{L} Creating layers in your art journal

I introduced you to layers in the lesson on backgrounds. But I know I didn’t give you enough information on just how to layer. For a long time even I was confused about the how and why of layering. After all, why would someone create a beautiful background and then cover it up? Isn’t it a waste of paint? And that beautiful stencil pattern and all those collage elements that will just get hidden?

Well…not really.

Layers add interest and depth to your painting, and if you really love a particular portion of the background, you can rub off the paint {while it’s still wet} to let that element peek through.

I think this would be best illustrated with pictures, so here’s a step-by-step of a piece I did recently in my art journal.

I started by gluing down text pages from unloved books using matte medium. This was a completely random process – as you can see from the image, some of the text pages were torn into small strips and glued down randomly.



Once dry, I skimmed through the text and circled the words that “spoke” to me with an Inktense pencil. Then I painted over the entire collage with white gesso, taking care to not paint over the circled words.


Once this layer was completely dry, I selected three colors for my first layer of paint. Instead of applying the paint randomly, I drew an abstract pattern and colored it in, then filled up the entire background, taking care to leave my circled words visible.


Let this layer dry, then start adding stencils, stamps, drips and doodles. If at any point you feel like it’s getting too much, just add a thin layer of gesso to calm some of the color down. The shiny bits that you can see in the image below is gold paint – yummy!


I had written down some of the words from layer 1 on parchment/butter paper, which I pasted down on one side of the spread. To balance it out, I wrote “surrender” on the other side and painted it in with a double layer of gesso.

This is just one way to create layers in your art journal – and is by far the simplest method when you’re just starting out. Feel free to change up the order, add in different elements and experiment with this basic layering technique.

Putting this into practice: Create a layered art journal page. Feel free to modify/adapt this process, and share your creation with me in the comments! Let me know if you get suck anywhere or have any questions.

I created this page as part of a Lifebook lesson by Mary Beth Shaw, but this is has long been my favorite way of creating layers.
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  1. Lady, you made it sound so simple! Brilliant step by step explanation. Your gesso is one magical thing! The stamps you have used are so pretty with delicate patterns! Everything is super-yummy!
    @KalaRavi16 from

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