Blended Paper Backgrounds

Greetings and salutations! Scraps, here, with a fantastic technique two-fer from Alchemist Jo!


Jo: One of my favorite backgrounds is a blended paper background.  I learned the basic technique from Mary Green when I took her online classes–“Your Vintage Gluebook” and “Collage Coterie”–and have further developed it to suit my style.  I’ve prepared two 4″x6″ postcards to show two variations on the theme.

Firstly, I covered both postcards with pieces of book pages, torn and randomly stuck to the postcards with a gluestick.


Map pages are good, and handwritten letters, receipts, and postage stamps add interest, too. Gauche Alchemy has fab packs of  foreign text paper which would be perfect for a project like this!

For the White Gesso Background

Over the basic blended paper background I added a coating of white gesso.  This can be thinner in some places than others and it’s great to allow some of the background paper to show through.  Remove any excess gesso with a paper towel.  While the gesso is still wet, stick on some pieces of masking tape, making sure it’s well adhered by smoothing down with a bone folder or similar tool.


Allow to dry.  No, don’t just count to 30 and then carry on–walk away and go to bed.  It’s best to leave it overnight otherwise when you try and remove the tape it’ll take all the collaged paper with it, which is NOT the effect I think you’ll want!  So, once totally dry, peel off the masking tape which will remove some of the gesso and, hopefully, the top layer of some the paper.  Don’t be too gentle when removing the masking tape, think of it as taking a plaster off a cut knee! [Scraps: That’s a band-aid to those of us in the States 😉 ]


Mmmm, this looks so scrummy, I love it!  I then roughly smeared Distress Inks round the edges (Dusty Concord and Peeled Paint).  Where the gesso has been removed by the masking tape, the Distress Ink will be a much stronger colour.

Using your normal everyday inkjet printer print out your chosen image.  I often use The Graphics Fairy, who has a wonderful selection of images which are free to use.  For this postcard I chose a wonderful moth image.  Remember to flip the image because when it is transferred it will be a mirror image.  Especially remember this if there is writing or numbers on the image that you want to be the right way round.  Allow the ink on the copy to totally dry, not overnight this time but I would allow about half an hour.  Cut out the image and, using a paint brush, coat the IMAGE SIDE of the paper with matte Mod Podge (or similar).  Stick this face down onto your background, making sure there are no air bubbles and, if possible, brayer firmly to totally stick it.  Try and avoid getting the Mod Podge on the back of the paper as this will make it harder to remove later (actually, virtually impossible!).



Now comes the magic bit!  Wet the back of the image with clean water (I use a wet paintbrush).  With your finger, gently rub in a circular action.  The image’s paper backing will start to lift in small rolls of paper.  It’s quite messy, but keep with it, adding more water if it starts to feel a bit dry.  Even though you are being careful, some of the image may lift with the backing paper.  That’s OK!  If you wanted a perfect image you’d have simply stuck down the picture, right?  Leave it a few minutes; if there is a white fuzz on your image, then just wet the image again and rub gently, more backing will be removed.


As you can see I lost a bit of the moth’s wing, but I’m quite happy about that :o)


I used a quote by Sara Teasdale, rubber stamped onto old book paper and edged with Distress Inks.

For the Clear Gesso Background

Taking the basic blended paper background, I brushed on a coat of clear gesso to seal the background and to provide a decent ‘key’ for the image to adhere to.  The background will, this way, show through clearly.  I dragged Distress Inks round the edges (Dusty Concord and Peeled Paint).  Once dry I cut out my chosen printer copied image (again from The Graphics Fairy), brushed a coat of matte Mod Podge onto the image and put the image face down onto the blended paper background.  Ensure good adhesion by firmly brayering it.



Wet the image with clean water and gently rub the image backing.


The background is clearly seen through the image, giving rather a dreamy,vintage and/or ghostly effect.


I drew with a charcoal pencil round the image, smudging it with my finger – this adds some depth (another tip learnt from Mary Green‘s classes).  I also used the charcoal pencil around the edge of the postcard and around the title, taken from an old book.  I used rusty wire to attach the old rusty key to the card.



I usually go for the instant gratification projects, myself, but this techniques shows that the old saying is true: good things come to those who wait!


Image Map

22 Responses

  1. *Doing a little dance*

    THIS is the post I have been waiting and waiting and WAITING for 😀 Thanks Jo, I will be trying this out definitely. Love the effect of this technique!

    LOVE that picture of the not yet fully free woman with bits of paper crumbling off her. She looks like a zombie 😀

  2. Zombie?! Only you, Carmen, only you!!!

  3. wow! Excellent tutorial Jo. And you know, I never knew mod podge would work for transfers, I only thought gel medium would do. Letting it dry overnight and rubbing the paper off is the way to go for the most successful transfers and you have done an awesome job explaining. I can’t wait to try applying masking tape to wet gesso -cool! LOVE your backgrounds : )

  4. I NEEDED this tutorial! THank you soooo much!

  5. fantastic tutorial and GORGEOUS work, Jo! hooray!

  6. My technique to-do list just grew! I have GOT to try this! I am so glad you shared this with us, Jo.

  7. […] Blended Paper Backgrounds – 1 freebie(s)? […]

  8. Super tutorial Jo. I am lucky enough to own some of your fab work xx

  9. OMG – everything I know I learned from Jo (well Lenna to). Wonderful tutorial Jo – I printed it out and gazed at it with fingers twitching several times last night itching to try LOL…thanks so much for generously sharing your tips…J

  10. Wow that’s awesome Jo – thank you for sharing now where’s the modge podge!

  11. That tutorial will give me more confidence to give it a go myself. THanks!!

  12. Thank you everyone! I hope you will have a go at either or both of these techniques. If you do, us Gauche girls would love to see what you’ve done – post it on our flickr page and we’ll come and ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at it – and you 🙂

  13. Thank you so much,Jo:)

  14. Wow, great techniques thanks for sharing.

  15. Thanks so much for sharing one of the keys to your beautiful pieces. They are described very clearly and I can wait to put it to the test. Let’s see more tutorials from the talented Jo!

  16. LOVE the technique, and both your pieces turned out fabulous. Can’t wait to try!

  17. Fantastic tutes Jo…Wow, didn’t think of using Modge podge…will have to give that a go!! Thanks so much for sharing!
    Jan x

  18. Reblogged this on lifeimitatesdoodles and commented:
    This is my first attempt to reblog something. We’ll see what happens.

  19. Image 3 yummy!!! I think i may try this as an accent wall as a picture is just toooooo small. Honoured to be your funny friend, clever lady x

  20. Hey!! I LOVE your blog! I tried your techniques and they worked! AMAZING. But I have a question IM DYING TO FIND A SOLUTION TO and I really hope you could help.
    There is no clear gesso where I live…And I NEED to get this ghostly/see through effect. I tried without sealing the background at all, yet the imagine transferred completely, not allowing me to see through. I also tried it with a very thin layer of gesso and it didnt work as well. HELP! PLEASE!! Thanks in advance.

  21. Bittersweet Cupcake Queen, you ought to be able to order clear gesso online. And you could experiment with a coat of Mod Podge in place of the gesso–letting it dry THOROUGHLY before doing the following steps. Also, you might consider how dense the ink is on the image you intend to transfer.

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