How to Make a Grid-Based Art Collage

I fell in love with this periodic table shower curtain after spotting it on the TV show The Big Bang Theory. I purchased it for my bathroom, but none of my decor matched: I had the bright colours of the shower curtain, a black and silver shelf, and most notably, a gigantic print that the previous tenant left behind in my apartment that was just not my style. Changing the print would be easy enough, but 40×30 inch prints can be expensive. Time for some DIY magic: I created this grid-based collage to significantly bring down the cost of this bathroom transformation. I created a collage using official and fan-made artwork of the addicting video game Portal, fitting in with my science-themed bathroom. But, of course, you can use this tutorial to make a grid-based collage on any subject!

This tutorial assumes that you have basic Photoshop knowledge (cropping, selections, copy and paste, etc).

Before and After

Supplies

  • Printer and ink
  • Cardstock
  • Paper cutter or scissors
  • Acid-free double-sided tape and single-sided clear tape
  • Pliers, if necessary (for prepping the frame)
  • Thick packing tape, if necessary (for prepping the frame)

Planning the Collage

The bulk of this project comes from the planning portion.  First, on a scrap piece of paper, you’ll need to develop a grid that will work with your artwork’s final dimensions.  Since my dimensions were 30×40, I decided to make a grid where each element was 5 inches wide and 5 inches tall, 5 being a number that is divides into both 30 and 40 evenly.

I decided to make a focal point in the middle of my collage, so I made a 20×10 central piece of artwork in the centre. I found that the best way to decide how I was going to arrange my collage was to draw my grid on paper, then I used different symbols to represent each picture I wanted to use.

Preparing Your Images

  1. Collect the images that you want to use for your very own collage. I did not draw anything in this collage. The central image is an official Portal illustration. The illustration of the man holding the companion cube on a black background and the cutesy illustration with variously coloured backgrounds came from My Confined Space; I simply changed the background colours of the image. To make sure that the colours I used matched the periodic table shower curtain, I imported the product image into Photoshop and used the eyedropper tool to grab the exact colours The absolutely amazing schematic diagram of the companion cube was drawn by apach3; I manipulated the colours with Illustrator by using the Live Trace function to make it black and white.
  2. Use Photoshop or a similar graphics program to crop all your images to 5″x5″ (or whatever size you are using for your collage).
  3. Use Photoshop to arrange multiple pictures per page, or simply print one image on each sheet if that’s easier for you to deal with. If you are using 8.5×11 paper, you can only fit two 5″x5″ images on each sheet. If you have a printer that allows you to print up to 13×19″, you can fit four images on each sheet. I used 12″x12″ white matte scrapbooking paper, arranging four images centered on each page so that I would have less taping to do later. Don’t worry if you have white borders around the edge of your papers; this will actually help you later during the arrangement process.
  4. When printing, make sure that you use a high quality setting so that your ink will look its best.
  5. Time to trim! Using a paper cutter or a very steady hand with scissors, trim the top and left white borders off your images. You will use the white edges to overlap and attach your images together. Note: For the bottom row of images, you will need to trim the top, left, and bottom white borders off the images For the images at the rightmost edge of the collage, you will need to trim the right white border off.

Arranging the Collage

  1. Using your grid layout paper as a guide, arrange the images into rows.
  2. Apply double-sided tape to the white border along the right side of each image. Align the next image on top of the white border, making sure the edges are perfect. Repeat until you finish the row.
  3. Flip the row of taped-together images over. Using single-sided clear tape, tape the backside of paper edges for extra stability.
  4. Continue attaching the images together row-by-row until you reach the bottom. Then, starting from the top row, apply double-sided tape to the white bottom edge. Attach each row to the next row.
  5. When you finish, flip the row of taped-together images over. Using single-sided clear tape, stabilize all the paper edges.

Prepping the Frame

If you are using an old frame, you will have to take the old piece of art out. I’m used to using small, inexpensive slide-in frames, not these traditional frames that are professionally mounted and taped up. I’m sure many framers are going to read what I did next and cringe; sorry about that!

  1. Peel back to the tape that is holding the cardboard on the back of the frame. If you have cats, they will probably demand that you enlist their help, or at the very least, demand to play in the leftover bits.
  2. Using pliers, peel back the staples that are holding the board in place. You’ll want to reuse the staples, so do not remove them completely. Once you are done, take off the cardboard, the mat, and the original print.
  3. I chose not to use the mat, disregarding all advice that a print should never touch the glass. I’m a rebel, I tell you! If you are using the mat, remove the print from the mat and attach it to your newly made collage.
  4. Slide your collage in front of the original print, then your old art (if keeping) and the cardboard backing. I chose to keep the original inside the frame in case, for some reason, I ever decided I wanted that piece of art back.
  5. With pliers, move the staples back into position. Use packing tape to recover all the staples. I didn’t have packing tape, so I used green paper’s tape that will hopefully hold up over time.

The Finished Project

I’m extremely happy with the end result. I’m still debating on a treatment to use on the frame itself. I can’t decide between silver, black, or a black base with silver flecks in the paint. If this were your bathroom, what would you choose?

I hope that this tutorial will inspire you to create your own collage wall art.

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