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Getting Started with Collage: Tips & Journal Spread Process

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I’m drawn to collage for many reasons.  The ease of getting started with minimal supplies and reusing ephemera, the thrill of hunting for old paper treasures, the challenge of finding images to represent my thoughts and emotions, the meditative cutting and the weaving together of paper to create new stories


  • Magazines
  • Old nature books
  • Cardstock
  • Vellum
  • Glue (I like glue pens for tiny pieces)
  • X-Acto knife and/or scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Pencil
  • Cutting mat (if you’re using x-acto)
  • Paper trimmer
  • Journal
  • White gel pen
  • Brayer (optional)

Tips for getting started

In the video below, I show you my supplies, how I organize my cut-outs and flip through my favorite image sources to explain a bit about why I choose certain images.

  • Great places to look for cheap or free materials: library sales, thrift shops, freecycle groups on facebook, garage sales, friends & family and my personal fave – Reuse Centres.
  • Go through a magazine, book or catalogue and tear out anything that catches your eye.  Don’t think about it too much at this stage. Tiny images are my favorite, I find the scale easier to work with when pairing elements together and I can fit more onto a small page that way.
  • Separate tear outs into categories and cut out your favorites (you never know what might work together until you see them interacting).  The categories you see above, separated in chocolate box lids, are: people, animals, nature, objects and words. You could also group by color or pattern, whatever works for you.
  •  You’ll get to know over time what you truly gravitate towards and use.  Some themes that continually come up in my collages are inner landscapes, my connections with nature and the subconscious. So I tend to choose women with their eyes closed, dreamy facial and body expressions, hands outstretched or interacting with something, animals, plants and landscapes. I also love when I find faces covered in hair, backs to the camera and silhouettes because I feel like, if the face is obscured, it’s easier to imagine myself in the scene.
  • When deciding on a composition, I find it helpful to place things (before gluing) and take a photo on my iphone with the grid on (you can go into your camera settings to turn the it on). The guide lines help to align your subject according to the rule of thirds.


In the video, a time-lapse will show you how I composed the spread.

Step 1: I started by cutting the dress off the woman and replacing it with the image of the balloons to add to the floating, joyful feeling.

Step 2: I chose a background image with a view from the sky so the woman would appear to be high up.

Step 3: Then, I cut out some birds and butterflies I thought would work well with the woman and to symbolize freedom and lightness.  I was looking for a bird facing to the left that would fit under her arm and appear like it was carrying her through the air and small butterflies to add to her hand and to the sky for some movement.

Step 4: I trimmed the background photo and glued it in my journal.

Step 5: I placed and glued the bird under the woman’s arm and glued her and the butterflies onto the background.

Step 6: I used the hole punch to create some fun confetti with gold and pink vellum.

Step 7: I then glued in the green cardstock on the opposite page.  I wanted a simple solid background to add a quote.

Step 8: I added some more confetti dots to add to the movement and to help the pages tie together.

Step 9: I wrote a Joni Mitchell quote about freedom and creativity using white gel pen.

I would love to see the old books, magazines and images you find (I’m a nerd for this stuff) and your collage creations! Happy hunting & collaging!

Amanda Hobbs

Amanda is a paper huntress-gatherer-weaver, residing near Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. She works under the name Mixed Matter Collage, exploring inner landscapes as a mindful practice towards her mental well being. Amanda believes wholeheartedly in the healing, interconnecting power of art and enjoys collaborating with other creatives. You can often find her in her introvert happy places: with her husband and two dogs, enjoying a walk in nature, thrifting or with her nose in a book.