3D mixed media Collage Girl


I love adding collage to almost every project, whether it's in my art journal or on a canvas.  Here, I've added collage paper to a 3D wooden cut-out of a girl and adhered it to a 6"x12" mixed media collage canvas.  I could easily just have drawn a figure onto the background or added a magazine image and painted it in, but adding the wooden cut-out just adds such a nice dimensional element and makes the girl pop up from the canvas.  The materials are pretty simple for this project.  I've listed the exact colors I used, but feel free to use what you have or substitute with your favorite colors to make it more personal and unique.  


  • 6x12" canvas
  • Wooden cut out of a girl (or other shape--I've also used a bird.  you can see that post HERE)
  • DecoArt Media Misters (carbon black, primary magenta, primary cyan)
  • Faber Castell Pitt big brush pens (black, dark sepia, magenta bright, light flesh)
  • Stabilo Marks-all pencil (brown)
  • DecoArt Media fluid acrylics (cobalt teal hue, phthalo blue)
  • DecoArt acrylic paint (sizzling pink, thermal green, calypso blue, red alert, sour apple, blue chiffon) 
  • Collage paper (I used Decoupage Paper gold basics and my handmade collage paper)
  • Stencils (I used DecoArt "Mandala" and "Split Angles")
  • Foam brush
  • Watercolor brush pen (fine tip)
  • Scissors, glue stick, exacto knife & cutting mat
  • Decoupage glue in matte
  • Heavy Gel Gloss Medium

Step 1: Gather/create your collage paper

You can use a variety of paper for this step: collage paper, vintage paper, scrap paper, leftover gelli printed paper, tissue paper, etc.  For this project, I've made my own colorful, painted collage paper (below) using stencils, paint, spray ink, oil pastels on a variety of paper.  (To see detailed instructions of how to make your own collage paper, check out this blog post or youtube video) Basically, you are going to layer various marks with oil pastel, spray over the top with spray inks through stencils, add paint through stencils, scrape paint with an old credit card and repeat until you're satisfied with your messy collage paper!  TIP: it's OK if it doesn't "work" or look great to you because we are going to be ripping and cutting these papers up later!  What matters is getting a lot of color and texture down, playing with your materials and having fun!


Step 2: Make the dress (trace, draw, cut and glue)

Once you've decided which paper you'd like to use for her dress, lay the wooden figure down on top and trace around the middle of the shape from the shoulders down to the bottom of the dress/skirt.  You're going to have to estimate a little on this part to get it right, but the key here is just to get a basic shape that you can alter and modify later to get a better "fit" or "look" for her clothing.

Some shapes are trickier than others.  This one is a little difficult only because you have to do a little guesswork when it comes time to trim it to fit as a dress.  The simple solution would be to just make it a long sleeve dress (or top and skirt).  But I managed to make a nice summer dress for her just by taking the basic cut shape and laying it on top, then drawing a little bit to make corrections (lower neckline for example).  It might be good to use a scrap piece of paper for this step and once you've perfected it, then you can trace it on your collage paper.  Once you've cut the basic dress shape out, flip the wooden figure over and place the dress shape (kind of a blob at this point!) on the surface and kind of eyeball where the neckline and waist will go (seen in red and brown pencil below).  If you use a thin enough paper, you will be able to kind of press through and feel where the gaps are between the arm and waist.


Trim away the extra paper and "try it on"  to see if it fits or needs some altering.  

Once you are happy with the dress, go ahead and apply a good amount of decoupage with a foam brush to the wooden cut-out and place the paper dress on top.  Go over the dress with a light amount of decoupage and smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles with your fingers.  You can also add shoes (using the same guesstimating technique as the dress) and any accessories (a belt, leggings, scarf, headband..the sky's the limit!) . Once all of that is dry, you can also draw in any details you'd like with marker or paint (necklace, earrings, headband, more pattern to the dress).  Another option is to make a top and skirt from different patterns instead of one dress.

Step 3: Paint the head, arms & legs and draw the face

Once your dress is dry, you can paint the first layer of the skin.  I used a mix of DecoArt flesh tone and natural buff as well as a Pitt pen in light flesh and dark sepia (later for details and shading). 

This is a very basic face, so don't worry too much about getting a realistic or detailed look.  I used a Stabilo marks-all pencil in brown to draw in the features of the face and the hair.  I love using this pencil because it is water soluble, so if I make a mistake, I can easily wipe it away with a wet paper towel or baby wipe and try again!  When drawing the features of the face, remember that the eyes will be in the middle of the head (from the top of the hair to the chin).  The eyes are spaced so that another eye could fit in the middle, and the nose is about two "eyes" down from the middle of the eyes and the mouth is another "eye" down from the nose.

With a very fine-tip waterbrush (or any fine-tip brush), go over the drawn lines very lightly to create a kind of watercolor look to the hair and features on the face.  You can also add a little shading under the chin by coloring with the Stabilo pencil and adding water to soften the pencil lines.

Once dry, then you can go in and add subtle shading to the face, outline the arms and legs with the Pitt pens (I used light flesh), as well as adding cheek and lip color with medium flesh and magenta bright.  I also went over the eyes, eyebrows and added streaks to the hair with dark sepia.  When outlining the arms and legs, the ink will stay wet just long enough for you to swipe it with your finger a little bit to blend.  Same with the neck and face, although, be careful not to smudge the pencil lines.  You also want to outline the dress and shoes with black or dark sepia.  Be sure to smudge a little as you go so you don't get a harsh outline.

Step 4: Paint the canvas!

You can also do this as a sort of in-between step while you're waiting for the glue on the dress to dry or even while you are making your collage paper!  It's always nice to work on multiple surfaces at a time to keep the creative momentum going, and also, it's a nice way to use up all your paint and not waste any supplies!

It starts off pretty simple with a few pencil scribbles, spray ink through a stencil (in primary magenta and primary cyan), acrylic paint dabbed through a stencil with a sponge (calypso blue) and a few smudges in phthalo blue fluid acrylic.  Let that layer dry before going onto the next.

From here, add some blue brush strokes with a foam brush, neon pink and neon green scrapes of paint with an old gift card (you can also use a paint scraping tool), and a little bit of red  smudges with your fingers.  Be careful not to mix the colors at this point.  Once that layer is dry, go over with stamps (store bought, handmade, or found objects like Legos or the edge of an old gift card) in light blue, dark blue and red. 

Then, you're gonna add layers of collage, decoupage paper and tissue paper using your decoupage glue.  Once that is dry, you want to place the girl onto the canvas to get a feel for where you want her to be.  I've decided to paint in a little bit of a blue "floor" for her, so she's not floating in space.  I've also added some black drips using the black spray ink (spraying a generous amount at the top and then lifting the canvas to let the ink drip down) . When that is dry, I added a little bit of a "sun" that will peek out behind her using the Mandala stencil and calypso blue acrylic paint.

Make sure all the paint and ink is dry.  Place the girl down on the canvas in various spots to make sure you know where you'd like her to go. Then using a heavy glue (I've used a heavy gel gloss medium), apply a generous amount to the back of the wooden girl and press firmly onto the canvas. Let dry flat.  When done, you can hang or display as you wish!

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial!  Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the supplies or steps.  Have fun and happy creating!

nicole austinComment