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Middle Layers in Mixed Media Paper Pieces

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

Hey everyone, remember these backgrounds that I made last week? Well, I'm back for the next stage of turning these into mixed media paper art. When we're finished, you'll have lots of ideas you will be able to use to create your own cards, journal pages and more.

This week I'm going to be showing you some of my favourite techniques for adding interest to the middle layers in my work. I tend to work in a pretty clean and simple way but the beauty of these middle-ground details is that you can add more or less, depending on what you want to achieve. Part of the fun is exploring what you like and experimenting so that you come to learn when you might include that one too many stamps, or when you might have left just a bit too much empty space.

As you work through the techniques, you might find it helpful to look back at the background image above to reference how the page started out. I'll use the following key to help you:

Top Row 1, 2, 3, 4 (Go across left to right) = TR1, TR2, TR3, TR4

Middle Row 1, 2, 3, 4 (Go across left to right) = MR1, MR2, MR3, MR4

Bottom Row 1, 2, 3, 4 (Go across left to right) = BR1, BR2, BR3, BR4

So lets get started!


Stencils are a great way of adding some texture layers in your work. There are lots of different stencils on the market so there are endless possibilities for you to create different effects.

Ink Blending

Taking the background BR2 I used a soft bristle brush to lightly blend Distress Oxide (Salty Ocean) through a Tim Holtz Stencil (THS076). You can get lighter or darker effects just by controlling how much ink you apply to your brush and by easing the pressure you apply when applying. I move my brush in a circular motion and as I do this and love the fade out effect towards the centre of this piece.

In this one I layered my stencil over the aperture from a die cut so that I could keep the edges of my paper (background MR4) free of the stencil pattern.


Another really fun way of using stencils is with sprays. You have less control with a spray, but it is a super quick way to get colour down and you can get some really interesting finishes. For this one I started out with BR1, placed the LaviniaStencil over the sheet and gave a couple of quick blast of Speckled Egg Distress Spray Stain followed by a couple more of Pumice Stone Distress Spray Stain. I just love the slightly granular effect you get to the edges of this one.


Once again there are so many choices of stamps available to buy and a whole host of techniques you can use with them. When I am using stamping for middle layers, I tend to use either stamping blocks or just hold the stamps in my hand as I don't need the level of accuracy a stamping platform achieves. My favourite stamps for these interest layers tend to be script, letters, numbers and other mark making stamps, as you can get a different result every time and reuse them time and again with very different results.

Rubber Stamps

Starting with TR1, I used PaperArtsy Mini Stamps (EM58, EM60, MN23, MN62) to add some more detail to the splotchy background. I used Distress Archival Inks in Faded Jeans, Picked Raspberry and Black Soot and embossed some of spot pattern using WOW embossing powder (Hope & Positivity).

Clear Stamps

For TR2 I used AALL & Create clear stamps to add some black and grey text and numbers. I love how specific you can be in placing stamps in this way and creating very defined sections of interest in the middle ground. It's one of my favourite techniques for pieces containing lots of white space like this one.

Metal Cutting Dies

Using smooth white card, I keep of stash of die cuts to hand so that I can easily add them to my work. I find it a bit of a faff getting out my die cutting machine (even my mini desktop one), so every so often I have a die cutting afternoon where I get out all my white card scraps and use different dies from my collection to add some ready cut dies to my stash. I like to do this on white card so that I can then add colour appropriate for the project I'm working on, as and when I come to use them.

Nesting Dies

I have several sets of nesting dies, from various craft companies, which are basically the same shape but in multiple different sizes. I find these to be some of my most versatile dies, as you can either use a single piece (as I have in the examples below) or you can stack and layer them.

Using this plain white die on MR3 reintroduces some white space to this piece, giving the eye somewhere to rest and creating a really distinct middle ground between the background texture and the focal point I'll add next week.

Frame Dies

I adore the intricately cut details in dies of this type. I think they add an elegant flourish to the final piece and they are great for adding detail to those middle layers. Sorry I'm not sure of the brand on this one (it was a cheap one from Amazon), but I added some Distress Ink (Iced Spruce) to the lace cut edges and for the Tim Holtz Ledger Script Stamping in the middle (background MR1).

Texture Paste

This does what it says on the tin and adds yummy texture to your art. There are several brands of texture pastes available which will help you achieve different results. My favourite way to use texture paste is with a stencil, like I have here with BR4. The PaperArtsy Grunge paste is becoming a firm favourite for me as it dries to a lovely white and you can apply it with your finger which saves the faff of cleaning palette knives. In the image below I applied it through a Scrapcosy stencil by PaperArtsy (PS293) and then sanded it back slightly for a more even finish. I then finished by highlighting the textured ares with some Art Alchemy Wax (Brushed Iron).

Washi Tape

Washi tape is great for adding some pattern to your interest layers. With so many colours and patterns available, there's something for everyone and it doesn't have to be just for your bullet journal. I like to make it the centre of attention and use a long strip in the centre of the piece, like I did on TR3. Here I've also added some gold embossing to compliment the gold in the wash tape and distract from the edges of the tape. Texture paste is another really nice option for disguising the harsh tape edges or Seth Apter demonstrates a really easy way of tearing your tape into more organic strips to create extra background texture.

Paper Layers & Stitching

Paper Ephemera

Tickets and labels are a nice way of creating cluster layers in the middle ground of your piece and are great for adding extra interest. I use two types of paper ephemera in my work: ready made and handmade. I have little pots of them on my shelf, so that I can just have a rummage through and select items that fit with what I'm working on. I've combined some handmade ephemera and some shop bought pieces on MR2 and have added some stamping for a final bit of detail.

Paper Scraps

I try not to let things go to waste in my studio and keep offcuts from previous projects in my scrapbox. This is another quick way to add a middle layer and works particularly well with scraps from gel prints and some stitching details (a technique I learned from Kate Crane) as shown here on BR3.

Old Book paper

There's something about the colour and texture of old book pages that just injects a little bit of magic into mixed media pieces. I could kick myself for some of the books I have thrown away in the past when I could have stashed their lovely pages. You can easily use the paper as is, or you can add splashes of colour or even some chunky clear embossing like I have here on TR4.

I'm so pleased with how these pieces are shaping up so far. There's so much variety of colour and texture and I had so much fun playing with all my supplies. Here are some images of the pieces together.

So there you have it, lots of techniques to create interest in those middle ground layers of your artwork. Next week I'll be showing you how I finish these off with the final layer: The Focal Point. I hope you have a creative week and are inspired to get out those supplies or perhaps even make a start with a new creative habit.

I'd love to see what you make on socials so don't forget to tag me

Take Care

Tori x

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