How to Create Mixed Media Art?

While you can imagine that mixed media isn't taken seriously in the art world, this medium embraces a highly expressive style. This instructional approach to creating mixed media art will give you plenty of ideas that aren't breaking traditional rules that apply to art projects.

What is Mixed Media Art?

Mixed media art covers so much territory in the modern art world, as it practically defines a movement towards chaotic pop culture. Mixed media is essentially a mixture of art mediums that are mixed together. The specific number is usually three types of art materials used in the same image created. While there is no specific rule for what can be used, many traditional artists tend to have strong opinions against mixed media art.

Mixed Media Drawing
Mixed Media Drawing

For example, someone randomly gluing wads of half-crushed paper cups, crumpled paper, and flexible tip straws onto a canvas painted with neon and pastel colors in random patterns and then sprinkled with glitter is considered mixed media art! It's no surprise that this type of art is considered controversial and often sells insane amounts of money to collectors.

Because mixed media is separated into categories, these can include painting, sculpture, cloth and fabric, paper, and found materials. If it can be glued to a canvas, onto paper, or form a sculpture or over an existing shape or structure. Within a grain of salt, there is a legitimate reason why mixed media is another side to expressing art that can be highly rewarding.

Mixed Media Art Courses

It can also be used to make political statements, express poetic thoughts, tell a story through photograph collages, and convey emotions. It's anything you really want it to be, so this is where the untraditional aspect comes into play. It doesn't need to make sense since the context is that it should include multiple materials that appear to work well with each other. This is why many artists who are classically trained will scoff at this concept immediately.

The reason for this is that most artists feel that talent starts with learning painting techniques, learning composition, and understanding and building forms. So, there is this sense of antagonism and ambiguity toward the creation of real art. Yet mixed media is an excellent step toward expressing ideas that aren't often embraced by an artist who lacks any skills; it's an extension of ideas and thoughts that mix mediums along the way.

Mixed Media Landscape Drawing

How to Begin a Mixed Media Drawing?

The first step in starting a good mixed media drawing is to choose a mixture of colors that are among your favorites. These can include acrylic, colored pencil, drawing ink, or any combination that uses multiple art supplies and materials. The biggest hurdle is making the concept of your drawing come across by combining art supplies that you're already comfortable working with.

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What Materials Do I Need for Mixed Media Art?

One great example is drawing ink and filling this in with acrylic colors, completing this using colored pencils to add highlights. This is a classic textbook example of how mixed media drawings will work. Another good example is working with textured paper and overlaying this with opposing textures using paintbrush strokes, rag marks, and fabric textures.

All of the paints used can include watercolor, acrylic, and various color inks. This shouldn't sway your thoughts or ideas to only work with three specific mediums. It can include as many as you like. There is a limit that should allow you to choose three types of art materials that go onto your paper. What makes a drawing on paper so different is that the primary rule you want to follow is composition.

All of the typical objects, characters, and landscapes can be created on paper using mixed media materials and various paints and pigments. Think about using colored pencils, watercolors, and finished with pastel chalk. This combination not only gives a typical drawing a distinct look, but it can also bring out the three-dimensional quality that many Anime characters resemble.

Yet, the combination of mixed media doesn't stop there since you can combine other drawing and painting supplies that will complement each other. You can even experiment with metallic ink pens over acrylic paint and outlined with color pencils. No rule doesn't prevent you from sticking to a specific formula or method that's used. Use the materials and art supplies you can get your hands on!

What Makes an Artwork Mixed Media?

If there is anything that you might have learned about art and drawing, this all goes out the window when it comes to mixed media art. If you have to know, the answer is that you can use anything you can find. Go and search a flea market for a cheap bucket of shirt buttons and glue them to a piece of paper or canvas. Then again, what happens if you glue them over a big plastic Coke bottle or oversize plastic teddy bear?

If it challenges your concept of what mixed media means to you, mixed media is not just about painting and using different colors. It can be a photograph that is cut up and organized by color to make a bigger collage picture that an image clearly shows. Such as a bunch of colorful candies arranged in a way that the image of a skull fills the size of your paper or canvas.

This is the difference of what makes a great mixed media project more meaningful since it can challenge your perception. Think about opposites that commonly collide, including Good versus Evil, Happy Vs. Sad, or Poverty versus Luxury. Give people something to think about and challenge their senses. This gets people talking in a way that mixed media artist Banksy usually challenges everyone with.

If you don't apply these principles to art meant for mixed media art, the credibility is regarded as garbage art. This is the last thing you want, so choosing a topic or theme while creating your project is essential. I've never been a fan of Andy Warhol, although he turned mixed media into a factory warehouse operation. What made him successful is his devotion to bringing Pop Art to the forefront of the art world.

Anyone who can make a painting of a Campbell's Tomato Soup and make a million isn't doing that bad? Just wait until the idiot who paid thousands of dollars for an original finds out that some undergrad from New Jersey did all the work using a silkscreen, which Warhol signed to his name… The point is that if you want to make great mixed media art, you need to have a good direction that will be eye-catching and create a sense of wonder.

What is Mixed Media Paper Used For?

Unlike regular paper that you already use for sketching, mixed media paper is very different. It all relates to the kind of drawing and painting that your paper will be subjected to. If you're using colored pencils, graphite, pen, and anything that is typically dry for the most part, you want to use a thicker paper's weight that can handle general sketching and markers. This will be around 50 to 60Lb paper and comes in packs of 500 sheets or so.

It's fair to say that before I start listing the thickness of paper, you want to remember that paper reacts to water. To get the best results when painting watercolor, you want to have a thicker paper that's more absorbent, so there is less warping as it dries. This is why you see watercolor paper so heavily textured or thick so it can handle the amount of water used for blending and applying colors over each other.

Then you have to consider mixed media paper, which is a totally different beast. This will be specially made for all of the kinds of mediums you put onto the paper itself. It must be durable and last through the process if you intend to do many paintings and layering. The thickness is going to be between 90 to 110Lb. For this type of paper stock. This will make your paper feel less like paper and more like card stock or light poster board.

It will surprise you to find out that the next level up is 140Lb stock designed for watercolors and painting. The difference for this is evident since mixed media isn't relying on so much paint absorption as it's mean to be a rugged paper stock in general. Technically, you could get watercolor sheets if you're doing many washes and mixed liquid colors. I recommend that you wait until each layer is dry before adding a new layer on top.

Most art supply centers and art stores will have these papers sold in tear-away booklets or sold individually. Since they are thicker, try to find the best deal for buying in bulk. This way, you can save some money instead of buying them piece by piece. Don't order online unless the shipping is for free. Heavier paper stock can be heavy and will add to your delivery cost. It's better to go to a discount art supply to find the cheapest 90-110Lb paper stock.

How to Create a Mixed Media Collage

Mixed Media Drawing with Ink
Mixed Media Drawing with Ink

These are always fun projects to take on since they can include all sorts of images, photographs, and drawings that you add to the design you create.

When I think of mixed media collages, I tend to think of the opening credits for the movie: “Se7en”. It's the movie that started an entire craze for quick-cut creepy opening sequences but also gives you a look into the mind of a madman.

Upon starting any collage that you'll take on, you want to research and collect as many bits of images and exciting topics to glue onto your paper. Obviously, decent paper glue is going to keep your pictures or materials stuck to the surface.

Try using a brand that will last a long time, such as Mod Podge, which works great for gluing paper. Click here to view prices on Amazon. The next step is laying out your bits of paper beforehand to create different scenes in your collage. Each one can be created separately, so it ties in with the theme you're designing.

After you have everything laid down and are ready for drawing on top of your college, you'll want to add a workable fixative spray. Click here for more information on Amazon.

This is so you can draw easier on surfaces, pictures, or magazine paper that happen to be glossy. It's also erasable, so it can come off easier if you draw with colored pencils on top.

There are many types of mixed media collage formats you can choose from, so the variety is there when you look for the right inspiration.

I recommend checking Pinterest for mixed media collage ideas that can also be downloaded and saved on your PC or tablet.

If you want a great tip for finding lots of leftover magazine pictures, you can quickly go to Libraries, hair salons, waiting rooms at the dentist, and coffee shops and find leftover magazines and newspapers for collecting pictures.

Just be sure that it's OK to take them or at least be discrete about taking them with you. Public libraries are the best since they will have lots of old magazines that are probably thrown out if you don't ask them to save them.

How to Produce a Mixed Media Painting

The last category in mixed media is painting techniques and will employ all sorts of creativity to get wonderful textures on a canvas or paper. Just like oil paintings will reveal satisfying brush strokes where you can see the oil paint is raised on the surface.

Many artists will put additives into their paint, including sand, cornmeal, and even oatmeal, to get extraordinary texture results. You can also add other textured materials to make imprinted images too.

Just as the rule of adding at least three different kinds of mixed media to any picture, a mixed media painting needs three kinds of texture. Some artists will add more depending on the landscape or feeling they want to express.

One of my personal favorite tricks is taking heavy fabric such as burlap (potato sack) and painting one side of the material. This is then used as a texture stamp. This can be done with any kind of rough fabric or crumpled rag.

Try using sea or luffa sponges to get an organic texture that can cover a lot of your painted surface very quickly. Other inspirations can come from pastry wheel cutters that can roll across textured or painted surfaces, creating fascinating patterns.

Crumpled paper, tin foil, and plastic wrap, all make excellent texture surfaces. Lay down a single layer of plastic wrap on your wet paint, push or pull it around, and then lift it off. The results are stunning!

While your paint is thickened with some material, you can also push and pull this in areas to create the desired effect likewise. Your surface must be dried before you start adding accent colors to spots where you've created texture.

An excellent idea is using iridescent powders like the ones you find in Chinese discount stores. These can be applied with a paintbrush and dry-brushed where you want them to go.

After your picture is complete, you'll want to seal this surface with good sealing lacquer so powder colors, chalk, pastels, or anything else powdery will stick permanently. Use a light coat at first to help the powder become stuck and then a couple more after each layer has dried. It's also crucial to have a sealer that isn't too glossy, so try choosing one that gives you a matt surface.

Painting with mixed media should be on thicker card stock, so your finished work is easy to put in a frame or have a hanger attached to the back. I highly recommend a suitable picture frame since this will make your final work appear professional and neat. If your painting has a lot of texture, choose a box frame that allows your surface detail to remain undisturbed. This can also be helpful if you've glued found objects into your picture as well.

Final Word

One more thing about creating mixed media art is to enjoy what you're doing without feeling like you're cheating on any traditional art technique. If you're proud of your work, it will make any mixed media project a great experience. And since art is all about expression, mixed media gives everyone (artists or not) plenty to express about themselves. I hope that this guide has given you more ideas to consider for your next mixed media project!


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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