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What Is a Collage?
A collage is a form of visual arts in which visual elements are combined to create a new image that conveys a message or idea. Collage comes from the French word “collér,” which means “to glue,” often the primary means of combining images in collage art. Collagers can draw these images from newspaper clippings or print advertisements, or cull them from different materials, like photographs, fabric, wood, and even ephemera. Collagers can apply the images to the surface of another work of art, such as a canvas, to create a new single image.
There are many different types of collage, from paper collage and photo collage (or photomontage) to découpage, each of which offers a variation on collage techniques. Modern technology has also led to the rise of digital collage art or eCollage created by computer and photo-editing software programs.
3 Uses for Collages
There are a few ways to utilize collaging in your personal or professional work, including:
- To create art. Collage has been a modern art form since the early twentieth century. Cubist artists Pablo Picasso and George Braque glued pieces of paper, fabric, and even objects to canvas to create works of art called papiers colle, or “paper cut out.” Later on, collaging was adopted by the Dada and Surrealist art movements, while many contemporary figures, including artists Henri Matisse and Robert Rauschenberg, and members of the pop art scene, also explored collage art techniques in their own fine art and mixed-media works.
- To help a client visualize a design. Collage has become an essential tool for architects, businesspeople, and graphic designers to visualize a project. Many design professionals have substituted digital collage, such as mood boards, to renderings because photo-editing allows them to present an accurate and eye-catching depiction of an idea or proposal that the designer can easily alter to a client’s specifications.
- In scrapbooking. Preserving memories via scrapbooks remains a popular hobby, and picture collage offers a stylish way to display images. Digital scrapbooking takes images to the next level with digital graphics, photo-editing tools, digital pages, which are electronic artwork files like JPGs. Many digital scrapbooking sites offer photo-collage templates, step-by-step tutorials, and photo effects to make your collage both artsy and memorable.
3 Common Elements in Collages
There are a few common elements, both creative and practical, in collages:
- Images. One of the most important elements to consider is the imagery you’ll use in your finished collage. You can find the best photos and designs in old books, magazines, online sources for new and retro black-and-white images, and apps. Some images may have watermarks and require a photo-editor tool to resize or adjust pixels.
- Theme. Keep your theme in mind as you compile your imagery to ensure your collage conveys your intended message. If it’s your first time creating a collage and unsure how to express yourself, many online sources offer engaging themes and collage ideas.
- Tools. From simple collage to the most elaborate mixed-media art creation, the right tools will help you bring your vision from idea to finished collage. Crafting tools, glue sticks, photos, stickers, and paints, from acrylic to watercolor, are essential for hands-on, DIY collage artists. Many free online collage-makers for digital collage will provide you with collage layouts, including photo grids and numerous photo-editing tools.
How to Make a Collage
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There are many step-by-step guides to follow to make a collage, but among the most important tips are the following:
- Assemble your tools. Gather together all of the items you’re using for your collage, whether physical or digital: the images and material that you will feature, the tools you’ll need for assembly, and a sturdy base (cardboard, canvas, wood) on which to affix them. For digital collage, save your images, and have editing tools and digital pages ready.
- Lay out the images. For physical collage, arrange your photos and embellishments without gluing them to the base. For digital collage, resize and crop the images, adjust the colors if needed, and then adjust the pixels for each picture, so they all share the same resolution rate.
- Glue the images. Starting with your collage background, apply a small amount of glue to the images and adhere to their surface. Embellishments will need heavier craft glue. Layering images can add depth and dimension to the collage. Let the glue dry overnight. For digital collage, use your photo-collage maker or software to add digital embellishments (text boxes, background colors), and then save your collage to post or print.
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