How To: Postcard Backgrounds

After my last post, Lisa asked what I meant by “collaging Bristol board” and if I could explain it with pictures, too. Yes, I can! This is a really loose, open-ended type of thing, with no right or wrong way to do it, so I’m not sure I should even call it a tutorial. It’s more of, “Come peek over my shoulder while I do this.”

Materials: Bristol board, which is heavier than card stock but thinner than, say, cereal box cardboard; gel medium and a brush, although you can experiment with other adhesives; an assortment of papers; paint (optional)

The first thing I do is select some papers, generally around some focus. I chose warm colors for this collage.

selection of papers

I have an expandable file folder where I have papers I’ve collected, sorted by color. You can see that it includes some pre-painted book pages, too. The orange is a paper bag, and the ketchup is cut from a calendar. The rest are odds and ends of decorative papers.

I chose a few and began tearing and arranging. Then I glued the first one down.

first piece glued on

Just play with your papers. This one sheet of Bristol board is going to get cut into four pieces in the end anyway, so there’s not a lot of pressure here.

3 pieces glued on

all papers glued on

After I’d covered the sheet completely, I decided that the top part needed a little bit more, because it was a big space with mainly just that one paper. I thought that after I cut the sheet into fours, the cards cut from that section would be a little boring. So I decided to print over it using one of these foam texture plates the kids and I found on clearance (the whole pack for $1.99!) in a craft store last week. They were in the craft foam section, intended for cut-and-glue kids’ crafts, but my 9yo and I looked at them and immediately said, Printmaking!

foam texture plates

Aren’t they so cool? And they’re washable, so we can re-use them. I chose the smaller bumps (you can barely see it in this picture; it’s the darkest blue in the middle there) and added some prints to my collage using acrylic paint.

finished sheet

Better. Then I cut it into four equal rectangles, which are each 4.5 x 6″.

four individual cards

I think the one on the bottom right is my favorite. I really like creating something like this and then cutting it up–I always think the smaller compositions that result are interesting. And if they’re not, I can do something on them individually. I’ll probably add some cut-out images to these before mailing them.

So, that’s about it. I’m not great with creating collages as artwork–I find it challenging. But I like doing this for postcards. It’s play, and sometimes it’s just the thing to give myself a little break during the day, too.

6 thoughts on “How To: Postcard Backgrounds

  1. Lisa Hassan Scott

    Really, really helpful Amy. Thank you for being so responsive and for showing me how you did this. I love it that you make art so accessible.

    Please can you say a little more about the adhesive you used? Would PVA (white elmers) glue be ok, or would that make the paper pucker too much?

    1. amy Post author

      Lisa, I’d experiment. You could try brushing it on so it’s spread out. I tried regular glue, mod podge, and glue sticks, but I had peeling-off problems, even when flattening under books. I saw gel medium recommended and it works really well and dries clear, too, plus if the paper/paint is permanent, you can brush it on top, too. (I can’t do this with the prints we make using our non-toxic printmaking ink, because it’s not waterproof. It runs.) So I think this is the only glue I’m using for collage from now on!

  2. sunny

    Thanks so much for the additional info! I tried something similar recently, but used card stock and cereal boxes instead of Bristol board (I don’t have any!). Are there advantages to Bristol board?

    P.S. I liked mine much more after I cut them into postcards as well! 🙂

    1. amy Post author

      I often use cereal boxes! The regular card stock we have in the house right now seems too thin to handle collage plus going through the mail system, but maybe there are heavier versions? I think we’ve had heavier card stock in the past but the store changed brands or something…

  3. Melissa

    So glad you said cereal boxes work – I was going to experiment anyway, ’cause those are WAY more plentiful around here than Bristol board, but it’s good to know ahead! I love this idea.

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