Ever draw a fabulous face, a happening house or a gruesome goblin only to realize you HAVE NO IDEA what you are gonna do for the background? You could draw that super cool sun in the corner and add in a lollipop tree but we all know you are much too hip for that. Following this tutorial you can make yourself an awesome, interesting, unique background that kicks the lollipop tree’s stick.















The great thing about this kind of background is you can use scraps of different paper or bits of ephemera you have saved up because you do not need large pieces Collect the following materials so you can get started:

  • Piece of sturdy cardboard, matboard, masonite or wood
  • variety of papers
  • Glue or gel medium
  • old brush
  • old magazine
  • craft grade acrylic paints
  • liquid watercolor or ink (optional)
  • cosmetic sponges
  • paper towel
  • sequin waste (optional)
  • covering for your work space
Begin by selecting the base for your work. You can use matboard, heavy cardboard (about the weight of a shoebox) or even a piece of scrap wood. If you you use something that is too light weight it will tend to curl up on the edges.  For this tutorial I will just make one at a time but I often do 2 or 3 at once so I have them made ahead of time and then the mess only has to be made (and cleaned up) once!

Gather papers you may want to use. You can use scrapbook papers, gift wrap, pages torn from books, old tickets, paper bags, tissue paper, napkins, anything you think is cool.


Begin cutting or tearing your papers to cover the base, laying them out as you go along.

Once you have them laid out roughly where you want them slip the base out from under them. If you REALLY love the layout the exact way you have it you can always take a picture to refer back to, but I never do. Beause I am lazy that way. However, do be sure to make a mental note of which pieces need to be glued down first.


Put a layer of glue on a large section of your base and smooth the first pieces down with your fingers, or if you are fancier than I am, a brayer.


*Gluing Tip* (courtesy of our gal Nanner) Use an old magazine to lay your paper pieces on while you glue, that way you can get glue all the way to the edges and when you finish just rip the gluey page off and toss it. The next page is a fresh , clean place to work!

I like to use an old , sort of raggedy paint brush whenever I am using it for glue or gel medium since it is rough on them. If you prefer you can use a foam brush or even your fingers…which offers you the bonus of getting to pick the dry bits of glue off them later on.

Once you have all your base covered be sure to use a little extra glue to smooth the edges down. You do not want them flipping up when you paint across them later.

Let your glue dry for a bit. Spend some time looking at other fabulous mixed media pieces HERE .

Gather up a couple of colors of craft acrylic ,(check out the picture and note that I, like Sarah, have a LOT of turquoise paint) a container for water and a brush.You can use the same one you used for glue if you like.

Water the acrylic down a little bit so it is translucent. You can see my fancy peanut butter jar lid palette in the picture above.

Working quickly, cover the papers with the watery paints.


Use a paper towel to blot off excess paint. You can throw that paper towel away now or you can save it and make something cool out of it if you are super crafty ,or are Ann, who can make something amazing out  of anything at all.



I like to use some ink or liquid water color to do a wash over the whole surface at this point. I like the way it unifies the colors and patterns . Just drip it right on the paper and spread it quickly.

Now you can start  using acrylics to add some more texture on the surface by printing with some things you have right at hand.I use the lid from my paints to print little circles on the surface.

Another surface treatment you can try is to use “sequin waste” , which is the stuff that is left over when they punch out the sequins, as a stencil. Inexpensive cosmetic sponges work really well and you won’t need a fancy stenciling brush.



When you are putting the paint on your sponge you just need a light layer, too much paint will squish through the holes and you will not have clean looking circles.

Tap the sponge on and apply the circles in a few places on your papers surface.

Let the whole thing dry for an hour or so .

You can then cut the background to size for whatever you are using it or leave it at is.

This type of background is perfect for painting on directly or you can collage an image on to it.

 This is a great way to make backgrounds for ATCs, journal pages or any mixed media piece so have some fun, get messy and never draw that corner sun again.


You can check out some other tutorials HERE or Shop a little HERE,  because you probably forgot someone’s birthday or owe someone an apology…and everyone loves presents.



Cindy Jo

Cindy Jo teaches art and enjoys passing her love of the pretty ,the weird, and the pretty weird on to another generation of artists.Check out CIndy Jo's shop


sarah · August 12, 2011 at 2:49 am

OH cinderella, I love this. Because there\’s lots of turquoise. 😉 You know I have a disability when it comes to collage and such, so I can definitely use the help with creating these mixed media backgrounds. For realz, yo.

The picture of little dude and his corner sun and lollipop tree cracks me up.

    Cindy Jo · August 12, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Oh Sarah, no one hates that corner sun more than I do but I have to admit I enjoyed making a “Before” shot. Hope you have fun getting gluely. Mixed Media is not so scary when it is just a background 😉

      sarah · August 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      I really do love peeling the glue off my fingers later. 😉

Deezy · August 12, 2011 at 5:16 am


I loved the way you described this technique! It put’s a big smile on my face and triggered my inspiration. And I love the way you refer to your shop!

I love the art work too, afcourse 😉


    Cindy Jo · August 12, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Thank You Deezy. Glad you enjoyed it!

Sharazoid · August 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Just for your edification (notice the big word that I used), that “sequin waste” is also called puncinella & can be purchased on line for very cheap. Just google it & you’ll see what I mean. Great tutorial Cinders.

    Cindy Jo · August 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Yeah, I know it is called that but I hated spelling it 🙂 Also I always think of Ballet http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulcinella_(ballet) when I think of pulcinella and then those little clowny kids who come out of Mother Gingers skirts in The Nutcracker and that makes me flash back to sponge rolling the heads of dozens of little ballerinas for years on end as my darlings grew up and so I call it sequin waste…which sorta makes me think of a poo..and that makes me snicker 😉

    But thanks for attempting to give me some big girl vocabulary.

nanner · August 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Fantabulous tute, CJB! I have a pile of backgrounds that bombed on me. Adding this mixed-media technique can breathe new life into my near-misses. And a great excuse for me to sing the puncinella song (a’la rihanna: Can I borrow your puncinella, ella, ella, ay, ay, ay!)

    Cindy Jo · August 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks Nanner, I like doing these when I am in a creative lull sometimes . It is a fun way to get something done but not have to get it “right”. Have fun!

Terry · August 13, 2011 at 11:10 am

Thanks Cindy for this great tutorial! I’m always looking for new ways to create backgrounds, and this I think I can do. I confess…I used to be a corner sun and lollipop tree kinda artist.

    Cindy Jo · August 13, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    You are welcome Terry. You will be glad to kick that corner sun to the curb once you have a go at this, I think. It is always fun to see how it turns out. You can hardly go wrong and a one of a kind mixed media background really does beat the sad little lollipop tree any time! Have fun creating!

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