Mixed media is a work of art that uses more than one medium. It has always been my favorite form of art to create and teach. I’ve always had an attention deficit edge in my artmaking, jumping from one style to another, one medium to another. Mixed media allows me to bring these interests into one piece. If you are unfamiliar with this type of art, it may feel daunting to teach. I have six art teachers here to help! Check out these mixed media art ideas from veteran art teachers, kinder through 12th grade art classes, and beyond.
Introducing Mixed Media in Secondary Art Classes
In my middle school art classes and intro-level high school art classes, mixed media is interwoven with the curriculum. Students start the year using collage and mixed media to decorate sketchbooks. Every week they explore a range of materials in their visual journals. However, I don’t teach an official, mixed media focused project until the end of the course. Typically, I begin with the basics of drawing, contour line and shading. I build to color, color theory and painting techniques. And then I deep dive into mixed media with an artist trading card project.
Artist trading cards are mini works of art, measuring just 2.5″x 3.5.” The small size makes this project more accessible to students. It allows them the freedom to experiment with a wide range of materials without fear of messing up. If they don’t like their artist trading card, they can easily start a new one without losing much time. Students are required to make 10 cards which pushes them to think creatively and play with a range of materials. Each card must include at least 2 different materials. Hit the easy button and get everything you need to teach this on TPT here or my website shop here.
Mixed Media Art Ideas
Engagement Strategies with Ms. Artastic
Incorporating mixed media artworks as an engagement strategy for students in grades 5-8 provides a dynamic and multifaceted approach to art education. This age group, often eager to experiment and express themselves, finds mixed media particularly appealing due to its limitless possibilities and the freedom it offers. Mixed media encourages students to combine various materials—such as paints, pastels, collage elements, and found objects—into a single artwork, fostering creativity and problem-solving skills. It allows them to explore texture, color, and composition in diverse and unexpected ways.
By working with different mediums, students learn to adapt their techniques and ideas, developing flexibility in their artistic process. Projects can range from personal collages that tell a story about the student’s life to more complex compositions that incorporate elements of art history or cultural studies. This variety keeps students engaged and excited about art, as they never quite know what to expect with each project. Mixed media art also provides an excellent platform for interdisciplinary learning, connecting artistic expression with subjects like science, history, and literature, thus enriching the overall educational experience. For me, I like to start with one medium and switch to a second halfway through to keep them guessing, excited, experimenting, and fully engaged!
Building Confidence with Inside Out Art Teacher
Mixed media art projects that include loose materials, such as watercolor, with supplies that can be more easily controlled, like markers, colored pencils, paint markers, or gel pens, can be a recipe for soaring confidence in art when combined strategically. I like to introduce mixed media to my beginner middle and high school art students right away since they are often insecure about their drawing skills. The right combination of materials can give them amazing results that they are proud of fast.
Many of my Introduction to Art (first-year art class) projects begin with a watercolor base to get the creative juices flowing and color down quickly. Then they are layered with either oil pastel, marker, pen and ink, or acrylic paint.
At first it is best to keep your color schemes very simple and have students layer only analogous colors so they can get used to how the materials feel and behave and don’t have to worry about mixing the wrong colors just yet. Students LOVE to use opaque gel pens or paint markers at the end because they will cover over almost any medium and are great for adding details, highlights, and cool effects to their work. Check out this article where I share my three favorite beginner mixed media art project ideas for middle or high schoolers.
Mixed Media + Printmaking with The Speckled Sink
The fusion of printmaking with mixed media art opens up a world of creative possibilities, allowing students to experiment with texture, color, and space in ways that are both innovative and visually stimulating. An easy way to get started is to encourage students to make a ghost print of each image whether it be a monotype, linocut, or marker print. A ghost print is the second print made without reapplying more ink. Chances are, there will be some dry spots on the plate that will not print. That negative space provides an opportunity for students to work into the print with a second medium such as watercolor, oil pastel or even stitching into the print.
One of my favorite ways to motivate students is utilizing a workshop format where they try a variety of printmaking techniques before selecting one for their final project. This often yields dynamic, unpredictable results. Will your students use their richly patterned gelli prints as a background that fills in the negative space of a block print? Perhaps they will choose to stitch an embellishment on their monotype. Whether your students are printing for the first time or have a few semesters under their belt, embracing these two art forms together delivers endless possibilities.
Teaching Mixed Media First with MrsTFox
We begin our semester with a Mixed Media Visual Autobiography, and our fan favorites are the “I AM Boards” and the “Family Album.” If I don’t know my kids I can’t effectively teach them. So I need to get to know them. Mixed Media endeavors present students of all skill levels and abilities with a chance to be creative without fear of “not knowing how to draw.” It is our way of getting to know each other and coming together as a community of artists who expect nothing less than excellence. Our experience in this class is about to explode off the charts of tepid expectations. This project will help set that tone in our art classroom. Because artwork is an extension of the artist, the finished projects will tell me the following about each of my students:
- How well they follow directions
- How they think on paper
- How they translate an answer into a piece of visual communication
- How dedicated they are to an assignment
- What their attention to detail is like
- And a lot more….because like I always tell them, “Everything you do sends a message, even if you don’t want it to.”
We begin the semester on Day One with a series of get-to-know-your-name activities and build on those key relationships with our Visual Autobiographies.
Teaching ELA & Art with A Space to Create Art
Mixed Media projects are a fantastic way to infuse your art lessons with a burst of creativity and provide an ideal platform for incorporating ELA. Let’s be clear – creativity isn’t just fluff. Learning to communicate through art and writing can be a powerful way to create fantastic art! Mixed Media projects allow students to shape their own message in their own way and in an environment where their creativity can flow freely, without judgment, in a low-stakes setting. Let the mixed media creativity begin!
Tip on Mixed Media Collage Projects with Picassa’s Palette
I love a focused “juicy” art project idea, so I came up with an art lesson planning formula that combines the theme, a technique, and the design concept for 2D Mixed Media Projects. After introducing the project idea, and highlighting the difference between visual and actual texture, I give my students practical advice on layering, material choices, and attachment techniques. Then, I reveal how I keep collected pieces for layering in a special spot in the classroom before placing the rest of the artistic decisions in their hands. Read more in-depth details on this on a mixed media blog post here.
Creating Contrast in Mixed Media with the Expressive Monkey
Mixed media is a great way to help students create visual contrast between different areas of their art. We’ve all had that student who turns everything painted into mud. Mixed media and layering are ways to help students control their work. By focusing on one area of their work at a time, students can be more expressive without the worry of losing the drawing completely. For example, when I had students make sunflower art, we started with a drawing of a sunflower. Students used a permanent black marker to preserve their drawings. They also used oil pastels on their sunflower to emphasize the drawing and make the color of the sunflower pop against the background. They used an oil pastel on areas like the seeds of the sunflower, knowing that they’d also be using watercolors to create a watercolor resist. Creating the structure of the drawing with oil pastels and permanent markers gave the students more freedom to be expressive in the background without the worry of losing their sunflower drawings. For added interest, so students sprinkled salt on the watercolor as it was drying to give their drawings more texture.
Visual Journals and Mixed Media
I can’t write a blog post focused on mixed media art without mentioning my favorite, visual journals. Visual journals are a student-directed project. My students work on them weekly and are free to explore whatever topic or material they want. This gives them the freedom to explore, experiment, and focus on what interests them. My only requirements are completing a set number of pages and using at least two different materials in their book.
I talk extensively about visual journals on my blog. Check out a post on starting visual journals here. Get everything you need to teach visual journals on my TPT here and on my website here. Want me to teach one class a week for you? Check out my semester-long visual journal course (with videos for every week!) here.
Thanks for stopping by! A huge thanks to the other art teachers for jumping on my blog and sharing their wisdom. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and TikTok for weekly visual journal demos and other project ideas. Subscribe here to get freebies, project tutorials, and more straight to your inbox.
Until next time!