Choosing Paper for Collaging

By Nicole Tinkham

The basic materials needed for a paper collage are quite simple: some scrap paper, an adhesive, and a surface to put it all together. However, it’s important to understand your materials (in particular, your paper) and how to use them in order to create a nice visual piece. Experimenting is always a great way to learn but you should also know your paper options as you want to select papers that give you the most diversity.

What to look for in a paper

• Diversity – Look for paper with different textures, colors, and patterns.

• Choose acid-free or pH-neutral papers (magazines or tissue paper tend to fade quickly but can still be used).

• Encase paper in an acrylic medium that has UV protectants – this will help the colors last longer.

• Tip: Think of each piece of paper as a piece of art. You may have a certain paper around for awhile until you find the perfect project to use it for.

Oriental papers

Oriental papers come from many Eastern countries and you may recognize them as mulberry or rice paper. You can find these in a variety of textures and colors.

Japanese decorated papers

Colorful Japanese designs are often silk screened on paper and really catch the eye. These can make a bold statement.

Marble papers

Marble paper can add a fresh, unique look to your project with its colorful movement. Many love using marble paper for the fact that it’s an art form in itself. You can get marble paper handmade, machine-made or printed but it really doesn’t matter which you choose. You may even decide to make your own!

Handmade paper

You can either make your own paper or purchase handmade paper from someone who makes it themselves. As with marble paper, handmade paper is considered an art form. You can find a large variety of patterns, weights, textures, and colors in this type of paper.

Hand-decorated paper

Basically, any type of paper can be decorated by hand and used in collages so your options are endless. To decorate paper, you can use methods like paste-paper making or stamping. Just make sure to use acid-free plain papers if choosing to decorate.

Exotic surfaces

These surfaces aren’t necessarily paper but paper-like. For example, bark, metal foils, and papyrus would be considered exotic surfaces. These surfaces may not take adhesives as well as paper but can still be used with much success. Remember that you may need to apply several coats of adhesive or a stronger bond adhesive for these to work.

Lace papers

You will notice that lace papers tend to be very delicate but are perfect for softening harsh colors and lines as well as integrating your collage. You can find lace papers in many different patterns. Since they’re so thin, they can disappear if too much adhesive is used. It’s a good idea to test it out first to find the perfect amount of adhesive to use.

Magazines and newspapers

You will most likely use magazines for a particular image or subject but they can also be used for colored paper or texture. The paper used in higher quality magazines will probably be acid-free but you may want to consider using a UV protectant on the surface. Unlike magazines, newspapers are used for the black and white texture as well as for the words. Newspapers aren’t made of quality paper but who knows, it may be just what you want. When using newspapers, make sure to use plenty of medium!

Low-relief collage materials

These are items that are not usually acid-free or archival but offer a wide range of texture and color that paper can’t match. While these items aren’t paper, we wanted to mention them anyway as they may give you some creative ideas. Here are some objects to consider in your collage:

• Ribbons
• Buttons
• Polymer clay
• Modeling paste
• Postage stamps
• Flat metal
• Fabric
• Stickers
• Pressed leaves and flowers

Of course there are many other things you must consider when beginning a paper collage like adhesive choices and technique. The information in this post actually came from a wonderful book called “The Art of Paper Collage” by Susan Pickering Rothamel. This book is loaded with amazing collages and helpful techniques so we recommend checking it out next time you’re in!
Do you have a certain collage paper you’re absolutely in love with? Share your story below!

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