Mixed Media 101

Reluctant Reader- (13)Just beginning a Mixed Media Art journey?  Are you overwhelmed by all of the new products and confused by the terminology flying around Mixed Media Artist’s blogs and videos?  Let me simplify it for you!  I’m a relative newby myself, just starting this year!  So, I thought I’d share what I know after many months of research, Youtube tutorials, and just plain jumping in.  Here are the most important things I’ve learned and a few tips to get you started on your Mixed Media Art journey.  Get excited!  So much messy, glittery, crazy fun awaits you!


You can’t do it WRONG

There is no wrong way to do Mixed Media, if your project doesn’t come out the way that you expected or you don’t like the result, that’s okay!  It’s all experimental anyway!  Consider it a lesson learned about that particular medium.  For example, when I first played with spray mists, I tried spraying them at a stencil covered luggage tag in hopes that they would leave a nice light mist following the design of the stencil.  Guess what?  I was spraying way too close and it soaked my tag instead, getting underneath the stencil and making a big puddle.  So, with my next tag, I tried spraying from farther away and got mist ink EVERYWHERE.  Lesson learned, spray mists are not easy to control and a light touch is better than a full spray on smaller projects.

Layers are important…and great for covering mistakes!

When you first begin playing paints, inks, stains, etc., you may be worrying that your inexperience will ruin your project before it’s really begun.  Not true!  Layering is an important step of the process and the perfect way to cover up mistakes.  Had a splash of paint or a giant ink blot?  Collage some old book paper or stamp over it!  Did your stencil shift and blur your print?  Layer some embellishments on top and no one will notice.

Texture creates interest

21688242_1457744184274548_7143122458669235935_oUsing a variety of textures draws the viewer’s eye around your art work and is often used to bring attention to the focal point.  Texture can be created in a number of ways, but the most common are adding 3-D elements (like buttons, leaves, flowers, ribbon, etc) and using texture pastes and glitter glue.  I like to use both in my Mixed Media works!  Finding your favorites will take practice and experimentation. Don’t expect perfection! Discover what products you like best by getting them in small containers first and playing with them on small projects (like luggage tags and cards).

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your base material either!  Using things like untreated wood, recycled packaging, and cardboard offer even more texture to your projects and create an unexpected element to your art work!

Common mediums explained

Gesso is great for preparing your base for wet mediums like paint and ink.  It helps to limit the soak through and warping that often happens on paper products.  Usually, pre-made canvases are already treated with gesso, but some artists prefer an extra layer if they plan to layer paint heavily.

Matte (or Gloss) Medium is an extender that is often added to acrylic paint, used to adhere thin paper products to the base, or as a finishing varnish to seal your project.  Whether you choose matte or gloss is really just a matter of preference.  With matte medium, you will have a flat, clear finish and with gloss medium, you will have a shiny, clear finish.

Crackle Paste is a texture paste that goes on smooth and creamy, but when it dries, it creates a cracked finish.  Think about how how really old paint looks or a smashed window, tiny lines and pieces all throughout.  Crackle paste is perfect for creating a “worn” or “shabby” look as well as adding detail to an object (like a leaf created through a stencil).

Modeling (or Molding) Paste is a texture paste that creates a raised, smooth finish. This adds texture as well as a 3-D element to your art work.  Common ways of using modeling paste is to scrape it over a stencil or to simply scrape it in a pattern on your base.  When it dries fully, the paste becomes firm and can be painted, sprayed, or inked which makes for fun designs!

Acrylic (oil or watercolor) Paint is probably familiar to you.  The main difference between these two types of paint is that you have to add water to activate watercolor paints and they usually create a softer, lighter look than acrylics and oil paints.  If you don’t have experience painting, watercolor is a great place to start.  Discovering how to use these paints will take practice though!

Mod Podge is a lot like matte medium, but it has a better adhesive aspect to it.  This is a great choice for adding collage materials to your art work.  It is smooth and tacky when wet, but dries clear and seals the collage materials well.  Get creative with collage materials!  Try tissue paper, old book pages, bubble wrap, stickers, pictures, advertisements, string, etc.

Pastels (or Gelatos) are strong pigments that can be used to add a burst of color with more control than paints or stains.  These can get pricey though, so if you want to try them, I would start with just a couple of colors that appeal to you.  That way, you can see if these are something you enjoy using before spending too much on a medium you don’t like.

Use what you already have

It’s not necessary to run out and fill your craft space with the latest inks and expensive mediums to get started with Mixed Media!  Start with what you already have!  You can collage with patterned paper and add detail with glitter glue and markers.  Or get out your kid’s watercolor set and stamps!  The best way to get started is to simply dive in.  I find that once I’ve overcome that initial hesitancy of facing a blank page by adding color (be it with paint, ink, etc) that it’s much easier to begin experimenting with new techniques and mediums.  So, don’t let Mixed Media intimidate you!  It’s absolutely a great way to enter the “Artsy” world without the years of training and practice that many other art forms require.


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