Who doesn’t love a list of supplies? Just me? Collage and mixed media art are material intensive work. You have to have lotsa paper. I mean: Lots. Of. Paper. No really. You wanted to live in your house? Sorry. It’s just going to be where you store your paper stash and sleep. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. So let’s start with paper on my supply list.
Paper for Collage
I have been a paper collector since I was five. I don’t care what the original intention of it is, if it catches my eye and is something I can legally obtain, I’m going to get it. So book pages (old and yellow with a crumbling spine? Yes! Foreign language? Bring it! Atlases? I’m there!), scrapbook paper, packaging (I’m obsessed with color printing registration marks on the inside of packaging), wrapping paper, take out menus, business cards, newsletters, magazines, mailers, security envelopes, propaganda posters (I have a communist party poster from the time I was in Nepal during election season), and old art: mine or someone else’s old art all work. I’ve used all of this in my work.
Library book sales and used book stores are great resources for paper materials. Ask friends to give you their old magazines and junk mail. Pick up business cards and flyers around town. Save the packaging from your food boxes and household paper products. If it’s paper and patterned and you like it, save it. I literally have pieces of paper I’ve been storing for years because I thought it was cool. I eventually use it in some piece of art work.
Papers/Materials for Base Layers
Depending on what I’m making, I use a variety of different materials for surfaces. For finished art that I want to hang, I often use gallery wrapped 1.5 inch – 2 inch thick canvases so I can paint/collage on the sides. I also collage in old books. I have two books close to completed. They make wonderful, durable art collections.
I use Bristol Board, watercolor paper, or mixed media paper. Those are thick and can stand up to quite a bit of glue and paint. I use these surfaces for experimentation so when I’m finished I can recycle them into something else. If I’m hand binding a journal, I almost always use Bristol Board for the cover because once I apply acrylic paint to it, it develops a leathery texture that I love. If I’m gelli printing, I often use old book pages but will also print on Bristol Board.
I use acrylic most of the time. I like to use a brayer and roll it on. I also use a palette knife, an old credit/gift card, or my fingers. Acrylic is great for all of those. I am not tied to any particular brand. I like the expensive good stuff and the inexpensive craft paint that dries really fast and rubs off really well. I like ALL THE COLORS although I am partial to cool colors.
I also use ink quite a bit and I’m particularly partial to the Liquitex ink! Line of colors. You will be messy when you use these. There’s just no other way. I keep a spray bottle of water handy to make splatters with these things. And that makes it even more messy!
I use gelatos from Faber-Castell quite a bit. They are a lovely combination of water soluble and pastel.
I have both pan watercolors and tube watercolors and I use them occasionally but they are not my go to paint.
I never use oil paints. Too much drying time. Too many chemicals to deal with.
If I’m working on a small area or in one of my books, I use a UHU glue stick. They are archival quality and hold really well. I’m particularly partial to the purple, handling-tinted ones because I can see where the glue is that I’ve applied and it keeps me from gumping up the end of the stick.
If I’m working in a larger area, or on a canvas, I use Golden Regular Gel in Matte finish. I like this for a couple of reasons: it dries smooth with no marks in it, it mixes perfectly with acrylics and is stellar to paint on top of, it adds a layer of protection to collaged pieces that aren’t going to be behind glass, and most importantly, it HOLDS forever.
Tools & Other Supplies
Baby Wipes – Wipe down your work area. Clean up spills. Use while making gelli printing for cleaning brayers and the plate itself. Erase some paint mistakes. Create paint effects. And of course, clean your hands. I’m partial to the ones that smell like cucumbers.
Big Metal Ruler – I have a Gaebel 24-inch printer’s comparative scale ruler that my dad gave me. He bought it because its copyright date is his birth year: 1948. I made goo-goo eyes at it until he have it to me. It is a treasure for measuring, cutting, tearing, and lining up things with. It is virtually indestructible and you cannot nick it with your X-acto knife. If you deal with large pieces of paper, you are probably going to need a big metal ruler.
Bone Folder – This is one of those oddball tools that you think you might not need but if you are folding and scoring paper, it is so handy. SkyBluePink has bone folders on sale for $3 right now.
Dymo Label Maker – Nothing replaces the look of this classic label maker.
Gelli Plate – I love the texture of a mono print. You can create tons of effects with stencils and paint and by drawing on the paint while it’s wet on the plate. It’s so fun to play with and when you are done playing you have tons of original, textured pieces that you can use in a variety of ways. I have an 8×10 inch size and a 3×5 inch size. My favorite hack is to print on book pages for that extra layer of awesome. Also, check out the site because it has tons of videos to spark your imagination. Their Instagram account is super fun too with many re-grams of people’s work.
Ink Pads – I have a ton of Distress Ink pads from Ranger. I like their raised pads so you can smear them around. They don’t dry very fast so be prepared for ink transfer or smearing if you don’t blot them. I have a Ranger Archival Ink Jet Black Jumbo pad that is indispensable for letter stamping. I also just picked up a Brilliance Moonlight White Ink Pad that I lurv!!
Pencils – I’m partial to 4B lead but experiment and see what works for you.
Pens – I use Sakura Pigma Micron in size 1mm. Yes, 1mm. I like a fat line. The 1mm size is hard to find online as a single but you can often find it in a kit. If you physically go to an art supply store though you can usually find it as a single. I also have tons of white Signo Uni-ball pens. They are my favorite white ink pen and last about 3 minutes longer than any other white ink pen.
Punches – I have a handful of basic paper punch shapes. I use them for some things and then don’t use them for long stretches of time. Experiment and see what you like.
Scissors – I use the Paper Studio’s Non-Stick Precision Tip Scissors. I’m left-handed, so scissor shelf life for me is normally about 6 months. I torque right-handed scissors hard to get the blades to cut precisely so I invariably wear out the rivet that holds them together. These scissors don’t succumb to this torture! They stay super sharp for a long, long time. They are smooth to cut with and the only thing that I’ve found that sticks to them is vellum tape. A baby wipe will take that residue right off. Scissors are super personal to me. I guess it’s because of my left-handedness. I had the red-handled safety scissors in elementary school and I guarded them zealously. Taking my scissors is sorta like asking me to borrow one of my kids. Most days, it’s probably not gonna happen. If you cut a lot of paper and need small, precise cuts, I recommend these.
Stamps – I mostly use letter stamps but I’ve found that repeating pattern stamps are also fun. I watch for them to go on sale or use a coupon. Buy ones that you see getting a lot of use out of.
Waxed Paper – I use the sheet kind for paint palettes. I use it as an undersheet for my glue stick so I don’t get glue on my table. I also use them in my altered books to separate heavily-painted pages so they won’t stick together. I use them until they are gross and then I toss them. I bought this box in January 2015 and have used less than half of it since then.
Very Useful Online Resources
Places to spend all of your money
SkyBluePink – Oh! The beautiful ephemera! I can never get outta this shop without loosing half my budget. But it’s so, so, so good I promise it won’t even hurt when it happens to you. Queen Xina, the proprietor of SkyBluePink, declares, “If we can get it to stick to paper, it’s collage material!” Words to live by, my Queen.
YourATCstore – If you like Artist Trading Cards, this is the place! They have so much cool stuff that you will never see in Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.
Jet Pens – This is pen heaven. And pen pouch heaven. I apologize in advance for the damage to your budget.
Etsy – Here’s a place I actually haven’t explored much for ephemera but I know there’s tons of stuff available. I always mean to look for things here and am somehow always convinced that being able to touch and see things in person is better. Lame excuse.
Swallowtail Garden Seeds – Same as Biodiversity but for plants. I don’t tend to use this one like I use Biodiversity but if you like to use flower and plant images, this is the place for you.
The British Library – Searchable image library of maps, architectural drawings, portraits, and book flourishes. There’s so much stuff here, you could look for a week and still not see it all.
Get Messy Art Journal – This is an arts community like no other. Support, friendship, encouragement; it’s all there. People who will mentor you and there will be those in the community looking to you to mentor them. It’s a gem of a place centered on art journaling. Sign up for the free intro class!
Epbot – Jen and John are geek crafters, prop-makers, and cosplayers. Prepared to be dazzled.
Punk Projects – Katie is a hard-core, craft maker and painter. Her website is a treasure trove of fun ideas and cute craft pics.
Let me know if you have a great tool you love to use or if I left something off of my list you must know about!