Adding Art to Your Scrapbook Pages

Adding Art to Your Scrapbook Pages main article image
Posted on March 15, 2021 by Lisa-Jane Johnson

Mixed Media styles

Scrapbooking encompasses so many different styles of creativity from the very minimalist to the heavily embellished works of art. These detailed designs can take days to complete with their many layers and strong focus on art supplies and I love to see them on blogs and social media but I’m not brave enough to attempt them myself!  Sometimes I can be encouraged to add some subtle droplets of spray or shimmery watercolour to a layout at the end to highlight my clusters but I wanted to push myself to really embrace the mess and add some art to my pages. Mixed media doesn’t have to be grungy and overloaded with texture and layers. Some of my favourite scrapbookers, like Missy Whidden, have a wonderful middle ground that is so colourful and attractive.  The layouts that inspire me are still about the story and the photos but the mixed media adds another dimension and enhances the page. 


For this layout I wanted to create a colourful background for my photos that matched a particular collection I intended to use. The Dylusions paints I used here are highly pigmented acrylic paints but you can use so many other art supplies for your layouts. You’ll see in the other examples later on that I’ve used watercolours and Distress Oxides to lay down my first colour but you can also use sprays, inks, art crayons, pens and many other arty goodies.  You can also use a variety of methods to apply the colours – brushes, fingers, stamps, household items for printing, or even a palette knife or old store card. 

One of the things that sometimes puts people off using mixed media on their layouts is that the cardstock has a tendency to warp and buckle when you add lots of wet media.  There are a couple of things you can do to lessen this though if it bothers you particularly, but when your layout is in an album you can barely notice it anyway. You can use Gesso on your backgrounds to help stabilise the paper and this can give you all sorts of interesting effects that you don’t get without it.  You can also use a specialist cardstock like Bazzil Marshmallow or Vicki Boutin Mixed Media foundation sheets and you can even add gesso to these too. Sticking your cardstock down with low tack tape can help it dry flat, and while I was playing this week I actually sprayed the back of a finished piece and then laid heavy items on it which really helped to get the worst of the warping out.  With this layout though I used a standard piece of cardstock to see what difference it made overall and it wasn’t too bad but I did end up sticking it to a stiff grey piece of cardstock that I had fallen out of love with.  I keep lots of unwanted sheets for things like this and it helps to keep things square too.

I used a piece of the patterned paper to help me match the colours and created my backgrounds using the dry brush method, which gives a lovely painterly textured look. I also painted some flowers from various mis-cut die-cuts to go with the backgrounds too. I ended up with a lot of the aqua colour (Dylusions Calypso Teal and White Marble with a touch of Midnight Blue) so I dry brushed a cross shape over to one side on another piece – this turned out to be a happy accident. I was suddenly inspired to switch collections to match that colour instead, which goes to show that mixed media can work both to match a collection, and to inspire a layout too. I still have the other backgrounds and flowers to use later, which is a really efficient way of creating messy base layers.  Painting batches of backgrounds negates some of the things that can put people off from using mixed media in their scrapbooks. It means only one clean up for lots of mess making and I definitely count that as a win. If your hands are messy anyway then more colours just makes them look happier. The other bonus is that you don’t always have to wait for things to dry before you can carry on to the next phase.  When you want to create, you just want to create, don’t you?!


Building the layers

At this point the messy backgrounds look really… well, messy. But this is just the beginning – there are many layers to go yet. I’d switched to using the Cocoa Vanilla You Rock collection to create a masculine layout but I only had scraps left.  Aside from a tiny border of dark blue that I had leftover from gutting the middle, I only had some patterned paper strips left in this collection.  I knew they’d work on top of the off-set cross so then I roughly positioned where I wanted my photos and which way up I wanted the painted background and set about creating my next layer.  I love using embossing paste through stencils so I chose one with a fairly small design to apply in small patches randomly around the edges of the cross. Once these had dried I thought the blue layer was too dominant so I wanted to tone it down with some white paint. I happened to have some old spray mist on my table that was basically colourless with a hint of shimmer so I added a little of that to some white acrylic and applied it to the cardstock with a palette knife for added texture. 

For my next layer I used stamps. I added several small designs – one with Faded Jeans Distress Oxide and then another with Momento London Fog. This combination of Momento ink on top of the white acrylic with the mist in it created a rather odd effect where the image blurred. With mixed media you never know for sure what will happen which is all part of the fun.  Sometimes you embrace the results or sometimes you might feel like you want to add another layer.   

Adding the papers

Time to start building the paper layers. I trimmed the edges of the background, distressed the edges, and adhered it to the stiff grey cardstock then added the dark blue border around the edge.  I then built up the strips on the cross ensuring each layer had a good contrast with the one below. I distressed the edges of all the pieces and inked them all for maximum texture and interest.  It looks like the longer strips go right across the page behind the photos but they are actually much shorter scraps that just poke out from underneath. I’ve lined them up together with a ruler so they look continuous – this is a great way to stretch your scraps. I then added a few tiny pieces poking out of different areas including the artsy strip at the top and bottom of the photo stack which adds to the mixed media look. The little “You Rock” piece is actually an off cut from the You Rock collection branding strip which fits so perfectly for these pictures of my son cracking stones to find fossils at the beach. I popped my photos up onto foam for some more dimension and to help them stand out against the busy background. 

I really loved the pops of orange in the collection so set about adding some small areas of splatter around the layout. This didn’t go how I wanted so I “added another layer”, i.e. I covered it up! I used a brush to blend some of the splats into patches instead and brought the whole thing together by re-applying the same stencil from earlier with more texture paste. This did create a bit of a mess in some areas so, guess what? I added another layer! I fussy cut some stars from another piece of paper, popped them up onto foam adhesive and tucked some messy clusters of thread underneath. I finished off with the title from a cut apart sheet and then added stickers to the stars for a finishing touch. It wasn’t what I had in mind when I got my paints out but I do love what I ended up with!

Other examples

There are so many ways to use mixed media on your layouts, just as a single layer or by adding lots of layers like I did in my Discover layout. This Birthday Girl layout was created with some children’s watercolour paints to create a large rainbow swatch of stripes across the page. With this collection by Simple Stories I only purchased the 6×6 paper pad (back when they were a thing) so I’ve used the painted background to effectively create my own patterned paper to match with it. I stamped a few grungy images randomly over the background and also once at the bottom edge where I tore the paper slightly to reveal a little pop of red. Then I punched some stars from the paper pad including some from the areas of the cut apart sheets that I won’t use. I added a couple more of the cut aparts and added some tone on tone enamel dots to complete the layout. Other than waiting for the paint to dry, it came together really quickly.

This last example uses Distress Oxides as watercolours to create a patch work style background. This technique involves swiping the ink pad on a sheet of acetate or packaging and then using a water brush to add water, pool the ink and then apply it to the cardstock. I used a branding strip with all the colours in the collection to help me select my inks and I applied them to a tiny off cut of mixed media cardstock to check the shade. Distress Inks are a wonderful medium and once dry you can add further layers without muddying the colours. You can also blend them before application and add more or less water to vary the intensity of the colour. 

I did add a subtle layer of texture paste using a script stencil but other than that I just wanted the colours to sing. The black floral piece adds great contrast and the die cut flowers and Bramble Fox title stand out well against the vibrant colours. It’s far prettier and much less grungy than the Discover layout but they both started out with the same colours and the same intentions. 

I think I’m definitely going to incorporate more mixed media on my layouts in the future. I hope you will too. Please do tag me on Instagram at @prettymypage if you’re inspired to embrace the mess too, I’d love to see!

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