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Unleash Your Creativity: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Collages

Abstract collage of circles in various shades of blue. A thin strip of cream paper runs through it on the side

Collages are such an interesting form of art. It’s the bringing together seemingly unrelated, independent items and blending them in artistic harmony. Collages can be simple with just three or four elements or more complex, with elements often clashing with each other to convey a message. Essentially, the elements of collages are not something you make or create. Rather, it is a collection of seemingly random scraps of paper and other visual elements combined with individual artistry and glue. In fact, the word collage is derived from the French word collér, which literally means to glue,

I was always a collector (or hoarder, depending on how you looked at it) of stickers, wrappers, cut-outs, labels and tags, letters, books, and anything that interested me and could be kept in a box. Since we moved homes often, I threw out many of these boxes as apartments don’t have a ton of space for storing ‘waste’.

Now, I’m more judicious in what I keep or collect. Since I restarted my art journey three years ago, I’ve collected more papers and haven’t thrown out some of the scraps from papers I’ve used. These bits and bobs had been stagnating in boxes for the most part. I used some of them and turned them into greeting cards from scrap, but there was still a big box waiting to be used. So, I turned to collage-making.

a simple collage of different green textured paper overlaid with a yellow circle. A twine of leaves stretches diagonally through the page and the word Celebrate is pasted on it

Types of Collages

There are several ways to make a collage, depending on the materials you are using and the desired outcome. Here are a few basic methods:

Digital collages: 

Use photo-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, or online tools like Canva, PicMonkey, etc, to combine multiple images into one. You can resize, rotate, and layer images as desired. 

A collage of various pictures on a floral background. Digital Collage made on Canva

Cut and paste: 

Print out images and use scissors or a craft knife to cut them into desired shapes. Arrange the cut-out pieces on a piece of paper or canvas and glue them down.

Collage of a woman's face and neck surrounded by images of

Mixed media: 

Combine various materials such as paint, fabric, and found objects to create a collage. Use glue or tape to adhere the materials to a piece of paper or canvas.

Image of 2 hands holding a sheet of embellishment stickers. In the background are scrapbooking supplies for making a collage
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Regardless of your chosen method, it’s important to experiment and have fun with the process!

How to Make a Paper Collage Project

Collages are a fun and versatile art form that allow you to combine various elements such as photographs, illustrations, and found objects to create a unique and visually striking composition. Whether you are a beginner or have experience with other art forms, making collages is a great way to unleash your creativity and explore new techniques.

There are no hard and fast rules for making a collage, but you can follow these steps if you are new to the art form.

  1. Gather the images you want to use for your collage. Have a variety of elements ready at hand. Collect as many interesting pieces of paper or material in different colours and shapes as you can stick. These could be anything from postcards and old photos to laces and ribbons; washi tapes; packaging material; cut-outs from picture books, magazines and newspapers; words, phrases, and just colourful bits of paper. Whenever I have time, I take out the die-cut machine my sister had left with me and cut out shapes from nice packaging paper or boxes. You can cut them out neatly using scissors or a cutting blade or just tear them out for a more rustic look.
  2. Select a theme for your collage. Usually, a picture or cut-out will give you an idea of a final image, or you might have a visual of what you’re looking for and seek out the images or shapes accordingly. 
  3. Decide on a layout for your collage. You can use a grid pattern or arrange the images in a more free-form way. Begin by arranging the images on a surface, such as a poster board or piece of paper. You can use glue or tape to attach the images to the surface.
  4. Visualise your collage. To get the creative juices flowing, I like to spread the scrap stash and try a few different combinations. They could be sorted by colours, shapes, or themes. There’s no right or wrong way—just go by what feels right visually.
  5. Add textures to your collage. Using different papers and materials makes your artwork more interesting. However, if you’re going for something simple, then it’s best to stick with similar textures.
  6. Finalise your collage. Continue adding images and adjusting the layout until you are satisfied with the overall look of the collage, and glue all the pieces together. It helps to take a picture of the collage you’re happy with before glueing the elements together.
  7. Embellish your collage. You can add text or other embellishments to your collage.

Learn how to experiment with different materials, techniques and styles to create a collage that truly represents your own style and vision. It is an activity that people of all ages can enjoy.

various elements of a collage is spread out on a sheet of paper with boxes and pouches around

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