4 Ways to Fix Your Mixed Media Backgrounds

February 22, 2018 4 Comments

We've all been there. A day spent playing in our studios creating mixed media backgrounds. Suddenly, it all starts to go sideways. What started as happy first layers have turned into over-saturated nightmares of competing colors.No fear, mixed media artist Anne Bagby offers four solutions in her mixed media workshop, Pattern & Form: Advanced Collage Techniques.

Technique 1: Glaze

While glazes can be wholly unpredictable, they can also work to unify a background. Watercolorists will use glazes (a thin transparent layer of paint) to bring competing sections together or to push something back. For example Sue Archer, in her workshop Commanding Color, uses a light purple glaze on her pineapple to make the shadow side come together and to push it a value shade darker.

Mixed media artists like Anne Bagby also use glazes in their work. Simply lay out some glaze and scrape it on with a credit card or brush.


Mixed Media Tips & Techniques: Glazing

Technique 2: Sponge Glazing

You can glaze with transparent paints or glazes, but you can also use sponges to create a textured glaze.

This technique only works on non-porous paper so if you're working on paper, in needs to have been covered in acrylic paint. Bagby uses this technique when she’s trying to tone down excessively bright papers.

Take a problem background and a blot piece of paper (you may need more than one extra piece of paper for blotting). Find two opaque complementary or opposite paints colors. Put dabs of both colors on your offending background.


Now holding your natural sponge, begin mixing them together by tapping the paint with the sponge. This involves some elbow grease. Dab the sponge on the board and then bring the sponge over to a second piece of paper and dab it down to clean it off.


You'll work back and forthuntil you have a greyed texture covering your whole piece. This mixed media technique will help unify the piece. You work with complementary colors so that the final color is a greyed and then the sponge gives a texture.

Mixed Media Tips & Techniques: Sponge Glazing

Technique 3: Stripes

Just like a glaze can unify, so can a pattern (opaque or glaze) right over the top of a troublesome piece. Bagby uses several tools to make stripes include corrugated cardboard and fun foam. Thicken your paint with a bit of gel medium and then use sponge roller to layer in it on your stripe pattern evenly. Then lay on your background, rub the back, and lift to see the magic happen.


Mixed Media Tips & Techniques: Stripes

Technique 4: Die Cut Stencil

Anne Bagby uses craft store die cuts as a mixed media problem solver. She thickens her opaque paint with gel medium. She then lays her die cut stencil over her trouble paper (or in our case our trouble background) and uses a foam roller to cover the entire page with paint.Then she carefully lifts off the die cut to reveal her background or paper underneath.


With a die cut stencil, a probable background can suddenly seem mysterious and lovely.


How to Fix Your Mixed Media Backgrounds and Collage Papers: Die Cut Stencils

Technique 5: Bonus! Cohesive Colors

Create colors that go well together from the very beginning. For painted papers and backgrounds, Anne Bagby mixes her golden professional paints with a mixture of white and black to create a greyed down, unified palette. This way she knows that all the paints she uses will combine cohesively and she’ll need to do less problem solving later on. (Although problem solving often will get you the best papers in the end.)


Mixed Media Tips & Techniques: Cohesive Colors

Learn more about Anne Bagby's Pattern & Form: Advanced Collage Techniques here.

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4 Responses

Kelly from Creative Catalyst
Kelly from Creative Catalyst

July 02, 2018

Hi Lorna,

Excellent question!

Anne uses Golden Glazes in her DVD workshop. Golden stopped producing the glazes but you can mix your own using fluid acrylics and gloss glazing liquid. In Anne’s DVD she references two she uses quite frequently: Slate (cooler) and Asphaltum (warmer). Golden has a site on their website for how to mix glazes. https://www.goldenpaints.com/products_color_glazes I just went and it wasn’t working so I sent them an email asking about the color combo and will report back.

Lorna Cole
Lorna Cole

July 01, 2018

What is the name of the neutralizing Golden glazing liquid that you used? Enjoyed the video very much.

monita mahoney
monita mahoney

February 24, 2018

I have the DVD and it’s one of the best.

Gladys Szell
Gladys Szell

February 23, 2018

Wow! Really learned a lot with this video! Thank you!

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