Monday, March 22

Mixed Media Background Tutorial

3 Reasons to use this tutorial:
Reason #1: It’s fun.
So fun. There’s no wrong in making backgrounds, so the gremlins kind of shush themselves.
Reason #2:Really, anyone can do this.
Anyone. There’s no right or wrong to backgrounds. And I’m not lying just to make you feel better. It’s true.
Reason #3:You are important.
The act of taking time to feed your creative self is important.
Every time I forget how important this is, I read this post again and I remember. (She’s my life coach, only she doesn’t really know it.)

So shush all of your lame excuses and just join me in this. If you are reading this within a 50 mile radius of my house come join me at my kitchen table and we can drink coffee and have a play date. For big kids.

Stuff you'll need:
A quick note on materials: use what you have. Don’t spend a gazillion dollars on new supplies. Everything I use is inexpensive and works great. I’m hard on my brushes & I binge on paint, so I just use them up or throw them away and get more.

Wood block or anything else to paint on
Old book to rip up
(I use dictionaries, atlases, an old hymnal, the phone book, anything really.)
*Mod Podge. A lot of it. I like the matte kind.
Old paint brushes. Nothing fancy. They’ll get ruined pretty quick. Acrylic Paint. Cheap. I use the cheapest I can find at the end of the aisle in Michael’s.
Paper towels.
That’s it.

Step #1: Cover your wood block with text

Grab your Mod Podge* & a cheap paint brush. Coat the edges of the wood with glue and apply a dictionary page. I like the air bubbles that make it all wrinkley, so I just slap it on, but if you want it to be flat start gluing from the center & go out.
*Mod Podge is my life saver because it is SO darn cheap. I go through a big can of it about once a week. Don’t spend a lot of money on this stuff. Trust me. Plus the smell reminds me of the paper earrings I used to make is 8th grade. Anyone remember those?

Step #2: Tear up pieces of patterned paper & glue them randomly with ModPodge.I start big and then move into smaller pieces. Go fast. Don't over think this. Don't judge your work, just keep moving.

Step #3: Apply paint randomly with a paper towel.
Squeeze your paint onto a paper plate, squash up a paper towel, dip it in water and squish it around the painting. I add a lot of white to mute the colors. Dip your paper towels in two colors and see what happens. Don't over work it, so the colors blend. When the whole piece is covered, squash up a wet paper towel and wipe away some of the paint so that the paper shows through.

Step 4: The details
Use bottle lids to stamp your collage. Any lid will do. I used the top to my Mod Podge & my water bottle. Dip it in paint and twist it around your painting. That's it.
Rub an ink pad around the edges of the wood. I used Tim Holtz's brown distress ink. I love the way it brings out the texture in the paper.

Step 5: If you love it, you’re done.
If you don’t, keep adding paper & paint until you do. That's it.

Other Stuff:
I do these in batches because I like to flit around from piece to piece, otherwise I tend to obssess about one piece and drive myself crazy. It also gives me room to make bad art & quiets the gremlins.


  1. have fun at Art Fest!! i love modge podge too! so do my teach by day grades 1-5. take care!!!

  2. Thanks for putting your art, and your heart, out in to the world. "I SEE you!" And I love that you are finding ways to hush-a-bye your Gremlins!

    Much Warmth,


  3. Erin, thanks so much for sharing this!!
    Doing more than one at a time so you won't obsess about one piece - great idea!!!
    I can so obsess!!!

  4. great tutorial and beautiful finished product! it was so nice to meet you at artfest. i'm looking forward to following your blog over this next year.

  5. Very nice tutorial!
    Thanks for sharing! :-)
    Greetings from Holland,

  6. Here's what's funniest to me: you think I don't know I'm your life coach. xo

  7. Okay, I'm back to say more: not because I don't think YOU understand my last quickie comment, but because All These Nice Ladies who read your blog probably think I'm a tacky, stuffy piece of work. Here's a longer version of what I mean: it is a dear dear privilege to be one of your life coaches, McWhorter. Having known you since you were a pup and watching you move from Tall Girl to Young Woman to Successful Teacher to Brave Girlfriend to Excited Wife to Sleepy but Glad Mom is a gift not everybody gets. It's a gift, sometihing that life , well God since we're here on your blog, gives freely and kindly and with nowarning. So I do hope you read and read and re-read that post you've linked to because it's just maybe the most important thing that our good Lord linked you and I together for: to remember the heart of your creative life in the midst of the way that the rest of life and our roles as women change. No matter what else we will be doing, we are supposed to be Making. That is a truth that's crucial for you to sit with and let sink in and be confident with. God really does love you enough to know this about you and it's okay with him that he made you that way. He's not at all surprised or bothered that you need to be making something in order to keep your personality. It doesn't surprise him a bit. There maybe that comment makes more sense than the last one. xo

  8. Great tutorial - will try this next week. Always looking for new creative ways to make a background! TFS!