Lea Cioci, CPD CPT

Collage and stamp art collage give the artist a lot of freedom and the results are personal with each work of art. Whether the design is simple or complex, beautiful results transpire. This guide is just a small beginning to what can be created with collage. Read, try, and enjoy!!!

Dictionary Definition of Collage: "An artistic composition of materials and objects pasted over a surface, often with unifying lines and color."

Basic collage, done in the stamp and paper arts style, consists cut and pasted stamped images and embellishments, overstamping different images with different color inks, and collage on a 3D surface using stamped images either right on the surface or stamped, cut and pasted with additional elements added. In addition, digital scrapbooking and collage is now a popular format. All these formats can utilize the techniques given below.

The dictionary definition is somewhat true with the current trends in stamp art collage. You may create by “pasting” or overlaying images such as the techniques in this article, but you can also do “overstamping” which is collage by doing the layering with different stamps and different colors of ink to create the depth and dimension.

Collage consists of these design factors incorporated to create the finished art. Definitions and ideas will be added at the end of this article.

  • Color

  • Composition

  • Design

  • Overlay and layout

  • Materials

  • Embellishments

  • Optional: distressing, ink techniques, chalk, etc..

Collage Layout

  • 1. An easy way to start a collage is by having a theme. For beginners, having a theme in mind before starting, choosing paper, inks, and stamps, can help make the process less overwhelming. Once you have confidence in creating a collage, then you may start out free form and create from scratch.

  • 2. The first part of the design is the background on the surface. There are many options to creating a background. Use pattern or plain color decorative papers covering the entire surface, blends of inks, or even paints. Backgrounds can be created by using a stamp and stamping over the surface, or you can use a patterned stamp image to fill the area. There are many types of media out on the market giving the artist many choices. Other techniques can be brayering ink color, oil pastels/unique medium, ripping large sections of paper or decorative paper pieces.

  • TIP: If your background has a lot of pattern, use pattern sparingly in the foreground so the collage doesn’t get too busy. If your background is one color or uses blends of inks that do not form a pattern, a lot of pattern may be used in the foreground of the collage.

This background is created by using inks right on the surface of the canvas and blending the colors together. (Inks used: Colorbox Crafter’s ink heat set, Tsukineko’s Brilliance Inks, and Ranger’s Adirondack Inks)

  • 3. After creating a background you like, then choose stamp images, ephemera, stickers and other elements that you might want to use to create the collage. In many cases, you will have more elements than you need. This gives you a lot of elements on hand to choose from without having to search and be frustrated as you create your design.

  • 4. The most important aspect to starting a collage is to have a focus or focal point. This is the major image in the work that you want the viewer to look at. The rest of the collage will be worked around this focal point. While it is better to have one focal point, it is ok to use a slightly smaller element somehow connected to the major focal point or laid out in a way that won’t cause confusion with the eye. The one mistake beginners make is by having too many larger elements in a collage and the viewer’s eyes wander all over the work, causing confusion to the viewer.

As you see in the illustration above, the focal point image is cut out and adhered to the collage after being stamped. (This article focuses on layout techniques and not the actual techniques for adhering, inking, and other mechanical construction aspects of the collage). Most times, unless the focal point is very large, I like to off-set the image so it isn’t directly in the center of the surface. This makes contrast within the collage and looks more pleasing to the eye.

  • 5. As you ink, cut stamped images (or have die cuts, stickers, or collage papers at hand), lay them out around the focal point to see where they would look the best. At the end of this article will be terms to help you to understand the various aspects to deciding what element might look better in one place than another. As you look at the stamp image you can see that there are two other larger elements the quote and the book label. Place them around the focal point and see where they look pleasing. You want to form a rhythm with your layout, and you want the eye to travel around the collage in an easy manner. Connecting elements by overlapping is one way to create balance in the collage.

Above are two illustrations of finished collages. Both follow basic techniques for collage, but I find I like the left one better – it has more balance and the movement of the eye is easier. The quote is almost as important as the image of the girl, but because the image of the girl is more solid it helps me to make sure the eye travels there first. The quote is “bridged, or connected” to the focal point image of the girl and brings the eye down to seeing the rest of the elements in the collage. Because of the shape of the library label, I chose to put it at the bottom to the left of the quote to keep the eye around the quote and focal point image. If I had put it on the upper right where the dragonfly was, it would make the eye stop there and make it harder for the viewer to look down at the other images easily. The dragonfly with the tail pointing down helps the viewer’s eyes move down and to the focal point. The smaller dragonfly helps tie the collage together by the use of repetition. Also the word, myself is a repetition of words and it is horizontal to match quote. In many cases, turning the word might make a nice asymmetry but in this case it works better to keep it horizontal and make the smaller dragonfly on an angle to bring the eye back to the focal point.

  • 6. Embellishments are added to give additional dimension and to add texture and depth to the work. The bead and metal flower piece add to the stamped image of the dragonfly. Glossy Accents can be used to make the heart and dome in the flower stand out and look like glass.

Tips for Good Design!

  • Color: In a composition you want harmonious colors that go together well. There are many color wheels you can purchase at craft stores, even ones made specifically for stamp art. For my collage, I used a mix of cool and warm colors although more cool colors were used. If the color doesn’t feel right in your composition see if there is too many warm colors or cool colors and add a little more of the opposite. Also, following the color schemes can help make the process of deciding colors easier.

Basic Color make-up:

  • 1. Primary - Red, yellow, blue. You cannot make these colors only shades of them.

  • 2. Secondary - This color is made by mixing two of the primary colors. Red and blue make purple/violet, yellow and red make orange, yellow and blue make green.

  • 3. Tertiary - Any primary color mixed with a secondary color. Orange-red, Green-blue, Red-violet.

Color Schemes:

  • 1. Acromatic - Using Blacks, Whites, and Grays

  • 2. Complementary - Opposite colors on the color wheel like blue and orange.

  • 3. Split Complementary - Use one color and using a color on each side of its complement on the color wheel.

  • 4. Diad - Two colors that are 2 colors apart on the color wheel like red and orange.

  • 5. Triad - Three colors equally spaced from each other like red, blue and yellow.

  • 6. MonoChromatic - Using any shade, tint, tone of all one color.

  • 7. Agnalogous - Colors that are 90 degree angles on the color wheel.

Basic elements and techniques that help your work look pleasing to the idea, with balance and harmony.

  • 1. Lines - define boundaries and connection in work.

  • 2. Shape - Arrangement of cut/torn papers added to larger shapes creates power and contrast.

  • 3. Value - Refers to light and dark contrast in a particular color.

  • 4. Movement - Direction that moves viewer's eye around.

  • 5. Size - Large pieces for basic design, small pieces for detail.

  • 6. Pattern - Like texture, visual patterns created with line, shapes, and colors.

  • 7. Harmony - similar elements that evoke serenity and calm.

  • 8. Contrast - Draws attention to work, keeps it from being boring.

  • 9. Rhythm - spaces between shapes and colors to create a mood.

  • 10. Repetition - Creates movement.

  • 11. Balance - This is moving the pieces till they are either symmetrical or asymmetrical.

  • 12. Dominance - focal point - a main focus.

  • 13. Unity - The successful use of all the techniques above for finished work.

  • 14. Overlapping/Bridging - Connecting pieces of design together, either 2 pieces together or using a third piece to tie two other pieces together.

All stamp images from "Lila's Divine Play"
designed by Lea Cioci
available from After Midnight.

Lea Cioci

©2005 Text and Images

Back to Collage Tips