Ideas for Easy Creative Collage Art
Let’s layer some creative collage ideas with no drawing skills required. Easy peasey, fun art, you can create alone or in a group, with kids, or adults, or both. That’s our goal today. Art Supplies + Fun.
In the last post, plain, white, acid free tissue paper was made colorful with acrylic paint and stamped patterns (example below). We’ll use the same supplies, mounted to illustration board or mat board to build these new collage portraits. And we’ll add standard colored tissue paper used in gift bags and printer-paper photos.
If you’re working with children, you can use sturdy cardboard, chip board or mount board as your base. Colorful gift wrap tissue paper tears very easily, so no scissors are necessary for little ones. They can also simply color black and white printouts of photos you’ve snapped of them in funny poses with crayons. You can then incorporate their colored self portrait photos in a collage.
Kid-Grade Art Supplies
The caveat on the colorful gift tissue is that the color will fade over time. But don’t let that stop you from an afternoon of creative collage fun. When the masterpieces are dry, create a 300dpi color scan on your printer/scanner. The colors will be preserved in the scan forever and ever and ever.
If you don’t have a scanner, take the finished art to your local office supply store later, and have it scanned. Once you have the digital file as a jpeg, preserved in all of its full color glory, every collage portrait can be printed from a home printer on card stock as greeting cards, or small prints to frame, etc.
Creative Collage Idea Supply List
- Lineco Tissue paper
- Colored Gift Wrap Tissue Paper
- Acrylic Paint Set
- Illustration Board or Mat Board
- Acrylic Gloss Medium and Varnish
- Rubber Stamps
- Foam Brushes
- Rags for clean up and wiping drips
- Paint Brushes
- Reference photos
Gather Scans of Your Family Photos
Vintage family photos are perfect fodder to make creative collage portraits. Rather than sketching from the photos, you can scan them. If you don’t have a scanner, take closeup snapshots with your cell phone, or a digital camera. Send the snapshots of your vintage source images to your home printer to print them in the size you’ll need for your collage ideas.
Scanned photos, or photos-of-photos allows you to use the printed copies directly in your portrait collages. Print them in black and white, or color – your choice. Using print-outs in your art also preserves the original family photos to pass on to your descendants. Bonus Points to you for good genealogical practices. 🧡
What if I Have No Vintage Family Photos?
If you’ve got a shortage of vintage family photos, that’s okay. We’re on Team We-Got-This.
You can use scans or photos of your own artwork. (Don’t shake your head. We’re in Can-Do mode right now, dear. Read on…) Flip through your sketchbooks, scroll the art you’ve already scanned, or pull out the art you’ve stashed in a drawer. Are there any animals, figures or portraits? Good. Snap photos or scan them, and print appropriate sized copies for use in your collages.
Magazines, Newspapers and Books
Got no photos and no art? Ok, you’ve got this. Grab some magazines and newspapers, or books. Clip the images you want from the newspapers and magazines, and scan/photograph the images from the books. If you have favorite quotes or lines from poems and stories, consider scanning those too for some text inclusion in your creative collage. Kids will enjoy this too. They can collage imagery inspired by a favorite line from a book as an idea-generator.
If you have no magazines, newspapers, books, photos or artwork in your home, we might have to discuss this, you and me. Can you pilfer via email from friends and neighbors? Trade cookies? Select copyright-free images online?
If this particular project doesn’t float your boat, that’s okay. You can visit the good folks at Creative Live to see what flavor of free creative classes they have to offer. With this unprecedented sheltering-in-place across the globe, creative companies are stepping up, and offering lots of online classes for free…
Be Your Favorite Model
If you have no magazines, family photos, books, newspapers, or finished art to work from, snap a few selfies straight on, in profile, or in hat and sunglasses, and print those. Take some photos of your family too, including kids, pets, cars, bicycles and rooms you live in.
You can have a ton of fun composing a portrait with sizes reversed; large cat and small kid, or the family car getting washed in the sink with the dishes.
Family Photo Collage Ideas
Let’s start with a vintage family snapshot of my husband’s grandmother, Dorothy (above). A late 1950’s, upstate New York photo was captured with my cell phone. (A photo of a photo.) I printed my cell phone snapshot in black and white – in a 7×5 format on regular printer paper – nothing fancy. Part of the photo was trimmed off with scissors to leave room for creative collage ideas.
Creative Collage Idea Permission
Here’s where you’ll have so much fun. Anything goes. The original photo of Dorothy had nothing but lawn around her. So let’s introduce her to a beagle dog. She’ll be less lonely, and the pup will have a new person, and a swell neighborhood!
You can add and subtract figures, pets, houses and props any way you’d like in your collage. Want to put Grandpa in his lawn chair on the roof of a house with a telescope? How about the heads of everyone in your family as a cluster of balloons held by a grandchild? Transform the shape of the dining table in a group holiday dinner photo to a NASCAR raceway, or a giant Monopoly board. Get the idea?
Note: the printer paper photo above is adhered to the base with Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish. This may cause the printer ink to bleed a bit, but ignore that. We’re going to paint over it, so any image degradation will be underneath color! #noworries
Collage Art as Storytelling
With acrylic paint squeezed out on a scrap piece of mat board, Dorothy and her new beagle buddy have all sorts of color around them. And a new tree, because every dog needs a tree, right?
Painting over existing images feels very similar to the calming practice of adult coloring books. Your portrait is already there, so you don’t have to draw anything. Simply color. Observe the darkest darks, and lightest lights. Play with your acrylic paint mixes, keeping them sheer enough to see through to the photo.
Experiment instead of Masterpiece
Print a pile of 10-15 photos that will fit onto one quarter of your mat board base plate. So, if you’re working on 8″x10″ boards, print photos with figures and props that measure 4″x5″. That will leave you room to layer more photos around them.
Experiment with additional collaged figures and props, and dabbed layers of random color over your person/s or pets. Aim for experimental art, rather than a masterpiece. If your collage doesn’t suit you, make another one, or three. You can build parts while others are drying in rotation.
If you don’t have acrylic paint, use single layers of colored tissue paper torn into shapes to “color” parts of your composition.
Ready, Set, Go!
Does this approach to creative collage idea generation make sense to you? Can you imagine using your family photos, or archives from your own art to re-imagine new scenes and fantastical stories? I hope so. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. I really hope you’ll try this, because it’s simple and fun, and creativity with familiar imagery centers our thoughts on the joy of making something with our hands.
This is a stressful time, but with a little planning, we can use the time to breathe deep, connect in new ways, and refill the well.
See you in the next post –
P.S. To help entertain kids (and grownups) sheltering-in while trying to stymie the spread of covid19, Audible is offered 100’s of kids’ book titles completely free, while school is out. Check out the selection here.
P.P.S. Here is another post from the archives with art project ideas to try with your whole family.
As with everything I’ve ever written, I start out paralyzed by fear of failure. The tarantula ego – starving to be shored up by praise – tries to scare me away from saying simply whatever small, true thing is standing in line for me to say.Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir