In an effort to share, explore and expand upon the myriad studio practices found here at ISACA, please consider using this forum to post images and descriptions of the process you use to create your collage and assemblage work. 

Additive, subtractive, virtual, what does your process look like?

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Thanks for the comment, Janice. I'm not sure a schematic would work for all collages but it appears to work OK here because, it seems to me, the collage is simple with not much layering.

Gel medium, it looked so yummy...but it made my paper wavy and it very much wanted to be flat for this background. I'm stopped dead in my tracks. Should have done a test. I did try piling heavy things on it once it had dried a little, but the waves persist. No Undo button to hit!

Maybe Ken has refill bottles of Distress Ink for refilling the ink pads?

Yes, I do have refill bottles ( .5 ounce with dropper cap) and 1 ounce bottles with applicator top. The refill ink is a bit thicker.

On another forum there is a discussion of glues and YES! glue has been mentioned a couple of times as an adhesive that does not make paper wavy.

Hi Liz,

Unwanted waviness(!); what to do?  The real culprit here is H2O. One reason YES! glue can be effective as an adhesive is that you control how much water is used in making a glue solution, less water, less curl and wave. Still, some papers wave and curl with YES!. And of course, if you want to treat the surface with Gel medium as a surface treatment, then you end up having the same problem of waviness and curling. I have tried to combat that problem a couple of ways. Each way, though has its own issues and limitations:

• Using the heat of an iron along with release paper ( can restore paper's flatness. HOWEVER, you will have to be very careful of too much heat, because heat can easily have an adverse and undesirable effect on polymer.

• Try putting Gel medium in a jar with a lid and poke a few small holes in the lid to allow a limited amount of are inside the otherwise sealed jar. In warmer weather, some evaporation without surface skimming is likely to occur. Less water means less of an issue with wave and curl. I do this with Elmer's glue and love having the resultant viscus glue; but, I have not done this with Gel meduim, and like you, would have to experiment with it.

• There are other products that make surfaces "yummy." Shellac comes in clear and amber forms and is also a luscious surface. Due to the alcohol base, it both dries quickly and tends not to produce wave and curl. It also comes in both liquid and spray forms, and the spray form dries even faster, but you would need to cut a protective block-out stencil to stop the spray from getting into non-desired locations for spot spraying.

• One way I have combatted wave and curl is to mount my collages to a wood base or a matt board base before I begin creating the collage. That way you are assured no wave and curing or puckering will take place. Obviously, this method prohibits making freely undulating paper collages and so this method is not for everyone as it tends to produce the feeling of being more object-like when everything is fused to a heavier support.

• one last thing to try, and I will say in advance I have not done this and am quite skeptical of what I am about to impart, but you might try stretching or taping down the sides and corners of any would be collage that you intend to use Gel medium on. Perhaps, if you tape your collage from behind, using rolled tape in all the key places, the undesired results of adding Gel medium will be lessoned.

As with any new technique I strongly recommend you experiment on something you do not care about first. Most of what I have learned about collage came from making mistakes and capitalizing on mistakes. I would use the undesired wave, curl and pucker as a potential technique as much as I would guard against it.

Not sure any of these suggestions will assist you in your hour of need, but at least they are all worthy of experimentation and play.  I hope something good comes of it!

Liz Vaughn said:

Gel medium, it looked so yummy...but it made my paper wavy and it very much wanted to be flat for this background. I'm stopped dead in my tracks. Should have done a test. I did try piling heavy things on it once it had dried a little, but the waves persist. No Undo button to hit!

Maybe Ken has refill bottles of Distress Ink for refilling the ink pads?


Great info, Todd.

Another approach using  gel medium is to coat the back of the piece to be added to the collage, then hold it flat until it dries to just a tacky surface. This does not take long at all. Then put it in a carrier made of release paper and pop it under some weight. For me the weight is a stack of books. Let it dry thoroughly and remove it from the release paper. So far, I've not had any issue with it sticking to the release paper. Now the piece to be attached is flat and has a coating of gel medium on the back. Add another thin coating of gel and position the piece to the collage.  Again, I use release paper and weight the piece until it's dry. Mostly I've used this process when I print on tracing paper or tissue paper both of which tend to curl and wrinkle like crazy when glued.



Great process Ken,

Thanks for suggesting it. You remind me that one good way to do this is to put a layer or two of Gel medium on a cleaned piece of glass, being sure to get the Gel medium will past the perimeter of any would-be piece of paper getting the Gel medium on its face. Then with once the medium has fully dried, apply a coat of medium to the piece of paper's back. Then add a second coat of Gel medium to the medium on the glass and while both are still wet, put the collage piece on top of the glass with its second wet coat. Apply gel medium to the surface of the collage fragment and allow this "Gell medium sandwich" to fully dry. Once dry use razor blade to start pealing up an edge and one you have released enough of an edge, you can peal the entire thing off the glass. Applying the sandwich to just about any surface after that should be an easy process.

Gel Medium Image Transfers:

This reminds me of a wonderful process in which you put Gel medium over a magazine image, over glass (in this case do not put medium on the back of the magazine article just on top of it) but paint the Gel medium off the edges of the magazine page so that it helps to keep it on the glass. Apply 3 to 5 coats of Gel, depending on whether it is thick enough, once it has several coats of medium over it you can submerge the removed, Gelled magazine image into warm water and let is get totally saturated. Once saturated you can gently remove the paper pulp and the Gel medium retains the printed ink, offering a translucent image that is easily glued over any surface, and allows the below surface to be seen through the printed, transferred image. This works with most printed images, the cheaper the printing process, the better the result. Works with toner based processes too.

I appreciate all this info/ideas! My assemblage was mounted on a very stiff piece of black foamcore and that substrate is doing fine. It's the cardstock that waved. Although a lot of the materials I use are not archival, though I wish they were, I would at least like my adhesives to stand the test of time. I read about issues with YES paste here, so have stayed away from it

Since I seem to be putting things together pretty strategically (except for this mishap) I should try the Jonathan Talbot  heat fusing with iron method. I actually have his book but haven't gotten the iron or tried the method. I had thought it wouldn't be very spontaneous to have to coat/hang/recoat papers before starting, but I can see this mode could be useful.

Have had good luck with Neutral pH Adhesive by Lineco applied with a stiff brush and will stick with that till I try out the methods you all have described.

Here's the assemblage, which I pulled apart a bit and was able to flatten the background paper a little.  "Mr. Johnson at the Office"


Interesting comments on the discussion you link to, Liz. The thread looks like it is from 2006 so I wonder if there  any more current reactions to YES.  Or, if it's been reformulated since then.

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