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Magazine Collages: Tips and Techniques

As a responsible crafter, I try very hard to reuse and recycle all my crafting products. Use and reuse everything that I can is how I craft.

Beach scene magazine collage

Beach scene magazine collage

Getting Started With Magazine Collages

Magazine collage is a fun and imaginative form of artistic expression that involves mixing elements and images from used magazines. You can create your magazine collage with a variety of materials and mediums, including paper, canvas, metal, wood, or even glass. Another popular medium is art journals and altered books.

One way to create your custom art is to cut out images, words and letters that can be used together in a themed piece.

Another tactic is to cut color pieces and arrange them in a mosaic. The pieces are cut into either 1" by 1" or 2" by 2". Sort them out by color and store them in zip lock bags.

Anyone from a beginner to a professional artist can create a compelling piece of art by recycling images, letters and words from discarded magazines. It is also an art form that can be done by all ages, including children. This is a fun activity for family night that requires only a few supplies and is budget-friendly.

Simple designs have great appeal in magazine art

Simple designs have great appeal in magazine art

Magazine Collage Basics

There are a few considerations before you get started. You can use a canvas to create a design for your wall decor. You can also use the magazines and catalogs to create a design in your art journal or junk journal.

Since you will be using some Mod Podge, you want to make sure that your pages will not bleed. Before you get started, put a little decoupage medium on the page to test the color bleed.

The smaller the pieces you use, the less the chance of wrinkling. So go small and you will get better results.

First, you need a design. If you are just starting out with collages, stick to simple shapes. You can use images on the internet or in a coloring book to copy designs.

Supplies

  • Acrylic paint (canvas) or gesso (paper)
  • Foam brushes or paint brushes
  • Magazines or catalogs
  • Scissors
  • Your favorite collage glues
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Design for the decoupage

Magazine Collage Basic Steps

  1. Use the acrylic paint or the gesso to cover the surface of your project.
  2. Allow it to dry.
  3. Draw the design on the surface of your project with a pencil.
  4. Decide on the color palette that you want to use.
  5. Cut squares and rectangles of your color palette in 1/2 inch to 1-inch pieces.
  6. Choose the area of your design to start, place some of the decoupage medium on the surface. Then place the piece of magazine or catalog on the space. Wipe away any excess medium.
  7. Place the rest of the pieces in the main part of the design until you cover the outline of main part of your design.
  8. Let the pieces dry a few minutes before going forward.
  9. Now add pieces to the space outside of the main design. Continue adding pieces.
  10. Once you have added all of the pieces, cover them with decoupage medium and let it dry.
  11. Now start working with the main image of your design.
  12. Start with the outside of the design. Place the squares around the edge of the design as you did on the outside.
  13. Let that dry and then fill in the rest. Let that dry as well.
Magazine collages are meant to be fun and expressive

Magazine collages are meant to be fun and expressive

Using an Art Journal

Many crafters love to create art journal magazine collages. Some create whole theme journals. Others include magazine collages as part of their art journal designs.

Picking Your Art Journal

It all starts with having the right art journal. There are different options, but choosing the right paper composition makes a huge difference.

  • Composition Books: These are very available everywhere, and people do use them. But you will spend time prepping and gluing pages together, because the paper is very thin. You can decide if the cost outweighs the time you will spend to prep the pages. Cost: about $1.
  • Altered Books: This is another popular option. You get a used book whose pages are sewn to use as your art journal. Again, you will spend time ripping pages out to make room for your art. You may also spend some time gluing pages together to create enough paper weight to hold your collages. Cost: about $1-5.
  • Mixed Media Books: Totally prepped and ready to use. Grumbacher and Canson are the most popular books. While they are pricier than the other two options, you will have more time to create and less prep time. Grumbacher pages provide individual pieces of paper for ease of creating. Cost: about $12-23.

Creating Backgrounds for Magazine Collages

Just like other collages, you don't just want to plop down your collage. You will want to create a background before you get started collaging. Here is where you get to use all of those products that you have sitting around your craft space.

You can use acrylic paint, reactive sprays, ink or whatever you have laying around that will add color to your surface.

There are lots of sources to find magazines for your collages

There are lots of sources to find magazines for your collages

Where to Find Images

You may not have many magazines laying around your home, so you will want to get a little creative finding what you need for your collage. Here are a few of my favorite sources:

  1. Family and friends. Ask your family and friends to save all their magazines for you.
  2. Libraries. Ask your local library if they have any magazines you can have for free or if they sell their used ones.
  3. Garage sales and estate sales. They often will have magazines that are very reasonably priced.
  4. eBay. Look for magazines in bulk or as single. Many sellers offer free shipping.
  5. Amazon. You can get magazines there. If you have prime membership the shipping is free.

Subscriptions

  • Elle: $5 a year for 10 issues
  • W Magazine: $8 a year for 6 issues-super thick magazines
  • Vogue: $10 a year for 11 issues
  • Harper's Bazaar: $10 a year for 10 issues
  • Food And Wine: $5.75 for 12 issues
  • Bon Appetit: $10 a year for 10 issues
  • Good Housekeeping: $7 a year for 10 issues
  • Better Homes and Gardens: $5 six months / 6 issues
  • Birds and Blooms: $10 a year

Catalogs

There is a wealth of images in those catalogs that you get in your junk mail. Before you heave them into the trash, look at them from the aspect of the images that might be useable.

  • Spring catalogs have flower and plant images
  • Clothing catalogs have images of both women and men. They often have full bodies and lots of head shots.
  • Christmas catalogs are a gold mine for holiday images.
  • Food catalogs give you images of fun foods.

Look at your catalogs as an artist and you will see these as a new source of inspiration.

Calendars

Before you get rid of your calendar, look at the images on it and see if there is anything you can use. You can use the days of the week as well as the month titles as they are or cut up to use as letters.

Coffee Table Books

You can often find these for a very reasonable price at your local thrift store, a garage sale or sometimes at an estate sale. These types of books often have high quality glossy prints that you can use.

magazine-collages

Cutting Tools and Techniques

When you speak to different magazine collage artists, you will find different ideas for the tools used to create a project. Some like scissors, for example, while others do not. Here are the different options. We encourage you to try the options and see what works best for you

Cutting Tools

There are different options when it comes to cutting tools. Of course, a good sharp pair of scissors would be your first option. But new scissors might not give you the best texture. Some swear by older, duller scissors to give better textured results.

Detail scissors that are sharp are a must. That will get into fine areas to get more details to your projects.

A sharp craft knife and cutting mat is another option for getting fine detail. You will also want to have some replacement blades on hand so that you can replace the blades when you need to.

Cutting Techniques

Different cutting techniques give you different textures on your images. These textures add a great deal to your end result. You may want to practice some of these techniques on throwaway materials until you get the hang of them.

  1. Tearing and ripping: This gives a softer, more rugged texture for things like hair and the fur on animals. It is also a good technique for softer flowers.
  2. Scissor cutting: Most often used for smooth objects like faces, tables, doors and such.
  3. Knife and mat cutting: Used for the detailed images like flowers, lace, ribbon and ropes.
Using color to create a magazine collage design

Using color to create a magazine collage design

Magazine Collage Composition Ideas

There are no rules when it comes to creating magazine collages. But there are a few composition ideas to take your collages to a higher artistic level:

  1. Neutral Backgrounds: You want to have a neutral background to make your images and design stand out.
  2. High Contrast Background: You will want to have colors on your background to contrast against the colors of the images you have chosen. Otherwise, they will blend into the background. You can also use light to create contrast. Make your background lighter at the top and darker at the bottom.
  3. Tell a story with your collage: Don't just lay random pieces on a surface. Create a story on your pages. Create collages that tell a story and your piece will shine.
  4. Use color to your advantage: Choose all the same family of colors in a monochromatic design. Or go in contrasting colors. Use color to your advantage.
  5. Create a focal point: Use the main image to create your story. Select one image that is the focal point of your [page and build around it.
  6. Use words that enhance your page: Either use big or little words to express your story. You want to choose words in a scale that matches your focal images.

Most of all, have fun with the process and create your own style. Experiment with style and color. As you create more collages, you will find what works best for you.

Themed magazine collage journal page using colors that speak to the theme

Themed magazine collage journal page using colors that speak to the theme

Magazine Collage Themes

There are lots of themes and ideas to create your magazine collage.

Fashion

There are so many magazines dedicated to fashion. That makes it easy to create a piece dedicated to your favorite fashion ideas.

Maybe you have always wanted to be a fashion designer. You can design collages to express your specific taste and style.

Theme Boards

Theme boards are ideas and things that you enjoy now or would like to enjoy in the future. They are expressive ways to create something that is the real you or where you would like to be in the future. They talk about your here and now. But they also express what and where you would like to be in your future.

Theme boards can also be used to express where you would like to do and be in your business too. It can be an expression of your thoughts and dreams as an entrepreneur. It helps you focus on your goals.

You can make it realistic or whimsical. It's up to you!

Travel

You can find images of places that you have been or places you would like to go. Travel magazines make it easy to create a scenic piece of art.

Animals

You can collage pictures of your favorite animals. Create your own zoo. Your animals can be real or something that you create just for fun.

Rainbows

Create a rainbow from different bits and pieces of color that you create from magazines. you can express your love of all kinds of different colors and hues on a canvass or an art journal.

Flowers and Blooms

I love to use the pictures from flower catalogs to create colorful magazine collages. The pictures of my favorite flowers speak to me in a special way.

magazine-collages

Collect Magazines That You Like

magazine-collages

The first step is starting your magazine collage journey is to collect pictures that you like. Just go through a magazine and look at the images that are on the pages. This is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon with a cup of tea or your favorite beverage.

When you find an image that appeals to you, cut it out. Cut around the image leaving a little margin around the edge of the picture.

Look for words and even letters that you like. There are all kinds of words that you can use to express your feelings. Lettes can also be used to put words together.

Keep your pictures and words in large envelopes for later use. Mark on the envelope what they are. Keep them in a box, bin or basket for later use.

What Kind of Images Should You Cut Out?

Not only should you cut out images, but also letters and words

Not only should you cut out images, but also letters and words

Once you start doing magazine collage, you will never look at another magazine or catalog the same way! There are two kinds of images in magazines: glossy and matte. The ink on the matte images can sometimes smear. So, test the image before you apply it to your collage. Add a little collage glue or medium to a corner of the image to see if the image will smear.

What should you cut out for your collages?

  • Single letters
  • Words
  • Sentences
  • Photos of people
  • Photos of objects
  • Details
  • Colorful pages to cut into shapes
  • Text pages for cutting into paper scraps
  • Small pieces of color

Even if you are not going to use them at that moment, you can store them in envelopes.

This magazine collage has a surristic aspect to it.

This magazine collage has a surristic aspect to it.

Creating New Faces From Different Images

Sometimes, a part of a face will speak to you, but not the entire image. So, since this is your art, you can create an entirely different face by putting together different features from different images.

To simplify things, you can use a face from a magazine and then add details to it. Use an eye from another image and glue it on this face. Or add sunglasses, and attach something to her head like flowers, pots, or animals.

I love to go through magazines finding different parts that I like and dividing them up by what they are. This is fun with magazines and catalogs that feature people.

Have a different baggie for collections of eyes, noses, lips and even heads that you can use later. You can also do the same thing with body parts so that you can create your own paper dolls on your collages.

This is a great idea if you want to collage with your kids and/or grandkids. They enjoy creating their own faces and people.

That way when the creative juices are active and you can create with all of your collected pieces.

Put Things Where They Do Not Belong

What a fun idea and concept! Add an image in an image for a unique collage idea

What a fun idea and concept! Add an image in an image for a unique collage idea

Design and Lay Out the Pieces

Once you have decided what your piece is about, select the magazine images and words from your stash that fit your theme.

Start by arranging them on your canvas or journal page. At this point, you are not doing any cutting, just looking to see what goes best together by color and image.

Manipulate them until you are happy with the design. If you are not planning to complete the project at that time, take a picture of it. Then put all of the pieces in a zip lock bag for later.

Which Glue to Use

There are so many glues that you can choose from. The question is, what is the best glue to use for a magazine collage? As with other collages, you have to use the glue that is right for the surfaces that you are working on.

For the most part, you are using images that are on reasonably thin paper. And that paper is prone to wrinkle when glues are added to your pictures. So, that is a consideration. Does the glue cause wrinkling?

The second thing to consider is the center part of the magazine image. Even when you spread the glue evenly, you can get lumps and bumps from the glue. So, you want to avoid the kind of glue that is too thick and gloppy.

The last thing to consider is the edges of your magazine pieces. Does the glue keep the edges of the images solidly on the surface of your project? Curling edges will be a problem as you are creating your projects.

There are different opinions when it comes to which glue works best for gluing down your magazine collage pieces. Here are the choices you can consider. Try the ones that make sense to you till you find the one that works best

What to Look for in a Magazine Collage Glue

  1. You want a glue that will hold down the edges of the image down permanently.
  2. If you put squiggles of glue around the inside of the picture, do this show through when they are dry?
  3. What is the price per ounce of each type of glue?
  4. Does the glue make the magazine image wrinkle?

Gloss Acrylic Medium

It is clear, permanent and waterproof. It won’t discolor with age. It’s more adhesive than matte acrylic medium. You can use it to adhere paper and fabric to canvas or canvas and other fabrics to paper. It won’t stain collage materials as time passes. It allows you to combine acrylic paints with collage.

Tacky Glue

There are all kinds of brands of tacky glue. But these glues tend to be heavy. They are meant to hold embellishments on paper. While they do hold the edges down, and are ok as far as the middle marks, they do cause lots of wrinkles. Avoid this kind of glue.

Distress Collage Medium

This medium is more meant for heavier papers like cardstock rather than thinner papers like magazine paper. It is a little pricier of all of the glues. It does have good edge holding. And there are very few lumps in the middle of the page. There can be some wrinkling. For the price, you may want to have second thoughts on this glue.

Lawn Fawn Glue Tubes

This product is good on all three criteria. However, at a price of almost $9 an ounce, this is something you may want to keep for special projects.

Glossy Accents

You might not think of this glue as a magazine collage alternative, but it actually is effective and works well. It works well on holding down the edges, It does not get lumpy in the middle and very few if any wrinkles. Reasonably priced at about $3.46 an ounce.

Mod Podge

While I do love Mod Podge for a lot of other projects, this was not one of my favorites for magazine collage work. I would say that it is ok for edges, spreads ok so there are so lumps. But the wrinkles that it causes makes it a no go for me. The price is right, but if the product does not work who cares. I keep Mod Podge for my decoupage projects, but not for this.

Art Glitter Glue

This is a glue that holds the edges well and spreads with no middle lumps or bumps. It does have a few wrinkle issues but is a good buy for the price at about $1.87 an ounce. This is one bottle that must be closed tightly, or your purchase will be wasted.

Nuvo Glue

This is one of my personal favorites. It meets all the criteria for a good glue for magazine collage. It holds down the edges and spreads well. No middle lumps or bumps. No wrinkles. The price is in the midway point at about $4.49 an ounce.

Glue Sticks

Glue sticks are one of the most popular ways to create magazine collages. They are inexpensive but there is a problem with them. They can get thick and bumpy. So, if you are planning to use a glue stick, make sure to use a good quality glue stick.

Decoupage Medium

These have also been a popular tool for magazine collage. The problem with this type of medium is that they can cause wrinkling. If you are using this medium, spread it with a foam brush to the surface and then apply the images.

Final Thoughts on Glues

Some collage artists will tell you that they will only use glue sticks, period. If that is your final decision, make sure to use an archival brand of glue stick. That way your work will not yellow or fade.

Use a glue stick that has color that fades as it dries. That way you can see where the glue is.

You also may want to try using a brayer to spread any wet glues. Use a light touch with the brayer though. That would help spread the glue to the edges and avoid any lumps or bumps.

Experiment with different glues until you find the one that works best for you in the price range that is comfortable for your budget.

Add Fine Details, Shading, Stamped Images and Doodles

Once you get your layout done, glued down and dried, it is time to add some fine detail to your piece. Adding detail gives dimension and detail to selected images that make them stand out in the design.

Add shading to some of the pieces. Use shading from the direction that you think the sun would be shining. Adding shading makes the image pieces look more realistic Colored pencils work well for thus kind of shading. Keep your hand light as you do not want to rip your images.

Add some doodles for fun and design. Use some fine line markers to create some swiggles and doodles in your design.

Paint Pens

Paint pens can be used to write directly on paper. While Sharpies may cost less, they may not work as well over some surfaces, especially over paint.

Stamped Images

The best inks to use to add any stamped images to your magazine collages would be archival ink. Ranger makes an excellent archival ink for this purpose.

Red rubber background stamps are your best bet for background images. You can use acrylic stamps as well.

Using Old Book Pages in Your Collage

Create an interesting collage background with book text. You can use it as a background both on canvas or in a collage book.

You can get books at your local thrift store, at library sales, garage sales and estate sales. Look for pages that are aged.

  • Have the pages face different ways.
  • Age the paper with a tea or coffee bath. Let the sheets dry and use.
  • Use darker distress inks on the edges of your paper to give the paper some age.
  • Apply more than one layer. When the glue on the first layer has dried, brush on a thin wash of white or off-white acrylic paint, then adds more layers, letting each one dry before adding another.

Create a Silhouette

This technique is so easy and fun to create. It uses a lots of little scraps that you might have left over.

Supplies

  • Magazine images
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Paper scraps
  1. Find an image that you like. It could be people or objects. Larger images would work better. You want images the are cut evenly or fussy cut. No ripped images for this one.
  2. Trace the outline of the image on some paper with the pencil
  3. Glue scraps to your traced images
  4. Cut them out and use them on your collages

More Collage Tips

For books or canvas, here are my favorite collage tips for magazine collages. Remember, this is your art, your way. So, while magazine images are the basis of your art, you can add additional things to your book or canvas. Here are more things to add to your pages or canvas:

  1. Coffee filters make great addition to your collages. You can color them with watercolors. Add some water in a container. Drop some tube watercolors into the containers. Use one color or two. Dip the coffee filter into the wash until you get the shade that you want. Allow the coffee filter to dry and use it as desired. This also works with lace and material.
  2. Create a stain. Wet the bottom of a coffee cup with black coffee or tea and set it on top of paper; set wet tea bags on top of paper. Use some ink on a paint brush to splatter some ink on your page for extra interest.
Have a central image and build around that image

Have a central image and build around that image

More Magazine Collage Design Ideas

Shapes create a colorful collage

Shapes create a colorful collage

Free Resource for Magazine Collage

Torn Magazine Collages

Torn paper magazine collages are made from bits of paper torn from magazine images

Torn paper magazine collages are made from bits of paper torn from magazine images

Torn magazine art is different way to look at magazine collage. Basically, instead of using a magazine image, you look for colors and create "tiles" with the colors. The tiles are then designed into a piece of artwork.

Supplies

  • Canvas or journal pages
  • Magazines or catalogs
  • Detail scissors or small scissors like cuticle scissors
  • Glue
  • Gesso
  • Foam brush

Getting Started: Prepping Your Surface

You can create a piece of art on a canvas or in an art journal. No matter what base that you use, you will want to gesso the base to have a good foundation for your art. Gesso is a primer that gives a surface for your art. In the case of paper, it gives more weight and tooth to the paper. Two thin coats of gesso give you the base that you need.

  • A foam brush gives you the most even coverage. But you can use any brush you may have in your stash.
  • Do one coat vertically and allow to dry. Then do a coat horizontally and let that dry. This will give you a better prep and less chance of brush strokes
  • Make sure to clean your foam or regular brush until all of the gesso is out. If you are using a standard brush, it is a good idea to condition the brush after use.

What Glue Should You Use

A lot of that decision is based on what kind of material you are placing your magazine design on. Glue sticks are a good choice for journals. But canvas may require a stronger glue like a mixed media glue.

Remember, whatever glue you use, you will want to avoid any wrinkles. You also want the edges to stay down. And you want to have an even coat so that there are no glue humps in the middle of the magazine piece. Experiment with different glues until you get the right one for your project.

Collecting Your Tiles

Start by collecting and cutting your tiles. As you look through magazines and catalogs, look for bits of color that you can use. Use pieces in different sizes. Cut in square and rectangular shapes. Separate them in colors and store in Ziplock bags by color. Once you have enough, you will be ready to create your art.

The alternative is to rip pieces and use them by color as well.

Find and Draw a Design

The next step is to decide on your design and draw an outline on your canvas or journal page.

If you are a beginner, the best idea is to use simple shapes and designs.

You can find lots of shapes and designs on the internet that you can print and use to create your art. Another alternative is to use shapes and designs from coloring books as your inspiration. You can cut them out and adhere them right on your journal page.

Start With the Background

No matter what your base is, you will want to start with your background. Start filling in your background trimming your pieces where necessary. Lay out the pieces on your design and then start gluing them down. Give them some time to dry.

Fill in the Design

Once the background has had some time to dry, you are ready to fill in your design. Again, you will want to lay the pieces out on the design. Trim any pieces where necessary. Once you are happy with the design start gluing the pieces down on the surface. Once you are finished, give the design time to dry and cure overnight.

Adding Words

If you want to explain your theme, add some words on top of your art.

Sign Your Work

Use some magazine letters to add your name or initials to your art. Glue them on somewhere on the bottom of the work.

More Torn Magazine Collage Ideas

Final Thoughts on Magazine Collages

Magazine collage is an art form that everyone can try successfully. There are no rules. You create whatever your heart feels. It is a great way to express your thoughts and feelings while recycling some materials into pieces of art or in an art journal.

It is an art form that is budget-friendly. All you basically need is a base (either a canvas or art journal), some glue, a scissor, some gesso, and some magazine or catalog images.

You have the opportunity to create something unique that no one has ever created before. We hope that you take the opportunity to dive right in and give it a try.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Linda F Correa