used in my collage work. I have a website at I love taking things that would be thrown out by most people and giving them beauty and value.

    • profile image

      Jean David 10 years ago


      Great site, I invite you to look at an article I wrote about collages:

      Have fun,

      Jean David

    • Rmnathan profile image

      Rmnathan 10 years ago from Sharjah

      Great Hub with interesting pictures. I too was interested in this art many years back, but did not continue long.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 10 years ago from Northern California

      I used to make collages when I was in middle school all the time. I like this hub. I recently make a poster-size collage of the funny faces athletes make that get in the sports pages and entered it in the county fair... first place :)