Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mary Green's Blended Backgrounds with Vintage Papers

Here's a fun way to use up scraps of vintage papers - or any papers - and turn them into a cohesive low-color blended background. I'll be making a little ATC with this process, something small and easy!


First, begin with a mix of scraps of vintage papers: dark colors, light, different text or images, maps, music, etc. I collect my other supplies: 140lb watercolor paper for the ATC, gel medium for glue and a cheap, stiff brush for spreading the glue. I use wax paper to cover my work surface.

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Cover the watercolor paper with gel medium and add a couple pieces that don't overlap. Next, apply the gel medium only to the back of the other papers as you apply them. Glue them down in a random fashion. I like to mix them up so that nothing is next to another piece just like it.

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When you have the ATC covered, trim the edges.


Now, gather the supplies to blend your background: gesso, a stiff brush to apply it,some light brown ink and a stiff brush or sponge to lightly apply the ink. You can also use very light colored acrylic paint rather than gesso, so if you don't have gesso on hand, grab some paint instead.

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Dip the brush on the gesso very lightly, and pounce the brush on the wax paper to remove some of the gesso. You want just a small bit in each of these steps - you can always apply more as you go. Apply a small amount of gesso along each of the edges of the papers, almost like you are outlining them.

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Then, using a minimal amount of gesso, spread the gesso up and down into the other areas too. Apply a bit extra to the darkest pieces of paper. You should be able to see the different types of text through the gesso. From a distance the pieces will blend together and close up you should be able to see all of the detail.

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Using your ink and brush or sponge, apply a little color along all of the edges, then pounce a bit more onto the palest areas of the ATC.


I use my ATC guide (a handy piece of cardboard with an appropriate size opening) to choose just a couple elements to decorate the ATC.

Cabinet Card c

The butterfly image comes from the butterfly page in the free image section of my blog. The image of the girl is a free image in my Collage Basics online class. I'm including her here too. (All of my online classes include plenty of images and papers to download and print, so even if you don't already own any old paper, you'll be set.)

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After I glue down the images, I add a bit more ink along the edges of the ATC and the image. Then I outline the ATC with a black marker - I frequently use a dry erase marker.


I add a few decorative star brads and I'm all done. I hope you try this technique. It's quick and easy and really compliments vintage imagery.

Stamping 1

You can also stamp over gesso with other colors, I like using two or three colors with similar imagery.

Stamping 2

If you like to use stamps with your vintage papers, especially if you like embossing, always test the process on the same paper in some unused piece first. Many old papers interact differently with old paper. In the example above, the clear embossing turns brown. It's easy to fix with a little extra ink, and makes a fun background in this way instead.

I hope you've been inspired to try something new with your old papers, or to try working with vintage materials if you don't already. I love your comments and questions, so please comment here, or email me at greenpaperpack@aol.com. Thanks for letting me be a Muse this month!


  1. Ooooh, I love this atc! Very pretty and thank you for not only the tutorial but the free image as well.

  2. Wonderful tutorial. Thank you. I will be trying this one. Thanks for the image too..Donna

  3. Wonderful ideas, I'm very inspired and will definitely try these techniques. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What a fun tutorial and I adore your finished piece!

  5. Love this tutorial- Thank You! Very pretty ATC you have created- I cannot wait to try it. Thanks for the image too.

  6. Lovely result :) one to try
    Von x

  7. Ohhh, I'm so glad I found you!
    You're a wealth of information and generous with your knowledge~I love sharing my knowledge of art as well.
    Creative hugs,

  8. Excellent tutorial, I am definitely going to try this. Thank you so much for this.

  9. Oh, wonderful! I just needed some inspiration this evening, and here it is!

  10. Gorgeous technique! I so appreciate you sharing this with us! I can't wait to give this a go!

  11. Thanks for sharing this tutorial, great information. Love the way that softens things down. Will add to my thought processes while honing my vintage style.

  12. What lovely results--very fine tutorial, thank you for sharing your talents with us!


  13. Great tutorial and so appreciate the images being included.


Thanks for your wonderful words!

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