All About Layered Art

Layered art, often known as mixed media art, multimedia art, or textured art, is a captivating fusion of different materials and supplies. It's like adding layers to a parfait, but with art! Each layer adds depth to your final piece.

This technique allows artists to bring their creative visions to life by building up layers of different colors, textures, and shapes. By experimenting with different combinations of elements, artists can create truly unique and original works of art that reflect their personal style and vision. 

But, there are some important things to remember when creating with layers.

As I've been playing with mixed media art, I've discovered that not all materials work well together. Well... they can work together, but you have to know what your materials are composed of and take certain precautions! 

Here are a few important things I learned from the countless mistakes I've done. I wanted to share them with you so you don't end up ruining your artwork like I did many times.

Knowing Your Materials

mixed media art materials on a table

Let's start with the basics. To get a nicely finished piece of artwork, you first need to make sure you know the materials you are working with and how they react to other mediums.

  1. Paper: There are all sorts of paper you can use—like wallpaper, cardboard, tissue paper, vellum, or cardstock. Each needs a different approach. Cardboard is thick, so use plenty of glue. Tissue paper can be delicate, so handle it gently. Vellum looks cool but can be tricky—it tends to wrinkle easily. So make sure you know how to handle different types of paper for best results.
  2. Using Heavy Embellishments: If you're adding heavier objects, like crystals, use a strong glue. I recommend hot glue or heavy gel medium or Modeling Paste from Liquitex.
  3. Mica Powders and inks can bleed into acrylic paints, pouring mediums, acrylic varnishes, and resin if you don't add a sealer or fixative over it before adding the top coat. I love using these mediums because of their vibrant and luscious colors! They are great for creating gorgeous colorful backgrounds. However, the first time I used Colourarte Primary Elements, I was horrified when the pigments bled through the varnish layer! They left a yellowish tint that could not be fixed.
  4. You can't mix waterbased with alcohol based products. For example, you can't mix Colourarte's Rezin Arte products with a water-based pouring medium because the powder won't dissolve properly.
  5. Some types of glitter will bleed their color into alcohol-based products or will not hold when mixed with resin. So you have to choose good quality glitter for the type of medium you will use with it.
  6. Micro pearls, beads, yarn, glitter, sequins, paint and paper can hide mistakes. 
  7. Adding Fun Objects: If you are adding things like insects to your art, you need to be careful with delicate insect wings. Use tweezers and gentle touches.
  8. Working with Tiny Stuff: Lay your art on a bigger paper to catch excess glitter or beads. This makes cleanup easy.
  9. Oil based paint should always be used over acrylic or alcohol based products. Oil paint takes longer to dry than other mediums so it's can't go under other layers. This is what is meant by the 'Fat Over Lean' principle. Learn more about the 'Fat Over Lean' technique at This old rule helps keep your layers stable for better adhesion and less cracking over time.
  10. Alcohol inks get reactivated with alcohol-based products. So spraying alcohol over dried alcohol inks will reactivate this layer. 
  11. Gouache Tips: Gouache can be tricky—it stays workable for a long time. Use it all at once or save it for later.
  12. Handling Oil Pastels: Use oil pastels over things like pencil or acrylics. They should go on top of other materials.
  13. Spray and Distress Inks: These inks can bleed through layers. Cover areas you don't want spray ink on with paper towel or tape. Keep in mind that if the spray ink areas get wet again, the ink will reactivate and start flowing again. So apply a sealer or fixative over it if you want to make sure your inks won't come back to life.
  14. Pens and Markers: Some pens and markers write well over layers, others don't. I've had this happen multiple times when trying to embellish my geodes and it's so frustrating. Test different pens and markers so you know which ones write well over what types of mediums. Posca pens and Sharpies are usually good choices.
  15. Mixing Mediums: Acrylic paint, watercolors, and gesso work well together. You can layer these without any problems.

Do Not Rush the Layering Process 

layering paint over a canvas

The next important thing is to have patience with the layering process. There were times when I wanted to get the project done faster and rushed to add too many things at once. This ended up ruining my artwork.

If you are using anything that is wet like glue, varnish, resin, gesso, texture paste, gel medium, paint, etc, you need to give it enough time to dry before layering over it.

For example, you can layer paint, paper, glue, and objects however you like. You can then repeat these layers after the paint and glue has had enough time to dry properly.

What are Common Layering Techniques?

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Now that you know how some of the materials should be used with other mediums, let's talk about some common layering techniques to get your ideas flowing.

Several common layering techniques are used in textured art to create depth, texture, and visual interest in the artwork. Here are some popular ones:

  1. Collage Layers: Artists use various papers, fabrics, magazine cutouts, or found objects to create collages on the canvas or paper. These layers can be torn, cut, or arranged in different ways to add depth and complexity.
  2. Paint Layers: Artists often use multiple layers of paint to build up colors, create shadows, highlights, and add dimension to their artwork. This can involve using different types of paint (acrylics, oils, watercolors) or layering wet paint over dry paint.
  3. Texture Paste Layers: Texture paste or modeling paste is applied to the surface using brushes, palette knives, or other tools. Artists can create textures, patterns, and raised surfaces with these layers, adding tactile elements to the artwork.
  4. Transparency Layers: Vellum, tissue paper, or translucent papers are used to create layers that partially reveal what's underneath. These layers can add a sense of mystery or depth to the artwork.
  5. Image Transfer Layers: Artists use image transfer techniques to transfer printed images or photographs onto the surface of their artwork. This creates a layered effect, blending the transferred images with other elements of the piece.
  6. Stencil Layers: Stencils are used to apply patterns or designs onto the surface of the artwork. Artists can use them with gel medium to add designs and create intricate and layered compositions.
  7. Text Layers: Adding text or handwriting on the artwork can create another layer of meaning and visual interest. This can be done using stamps, stencils, printed text, or handwritten messages.
  8. Embellishment Layers: Artists often incorporate found objects, beads, sequins, or other embellishments into their artwork. These elements are layered onto the surface, adding a three-dimensional aspect and tactile quality to the piece.
  9. Mixed Media Layers: Combining different art mediums such as paint, ink, markers, pencils, pastels, and more in a single artwork. Each medium adds its own layer of texture, color, and visual interest to the piece.

These layering techniques can be used individually or combined in various ways to create complex and visually striking mixed media artwork. Just make sure you remember the previous tips I shared with you. 

If you are using a medium that you've never used before, always make sure you test it before using it on your artwork. Run some tests with the other mediums you plan on using to make sure there are no weird or unwanted reactions.

Layered art is a fun way to express yourself! Each stroke tells a story, adding to the beauty of your creation. Personally, I love mixed media art!

As I keep exploring layered art, I'd love to hear about your favorite techniques and materials. Let's learn and create together!

Did these tips help you with your art? Share your thoughts in the comments. Here's to the art of layers—let's get creative!"

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Layered Art Called?

This type of art can also be called three dimensional decoupage, 3d mixed media art, textured art, multimedia art, and 3d fluid art.

What is Layers Art?

Layered art, also known as mixed media art, is a creative journey where artists combine various materials and textures, building depth and complexity in their pieces. It's like crafting a story with each layer, adding richness and intrigue to the final artwork. This form of art invites experimentation, blending different elements to create a unique visual tapestry that captivates the viewer's imagination.

How do you create 3D effects in layered artwork?

To create 3D effects in layered artwork, you can use various techniques such as adding depth and dimension with layers of paper, creating shadow effects with acrylic paint, adding gel medium or textured paste to certain areas, using spray foam to create a raised effect, or adding textured elements like sand and crushed glass.

What techniques are used for creating layered wood art templates?

To create layered wood art templates, you can use a scroll saw or laser cutter to cut out different layers of wood, then glue them together to create a 3D effect. You can also use wood burning tools to add detail and texture to the layers. Take a look at this gorgeous layered wood artwork that my sister-in-law creates. She is amazing!

What are some creative ideas for making layered plexiglass art?

You can create layered plexiglass art by using different colors and textures of plexiglass, cutting out different shapes and sizes, and layering them together to create a 3D effect. You can also add lighting behind the layers to create a unique and colorful display.

What are the best practices for preserving layered art pieces?

To preserve layered art pieces, it is important to keep them away from direct sunlight and moisture. You can also use UV-protective top coats to protect the piece from fading. You could also frame the piece to keep it safe from dust and damage.

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