Friday, September 4, 2015

DIY Wall Collage (On a Budget!) // Labor Day Weekend Project

Looking for a project for your long weekend? Everyone loves a good wall collage, here are my tips and tricks for creating one that is beautiful and balanced.
For YEARS I have been getting blog and Instagram complements on this wall collage. I am always super flattered, partially because I have never posted a picture of the collage by itself. It's always in the background. So, I have decided to give a little tutorial and some tips on making your collage look balanced, but  not matchy-matchy.

This is a detailed post, hopefully that will give you guys specific ideas, inspiration, and steps to take. :) 



A few hours, really as long as you'd like.


A roll of craft paper or old wrapping paper
A pencil
Items you might want to hang on the wall
Frames you may want to use
Double sided, acid free, scrapbooking adhesive squares - or something similar
Nails - and any other hanging supplies, (more on this below)
A hammer
A cup of coffee - or whatever you prefer
A good playlist

Getting Started:

Start collecting paper if you don't already have a stack. Postcards, artists prints, magazine pages, small paintings, caricatures, maps, photos, etc. Anything that YOU like would make great wall art.

Start collecting frames, if you don't already have a stack. I occasionally pick one up at a store, but usually I get mine at a thrift store like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. They are usually between $1 and $5. Cheap. Plus you can find a good selection of sizes/shapes/colors/textures there. I only purchased 6 of the frames in this collage from non-thrift-store sources.

Designing Your Collage:

Gather the materials that you are considering using, (frames, paper pieces, canvases, mirrors, plates, anything you love and want to put on your wall). If you are anything like me, you will have way too many options for the collage. That's ok, it allows you to test things out and find the best fit. :)

Pick the space that you want to use for your collage. We had a big empty section in our wall, so we decided to use that. Take a roll of paper (we used craft paper from the gift wrap section at Target) and roll it out until it is the approximate length of the space that you want to fill with your collage. If you want to cover more height than the paper allows, feel free to cut two strips and tape them together to get the correct height.

Lay your piece of paper on the floor, this will be your canvas. You'll need this later.

Now start looking through your items that you want to hang:
  • Are there any paper pieces that go really well with one of your frames? If so, test them out, put them inside and take a look at them. Don't worry about placement yet. Look at things that are the right sizes, shapes, and colors. If necessary you can mat things to make them fit in your frames.
  • Are you noticing any color themes? We often gravitate toward similar colors and palettes. I didn't notice at all until I started narrowing my choices down that I had a lot of green and gold throughout my collage. 
  • Similarly, are there any items that just look completely off in your pile? Set those aside, but don't rule them out quite yet. The variation in items can make it look interesting, but you don't want those things distracting you as you think.
  • Are there any "problem children" in the bunch? Anything that is torn, broken, needs repair, a special hanging solution, or a coat of paint? Don't write those items off either! The plate I used in this collage was $0.49 at The Salvation Army, it has a small chip on the edge, I picked up a plate hanger for $2 at Michael's that hides the chip perfectly. Easy peasy. The Georgia O'Keeffe still life is framed in a clear glass frame that was actually meant to go in a table top holder. I've never used it that way, but it doesn't have a hanging mechanism. The answer? Command velcro strips. Those things are MAGIC. 
After you have matched up your items, put aside the possible "no's" for later, made  list of ways to fix up the "problem children", etc. It is time to start working on placement for your collage. Don't worry, nothing is set in stone, it's time to play! 

Set the items that you want to use on your sheet of paper, these are most likely going to remain in your collage (though they don't have to!).

Look at the shapes, sizes, and colors of your objects:
  • Are they all the same size? 
  • Do they all have the same orientation? (vertical/horizontal)
  • Do they all have the same thickness of frame?
  • Look at the colors in the papers and frames again, what are you noticing?
Ideally, you will have a mix of sizes, shapes, colors, and frame thicknesses. But you will also be noticing some themes too. With mine, I noticed the repetition of gold and green, and that initially most of my frames were pretty thick. 

Go back to your "maybe" items, you know that pile you set aside earlier? Look at it with a new perspective, you have an idea of what you are looking for now. 
  • Fill in those gaps. For mine I needed to add some thinner frames, and more frames/pictures that could be hung vertically. I had too many horizontal ones. 
  • Does anything in your "maybe" pile have some of your repeating colors in it? I picked out a few pieces that had golds and greens in them that I hadn't noticed before. Now they really fit with my other choices. 
  • Are you noticing any themes within your "maybe" pile that you are still loving? I had several modern black and white pieces that I thought really clashed with the magical greens and golds, and old fashioned styles. But when I noticed that I had several items that were all black and white, I decided to pull them into my collage and try them out. It turned out that they didn't clash with the other items but made the spread more eclectic and balanced in it's own way.

Once you have taken a new look at everything, start placing them on your paper. Here are some tips to get you started:
  • Put frames of the same size and shape opposite from each other. You'll notice in my collage, most of my bigger frames are around the edges, and they are never lined up directly next to one another.
  • Spread items of similar colors out as you go across your paper. In mine I had a lot of green and turquoise pops, I started at one corner and tried to place them across the page.
  • Mix in your secondary color schemes. The ones from the "maybe" pile that you still love. For me it was the black and white. Our caricature was the largest piece, and the other two were pretty small. I played around with their placement but ultimately ended up spreading them across the page as well. 
  • Put similar frame thicknesses and colors apart from each other. I actually have the same frame in there twice. The thick brown one at the bottom right and left. I changed the orientation of one, and made sure it was across from the other one. The gold top center frame is a similar thickness, so it balanced them out well in the top middle. 
  • Put smaller items toward the bottom or edges. Small items can fit well anywhere, but I like them around the edges because they can balance out the shape of the collage without looking too out of place. We put most of our small pieces at the bottom.
  • Have fun! There is no one right way to do this! You can change it around as much as you want. Even as time goes by on the wall. :)

Hanging it up:
  • Once you love the way your collage looks, and it is ON your paper, trace around the edges of your frames. It's ok if some things go slightly off your paper, just trace the part that touches.
  • Once you have done all the frames, step back and take a picture to help you remember what was where.  
  • As you take each item off your paper, you can also write a note in it's place to note what was where.
  • After you have finished all of your tracing and labeling, tape your piece of paper to the spot on the wall where you want your collage to go.
  • One by one, look at the back of each item, and find where the nail will rest, and where it should go based on your tracing on the paper. Carefully nail each item in. For items that don't have a picture hook on the back, get creative. Our canvases are just sitting on the nails. The clear frame with the Georgia O'Keeffe that I mentioned above has command velcro strips attached to it. You can't see them because they are behind the picture. The frame at the top that looks like twigs is meant for a table top, but the nail fit in between the twigs and hangs just fine. You'll figure it out! 
  • Once all items have been nailed into the wall, carefully cut or rip away the craft paper. I found it much easier to hang one large piece of paper straight than to do the other version of this where you tape each individual shape up on the wall before nailing. Please recycle. :) 
  • Enjoy your amazing new wall collage!

What I Spent & Money Saving Tips:

Since I tend to collect paper, especially when we travel, I only had to purchase one item to go in a frame, the mat behind the "Better Lawns and Gardens" picture. It was $2 at Goodwill. I attached the picture to it with scrapbooking squares.

Similarly, I had a bunch of frames, so I didn't need to purchase any. Again, thrift stores are a great place to find these items! Especially on a budget. If I bought all of these frames at a thrift store, I think it would have cost between $25 and $30. SUPER CHEAP. :) Another option is estate sales, garage sales, and auctions where you can often get a flat of old frames, some with pictures in them for a small fee.

I spent $14 on this project, which means even if you had to purchase some frames or post cards, etc. it would still be an inexpensive project. :) 

I hope this tutorial answers some questions for you guys on the process, and how to design it. I hope it inspires you to create a collage that reflects you in your own space too. :) 

Please feel free to ask questions below!

Have you ever made a wall collage? 

What is your favorite home DIY you have tried?

Thank you for reading!



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