Magazine Collage Step By Step

Guest Article by Kirstie Adamson

What You’ll Need:

  • Magazines (I find rural and style magazines the best to work with. Catalogues are good for small projects especially if you want to introduce pattern in to your piece).
  • Glue (I always use non-toxic adhesives, clear drying children’s craft glues work well. I water this down, approx 25% water to 75% glue).
  • A Jar of Water: I regularly rinse my brush to avoid the brush getting too tacky.
  • Paintbrush: I use a medium flat brush and a small thin brush.
  • Reclaimed or Recycled board
  • Scissors (This is optional when I first started I used to just tear the paper. I have also recently started experimenting with a craft knife to give me more accuracy)
  • Gummed Tape (you will only need this if stretching board for your canvas).


 Select Your Surface

Several surfaces are suitable for magazine collage. When I first started I used to buy old frames from the charity shop. I would then collage on the backboard of the frame and then put it back in. I would often collage the frame as well to suit the piece.

Beside The Sea Collage

Beside The Sea collage

I now use recycled board. If working on an A3 piece or smaller I will work straight onto it. For larger pieces I will wet the board first, secure to a flat wooden board and allow to dry before using. The same way you would stretch watercolour paper, this prevents the board distorting when the watered down glue is applied.

Boards Drying in the Sun
Boards Drying in the Sun

Draw Out Your Design

I always make a rough sketch to work with before beginning to collage. Although I don’t go into lots of detail in areas I know I will cover up and rework.

Rough Sketch for Countryside Adventure
Rough Sketch for Countryside Adventure

Create Your Pallet

I will spend quite a while going through magazines selecting the colours I wish to use. I place them in piles according to not just colour but to the area I wish to use them.

Apply Glue

I apply a thin coat of glue to the area I wish to collage. If working a large piece only apply to the area you are currently working on.

apply glue


Tear or cut the piece of magazine you wish to use. Apply to the glued area and then coat with glue.

coat with glue

Build Up Your Piece

I find working from the background to the foreground gives the neatest finish. I leave the main focus of the piece, such as the figures or animals, until last.

Birdie and Belle progression


Different magazines tear better in different directions. I always test on a small area before removing a strip to see which way will give me the smoother edge and the most control over the tear. The direction you tear in also gives you control over which side the white edge is visible and can therefore be avoided altogether.

tear paper

Check the colour on the back of the magazine. This is especially important if working in a light colour. On the thin torn edge the colour of the reverse side will often be visible.

torn edges

Experiment with different methods to gain different effects. Tearing the paper gives a lovely soft finish. The white edge can also be used to enhance your piece and works particularly well if wanting to represent water or a wet surface.

Splish, Splash, Splosh Collage
Splish, Splash, Splosh Collage

Try using a hole punch or craft shape cutter for a more abstract design


Scissors and craft knives give a much sharper crisp edge enabling you to add much more detail. I like to use a mix of the torn and cut edges to enhance the piece. If using very small pieces try and find a piece of magazine with a similar colour on the reverse side.

small detail

Want to remove a piece you have glued down? Using a clean paintbrush apply water to the piece and give it a minute or two to soak through. Using a sharp edge such as a craft knife, gently lift the piece away from your collage. The piece needs to be completely saturated in order to come away easily.

Connect with Kirstie Adamson via her Website, FacebookTwitter & Pinterest.

Kirstie is also the founder, together with her friend Charlotte Rhoades, of EcoCreate. Together they want to spread their love of all things art and craft in an environment specifically designed to promote eco friendly UK designer makers.

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