Mixed media collage and photo transfer to canvas

Looking for something to hang on your wall? Here is how to create a mixed media collage with a transfer collage on canvas.

Writer and photography / Nitsa Malik

mixed media transferIf you would like to create your own mixed media/collage/photo transfer,
here is how its done:

What you need:

  • Inkjet photo (printed on STANDARD PRINTER PAPER) or a laser photocopy of your photo
  • Collage materials such as: newspaper or magazine clippings, designer or hand-made papers, wrapping papers, stamps, shopping bags, junk mail etc.
  • Acrylic or water paints
  • Any type of glue such as school glue, PVA or Mod Podge
  • Any type of transfer medium such as Mod Podge or gel medium
  • Canvas or wood panel
  • A water spray bottle
  • UV-resistant clear finish
Collage on Canvas using mod podge.
Collage on Canvas using mod podge.

1Gather your collage materials and lay them out in a design of your choice on any size canvas or wood panel. Adhere the collage pieces onto the surface using school glue or mod podge.


Paint your collage.
Paint your collage.

If you are using mod podge make sure to cover the collage pieces with Mod Podge so it doesn’t only adhere the papers to the canvas but also protects it to all eternity (or at least a few years).

3Once your collage is thoroughly dry you can paint it with watercolor or acrylic paints. I like to use different shades of a color, paint the center with the brightest shade and then go darker toward the edges.

4The next step is to convert the photo of your choice to black and white. In some cases color photos will work as well but black and white often work better with this process as they stand out more over the background.


Spray fixative for an inkjet print.
Spray fixative for an inkjet print.

You can use either a xerox photocopy of your image or an image printed from your inkjet printer. If you are using an inkjet, print out a mirror version of your image into a standard printer paper (not a photo paper!).
Since I decided to work with a 16″X20″ canvas panel I had to divide my photo and print out 4 sheets of 8″X10″ papers.


Cover your image with mod podge and place it face down into the background.
Cover your image with mod podge and place it face down into the background.

If you are using an inkjet print its a good idea to protect your print with spray fixative to prevent smudging.

7Next, cover your image with Mod Podge and press it face down into the collage. Rub gently with your fingers to smooth out any air bubbles.

8If you are using an inkjet photo you will have to wait only about an hour or two for the Mod Podge to dry and for the transfer to complete. If you are using a photocopy let it set for a few hours, preferably over night.


Spray the back of your transfer with water and rub off the paper.
Spray the back of your transfer with water and rub off the paper.

Spray the back of your photo with water and gently remove and rub off the excess paper with your fingers in order to reveal the transfer. If you are using a photocopy you will have to repeat this step as many time as needed until the excess paper is completely gone.


Transfer revealed.
Transfer revealed.

At this point you will notice that there might be some paper left behind which is difficult to remove. Also the transfer looks quite rough and does not blend nicely with the background. So in order to better unify the background and the photo transfer, paint over the edges of your transfer using the same color you used for the background. Next you can paint over the white areas of your transfer with similar shades of the background behind them. Water down your paint and dub it onto the white areas with a paper towel. For the smaller areas you can use a cotton swab. Make sure not to paint over the ink (black) parts of your photo, just the white areas where the paper can still be seen.

Paint over the white areas.
Paint over the white areas.

Take a look at the next picture: The left area was painted while the right side is still covered with the white paper and had not been painted yet.

And this is the final image:

11Preserve your art work with a protective finish such as “preserve it!” by Krylon for inkjet or Krylon Crystal Clear if you used a toner based photocopy.

Nitsa Malik is originally from Israel but moved to Los Angeles in the early 90’s. Photographing with analogue cameras, experimenting in the darkroom, creating mixed media pieces and processing salt prints on sunny days. She is the author of the book So much More than Photography.

5 thoughts on “Mixed media collage and photo transfer to canvas”

  1. It’s a transfer onto a collage background which uses different materials, paints and image transfer, I would say: yes, definitely a mixed media piece 🙂

  2. Using the gel medium to transfer onto a canvas, then painting with acrylic, or oil paint, is the painting considered “mixed media”?

  3. I transfer zerox copies using mog pog. When rubbing off the paper back sometimes the ink comes off leaving the canvas white show through. I’ve tried rubbing very lightly, but it still happens.Does it have anything to do with the amount of water applied? Any suggestions? To correct I have to apply watered down ink washes to match the adjacent areas. Also, is there any disadvantage to applying mog pog as a final fixative? Thanks

  4. Hi! Love this tutorial but quick question- How would you use a gel medium to transfer the photo? The same way you used the mod podge? Thanks!

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