Creating Mixed Media Art: A Step-by-Step Guide


Many traditional visual arts already include many examples of the use of tools and materials from various technological origins. For example, any watercolor sketch or work with gouache involves creating a pencil drawing or composition on paper just before starting work with watercolors or other water-borne paints on the same sheet.

Mixed media painting implies using several different techniques. Sometimes this allows you to create effects on the canvas that are not available with any one particular technique. And sometimes it is only in such a mixed technique that the desired work can be created.

For example, you can paint with oils and acrylics; this allows you to quickly create a background with acrylic (for example, to catch the fast passing play of colors during sunrise), and then work out objects and details with oils. You can also use varnish stained glass paints.

In sculpture, this definition includes the most vividly presented cases when traditional plastic techniques are combined with techniques characteristic of different types of applied art.

Areas of mixed media

Areas of mixed media


In the visual arts, the most widely used method of combining various traditional techniques is graphics. The main reason for this is the availability of materials and tools - technological simplicity.

  1. Light (color) prints of printed graphics can be attributed to mixed media since the creation of these works demonstrates the use of printing technologies and watercolor painting.
  2. The same monotype, combining printing techniques - printing from the plane of glass or other smooth material - an analog of a printing plate; printing inks; in the case of using oil paints - painting and graphics: using paper already automatically allows you to classify it in this way.
  3. An interesting example of a modified, transformed printing technique is Max Ernst's frottage, his methods, and various experiments on grinding surfaces, textures, and reliefs on the work plane. This previously used technique (for example, obtaining accurate prints of coins or medals) stimulated the artist's associative imagination, contributed to "revealing hidden images."
  4. Mixed media in graphics can be used in various combinations - pastel (dry and hard, oil), watercolor, gouache, tempera, acrylic paints, and collage techniques (paper, fabric, foil, and other materials).

Since the last quarter of the twentieth century, the use of a wide variety of methods and a wide range of systems engineering technologies have become widespread, from the use of applied computer programs to the operation of various multimedia equipment.



Acrolite can be considered one of the most characteristic and ancient examples of mixed media in plastic. This technique was used to “dress” the sculptural figure when the nude bodies of the marble statue were decorated with tinted wood and gilded panels corresponding to the depicted robes. Such techniques were often used to create monumental figures, statues of a colossus, which, in addition to certain decorative advantages, had a reduction in the cost of their manufacture. Due to the fragility of the wooden and metal parts of the works, most of them have survived only fragmentarily.



In mixed media painting in addition to the main material, tempera, oil, or acrylic paint, the painter often uses other pigment materials (creates them on a different basis) to achieve the required effects and expressiveness. Also, the surface of the work includes various materials that organically fit in or create the necessary dissonance, uncharacteristic in the usual sense of materials: wooden objects (household or created and created by the artist himself), fragments of matter, leather, and details of various devices and mechanisms.

Cinematography and photography


The use of scenery and props - the main entourage, significant components of the performing arts in combination with outdoor shooting without their use - can already be considered for cinema as a kind of "mixed media technique". Among the usual "colors" for cinema, additional ones are used, including the characteristics of the directions of the visual and graphic arts.

In the method of creating a cinematic work, the use of combined filming can already be considered as the use of mixed film.

Opportunities, prospects and combined mixed media techniques

Opportunities and prospects

Mixed media techniques became most widespread with the expansion of technical capabilities in art (methods of processing materials, new adhesives, new materials) and with a change in the representations of the image, freedom of choice, and the admissibility of a combination of thematic and material components of the work.

In the visual arts, the possibilities of mixed technique as a conceptual technique significantly expand the arsenal of decorative and expressive, but also significant features, improvisation, and the achievement of effects that are inaccessible under other methodological and formal circumstances.

All of the above indicates that as all the components of art develop (from the content of the work to its disclosure), the combination and interpenetration of techniques are expressed in a process that expands the possibilities and brings closer the full embodiment of art.

What techniques can be combined?

  1. The most famous and oldest mixed media painting technique is the simultaneous use of watercolor and gouache. Both of these types of paints are water-soluble, but at the same time gouache is dense and rich, while watercolor is more ephemeral. Combining them allows you to place accents, the final picture is softer than painted in gouache but richer than watercolor. This was used by artists back in the Middle Ages: a mixed technique of watercolors and gouache is found even in paintings in old books.
  2. Another well-known direction is painting with oils and acrylics. Acrylic is mainly used here for quick underpainting as it dries quickly. Therefore, oil and acrylic are usually painted in the open air, where you need to catch the state of the weather quickly. But this technique also has nuances. For example, if the acrylic is not dry enough, it will pull oil from the top layer and the oil paints will dry out. And this can be used as one of the effects.

Other options for mixed media painting techniques are:

  • Wax crayons and watercolors. Watercolors do not wet the wax; anything drawn with crayons cannot be painted over with watercolors. This combination is usually introduced to the mixed technique of children;
  • Water-based stained glass paints and watercolor, or stained glass paints / water-based or solvent-based / and acrylic - this combination allows you to richly paint any base;
  • Watercolor and ink. In it, mascara is usually used to highlight contours, accent on the darkest, most saturated elements, and bright, blurred details are prescribed in watercolor;
  • Watercolors and pastels. Here the underpainting, the background is prepared in watercolors, and pastels are used to draw outlines and details;
  • Watercolors and colored pencils - the technique is similar to the previous one;
  • Watercolor and gel pen, in which very thin and very contrasting lines and contours can be painted with a pen. The technique is often used to illustrate books.

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