To make a collage that will last for years, you need to use a glue that’s up to the job. Collage artist Jonathan Talbot gives his recommendations and tips. This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
Q: What’s the best glue to use to make a collage? The surfaces I work on are canvas and watercolor paper.
A. My choice of collage adhesive is gloss acrylic medium. My preferred brand is Golden. Gloss acrylic medium is clear, permanent and waterproof. It won’t discolor with age. It’s more adhesive than matte acrylic medium. You can use it to adhere paper and fabric to canvas or canvas and other fabrics to paper. Acrylic medium doesn’t contain dangerous solvents. It won’t stain collage materials as time passes. It allows you to combine acrylic paints with collage.
Sealing your support surface with the acrylic medium helps create good adhesion. When you’re adhering paper or fabric elements to a canvas surface, you may need to apply more than one sealing coat to the canvas. Liquid medium goes on smoothly but it’s sometimes more easily absorbed than gel medium. Gel medium is less likely to be absorbed but more likely to streak and create texture when applied.
Normally, collage artists use acrylic medium as a wet adhesive. Apply it with a brush to individual collage elements. Then press the elements into place on the support surface. Sometimes frustrating wrinkles develop. Minimize these by applying a primer coat of the acrylic medium to the element. Allow this to dry before applying the adhesive coat of medium to the element and then placing the element in position.
You can also use acrylic medium as a dry adhesive. First coat collage elements and the support surface with medium. Then allow the medium to dry. Next, iron the elements onto the surface. The heat of the iron melts the dry medium and fuses the layers. Note that the support surface needs a rigid backing during the ironing. If the canvas is prestretched, a book will do. Also, the elements must be protected with silicone release paper during the ironing process.
Other Adhesives to Make a Collage
Two other types of adhesives are worth considering when you make a collage. Polyvinyl acetate adhesives (Lineco or Jade 409) aren’t waterproof but have the advantage of being less shiny. This means they’re less visible than gloss medium and epoxy. Epoxy, on the other hand, is stronger than acrylic medium and sticks to almost anything. This means it can be used for fastening solid objects—including metal and glass—to collages. Note, however, that epoxy darkens with age and therefore must be hidden behind glued objects or covered with paint.
Learn more about how to make a collage from the DVD by Anne Bagby: Collage: Paper, Pattern & Glazing.