Saving Paper Images for Your Collage Art

Art journaling can involve a lot of paper.

Saving and organizing paper images for collage artAfter all, you’re saving collage photos, papers and ephemera. It can add up, quickly.

Keeping it organized… that’s always a challenge. And, some systems work better in different settings.

For example, a system that fits under your bed will be different from one in a filing cabinet.

Other ideas: (Links will take you to Amazon, so you can see what I’m talking about.)

  • An accordian file. It’s easy to tote to workshops. But, be sure you can actually see everything in each section. Also, it can be inconvenient to reorganize your files… like by color instead of topic, or vice versa.
  • A ring binder with page protectors. You could have different notebooks for different categories (size, color, topic). The page protectors will get a lot of use, so I recommend heavy duty ones. (Even then, they’ll tear after a while.) Each page protector can hold up to four sheets of full-sized paper… or a lot more bits, torn or cut from larger pages.
  • Flat boxes. You can recycle cardboard boxes you received in the mail – like shipments from Amazon. If you do this, I recommend adding some type of closure on the top of the box, so the lid/opening stays flat. That could be anything from Velcro closures, to a string-and-button closure. (Bonus: You can collage or paint the outside of the box.)

Here’s one system that works well for me. It might help you, too.

Step One: Sort collage elements by themes

I save my collage elements – especially magazine photos – by color, in manila folders. I start with the major color groups (red, blue, green, etc.) and then expand (lime green, turquoise, etc.) as my collection of saved images becomes too large for anything simpler.

I include all kinds of papers in my folders. So, when I want something blue, I open my “blue” folder and I’ll see my primarily blue magazine images, but also blue tissue paper, maybe some bits of blue ribbons or fabrics that I intend to use in collage, and so on.

A collage from an art journalOf course, my collages are usually more color-driven than image-driven, per se. So, organizing by color makes sense to me. (If you’re not familiar with my torn-paper collages, you’ll see many of them online at Aisling.net.)

For someone else, it might make more sense to organize by other themes, instead of (or in addition to) by colors.

Your categories might be “faces” or even more specifically, “women’s smiling faces,” etc. Or, “dark-looking castles,” “cute cottages,” “kissing,” “fast cars,” “vintage images,” or whatever.

Step Two: Store the folders in a big portfolio

All of my manila folders are stored in one large, flat old-fashioned artist’s portfolio. I bought it at a traditional fine-art supply store, years ago, and it’s still almost like new. (I’m not seeing anything exactly like it at Amazon.)

Mine is one those huge, black folders made from heavy cardboard, that tie at the top and sides with cotton tabs.

Modern ones are usually cloth, vinyl or leather. Some have shoulder straps, which are convenient if you attend classes and workshops. Just be sure the portfolio is large enough for your needs.

Collaging or painting the outside of that big, cardboard portfolio is optional.

You may prefer a portfolio that’s easier to carry and comes in a color. But, any good, big portfolio will work fine.

In my studio, my portfolio fits horizontally on top of my chest of drawers.

That’s the same chest of drawers that holds my fabric art and mixed media supplies… like my iron, fusible webbing, frequently-used fabrics like muslin, etc.

(It’s a small chest of drawers that fits underneath my sewing table. So, the big collage supplies folder is pretty much hidden unless I’m looking for it.)

You can also hide the folder under a bed, behind a door, between or in back of bookcases, and so on.

What Works for You?

I’ve tried many organizing systems for my stacks of wonderful papers and collage images. For collage materials I’ve already selected for future use, this has worked the best for me.

If you have suggestions, or another systems that works well for you, I hope you’ll leave a comment at this site, to share your ideas with others.