What Is Mixed Media Art?

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What Is Mixed Media Art?

The art world is diverse and complex. From the beginning of time, human beings have felt the need to express themselves, their beliefs, and the world around them through artistic endeavors as diverse as the artists themselves. In the twenty-first century, all of these different techniques have been discovered and studied. This allows modern artists, whether they are professionals or hobbyists, the ability to choose the medium that is right for their purposes. However, for many people, choosing just one approach to art is restricting. Mixed media art, which is loosely defined as any work of art that uses more than one medium, solves this issue.

This guide is designed to take readers through the different aspects and possibilities of mixed media art for the purpose of both collection and creation. It will do so through developing a detailed definition of mixed media art, including what it is not, and continuing with an explanation of many of the most popular forms of mixed media art and the materials used. It will also help buyers decide where to purchase either completed pieces of mixed media art or the supplies needed to make it themselves.

Mixed Media Art: A Detailed Definition

Mixed media art is a concept that was developed in the twentieth century as postmodern artists began to bend the rules of traditional high arts such as painting and sculpture. However, mixed media concepts can be found throughout time as long as one considers any artwork using more than one type of material (or medium) to be classified as mixed media art. Today, mixed media art is popular among both professional artists as well as hobbyists who enjoy "crafting" projects such as collage and card making.

Many people may also know mixed media art as assemblage art, a term which refers to both professional and hobby activities related to the mixed media concept. Many of the most popular pieces completed using mixed media art are collages, altered objects and books, 2D and 3D assemblage, artist trading cards (ATCs), greeting cards, journaling, and bookmaking.

Mixed Media Art versus Multimedia Art

While the definition of mixed media art is really quite broad, what is far more important in defining it is delineating what mixed media art is not. Mostly, this involves distinguishing mixed media art from another popular form of art in the twenty-first century: multimedia art.

In fact, the term multimedia is actually far more diverse than mixed media. This is because multimedia encompasses not only all form of visual art such as painting, sculpture, and drawing, but it also includes non-visual elements, such as sound and video. In addition, multimedia art may incorporate other "arts" such as literature, dance, drama, or graphics into the work.

Mixed media art, on the other hand, solely refers to works of art that combine forms of visual art media. And while this certainly includes a large variety of possibilities, it also limits them and therefore creates a distinct line between these two postmodern art forms.

Popular Forms of Mixed Media Art

Like any artistic endeavor, mixed media art comes in many different forms. And, like any artistic endeavor, there are very few rules regarding what is and is not acceptable mixed media art. However, there are a few well-known types of mixed media art that anyone interested in either creating or buying within the genre should know. They are explained briefly in the table below:

Type of Mixed Media Art



A collage is any form of art that is completed by gluing objects to canvas, a board, or piece of paper. Also called papier colle.

Greeting Card

Like those purchased in the store, many mixed media artists make greeting cards using collage or scrapbooking techniques as well as traditional drawing and painting methods.

Artist Trading Cards (ATC)

These miniature works of art (usually 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches) were developed in Switzerland. An ATC can literally be of anything that the artist fancies and does not need to be mixed media. However, many mixed media artists chose to use ATCs as a form of mini collage.


Like ATCs, sculpture does not need to be mixed media. However, many modern artists often go this route. Mixed media sculpture can include wire, "trash," papier mache, paint, and anything else the artist finds inspiring.

Altered Book

As the name implies, the altered book in mixed media art is created when an artist decides to take an old or new book and changes it in appearance and function. This is done through a number of mixed media techniques not limited to tearing, folding, cutting, painting, and collage.

Though there are several other types of mixed media art that are made by both professional artists as well as amateur hobbyists, these five types are the most popular. As with any postmodern art, however, making mixed media pieces is a highly individualized process in which the artist him or herself should feel free to express personal feelings and tastes.

Buying Mixed Media Art

When buying mixed media art, the best place to find nice pieces will vary. Craft fairs are one affordable alternative for mixed media projects such as sculpture and collage, offering buyers the opportunity to get work directly from the artist him or herself. Buyers may also look into buying work from more professional and well-known artists through dealers and galleries.

Buying Mixed Media Art on eBay

eBay offers those interested in buying mixed media art many options in one easy space. There are two alternatives for purchasing what is labeled mixed media and collage in the eBay Art Shop. The first is to buy work directly from the artist, similar to a craft fair environment. The other option is to buy art from dealers and resellers. The sellers in this category range from professional galleries and art dealers to other individuals selling art they purchased. When shopping in this category, it is important for the buyer to research each seller by reviewing the detailed seller feedback.

Materials Used in Mixed Media Art

For those interested in making their own mixed media art, the genre provides a wealth of alternatives to accommodate artists who range in skill from children to semi-professionals. One of the most exciting elements of mixed media art is that the materials used in creating it are nearly endless. Depending on the piece an artist wishes to create, anything from paints and papers to wires, beads, and what others may consider "trash" can be used. The table below shows the types of mixed media projects many artists and hobbyists choose to create along with some of the basic materials needed to complete them.


Materials Used


Paper, Canvas, Cardstock, Magazine Clippings, Photos, Glue

Greeting Card

Cardstock, Paint, Stamps, Stickers

Artist Trading Card (ATC)

Cardstock, Pencils, Paint, Markers, Paper Cutters, Cloth


Newspaper (Papier Mache), Chicken Wire, Beads, Paint, Clay

Altered Books

Paper, Hole Punch, Yarn and Needle, Glue, Charcoal Pencil

Each of the type of mixed media projects mentioned above is highly flexible. Mixed media is really an open form that allows the artist an amazing degree of freedom in terms of technique and material. The ideas above are merely a start for anyone interested in creating mixed media art.

Buying Mixed Media Art Supplies

When interested in creating your own mixed media art project, the collection of supplies is essential. There are many places where mixed media art supplies can be purchased or acquired including craft stores, art supply aisles in big box retailers, and even flea markets and junk yards. Where an artist gets his or her supplies for making mixed media art, clearly, will vary according to the project created and the artists' ultimate goals.

Buying Mixed Media Art Supplies on eBay

Like the works of art themselves, the sellers on eBay offer budding artists a great opportunity to purchase supplies for creating mixed media art through the eBay Crafts Shop. Here, interested buyers can find everything from canvas to paints and beads and glass to yarn. There is also a special category dedicated to Art Supplies that provides a special section for altered art and collage.


Mixed media art is an amazing genre for both art collectors and budding artists to use. Loosely defined as any work of art that uses more than one material or medium, mixed media art offers many options in terms of projects as well as materials to use. However, it is important for both art collectors and artists to understand what mixed media art isn't. Mixed media art is limited to the visual arts only and should not be confused with multimedia art.

Those interested in buying or making mixed media art should familiarize themselves with these particulars before buying either art or supplies. They should also consider using websites like eBay as a one-stop-shop for all their mixed media art needs.

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