What is Mixed Media Drawing: Benefits to Using More Than 1 Medium

What is mixed media drawing? Mixed Media Drawing is a term that describes the use of more than one medium such as paints, photographs, sand, glue, pencils, charcoals, hair etc on a single surface such as paper or canvas when creating a drawing.

What does mixed media entail? What are some benefits to using multiple mediums in your work, and how can you apply it to your own drawings? In this article we will answer all these questions and more!

Many beginners think that if they use one medium on a piece of paper that they are stuck with it, not realising that something mixing things up can produce a powerful artwork.

I have used this method countless times, especially when I have totally messed up a sketch or ink drawing and I need to think outside the square to try and save the artwork. That is when employing mix media works for me and I think it would work for you too.

Why is it called mixed media?

Mixed media is a term used for artwork that is created using different mediums, which are then combined together to create one piece of art. What can be used when creating a mixed media drawing? Well this term generally refers to two or more mediums being involved in the process and these include:

  • Graphite pencils (or any other form of drawing)
  • Colour Pencils/Markers/Pens
  • Pastels
  • Charcoals
  • Photographs

The list goes on! What you use really depends on what your trying for e.g if you wanted an old world feel such as something from years gone by I would recommend using water colour paint but If you want a hard edge look like say graffiti tagging I’d go with marker pens and acrylic paints.

What are the characteristics of mixed media art?

What you create is only limited by your imagination, the key to mixed media drawing and art lies in combining different elements of design and applying them together.

What this means is that each element should have a purpose within the piece, for example, color, line, shape, texture, space, composition and light.

I’ll cover more in detail below:

  • Color: The use of colour can really make or break an artwork and gives it another dimension (literally) e.g using red as contrast against blue; It makes both stand out more than they would on their own.
  • Line/Shape/Texture: These affect how we perceive certain things such as perspective which leads me nicely onto my next point! Perspective plays a huge role in creating depth within our work so many artist will include techniques such as ‘negative space’. What this means is that they will leave some areas of their paper blank or with very little detail in them to make the rest of it stand out more.
  • Space: What I mean by space is how far away you are from an object/scene etc which affects what we can see and doesn’t fit into any particular category but does come under “Composition”.
  • Composition: What I mean by this is how the objects within your picture are arranged. What you include in each corner, side etc can make a big difference to what people see/what they take away from it!
  • Light: What light sources there are and where they’re coming from – for example if an object has one source of light on it then that will be more prominent than something with three or four different ones! This ties back into perspective because lighting effects create depth too so mix them up for best results.

How is mixed media used in art?

Mixed media is used in art to provide extra dimensions to a drawing or artwork. When it is one medium on a surface you only have the subject matter to tell you a story. When you start mixing things up, you are using mix media to tell multiple stories. One artist I know, Lewis Rossignol uses old photographs taped to paper that has been ‘dirtied’ with ink splatter, pencil shavings and charcoal dust before he applies markers and ink to complete his drawing.

If he had only applied a single medium, his now famous drawings would simply be caricatures of famous people or drawings of strange insects. But by adding mix media you look at the photograph and wonder if it is related to the drawing in any way. Are the two stories related?

You then wonder if the dirt applied to paper has special meaning, or how the ink splatter looks like blood. Does that have any significance.

Another artist who creates amazing mixed media drawings is James Dillon Wright (also known as Dillon_Boy on Instagram). Using markers, acrylic paints, pencils and the like he recreates cartoon figures of our childhood on canvas with a twist.

Mix media gets the viewer thinking.

What are the types of mixed media art?

Here are the most common kinds of combined media that you may learn to appreciate mixed media drawing and art:


Collage is a common type of mixed media since it can involve adding paper, photographs and other elements to the drawing. This is a good way for beginners to get into mixed media drawing because you do not need expensive materials like paint or different types of pencils to create your own collage art.


Assemblage is a lot like collage but usually involves adding different materials, for example found objects that you may find in your backyard or at the beach could be great when making assemblages. What these type of mixed media drawings lack in color they make up with texture and depth from the various items used to create it.

Painting on top of drawing

Another common way artists add more mediums into their art is by painting over already existing pieces such as life drawings made using pencils, ink pens and charcoal . This allows an artist to express themselves even further since they can use two completely independent types of media together to convey their ideas about what they are trying to show through this particular piece.

Mixed media paintings

There are also mixed media drawings that involve using paints or other mediums on top of drawing done already . What these type of mixed media drawings lack in color they make up with texture and depth from the various items used to create it.

Many artists enjoy working this way not only because they can use two completely independent types of media together but because each individual item within their art serves as its own form of expression which leads them to learn about themselves through creating.

Altered books

What an altered book is, essentially, a piece of art within itself that has been created by changing or adding to the pages and cover of traditional books.

Traditional artists enjoy working this way because it allows them to create their own unique style while also giving them room for self-expression as they alter the original story written on each page with illustrations and stories of their own creation.

Wet and dry media

Wet and dry media is a type of mixed media art in which several types of wet and dry items are used to create an interesting piece. What separates this medium from others is that it can be done without necessarily having any other material added on top or inside the work with only watercolor paints, for example, being applied directly to paper.

A traditional artist may use this style because they enjoy using more than one color scheme with their artwork while also enjoying making each painting stand out as its own unique creation rather than just something similar looking but different enough where you would not mistake them if hanging side by side.

Mixed Media Drawing – Wrap up!

While there are traditional mixed media such as pen, ink and wash or charcoal and white chalk or Conte crayons, then there is mixed media where you invent your own. I remember as a teenager I was struggling to complete a self portrait in oil paint so I ended up taking a photograph of my face at the desired angle and then I photocopied the image about 6 times in various sizes and then glued the paper to the canvas and painted over it, exposing parts of the black and white copy while rendering some sections to look like a renaissance painting.

All artists have their idiosyncrasies when it comes to mixed media. Many like to create painting tools using found objects or sticks. Famous artists like Edgar Degas liked to start his pastel drawings as monoprints and then draw over them.

Most artists like to add their own touch when creating mixed media drawings or art. Adding sand or glue, waste paper, potato prints, hand prints, gluing random items and even body hair (Brett Whiteley has quite a few famous paintings that contain a lock of his famous blonde curls).

mixed media drawing
© courtesy of Wendy Whiteley – https://www.deutscherandhackett.com/auction/lot/self-portrait-after-haircut-36-1976

So have no fear when you start mixed media drawings as there actually are no rules and you are for once free to do as you wish. Go forth and make some mixed media art and tag me on Instagram! I’d love to take a look.


Brett Whiteley image – © courtesy of Wendy Whiteley – https://www.deutscherandhackett.com/auction/lot/self-portrait-after-haircut-36-1976

Degas Collage – https://arteascuola.com/2021/01/collage-inspired-by-degas-with-video-tutorial/

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