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Creative Collage Ideas

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mixed media collage worlds apart

Collage ideas are everywhere. That's if you understand what a collage is. To define collage we can say that a collage is a  piece of artwork made by gluing bits of paper and fabrics to some kind of background like paper, cardboard or canvas. They can be abstract or very realistic.

Collage can be intimidating to some. That is because collage is often presented as the type of activity I did shown in the  image above. This was a progressive collage activity that I did at my Summer 2016 Columbus School for Art & Design Summer Educators program where we started by covering the canvas with pieces of ripped magazine, paint and anything else I could find.

We then had to use google earth images to depict things relating to either gender, place, time or equality. I chose the Taj Mahal and the slums of Mumbai to show inequality in life and it ended up looking like the image on the right which I titled "Worlds Apart".

I loved the beginning of the activity where we got to rip and glue and paint. The second part, where I had to figure out how to get abstract ideas onto a canvas was not so much fun for me.

I find that many of the collage ideas and activities that are out there​ in museums are similar to this type of collage work which is symbolic and often non understandable without an explanation. In order to create collages we are often asked to paste random papers together to form some kind of artwork.

As I am not so proficient or very comfortable with this kind of collage work I knew that in order to get you interested in doing collages, I had to bring you collage art ideas that were more down to earth and not symbolic. (As I get more comfortable with the other type of collage work I will post about that)

To write about more concrete collage ideas I went through the 5 books I own on collage​ and started making lists of which collages I was going to do so that I could post them here. These are mostly paper collages even though I do know that assemblages are part of collage I do not cover that here.

Of course, I barely touched the amount of collage ideas that were in those books. You can work for months to cover even a fraction but, I ended up trying those that appealed to me and I hope this beginning collage post will help you get started on this fun, enriching, relaxing activity of making art collages.

Materials for paper collage

There are very few basic materials you need to begin collage work. You need a....

  • Background
  • Papers and/or images
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive (glue, gluesticks and matte medium are the basic ones)
  • Adhesive applicator like brushes.

 Once you get more involved with collage you may want to buy specific papers, foils, crafts punches etc. but, they aren't necessary to begin. (Its also the cheapest art activity)

11 creative collage ideas for you to try

1-Geometric shape collage

green shades of geometric shape collage
shape collage using green geometric shapes

 For this first collage I cut up identical piles of the 4 basic geometric shapes. To make the small  circles I used hole punchers and the containers below to trace and cut out the larger circles. I chose the few different green shades for my collage but,  of course you can do any colors and papers you like.

using cups to cut circles for collage
green geometric shapes for collage

I've done lots of shape collages with my elementary art students and below is a collage of some of the ways this  kindergarten class used their shapes. Most of them usually end up using to shapes to "make" something as opposed to working with color and design.

kids collge of shape collages

Punch art collage

A new collage art form that I discovered from one of the books is punch art and I fell in love with it.

assortment of craft punches

I've had a  number of the standard shape punches and only recently learned how many types of craft punches there were. (so of course, I bought some more) I discovered the ones below when looking on Amazon. I like to buy mine at Michael's when I have the 50% coupon off one item. I also don't love the really small ones as the punches are hard to handle and glue.

2-

To begin working with these punches to make art, I made a grid with the paper I had available which was yellow pages paper. You can make a grid with any kind of paper as you see in the second project below.

grid made from yellow pages

Using my punches I began by using the colors blue and silver with the punches to arrange on my gird. I also used some of the cut outs that the punches came from. As I moved along I  realized that using only those 2 colors made it a bit dull so I chose the complementary color of orange to add some more vibrancy.

A neighbor of mine came in while I was working so I sat her down to  make her own collage using the grid technique. This friend is one that is always telling me how uncreative she is yet the image on the  right is what she  came up with.​ 

collage on top of yellow pages  grid made with craft punch leftovers
collage made with craft punch pieces

For the next punch art activity,  I punched a bunch of shapes from watercolor paper.

3-

craft punch pieces
craft punch pieces in eggbox
stencils created from using craft punches

I know you can barely see it but,  the image  below on the left is a journal page that has these white shapes collaged onto them. I then painted over the shapes with 3 different colors. First a magenta , then bluish and then metallic gold. (I waited until each color dried before continuing) The second 2 colors I dry brushed over so you get to see the colors before them peeking through.

4-

The third project with punch art I used the stencils the punches made. I cut out a bunch of them and then squared them off. To ensure that they would show up better I sprayed my journal page before collaging. (I did it vertically but, it shows up here horizontally)

assortment of small stencils made with craft punches
collage made on sprayed background of small stencils made with craft punches

5-

The last collage with punch art,  I started by choosing a magazine image (the bike) and used the craft punches for flowers, leaves, sun, starts and mountains. I colored everything else with markers.

collage made with various craft punch pieces

6-Rubbings collage

The image below is a grouping of some of the items I used to make rubbings with. (A dehumidifier, 2 kinds of baskets and metal shelving)

collage of textured home items

I took a conte crayon (its graphite without the wood around it) and made rubbings from a number of items I had around the room.It's much easier to do rubbings when the pencil or crayon is empty of paper or wood surrounding it.

rubbings made from items in the home

I then painted a double journal spread black...

journal spread painted balck

...cut the rubbings into shapes I wanted and pasted them down. I added the moon and the lamp in front of the house with gold foil. (not sure I'm finished yet either)

house scene created with rubbings pictures

7-Ripped magazine pieces collage

I started with a pile of ripped magazine pieces.

ripped small pieces of magazine pieces

I then decided that I will use them to collage a car and placed the car near my page to copy. I did not draw it under the place I was going to collage as I was not trying to make an exact replica, just followed the basic shape.

picture of car and collage in car shape

I found some templates and figured I'd try to see what happens if I paste these pieces through the shapes.The sun is one that I tried.

sun stencil
sun stencil and collage

After I finished I realized that II had done it on the facing page of the car and that it made it into  a scene. I then added pen and marker to finish it.

spread with sun collage and car collage

8-Torn paper landscape collage

For this background I ripped colored scrapbooking papers that I had to create a stacked landscape. You can use less colors and different colors like red, yellow, orange for sunsets at well. I then cut out images from magazines to finish it up. It's something you can add to over time as you find more images you want to add to your landscape.

landscape created with solid ripped colored papers
magazine images on ripped paper landscape

9-Flower collages

There are so many ways to do flower collages. The first one was with tissue paper background and ripped pieces of circles to make the outside of the flowers. The second was a bunch of material glued together.

flower collage with tissue paper background
3d flower collage

This flower collage was done in my journal. I used paper from old books for the wall and yellow pages paper for the table. I drew the vase onto a piece of cardstock and put stirps of paper and ribbons across the vase. turned it over cut it out, and pasted onto my table.

old book pages background on journal spread
using fabric strips to cover vase in picture
vase  covered with fabric strips on top of old book pages background

Flowers were made with blue scrapbooking card stock, dyed paper towels and a flower puncher out of metallic papers. I added gold foil to the centers of most flowers.

flower collage with vase made of fabric strips

10-Paint chip collage

I got the idea for this collage when I was in Loews and saw all the hundreds of paint chips there are there. I saw the array of greens and I said to myself..."Those remind me of mountains of trees". I took a number of  greens to create a landscape on top of a painted background. I then made the bridge out of aluminum tape also purchased in Loews.

If you keep your eyes peeled you will find many free  materials that will spark your imagination. Just start collecting all kinds of papers.

landscape created with paint chips and ventilator tape

11-Cityscapes collage

This is a grouping of landscape collages I did with a group of women at one of my creative art nights. To do these cityscape collages I always use city landscapes to get ideas from. You don't  copy an entire cityscape but, it gets you thinking. In this case they first painted a sky and a foreground and added the collage pieces on top.

collage of landscape collages

That is basically it and I know that I've barely scratched the surface of what collage has to offer. I'm sure I will be posting more about collage in the future.

These are the 5 books I own on collage. I went through all of them looking for ideas to try for this post. They all have vastly different styles and I didn't end up using ideas from each one for various reasons.

if you are interested in hearing more about what each particular book is about then just ask in the comments below.

What have your experiences with collage been?

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