Discover how collage, a 2020 design trend, is being used by brands and creators, and get tips for making a collage in Photoshop.
Photo collage and picture collage are certainly seeing a resurgence, partly thanks to prominent artists, brands, and social media influencers creating memorable, eye-catching collage art or helping users to create their own collages. ‘Collage’ looks set to become one of the biggest design trends of 2020, with collages of all forms having a moment, including photo collages, magazine collages, and even animated collages.
In these times of misinformation, ‘fake news’, and polarizing politics, people are using collage to express feelings, to create protest art, and to visually communicate ideas that are sometimes both impassioned and conflicting.
The term "collage" comes from papiers collés, which you might know better as découpage—a technique using various paper cut-outs stuck to one surface to make a whole new artwork. Although collage derives from using paper, its meaning has expanded for us today to include bringing together elements of all types—a real mixed media!
Pop art became an international phenomenon when artists such as Andy Warhol drew on recognizable imagery in popular culture to create bold, abstract art. Collages influenced by pop art have tended to focus on color, composition, and theme or emotion. The development of digital practices has meant we’ve been able to shift from a very physical, tactile style of magazine collage-making to something that opens up even more possibilities.
Digital collages are often really visually striking. The abundance of material available to us means that as well as the traditional method of creating something that looks cohesive and comes together seamlessly, artists are now also creating collages designed to be deliberately jarring or uncomfortable.
A natural extension of collage as art is a mood board. A mood board is a collage designed to inspire you and help you to take a particular direction in a project.
Taking that one step further, it’s also a great way to help share your own vision with clients. It can be hard to explain something you can picture in your head to someone else. A mood board is the perfect way to visually lay out ideas without needing to rely on verbal descriptions. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram have long been setting out their stall as the perfect way to collect and curate visual ideas, like this awesome floral collage collection.
Instagram Stories probably helped to ignite this trend. They made it easy to combine your images into short, disappearing videos—an appealing prospect for those who want to give exciting snippets of their life, work, or hobbies.
People are making amazing art using collages, and that’s reflected in the many social media accounts specifically dedicated to them!
From the weird to the wonderful, collage art is particularly popular on Instagram, with pages like labyrinthofcollages making creative work based around themes like ‘famous women’. You can read more about the inspiration behind this account from its creator, Pariah, over at Milkshake as part of School of Instagram. Many accounts start off as passion projects but often evolve into businesses as their fanbase develops.
If we think of collages and mood boards, then quite often fashion springs to mind, so it’s no surprise that collages have long been used by fashion designers to create inspiration and experiment with colors, shapes, and textures.
The really fun part of making Photoshop collages is gathering the materials for it! Even though you don’t need to have your idea refined, you should still know roughly what you’re looking to achieve: will it be abstract or thematic? And what color palette will you use?
Choosing to make a collage based on subjects you enjoy or feel passionate about will only help your creative process. If you’re doing what makes you happy, that will often shine through in your work.
Sometimes it can be really hard to find a starting point, even if you’re full of great ideas! Templates are perfect for getting you off and running, and there are tons of options from both Envato Market, if you prefer to pay for your items as you need them, and Envato Elements, where everything is included in one monthly subscription. Templates also cater to all levels of experience, so you don’t need to worry about being a Photoshop expert.
If you prefer not to have to cut out an image in Photoshop, that’s okay! There are templates with funky designs that you can use with a clipping mask to create interesting shapes quickly and easily. Try adding interest by using specially made collage Photoshop brushes.
For those who are big fans of traditional-style abstract collage, we’ve got you covered. Collage Art Photoshop actions let you paint over an image and then automatically generate elements to produce an awesome creative effect. You can keep them the way they are, or move the elements around to create something completely new, and there are so many options to choose from that you don’t need to worry about your collage art looking ‘samey’.
There’s no right or wrong way to create your collage, but following some of the best artists creating collages may help to inspire and influence you. When you have some ideas, try fleshing them out a little using a mood board template or collecting inspiration together on sites like Instagram and Pinterest. And remember to check out the latest tips and tricks from top influencers with School of Instagram, and if you need some additional inspiration, we've recently shared an article about some pretty epic Photoshop Actions you should totally check out.