Creative Collage Ideas – No Drawing Required

A woman wearing a fur coat and a pencil skirt walking her beagle dog in a green neighborhood

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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.

Creative collage ideas inspired by torn tissue painted with acrylic and then stamped with hand craved rubber stamps
Torn tissue paper adhered to mat board is a perfect starting base for a collaged portrait. You can see how this was created in the previous post.

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.

Tissue paper collage portraits are so fun, and creative collage ideas can be generated by printing assorted family photos on a home printer.
If you have colored tissue paper, and little ones, they can make creative collages from tissue paper by tearing and gluing bits of color onto photos you print on your home printer. Mount and seal the photos to cardboard or mat board beforehand.

Creative Collage Idea Supply List

How to make torn tissue paper collage with scans of vintage family photos
Assorted torn paper collage backgrounds on the left, and vintage family photos being considered for creative collage ideas. (That’s my winking great uncle Alfonso. So cute that everyone called him Honey.)

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. 🧡

a collage in process, using torn tissue paper, scans of sold artwork and sketches, and acrylic paint
Use scans of your own artwork, printed on regular, plain ol’ printer paper, trimmed to create new pieces of art as collage portraits.

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.

portrait collage ideas - a woman standing in a forest with a flute and a crow watching over her
Another collage idea: Recital (sold) was created with painted and stamped Lineco tissue paper, torn and adhered to mat board. Two images scanned & printed from my art archive – the woman’s face (watercolor) and the crow (monotype) – were adhered to the collage. Additional collaging and painting was layered to suggest her torso, and a flute in her hand.

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…

a collage made from torn tissue paper, scans of sold artwork and sketches, and acrylic paint
Another collage portrait made from print-outs of two archived head studies. Just the heads were used on top of a collaged piece of mat board, with paint suggesting the position of the figures. (Dream Guardian 7×7 collage portrait, sold)

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.

a collage made from torn tissue paper, scans of sold artwork and sketches, and acrylic paint
Skipper and First Mate (sold) is another collage created with layers of painted and stamped Lineco tissue paper, and scans of watercolors from my archive of sold art.
Create Collage ideas start here with vintage family photos printed on plain printer paper, and trimmed with scissors to leave room for added figures.
Hello, Dorothy. Welcome to our collage experiment. Let’s put you, and a bit of your neighbor’s house in this composition.

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.

here's how to collage printouts of vintage family photos into imagined scenes on mat board with acrylic medium
Dorothy is being arranged in an imaginary composition. She’s the star of the show, but she needs companionship.

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

a vintage photo collage, reimagined by trimming and overlaying different photos, and painting the scene with acrylics
Absolute fun with basic supplies and no drawing skills required! A bit of printer paper photo collage and some acrylic paint.
Dorothy and her new Beagle dog are out for a happy walk on a Spring Day
Springtime Stomping Ground 7.5 x 7.5 Collage Portrait (Available in my Etsy Shop here)

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.

Collage Portraits from Printer-Paper photos and acrylic paint with no drawing skills required.

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.

painting a printer paper photo collage with acrylic paint
Adding acrylic to the printer paper collage. The paint can be applied thin enough to see through the pigments. This gives you a beginner’s map of folds, shadows and shapes to follow.
How to make a portrait collage with printer paper photos....  some mat board, acrylic medium, paint and printer paper photos is all you need to make fun fantasy photo collages
Layers in this art are (starting from the base): mat board first, then colored tissue paper adhered with acrylic medium, black and white photos printed on printer paper, adhered with acrylic medium, and acrylic paint. Five supplies, and you’ll be building a portrait collage with no drawing required!
How to make a portrait collage with printer paper photos....  a little girl riding a large, wire haired terrier dog, with a map overhead, ready for an adventure
The finished art, scanned – Which Way From Here? 10.25 x 6.5 Collage Portrait with Acrylic (Available in my Etsy Shop)

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. Here is another post from my archives with art project ideas to try with your whole family.

Art Quote

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
Six Tips to paint More Often Video Course, as described by a greyhound
Visit to watch a short video with some encouragement to get back to your art supplies.
an artist gift of a ceramic paint palette and brush holder in the shape of a turtle
How cute is this petite ceramic turtle watercolor palette and brush holder set ? The rinse cup flips over to cover the palette like a turtle shell. A little bit of adorable to lighten your day. 🙂

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14 thoughts on “Creative Collage Ideas – No Drawing Required”

  1. Thanks once again for sharing great creative inspirations. I will be sharing this post today with family (9 grandkids between our 3 sons and 1 daughter) and friends. Your posts and generous idea sharing are a significant boost! I read and save your emails before turning to others waiting for review. Stay well, be safe, God bless.

    1. Hello Bern! Thank you for the kind note, and your encouragement. I’m so glad these missives are providing shareable ideas to multiple age-ranges in your little tribe. I hope your grandkids have a giggle-spouted art session with family photos! It’s so fun! Thanks again!

  2. Marybeth Piccirelli

    Belinda, Thank you very much for continuing to post and sharing such creative ideas! They are truly a bright spot in my day!!

    1. Hi Marybeth! I’m so glad the blog posts are adding a bit of light to your days! Thank you for letting me know. I hope all the brightest bulbs are twinkling towards art making while we all shelter-in. Be healthy and safe!

  3. I love this idea/technique. Thanks for posting with such detail! Am going to search my “vintage” photos and see what kind of fun I can get myself into. You are the best; as always so inspiring! Hope you are faring well in these challenging times!

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