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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About the author

Laura Lynne is a mixed media artist and muralist living in Chicagoland.
4 Responses
  1. fdomeniconi

    Hello,

    I’ve got to this post while researching on archival printing. I have lots of material I use for collages, but some are old and I’d rather scan them and print using an archival-quality printer (a pigment-based one, if I understood it correctly). However, I am lost in information. For the Epson printer you mentioned, for instance, I saw a lot of reviews online saying it clogs. Have you had any issues like this? Or is there other printers you could indicate for me to check? Thank you so much!

    Fernando

    1. Hello Fernando! Yes, I would scan and print them. I have an Epson R2000. It works well. Yes, I sometimes have to do a nozzle cleaning or alignment if I haven’t used it in a while. If you print once or twice a week using all the colors it should work fine. If I haven’t printed in a while I do a nozzle check, then I print out a 1 or 2 inch test of what I want to print on some plain paper. I haven’t done much research on other printers, but this was the best one for my budget at the time. The paper I use is heavy like watercolor paper and looks so nice. Does this answer your question? Best of luck with your collages! Let me know what you find.

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