How to Use Stains in Collage

Crystal Neubauer’s book, The Art of Expressive Collage, is soon to be released (at the end of this month, but you can preorder it now and be among the first to get it!) and I have to tell you, I’m very inspired by many of the techniques in this book and I don’t even play with collage that often.

Stained-Collage_11-detailOne technique that might interest you—and it definitely had me eager to try it—is using blueberries to stain your collage paper for very interesting effects. In the section of the book on staining, Crystal mentions a few other things to try including tea (which I tried, also) and coffee (which I’ll be trying soon!).

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of art in the format of a mandala (a circle) so that’s the direction I chose to take with my staining experiment.






  • acrylic paint
  • blending stump
  • blueberries
  • fluid acrylic matte medium
  • graphite pencil
  • paintbrushes (for medium and for watercolor)
  • permanent pen, fine (I used a Micron 02)
  • press (optional)
  • scissors
  • teabag, brewed
  • watercolor
  • watercolor paper

Step 1–3

Stained-steps1-31. If you’d like to try the format of working in a circle, draw one on your watercolor paper freehand or use a compass. 2. Lightly press some blueberries onto your paper. I kept things circular. 3. Place a second piece of watercolor on top of the berries and either put the sandwich in a book press or just press firmly on it with your hands. (Caution: This part is juicy!)

Step 4

Stained-Collage_044. Peel the paper apart and remove the squished berries from the paper.

Step 5

Stained-Collage_055. Brew a cup of tea and lightly squeeze the water from the teabag. Press the wet bag onto areas of the paper you want to give some of the tea color to. Set the teabag and the stained paper aside to dry.

Steps 6-8

Stained-steps6-86. Open the teabag and remove the loose tea.

7. Cut the teabag paper into shapes you wish to collage with.

8. Using a small inexpensive brush, apply matte medium to the paper where you want an element, adhere the element and then brush additional matte medium over the top.

Steps 9–11

Stained-steps9-119. Begin using a graphite pencil and a blending stump to add some shading and depth to areas of your composition. For me, this is where the fun begins! 10. Add watercolor details. 11. And finally, add acrylic paint to any areas you might want to tone down, like I did to tone down the color from the watercolor a bit. Finish off with fine details using a fine-point pen. I also trimmed my collage to a new circle shape and glued it to a fresh white piece of watercolor paper.

Second Collage

Stained-2-Collage_04Here is the collage I made with the other piece of the “squish sandwich”. I used the same teabag paper for the little building elements and added the tree with acrylic ink.









T1354_ArtofExpressiveCollage_CVR.inddCheck out The Art of Expressing Collage for many, many more great collage ideas, techniques and inspiration.





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