Altered Photos

Mixed media artists by definition refuse to leave stuff alone. We see an old key, some book pages and a rubber duck and the next thing you know we’ve made a shabby-chic, Day of the Dead shrine/cup holder. I jest, but only a little.

With all the altering we do, I’m surprised to see that most projects feature untouched photos. Sure, we crop them, age them, manipulate them in Photoshop; but they still retain that fresh-from-the-printer patina.

Sometimes, altering the photo, by hand – OLD SCHOOL – is just the trick to add another layer of detail and interest to a project.

Times when this is good:

You’ve taken the same photo and played with it before. For example, every time we go to San Francisco I snap a few pics of the painted ladies. The houses and the shot stay the same – time to mix it up a little.

Times when this is bad:

That brittle vintage wedding picture of your great grandparents – take your cue from the Beatles and Let It Be. Or, scan it, print it and play with the copy.

Things to know:

  • Sanding is messy business. You’ll get marker dust all over the place. Don’t attempt this project on a pure white couch, while wearing a pale linen pantsuit and awaiting a visit from the queen. You will not be happy.
  • The darker the marker the less your scene will show through. If using brown, black, navy or dark purple you won’t get as much depth as when you use yellow, orange or green,
  • Scented markers make this project extra fun. It’s a nice change of pace to think, “ this building should be grape” or “we need more cinnamon for balance”

Here’s what I did with the San Francisco street scene:

In addition to the photo, I used my Blue Streak Mixed Media Kit and a cheap old frame.

An excellent book that includes a number of ways to alter photos is Altered Imagery: Mixed-Media Techniques for Collage, Altered Books, Artist Journals and More by Karen Michel.

If your interested in using bleach to alter your photos there is a great tutorial here.

I’d love to see your altered photos. Please include a link to your projects in the comments section so we can check them out. Also, I’m always thrilled to answer any questions you might have about this technique, so fire away 🙂


14 Responses


  2. this freakin’ rocks! omg! love it so much it hurts…in a good way of course! hehehe!

  3. Very, very cool, Nicole! Wow, that finished photo looks amazing! Must try this sometime! =)

  4. Ditto on the comments above – I’m totally blown away by this, Nicole!

  5. Eeek, love the comic of the tutorial! Very, very cool!

  6. Ooh I love altering photos it’s so much fun! Never done bleaching though – off to take a peep! Love what you did – great stuff 😀

  7. Totally DIVINE!! I love altering pictures. Yours roCK. i am not good at computer altering, I am old school all the way!!
    Really fab job!!

  8. Amy, I just double checked my email. I have been having issues with things not showing up until days later. I did find the forwarded info that you sent though and responded 🙂

  9. Awesome!!!!

  10. I LOVE that book by Karen MIchel and I blogged about i here:
    and the photo I altered.

    LOVE love love your street scene!!

  11. PS-AMY -I’d be honoured to go to the prom with you!!

  12. I am going to try this right now!! Thanks!

  13. doooooooddddddd – super cool!

  14. Great blog you have here but I was curious about if you
    knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics talked
    about in this article? I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get advice from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Cheers!

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