A comprehensive introduction to collage

Hello beautiful Messians, it’s Ashley here! Today I am sharing the basics of collage, including a few tips and tricks to try in your art journal. I enjoy collage because it is so simple and accessible, and I encourage you to experiment with this technique in your art as well.

History of Collage

Collage is an art form in which a collection of various materials are assembled together in such a way as to create a new whole. It was used as early as the invention of paper, but it became popular in the early 20th century when Cubist painters Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso began including paper materials in their drawings and paintings, respectively. The juxtaposition of different materials created a new perspective on painting, and this sparked even more experimentation, a characteristic of early modernism. Dada artist Hannah Höch created photomontages, often politically charged, using images from mass media. Surrealist painter Henri Matisse took a simple, cut and paste approach to collage using gouache painted papers. With the technique he described as “drawing with scissors”, he explored geometric and organic shapes and positive and negative space in his compositions.  During the Pop Art era, artists incorporated images cut out from magazines and advertisements in an effort to challenge distinctions between high art and low art. Collage is so diverse and intriguing. Contemporary artists continue to find innovative ways to incorporate it in their art, including sculptural and digital collage.

Collecting Collage Material

Collage101You can collect any type of material to use in your collages. Many of these items you may already have on hand. Some examples include:

  • Paper-magazine pages, book pages, music sheets, painted papers, gelli prints, scrapbook paper, construction paper, wrapping paper, and tissue paper
  • Found Ephemera-ticket stubs, receipts, postage stamps, playing cards, old greeting cards, postcards, maps, photographs, post-it notes, and clothing tags
  • Manufactured Ephemera-scrapbooking ephemera packs (e.g. Tim Holtz, Heidi Swapp, and Amy Tangerine)
  • Metal objects-keys, coins, wire, nails and screws
  • Fabric, ribbon, yarn, and thread
  • Much much more…

Tip: Organize your materials in folders, desk drawer organizers, and storage containers for quick and easy accessibility.

Gathering Collage Tools

Collage101The basic tools you need to assemble a collage are scissors and glue.

  • Scissors-You can use a regular pair of scissors to cut out images or shapes. To be more precise and to cut out intricate details or designs, you may use tiny scissors or an X-ACTO knife. Note: When using an X-ACTO knife be sure to place a cutting mat down to protect the surface you are working on.
  • Glue-There are two types of glue you can use, solid glue and wet glue. In my work I mostly use solid glue, like a simple glue stick or adhesive tape runner. You can also use wet glue, like mod podge or matte medium. I prefer to use solid glue because wet glue can sometimes warp images and the page. I find a glue stick works best for magazine paper. A tape runner easily tears tissue paper and magazine paper, so I tend to only use it for heavier papers like scrapbook paper or cardstock.  For found objects like keys or buttons, I recommend using hot glue or E-6000 craft glue for a more permanent hold.

Tip: Don’t limit yourself to glue. You can also use a stapler, tape, and/or stitching to adhere collage materials to your art journal pages.

Let’s Get Started

Collage101Now that we have our materials and supplies, it’s time to get started. First, I like to pull a few pieces of paper and collage elements out for inspiration. Here, I have pulled scrapbook paper for color inspiration, magazine clippings for possible focal point images, junk mail envelopes for fun patterns, and a few extra bits and bobs that color coordinate.

Collage101Next, I narrow down the items even further, and decide on a few key elements I want to use. I like to choose items with different size patterns and textures to add visual interest.

Collage101Then, I begin to layer elements on the page, and I play with the placement of each element to ensure there is a balanced composition. I love how the paper doily instantly adds texture to the page. The bold, red-orange blooms are a great focal point. I added a scrapbook paper square behind it to anchor it to the page so that it wouldn’t just be floating in space. On the right side, I chose the bright lime green paper with a large scallop pattern to balance out the flower. To tame the boldness of that pattern, I added some black and white text from a magazine page. Then, to bring in some more red, I cut out some words in a smaller font from scrapbook paper. Once I am pleased with the rough layout, I start gluing things down.

Collage101The paper doily wasn’t long enough to stretch across the entire page, so I cut an extra small piece to glue in the center of the spread. I tried to follow the pattern of the cutouts, so it would look seamless.


I used my X-ACTO knife to cut a small slit in the scrapbook paper so that I could tuck the flower behind it and give the illusion it is blooming out of the ground.
Collage101Finally, I added a piece of washi tape with a black and white polka dot pattern to balance the text on the right. Some pen detailing helps tie the two pages together. The line helps guide your eye from the left side of the page to the right side. Another way to tie in two pages is to add journaling across the spread.

Collage101I hope this tutorial was helpful and inspiring. There are really no right or wrongs when it comes to collage. The most important part is to play and have fun. Now that you know the basics, I can’t wait to see what you create!


  1. Deborah Hosaflook

    This was lovely Ashley!! Thank you so much. I love how simple your page is but yet so interesting to look at and so many different textures and areas for my eyes to roam to.

  2. julia Thomas

    I love your history of collage! SO interesting to read and obviously beautiful pages made <3

  3. Gilly Welch

    I love your collage Ashley, clean & simple…just right! I normally through everything but the kitchen sink at mine & I have a tendency to do the same thing every time, so I’m really going to try just picking out a few things to try, thanks.

    • Gilly Welch

      …oops should have been throw, not through!!

    • Ashley Rodgers

      Thanks, Gilly! So happy to hear you’re inspired to take a different approach.

  4. Katie Smith

    Ooh, the history was really interesting to read & I love your work.

  5. Laura Rahuba

    This was so helpful!

  6. Divyam Bernstein

    Thanks so much for this amazing tutorial, Ashley! I can’t wait to get snipping!!!

    • Ashley Rodgers

      Yay! Can’t wait to see what you share! I just love all your pages.

  7. Misty Granade

    Awesome!! Thanks!

  8. Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

    Love the history of collage. The Victorians loved to make scrapbooks, I wonder if they collage-d images as well as articles and such. I love your tips on achieving balance in the composition.

    • Ashley Rodgers

      Ooh, how interesting. Something new for me to research. Thanks!

  9. Lauren Hooper

    You know people are serious when they pull out the E600! 😉

  10. CIndy Jacobs

    Ashley – I totally love the way you explain and demonstrate collage! It helps give me some structure to my chaotic approach! Thank you!

    • Ashley Rodgers

      Thank you, Cindy! I’m so thrilled you found this tutorial helpful.

  11. Sasha Zinevych

    I absolutely love this tutorial, Ashley! So awesome that you started with some history of collage – it has never crossed my mind to find out where this art form come from! Your minimal style is something to strive for. So clean,but expressive at the same time! <3 Thank you!

    • Ashley Rodgers

      Yay! Thank you so much, Sasha!

  12. Lea

    Great post Ashley! I love collage and this is a great tutorial!

  13. Tina Glover

    The history of collage was so interesting! Your page was beautiful and I think you made it clear enough so that I can try this . Thanks!

    • Ashley Rodgers

      Thank you, Tina! So happy to hear!

  14. sandra Biehl

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve always wanted to creat art, but have never known where to start. This post is something I can run with, I just know I can start creating art!

    • Ashley Rodgers

      Wonderful! So happy this tutorial has inspired you to start creating.


Ashley is just an artsy-craftsy kinda girl trying to make it in the world. She loves everything from scrapbooking to sewing and art journaling to jewelry making. Her motto is “Make it ’til you make it. And then make some more.”