Creating Animal Illustrations using Collage | Rebecca Jackson | Skillshare

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Creating Animal Illustrations using Collage

teacher avatar Rebecca Jackson, Designer & Illustrator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Why Collage?


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Painting Part 1


    • 5.

      Painting Part 2


    • 6.

      Gel Plate Printing


    • 7.

      Transferring the Design


    • 8.



    • 9.



    • 10.



    • 11.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

The Class

In this class, we'll create an animal illustration using collage techniques. We'll start by looking at the materials we need, then get stuck in to making some unique collage papers using a variety of painting methods and/or a gel plate. We'll consider the best way to transfer our design to our papers, then I'll share some tips and tricks for cutting and glueing. Lastly, we'll assemble our final design.

What you'll learn

  • how to create unique collage papers using a variety of methods including various painting techniques and gel plate printing
  • how to transfer your design onto your collage papers
  • some handy tips for cutting and sticking
  • how to assemble your design in a way that maximises the potential for experimenting with composition

Collage is a fantastic medium - really versatile, and allowing plenty of opportunity for experimentation. It's also a big confidence booster as you can take time to rearrange your design, play with composition and only stick everything down when you're completely happy with it. Most of all, it's great fun! I hope you come to love it as much as I do. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Rebecca Jackson

Designer & Illustrator


Hello, I'm Rebecca, a designer, illustrator and collage enthusiast from Wales in the UK. I love all forms of papercraft and enjoy combining traditional art methods with digital techniques to create artwork, patterns and greeting cards.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello, I'm Rebecca, a designer and illustrator from Wales in the UK. In this class, we're going to create an animal illustration using collage techniques. We will look at all steps of the process. From working with an initial drawing, to creating your own unique collage papers, to assembling your final design. I'll provide a digital copy of my drawing of the fox so that you can follow along using that. But I'll also provide plenty of tips and techniques to help you work with your own design if you'd prefer. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you create. I think collage is a fantastic medium. So please join me in class. Thank you. 2. Why Collage?: So before we get started, I'd like to spend a few moments talking about why I love collage and why I think it's such a fantastic medium. Particularly if you're just starting out with art. So first off, and a big plus in my books is that it's so accessible. You don't need any fancy equipment or expensive materials in order to get started. A glue stick, a pair of scissors, paper, and something to stick them to. And you're pretty much good to go. It's lovely to make your own collage papers. But when you're starting off, if you prefer, you can just use anything you have to hand. So old magazines, junk mail, even packaging. You really don't need to spend much in order to get started. Another thing I love about collage is how hands on it is. I spent a lot of time working digitally. So it makes a lovely change to crack open some paints and get a bit messy. And although I do love digital art, sometimes I feel a stronger connection to the things I've made with my hands. Finally, I think collage is a great medium for building confidence in your art and for encouraging experimentation. Collage allows you the opportunity to move around aspects of your design and to swap out any bits that you're not happy with. So it's very hard to actually make mistakes with collage. You're not committed to your final design until everything stuck down at the end. So I think this can be quite reassuring if you're new to the technique. It also encourages experimentation, both in terms of composition with this moving round of the elements and perhaps finding new and unexpected ways of presenting your design. There's also plenty of opportunity for experimentation. When you're making your collage papers. You can really get creative making your papers, trying out new forms of mark making, repurposing household objects in order to get interesting textures in your paint. So hopefully that's whetted your appetite and you're ready to get stuck in. In the next video, we'll look at what materials you need. 3. Materials: In this video, we'll look at the basic tools and materials you need to produce your collage. As I mentioned earlier, you need very little in order to get started. Just something to cut with, something to stick with some collage papers and something to stick them too. So let's look at each of these in a little more detail. The most obvious choice for cutting is, of course, scissors. Now, size does matter when it comes to scissors. And it can be really helpful to have a few pairs in a range of different sizes. If you're cutting out large shapes, for instance, a big pair of scissors will make the job quicker and your line smoother. However for fine detail, embroidery scissors or a pair of little all purpose scissors can make things easier. The pair I use the most is the medium size. As I find, they do both jobs reasonably well. I quite like this pair as well because they have a nice padded handle, so it makes them more comfortable to use. You might also find it handy to have a scalpel or craft knife as these can be good for cutting out areas inside a piece. So for instance, if you're cutting out on eye hole and you didn't want to cut through anything to get to the interior. They can be quite handy for that. In terms of sticking, there's a wide range of glues on the market. Lots of different types. And the type of glue that you use will depend a lot on the material that you're sticking down. For the class today. I'm just going to be using glue sticks. And they're actually my favorite method of sticking when I'm doing collage. However, if I was using a very fragile, delicate paper like tissue paper, I might choose to use a matte PVA glue or matte medium. As if I tried using a glue stick, it's likely I'd tear the paper. Similarly, if I was using a very heavyweight paper, I might want something a bit more robust than a glue stick. Again, I might use the PVA glue or even a glue gun or something like that. But for today, all you need to complete the project is a glue stick. So a key component of our collage is, of course, the collage papers themselves. Now you're welcome to use anything you have to hand. So any found papers such as recycled magazines or junk mail or packaging. But I'm also going to demonstrate a couple of ways of creating your own collage papers. And for that, you'll just need simple copier paper. They'll be a few other things you need depending on the method that you choose to use. But I'll go over those in more detail when it comes to the videos where I demonstrate them. I've also provided a list of all the materials that you'll need, broken down by the techniques that we use. So you can choose which materials you need to get and which you don't. You also need something to stick your collage to. And this needs to be either card or board. That's heavier weight than your collage paper. I like to use this Bristol board and this is 250 GSM. And I'd recommend around that weight or higher, a lot of water colour paper, for instance, is around 300 GSM. And that would be perfect too. I particularly like this Bristol board though, because it's a very pure bright white. And I scan a lot of my collage designs. So I find it really good for that. But you don't have to buy anything expensive. This is just some simple card from the children's craft section. And that's fine too. So a few more bits that you'll need. You'll need a pencil and some tracing paper in order to transfer your design onto your collage papers. You'll also need a printout of your design. If you're using the fox design, you can download this from the class resources section. But if you're in the skillshare app, you might need to log onto the skillshare website in order to do this. And we've got a couple of optional things here that are not essential, but they are useful. So some side tweezers, these allow you to position the smaller parts of the collage more accurately. You can see what you're doing a bit better rather than having your fingers get in the way and obscure your view. And also some sort of container, a tray, a box, even a plate or bowl, just something that you can pop your collage pieces into until you're ready to assemble them. So that's everything you'll need. Let's get started. 4. Painting Part 1: In this section we're going to look at how we can make a collage papers. And we're going to start with what's probably the simplest way of decorating the papers. And that's using paint and various tools to apply the paint. Now just because it's simple, it doesn't mean that you can't get some really beautiful results and some really interesting and unique collage papers. Now the paint I'm going to be using is acrylic paint. And I'm going to be using it straight from the tube. I'm going to be using it pretty much neat. Now there's two reasons for that. First off, the paper I'm using is just cheap copier paper. And it's quite thin, so it can't take a lot of moisture. So if I was watering down my paint or using watercolors instead, I'd find that the paper buckled, maybe tore, maybe even started to disintegrate in places so it wouldn't be good. So we'll use the paint neat for that reason. The second reason is that I like to have as much texture as I possibly can on my college papers. And by using the paint neat, it holds the brush strokes better and anything that we impress into it or any texture we give it. So that's the second reason. Of course, you're very welcome to use whatever paints you have, whether that's watercolors, watered-down acrylics. But you might find that you want to use some heavyweight paper, in that case, like watercolor paper. The other thing to bear in mind is that if you are using heavier weight paper, it's going to take a bit more effort to cut up when it comes to the collage stage. The thing I love about just this copier paper is, as well as being very cheap and readily available. It's also very easy to cut. Okay. And we're going to apply the paint in a variety of methods. We've got a standard paintbrush. We've got an old toothbrush which can give some nice stippling texture. We've got a sponge, just a dish sponge that I've cut up and we've got some cloth. Now the other thing it's worth thinking about when we're painting is the level of opacity of our paint. Now if we want to find that out, most acrylic paints will have a little symbol on the front, which will tell you how opaque or transparent it is. Now these I've got here, they're all semi-opaque, so they are kind of in the middle in terms of opacity. Over here I've got one that's fully transparent. So when we apply this over the top of any paint. We'll be able to see quite a lot of the paint beneath it. On the other hand, if we were to apply a fully opaque paint, we'd obliterate a lot of what's underneath. So it's worth bearing that in mind if you're going to layer up your paints. So as I mentioned, I'm going to apply the paint directly to the paper and just going to squeeze some out. And I'm going to put a few different colours and actually mix them directly on the paper as I paint. Now the reason I do this is I like to get a lot of variation in the hue and the tone of the collage paper. And I think you can get some, some nice surprises where there's bits where the paint hasn't mixed so well, parts where it's quite uniform. So you get a lot of variation and it makes it visually quite interesting, I think. So as you can hopefully see already, we've got some nice brush strokes, visible. Nice texture. I think the visible brushstrokes are really nice in an illustration, like the one we're doing with animals. Because they can look a bit like fur possibly. What I'm going to do now is I'll leave it to dry. And when it's dry, I'll take a look and I decide if I want to add another layer maybe quite a transparent colour over the top to fill in some of these white areas. And perhaps work a bit more texture. Now we're going to apply the paint using a sponge. And again, just going to pop it on directly. You can get different effects and how you apply it. So you get a kind of stippled effect like this. But we could also smooth it out, which is quite nice as well. Of course, you can combine the two techniques. And once this is dry you could add another layer. over the top with stippling. Then we get a nice variation. You can see I'm just going for fairly foxy colours at the moment. If you wanted to mix colours before you apply them, then you can do that just in this in either an old plate or little plastic food container like you get with takeaways. You don't have to have an expensive palette or anything like that. I thought I'd swap to some greens now, seeing as we've been looking at a lot of oranges and yellows and reds. So for a little bit of variety. And I'm going to apply the paint using a piece of cloth. I think we can put that one to dry now. Now going back to one of the sheets I painted earlier, I'm going to put another layer of paint over the top. And because I want to preserve quite a bit of this texture and variation in colour and tone. I'm going to be using some transparent paints. I'm going to apply it pretty much the same way. as I applied paint previously. Okay. I like to regularly change the direction of my brush strokes to add that texture. Of course, in some instances if, you were using the paper for something that you wanted a more regular texture, you might want to keep your brush strokes in one direction or the other. For instance, if I was doing a tree and I wanted some bark, I'd want my lines to all go one way, I think. So hopefully you can see that we've still got the texture and colour from earlier. from the first layer, we've also got this kind of glazing over the top. And you can really see a greater sense of depth in the painted page. And I think it really does help to add the second layer. So we'll put that to one side. 5. Painting Part 2: This is another of painted papers from earlier. And I'm going to add another layer over the top. And this time I'm going to use an old toothbrush. Hopefully we'll get some interesting texture. Again, I'll apply the paint directly to the brush. Just move it around the paper And we could do it like this in circular sort of motions to get interesting texture. Or we can try a bit more of, a stippling sort of texture. Yeah. I want to Take a moment to talk about white collage papers. Now, obviously, you could use unpainted white paper to represent any white areas in your design. But I think that would be missing an opportunity to add in more tonal variation and more texture. And so what I like to do, it actually starts off with quite a dark painted base, collage sheet and then apply white paint over the top. Now white paint is quite opaque. So I'm going to get some variation in texture and tone by my method of application of the paint. So if I let my brush strokes show up quite well, hopefully I'll get to some dark areas and lighter areas. I also often like to add in a little bit of yellow or brown or blue to the white. Just a tiny little bit. So that I am working with an off-white rather than pure white. Now one of the reasons this is useful as well is that if you mount your design on a white background, as I do a lot, the white areas can get a bit lost against the background. So by painting papers white, we're helping prevent this and helping them stand out and look different to the background. As you see, it's just the tiniest bit of yellow added. Now obviously when this dries, you've can decide if it was too dark too gray in areas, I could always add another layer, paint over the top. The other thing to consider is for our fox illustration, for instance, I might want to start with a base color that's similar to the fox. So I might start with an orangey background and paint the white over that. So that it blends in a little bit more, looks a more coherent design. But that's entirely up to you. 6. Gel Plate Printing: Another great way of creating collage papers is using a gel plate, if you've not seen one before, it's basically a slab of jelly like material that allows you to make mono prints. Without the need of a traditional press. You can make your own using gelatin. And if you fancy giving this ago, there's plenty of tutorials online. Personally, I prefer to use the manufactured plates as they don't contain any animal products and that generally much more durable. So to make prints were going to need a gel plate, we'll need a brayer or ink roller. We need some acrylic paints, we'll need some paper for printing. And again, this is just simple copier paper. Nothing fancy, we'll also need some scrap paper for offloading any excess paints on our brayer. You might also want to collect some materials together that will add texture to your prints. And we'll have a look at these in a bit more detail, in a little bit. But first off, I'll show you just how to make a simple, straightforward print using the gel plate. So we need to roll out some paint. We can squeeze it directly from the tube. You don't need a lot. A little goes a long way. And as with the painting, I like to apply a few different colors and mix them directly on the plate. Now, roll out a thin layer. The more I roll the more, the colours are going to mix and I can change directions, if I want to get a bit more of a uniform colour. And then I'll roll out, this excess paint onto the scrap paper to clean off my roller. But I think these scrap sheets are actually, they make really nice collage papers in their own right, so it's worth holding onto them. So once we're ready to make our print, we'll put the paper over the top. Just smooth it out And we need to apply some pressure. not a huge amount. Just smooth out quite firmly, making sure you go right to the edges. And then we can lift it up. And as you can see, the paint has transferred from the plate onto the paper. And there's some texture just as it is. But we'll have a look now at some other ways of applying texture. Now the part I love about this technique is finding things to press into the paint on the gel plate to give interesting textures. Things like packaging, rubber stamps and found objects. There's just so many possibilities and it's a real opportunity for experimentation. So I'm just going to show you a few of my favourites. Now, starting off with cling film or food wrap, I've got a layer of paint already on my gel plate. And I'm just going to pop the thing film on top. Press it down. What lots of nice creases. And then a lift it off. And then I can place a piece of paper on top and smooth it out. And you can see we've got an interesting texture from the cling film. Now that's quite nice as it is. But I could also set it aside and come back when it's dry and print another layer of the top. Which would work really well if I'm using some of my more transparent acrylic paints and we can build up some depth and texture. Now just as a quick aside, as you can see, we've got some paint left on cling film. And rather than waste that, what I like to do is pop it on a piece of scrap paper. And then use a clean roller to apply a bit of pressure. And we get a bit of texture there. And that means we haven't wasted all about paint. Next up, I have a sample of textured wallpaper from the DIY store, and I can press this into my layer of paint. Next this gives us quite an interesting texture as well. So I've got some fabric. And I'm going to press this onto the gel plate now. Actually going to use a clean roller, just roll it out a bit. You can see that we picked up a lot of that nice linen texture. You can also impress stamps and things like that into the paint on the gel plate. Here. I've just got bottle cork and I'm just going to press it down to give a bit of texture. And that's quite interesting. I like this , it actually reminds me a little bit of fur in places that would work quite well with our, with our fox. So just like when we were painting collage sheets, you can really build up nice depth of color and texture by adding additional layers. So I'm going to take one of my existing sheets. It's one that we printed with the linen. And although I love this texture, I don't like how much white there is still of the page that you can see through. So I'm going to add another layer to this. I'm going to choose one of my more transparent paints. And I'm just going to roll out a thin layer, and I'll roughly try and line it up, not too worried though And then you can see we've got rid of that white, but we've still got the texture from the previous print. So going back to one of our previous sheets that we printed using that cling film. I'm going to add another layer to this. And again, I'm going to use the same technique of pressing the film to lift some of the paint. And we've got another layer there and we've increased the depth and got rid of some of the white. So I think that looks quite nice. So I've given you a few examples here of the different ways you can add texture to your collage papers. But I think the key thing to this technique is just to enjoy experimenting. Have fun testing out new things you find to make textures, things from your recycling or repurposing household objects. And the only thing I would say is don't use anything too sharp to press into the gel plate because you could damage it. But yeah, have fun. 7. Transferring the Design: In this video, we will look at how to transfer our design onto our collage papers. And also discuss some of the things we need to consider when transferring the design in order to make our final piece easier to assemble. Later on. You can find the fox template in the project resources section. But if you're using the skillshare app, you might need to go to the website version in order to access this. You can of course use your own design and follow along with the techniques I demonstrate. For this part we'll need our design, will also need our collage papers and some tracing paper and a pencil. So looking at our design, we need to make a few decisions now about where we're going to cut. If we cut out pieces following the lines exactly, we'll end up with something a bit like a jigsaw, which will be very fiddly to assemble later on. So what we want to do is on the edges that will be underneath other cut pieces. We can extend the design out so that we give ourselves an area for sticking. I like to assemble the collage by sticking each cut piece to another before I stick it down. And I often do this in sections so that I can play with the composition. And we'll look a little bit more about that later on. So for example, if I was going to cut out the tail, this part, the main part will be orange and the end, I'm going to do a kind of creamy off white. So rather than cutting the orange, orange piece in one go and then the white in one go. What I'll do is I'll I'd cut around the orange line, but then I'd extend it so that it goes up into the section that will be white because that's going to be stuck on top. I'll show you what I mean. So I'll trace around the orange section. And then I'm going to extend the design up into this tail section. Doesn't matter exactly how I do it. As long as this neighbor, it's going to be peeking through or show, little gaps or anything when I stick the white to it. So that would be fine for the orange. And then the white as, it's a top piece. Can just be traced just as it is. Now I'm just going to label my tracing paper. I'm just going to write front there because we're going to transfer the designed by flicking it over. And I find when I'm doing a lot of tracing in one go, I sometimes get a bit muddled and end up then trying to transfer the design the wrong way and what not. So to transfer the design, I'll choose some of my collage paper pieces. I would like to be the tail and think, okay, for this one, I'm going to turn it over. And then I'm going to turn my tracing paper. And then I'm just going to go over the line. with a bit of pressure. And as you can see, is a little faint, but it's enough for me to be able to see where to cut. And then I do the same at the tail section. I'll just remove the white paper. And that's the tip of the tail. So when I come to assemble these two pieces, I'll have quite a nice large area that I can apply the glue to. And they should stick together really well. And it just makes the whole design a bit more robust. Coming back to the original design. The tail is quite straightforward because it's basically one piece on top of another. You get a little bit more complicated in the chest area because we've got one piece with the head and going around, and that'll actually be the back piece. Then we've got this white section here, which will be the chest. And then we've got another section on top of that. So when we cutting that out, what I would do is cut fully these lines here. Just extend them round, extend them down, even though this will be black. Here is the little end of the leg so that I've got something to stick down onto when I put the black on top and front around the line and then I'd extend it probably quite a lot. Around here and then back up to meet where I started again with the central white fur. Here, follow the initial line on this side because that's the cut edge that will see. And then I just extended round because that will be hidden by the piece on top. Another thing to think about at this point is how you want to assemble the stems with the leaves. Now obviously these are quite thin lines, so I probably actually traced them a little thicker to make it easier to cut out. And you want to think about whether you're going to cut it as a single piece with the leaves attach to the stem. Or whether you want to cut the stem and then stick the leaves onto that. My preference and the way I'm going to demonstrate is that I'll cut the stem as one piece. And then I'll cut the leaves individually. As I think it's easier to cut out for one thing. And when I come to assemble the final design, I will make it easier to stick down because these are very small little pieces and there's not much for them to attach to. I'll actually stick the stem directly onto the board and then stick the leaves on top. And I think that'll just be a bit more easier than trying to assemble it beforehand. And trying to stick quite tiny pieces to other tiny pieces. And just show you how trace this stem. And then the main central stem. I'm going to add in a few little bits for the leaves to be attached to so that you don't have to have them right up next to the central stem. And it's not brilliantly traced, but it's just to aid with the cutting. And because these are quite small little sections, you probably find it easier to just make little snips. One other thing, I just extend the stem down a little bit. So you've got room to maneuver and can take it behind the fox. And perhaps we might want to shift the orientation a little bit on the position, and it gives us a bit more freedom to be able to do that. We've got that extra little section. 8. Cutting: So when you've transferred your design onto the different collage papers, you're ready to get cutting. Now I don't think I need to say very much about this as I'm sure you know how to use pair of scissors. But there's just two tips I wanted to share, which I hope might be helpful. So first off, when you're cutting a circle or a curved area, it really helps to rotate the paper. As you cut. It'll help you get a smoother curve like that. Secondly, it's really useful to have a tray or some sort of container to put your collage pieces into until you are ready to assemble them. It's so easy to muddle up collage pieces with your little off cuts and end up sweeping him into the bin by mistake. So by keeping everything together in a little container, a tray, a bowl or plate, anything like that. It just means that you keep them safe until you're ready to start sticking them together. And hopefully won't end up having to recut anything. 9. Sticking: So a video on how to stick things might seem a little bit unnecessary after all, using a glue stick is pretty straightforward. But again, I have a couple of tips which I hope will be useful to you. So to stick our collage pieces together, we'll need the pieces we want to stick. We need some scrap paper, our glue stick and a bit of tracing paper or waxed paper or baking parchment, something like that. So when you want to apply glue to a piece, you want to make sure you're getting it right up to the edges so that it'll stick down nicely. Now, if we're just doing that direct normal table or a cutting mat, we might worry about making a mess and so we might not go all the way up to the edge. So this is where the scrap paper comes on because it allows us to apply the glue right up to the edges. And when you stick your next piece, you just need to make sure you've moved to a different piece of the paper so that you don't end up getting any extra glue them. And when I stick down. I'm gonna position it where I want. That looks good. And press it down with my fingers. And then I'm going to stick a piece of tracing paper over the top. And this allows me to apply more pressure. particularly paying attention to the little edges. And that should give us a good bond. Now I applied to the whole piece because I wasn't quite sure where the piece underneath ended. So that's why when I stick it down, I use the scrap paper again. When this dry so it won't be tacky anymore and we can move it around when we come to assembling pieces. So one other thing I wanted to show you is how useful a pair of side tweezers can be when it comes to assembling the small pieces of the design. So I've got my pupil for the eye and I'll pop some glue on him. And if I put it in my side tweezers, I take the white of the eye. the side tweezers allow me to position this precisely. I can see what I'm doing. If I was just trying to use my fingers. They'd probably obscure my view a bit so I can pop it down where I want it. Just press it down when it's in place and apply a bit of pressure. I do the same with the eyelid now. They want it to stick to me. Now. Can pick it up with my side tweezers. Ok. And then I can align it. And the I press it down. A little bit of extra pressure. 10. Assembling: So we're ready to assemble our final design. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I like to stick together various components of the collage before I get to the stage, rather than just sticking everything down at once. And I like to do this because it allows me to play around with the composition a little bit and make any changes that I want. So I might decide that I want the tail to come in closer in a bit, a tighter composition. And I could do that now and then trim off any excess that was visible. I could also play around the placement of the branches. And of course I've got the option of where about the eye goes on the fox's face. Could have it quite close to the nose, or I could have it further back. But it gives me the option. Now I'm actually going to stick fairly close to my original composition Today. I will stick everything down. But I also wanted to mention something else. You can do another technique that's quite nice. It's when we stick this down. If you see this paw, for instance, of only stuck that down part of the way. Because I think it adds a little bit of dimension to the design. And what I stick the tail down or do the same, I'll stick it down to the fox's back, but I'll actually leave quite a large part of it unstuck again to add that dimension. Of course, this depends how you're intending to display your collage. And for instance, if you were making it on a card that you wanted to send to somebody, you might want to make sure everything was stuck down really securely because going in and out of an envelope, there's the potential that pieces could get caught and rip. But for anything that's going in frame, it's fine to leave little pieces and stuck if you want. So let's get sticking. Yeah. And there we have it. And I find that design will step down and complete. 11. Final Thoughts: So there we go. I hope you're happy with your collage and feel inspired to keep creating. I'd love to see what you've made. So, please do post in the projects section. And if you'd like to, feel free to follow me, to be kept up to date on future classes. Thank you so much for joining me.