Tips for Archival Collage Art

It’s so much fun to use whatever papers you find to create a collage or mixed media art. I keep files of different colored paper and patterns from magazines, scrapbooking papers, junk mail, etc… Unfortunately, most of these papers are not acid-free and lignin-free. For your collages and mixed media work to be archival and keep their vibrant colors, you need materials to be both acid and lignin-free.

Here is what I’ve learned:

Construction papers fade the fastest. The dark blue and purple changes to a silver color pretty quickly. I do have a collage where this still looks okay and one where it completely ruined the whole image. Also, tissue papers fade fast. Scrapbooking papers are many times at least acid-free. The colors on the acid-free papers will last longer, but are not archival, meaning they will keep their color for hundreds of years if taken care of properly. Some scrapbooking papers are acid and lignin-free, though you’d have to check the labels on each individual paper or packet of papers.

Be especially careful with whites and lighter tones. These need to be archival or you’ll have brown where you want a light color and may not be happy with the result.

There are methods to reduce the amount of acid in newspapers, for example, however this will only delay the inevitable. It really is a pain to have to go back into one of your collages and paint over any fading or brown areas.

So, what materials do you use to make archival collages then?

Tips for Archival Collage Art

There are a few options for creating archival mixed media art:

  1. Use non-archival materials, however, use the finished collage to make archival prints. I have an Epson R2000 which uses 100 percent cotton paper and pigment inks to make archival prints. I scan or photograph the original collage, edit in Photoshop, then print on the archival paper.
  2. Use all archival materials.

Here is what I’ve been using in my collages since 2018:

-Acid-Free and Lignin-Free tissue paper. This only comes in white as far as I’ve seen, but can be painted. Here is a link to the brand I found.

-100 percent cotton paper. For this I just use scraps from my printing or prints that didn’t turn out.

-Painted papers. I use golden brand acrylic paints, let them dry, then cut.

-Archival prints of my own photographs or images from Wikimedia Commons.

-I also found metallic archival papers. I love using metallic papers in my collages.

-Coat with an acrylic UV varnish for extra protection.


Three tips for “repairing” a faded collage:

1.  Remove any varnish or wax coating.  Follow the instructions for the type of wax and/or varnish you used.  

2.  Do your best to color match the paper and paint over with acrylics.  (Remember acrylics dry a little darker.)

3.  If you used any tissue papers, paint over the area acrylics, then reapply archival tissue paper.

Have you found any other methods or materials that work for your collages? If you are a collage artist or mixed media artist, was this helpful? Please let me know.

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Hand cut paper artist, illustrator, mom, wife, health nut
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