Here’s a quick little walk-through of how I created this Funky Fish collage. Feel free to make this project your own, with different colors, papers, or even a different fish (or any silhouette!).

I created these painted papers with a Gelli Plate, but you can paint any papers any way you wish for this project. I do recommend acrylics for this, and the Gelli Plate is great fun, if you’ve never tried it. (Video of my process of Gelli Printing my papers in a future tutorial.)

You can use any kind of substrate that you like – I used a 10” x 10” gallery depth wood panel for this one. I recommend that you stay away from canvas panels and stretched canvas for this project. A heavy paper, illustration board, or hardboard will work beautifully, too!

Gather your painted papers. You might want to keep the colors similar, or you might want a truly funky fish – your choice!

Rip your papers into strips – I used a metal ruler to rip these. The strips should be similar in width, but not exactly uniform. The length of the strips doesn’t matter, as you will be overlapping or cutting off excess as you glue down your strips.

With a nice pile of painted paper strips, begin arranging them on your substrate in a linear or strata composition. Vary the lengths, so the edges don’t line up. Vary the colors next to, and above and below, each strip. Adhere your strips to the substrate – I used a gloss medium for this one, but matte medium or gel medium would work fine. Smooth over your papers with your fingers as you glue them down. Trim off any excess that goes over the edge – I usually wait until the glue is dry, then flip over the piece and trim the excess with my handy single-edged razor blade on a self-healing mat.

Let the glue and papers dry completely before you move on to the next step.

Print out your fish (or other silhouette), and trace it onto thin cardboard or cardstock. Cut around your silhouette pattern. Decide the placement of your fish on the background, and trace it with a white Posca pen or thin paint marker. When the paint marker is thoroughly dry, take a small brush, and begin applying white gesso to the background area (see finished piece). Apply the gesso up to your paint pen outline, then move your brush out toward the edge of the piece. Do this in a horizontal fashion, to mimic the horizontal line of the painted papers. Take a cloth or paper towel and go over your gesso, rubbing into the background, but not allowing the gesso to obstruct your background colors. Finish gessoing and wiping the entire background.

Optional steps: After outlining my fish, I did a wee bit of mark-making with a China pencil (or grease pencil) on the “background” space only. Then I gessoed over.

Additionally, if you are working on a cradled panel, you could paint or stain your edges, or leave them natural, like my example.

Finishing: A clear UV varnish will protect your fish. Apply after the gesso is completely dry.





These are the supplies I used – feel free to modify or use what you already have! (links are to actual brands that I use)

Cradled wood panel

Vintage ephemera

Gelli plate


Acrylic paints

Matte medium

White Posca pen

China marker

White gesso


Feel free to comment below about this project or others you would like to see! Thanks for visiting!

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