Choosing a Surface for Your Collage

First I wanted to say, "thank you" to those who have taken the time to answer my short survey about my blog, your interests, and content that you would like to see here. Your feedback was very helpful and I will definitely take your suggestions and use them to improve the content here. I will keep the survey up for awhile so please feel free to take the survey if you haven't yet done so. You can find it here.

Several of the suggestions I received, wanted to know more about exactly how I make what I make; everything from inspiration to supplies and the actual process of putting a collage together.

Over the next few weeks I will take you through the basics of creating a collage. I will discuss surface choices, adhesives, paints, hand-drawn details and finishing tricks just to name a few.

So lets begin with surface choice.


I have yet to find a surface that I can't collage over. Which is awesome (I did an earlier post here about choosing actual objects/sculptural pieces to collage over). The only real catch with surface selection for collage is that it must be smooth!  A collage over a surface with lots of texture just doesn't look good. It looks bumpy and messy. So make sure the surface is free of raised texture. 

Texture from canvas or speciality papers works fine. Because the texture is not raised enough to show through any of the papers you collage on top of it.

Below is an example of a canvas paper that I used. You can see that the collage paper I added to the piece remains smooth, yet the painting done over the uncovered canvas shows the texture of the canvas paper.

The most important part of paper selection is that it is acid free. No one wants to spend hours of time on a collage piece only to have it brown and break away a few months later.
I use a lot of vintage papers in my work which do contain acids, but I have a trick that I will discuss in a later post on "adhesives" to  help prevent the acids in these papers from destroying your work.
So start with a base paper that is acid-free for your collage.

In collage, the heavier the base paper the better. You will be gluing and adding weight to your base paper so you want it to be able to stay flat.

As a general rule, you choose paper as the base for your collage only when the items that you are creating with are light weight. Think paper and glue stick type collaging.
Heavier adhesives like Matte Medium and Modge Podge are not ideal here nor is the addition of fabrics, metal or other embellishments.

Canvas or Wood Board

I personally prefer wood over a stretch canvas. I find the wood to be a far sturdier surface to work on, while the canvas has a tendency to get stretched out and warp as I am working.
Stretched canvas, like paper, works great for light-weight objects.

There is the option of canvas board, which is just canvas stretched over a piece of thick cardboard, but just like working with paper, I find that it doesn't hold-up to adhesives like Matte Medium and Modge Podge.
Canvas board has almost always warped on me when I use them, so I would use canvas board just like I would paper; for light weight projects.

Sometimes I am in the mood for a canvas. My favorite canvas to use is a linen canvas paper by Strathmore. It is a cross between canvas and paper. I use it in the same way as I would paper, but it's quite sturdy and has the texture of canvas which I enjoy.

As I mentioned earlier, my favorite surface to create on is wood. Wood panel in my opinion can't be beat. I can pretty much add whatever embellishments I want, I can add and take away images, I can sand and even carve it.

I have not had much luck with the wood plaques that you find in craft stores. They usually have a beveled edge and look pretty, but the wood is also quite soft and I have found that the wood can warp over time.

My wood surface of choice is cradled board. Cradled board looks just like a canvas but are completely made of wood.

I have yet to have a cradled board warp on me. It has a smooth surface and it makes for a very pretty finished piece. You also don't have to frame it and it is super easy to hang. You can find cradled board at places like Dick Blick or other online art supply retailers.

Additional Surface Possibilities

Mirrors. Yes the mirror itself. If you love the frame around it why not?
Mattes for matting art work

Garage sales, thrift stores and clearance racks are all great places to find any of the above surfaces for a collage.

I would love to hear what sort of surfaces you have worked with. What has worked for you or what hasn't.


  1. Hi Sarah, I stumbled upon your blog via Flickr browsing. Your collages are great, and I'm enjoying reading your take on collaging. My art specialty used to be collage too, although different from the kind of work you do. My support of choice was untempered primed masonite boards--I found it much easier to work on than canvas.

  2. Yeah those masonite boards are great! No give so you can abuse the paper as much as you like. :)

  3. Can you use water color paper as a canvas for collage? And if so would you still recommend matt medium over mod podge to glue things down?

    1. You sure can use watercolor paper!
      Whether you us mod podge or matte medium is of personal preference as they work the same. I just prefer matte medium for its fluidity and the fact that it doesn't leave a stickiness that modge podge can when it dries.


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