Getting started with collage art

Collage art has become a very important type of art that I work on. The more I do it, the more I love it.

When I started doing collages a few years ago I had no idea how to begin or what to do. Now that I have reached a stage where I am much more comfortable and confident in creating collage art,  I’d like to pass along some advice for anyone who is new to collaging, or looking for new inspiration to do collage art and glue books.

Based on feedback comments on my youtube videos, I see two types of groups interested in collage art. First are people who have valuable, family history pieces like photos, letters or documents, and want to display them in some kind of collection, like in a journal for example.

Second, are people who simply want to use up scraps, images they’ve torn from magazines, leftover project remnants, or whatever paper ephemera they have on hand to fill up a page. It’s this second group I will be focusing on in this post (I’ll get to the first group at another time).

One of the great things about doing art is the sense of accomplishment after a project is done. I feel that sense of accomplishment after I complete a collage, and it doesn’t matter how big or how little it is. A collage can be done on a canvas or a journal page. It can also be done on a postcard, index card, or a playing card. It can be great for people who feel like they don’t have a lot of time to devote to art but feel the need to do something creative.

Here are collages on index cards.

A low stress, exercise collage book, as a way to relax and have fun using up scraps is a great project to take up. It’s also a great place for you to experiment with your creativity and practice improving on how you put your collages together. You won’t always love what you create but practicing what you do will make you better.

So what kind of paper should you use for glue books and collaging?  

For me it’s good to have a mix of things like text, illustrations, images, color, black and white, paint, handwriting, etc, but  paper choice is arbitrary. As individuals we are drawn to things that interest us. The reason why you like something may or may not be important, and often it’s better not to think too deeply when considering what to save or not. For me, it’s a split-second decision to keep something or discard it. If I pause longer than a few seconds or come back for a second look, it’s worth keeping.  

If you are starting out fresh and need some ideas of where to look for paper ephemera and scraps, here are my notes:

Where should you make your collages?

You’ve got many choices here. I mentioned before, you can go as large as a canvas, or as small as an index card, or smaller. My friend Pamela has a Rolodex project with a collection of collages on hundreds of Rolodex cards.

If you want to create a book or journal, I recommend starting off with something simple. Craft stores or discount retailers like Target have basic 5 x 7″ journals in their bargain bins that you can get for a dollar. These are good because you are going to be tearing out pages to thin out the book. For every page, tear out 3. It seems like a lot of pages you are getting rid of, but your little book will have a big alligator mouth unless you take drastic measures.

If you’re starting a brand new collage project, it’s good to remind yourself of what your plans and goals will be. Here’s a forward I wrote to myself.

For a more in-depth look on creating a collage book, as well as my thoughts on how much is enough when it comes to scraps, please see the video I made.

Vintage memory book of my grandmother

sewing glue bookBack in August — 9 months ago — I began working on what I’m calling a memory book of my grandmother. I took a bunch of sewing related items like button cards, embroidery thread, sewing related paper sources and images, and then added photos of my grandmother to create something like a glue book.

I used an old book and took the pages out, just using the covers.

altered book cover

I sewed in 4 signatures of 4 pages, 8 front and back. All together that’s 32 pages that I collaged.





It’s taken a lot of thought to complete, including writing a little essay on memories I have of my grandmother and why she is important to me.

And I still have 2 pages left to complete. I’ve run out of inspiration at the moment, but I’ll find it again.

A few quick junk journals

cover art journalsI created a couple of quick journals for the teenage daughters of a friend of mine. I had 2 days to put them together, which for me is extremely short notice. Luckily I had the covers done — minus the hardware — and just sitting on my bookshelf.

I bought two covers at Tuesday Morning on the cheap and played around with how to cover up the Tim Holtz Christmas theme printed on the front. I sprayed ink, painted, dabbed more ink, sprayed with more colors, and then glossed until I was content. I wasn’t really pleased over all, but I don’t think I could have done any better. After everything dried I stamped an image on the front with my favorite copper stamp pad.

key lock hardware

This was the first time I added hardware to covers. Since these were going to be for young teenage girls I wanted to put some chain and hooks for closures, and use some key lock plates for decoration. Silver on the red cover and copper on the green.

profile journal bookI also added paper clips to some of the pages with fibers tied to them.

journal spinesFor the spine I used black embroidery thread with a few beads. This was the first time I tried this 2-holes-in-the-spine system of binding and I didn’t like it at all. When I tied in the signatures I couldn’t get them tight enough so they were wobbling up and down in the book. I simply couldn’t fix it. I had to leave them wobbly.

For the inside pages, I used 5 sheets per signature, folded that makes 10 pages. I made 3 signatures for each book. I tried to make the pages all different in function as well as different sources of paper. I wanted folds and pockets and different sizes, some plain and some colorful. I also wanted to find places for lots of tags, envelopes, some stamping, and washi tape.


page 2

page 3

page 4

page 5

page 6

page 7

page 8

page 9

page 10

page 11


I used a hook and eye system for the fastening. This worked well as it didn’t scratch the paper on the back page.

hook and eye


Working on another collage journal

Some weeks ago I saw a video on youtube on making a glue book. A glue book is any kind of book with pages that you then add items like papers and other bits until you make a collage. It’s something like a journal except there is no writing, just visuals. I loved this idea.

I loved this idea because I have a lot of my grandmother’s sewing things and I’ve been thinking about how I can use them, other than sewing and embroidering.

buttons, notions, threadI’ve got a substantial stash and at some point it will be have to given away or thrown out. A lot of it is more than 60 years old.

cigar box with thread

It’s amazing that this embroidery thread is so vibrant. I can believe that the colors have not faded at all.

embroidery patterns1

embroidery pattern book


austrian buttons

This weekend I began working on some collage pages. I had the house to myself for 24 hours and so I cleaned off the dining table and spread everything out.

dining table It took me several hours of attention, but I managed to make 11 pages thus far.

Here’s a spread of 2 pages.

sewing collage

After I have them finished, I’ll gut an old book and insert my new pages into it.