Creating mixed media artwork can open up a world of possibilities for your creativity, providing a fun way to explore new materials and styles, add more dimension to your work, and even expand your idea of what art can be.
If you’re wondering how to do mixed media art, we’ve got good news for you—there’s no one right way, and there are really no rules! That said, there’s plenty of advice that can help you get started with this form of creativity.
What is Mixed Media Art?
Mixed media art is precisely what it sounds like—the combination of two or more artistic mediums into one piece of art. So, instead of just creating a watercolor painting or an ink drawing, you might create something that combines both of them in surprising new ways! You can even integrate items that might not be considered traditional art materials—like scrap paper or found objects—into your mixed media work.
As you can imagine, mixed media can take countless different forms based on the materials used and the style of the artist. Beyond simply combining different materials, it can also encompass using a variety of techniques, getting creative with what you’re using for a canvas, using a mix of 2D and 3D elements, and so much more.
What Do You Need for Mixed Media Art?
Obviously, what you need to create mixed media art can vary wildly! You don’t need all of the materials below—start with those that most speak to you or that you already have on hand.
Mixed Media Paper or Canvas
Almost anything can be your canvas for mixed media artwork—from traditional paper and canvas to old books to blocks of wood. If you’re in the early stages of experimenting with mixed media, a great place to start is by purchasing mixed media paper, which is specifically formulated to handle both wet and dry mediums.
You also may want to use a canvas that’s best suited for your primary material—for example, if you’re creating a watercolor with some mixed media elements, start with watercolor paper; if you’ll be working with oil paint, you may want to start with canvas.
Mixed Media Paint
Nearly any painting materials can be incorporated into mixed media art, including:
- Oil paint
- Acrylic paint
Mixed Media Drawing Tools
Similarly, a range of drawing materials can be included in your mixed media:
- Colored pencils
- Paint markers, like Posca
- Oil pastels
Other Mixed Media Materials
When it comes to mixed media materials, let yourself think expansively about what you could use. Here are a few ideas, but feel free to get creative!
- Printmaking materials
- Patterned paper
- Dried flowers, feathers, or other natural objects
- Googly eyes, gemstones, and other childhood craft items
- Magazines, books, old photographs, and other sources for found imagery
- Fabric scraps
- Glue, such as book glue, Mod Podge, or even glue sticks (particularly if you’re integrating paper collage into your work)
How to Make Mixed Media Art
Step 1: Gather a Variety of Materials
Start experimenting with mixed media using whatever materials you already have lying around, or take a trip to the art store and grab anything that intrigues you. Paints, drawing materials, ink and stamps, papers, found objects, household items—there’s really no limit! Let yourself get creative and go overboard as you work to find what materials inspire you.
As Skillshare instructor Yasmina Creates explains, “Think of yourself as a mad scientist looking for that next big breakthrough. Your goal is to expand your tools and your style so that you can express yourself in a more interesting way, and for you to finally try all those strange supplies you collected over the years and even find new favorites.”
Step 2: Play Around With Combining Different Materials
Working with mixed media requires a lot of trial and error. Some materials may work well together, some may not mix at all. So if you’re feeling unsure how to do mixed media art, simply start layering various things and see what happens! If that makes you nervous, try a test grid like the one in the image above.
That said, there are a couple of general rules of thumb, as explained by teacher Kendyll Hillegas: “The first is that you want to use anything that can be blended or activated with water first (watercolor, acrylic, watercolor pencils) and anything that is oil or wax based second. Rule number two is to use light media first and heavy media second.”
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Step 3: Start With Where You’re Comfortable, and Add Something Extra
Remember that mixed media can be as simple as combining just two different artistic materials. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options, start with the medium you’re most comfortable with, and experiment with adding one other element.
If you usually create watercolor work, try adding final details using ink or colored pencils. If you’re typically a printmaker, perhaps you experiment with creating collages using some of your custom printed paper. Don’t feel like you have to go way outside your comfort zone to create mixed media art.
Step 4: Push the Limits and Be Inspired by Others
That said, if you’re itching to try some drastically new things, do so! Creating mixed media should be playful and fun, so don’t feel limited by the way things have been done before and always be on the lookout for new materials, techniques, and canvas options that could become a part of your truly unique art.
One of the best ways to push your creative limits and discover new possibilities for combining artistic materials is by looking at the work of others. The examples below are a great place to start, and a search for mixed media on Pinterest or Instagram can also provide a wealth of inspiration.
10 Beautiful Examples of Mixed Media Artwork
Mixed Media Painting & Drawing
1. Claudia Melchor del Rio
Artist Claudia Melchor del Rio uses a combination of gouache, Posca markers, oil pastels, and colored pencil in her dreamy landscapes, which you can learn more about in her Skillshare class on drawing your childhood home using mixed media.
2. Marie-Noëlle Wurm
Artist and Skillshare instructor Marie-Noëlle Wurm created these ethereal creatures using gouache and a mix of different drawing materials.
3. Kendyll Hillegas
Artist and Skillshare instructor Kendyll Hillegas combines watercolor and colored pencils to create these luminous, lifelike portraits.
4. Paige Muirhead
Artist Paige Muirhead used a combination of watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil for this more illustrative take on a portrait, created as part of Maria-Ines Gul’s class.
Mixed Media Collage
5. Terry Runyan
Artist and Skillshare instructor Terry Runyan used patterned paper, ink, and a slew of drawing and painting materials to create these bright and cherry mixed media birds.
6. Megan Ursic
Artist Megan Ursic used a mix of hand-painted tissue paper along with other painting materials for her incredible artwork created as part of Jane Davies’ class on creating abstract collages.
7. Alanna Cartier
Artist Alanna Cartier used a variety of media to create her own paper and then even more materials to add the final details for this collage, created as part of Susan Mitchell’s class on how to make a mixed media collage.
8. Rivka Bakkers-de Jonge
Artist Rivka Bakkers-de Jonge incorporated found images and text cut from magazines along with a variety of paints and drawing materials as part of this mixed media art journal, created for Karen Gaunt’s class.
3-D Mixed Media
9. Danielle Krysa
Artist and Skillshare instructor Danielle Krysa combines collaged images, found objects, and thick piped paint in her 3D mixed media work.
10. Peggy Dean
Artist and Skillshare instructor Peggy Dean embroiders vintage photos and postcards to create this surprising mixed media art.
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