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Focal Points in Mixed Media

Welcome back to the third and final part of this Mixed Media series of blogs. Over the past few weeks I've been showing you my process and how I go from a blank piece of paper to mixed media yumminess! The thing I love most about mixed media is the variety of options it offers as you create. With so many supplies and techniques to choose from, there's always something new to try and that keeps my creative fire burning.

This week I'll be adding the focal points and final layers for the pieces below. When I first started on my mixed media journey, it took me a while to get my head around covering up parts of what I created and I'd agonise over covering a part of a background that I really liked. I now embrace this part of the process and find that I consider more carefully what focal point to use, matching it to the background I'm working with.

As you work through the techniques, you might find it helpful to look back at where I left off last week in the photo above. 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

Birds and Feathers

Nothing beats the beauty of nature and so it is a major theme in my work. It offers so many options in terms of colour and texture and plays well with my obsession with pretty makes. I'm trying to draw and paint more birds/feathers in my sketchbooks so that I can start to incorporate them in my work a little bit more. Stamps and dies offer a really quick and easy way of including birdy goodness as a focal point.


For BR2 I decided to keep things simple stamping the birds from PaperArtsy Scrapcosy (ESC22) in Distress Archival (Ground Espresso). The background and middle layers have quite a lot going on so the final focal point didn't need to be too fussy and this stamp sits lovely across that big blank middle space.

Metal Cutting Dies

I like using simple cutting dies which don't require lots of gluing and building for focal points. These Sizzix dies by Tim Holtz (Feathered Friends) are ideal as they only have a few layers to put together and it gives a big enough focal point whilst leaving lots of the background detail exposed. I used a blending brush and distress ink to apply colour to the three pieces of card and added the bird to TR2 before finishing off with some buttons and a sentiment to give some balance to the left hand side of the piece.

Butterflies, Moths & Insects

Butterflies, moths and insects are a great focal point, especially in pieces where I want to keep the previous layers more exposed. They tend to pack a lot of impact over a smaller surface area and are really versatile in terms of colour as you can either keep it plain or use colours which compliment your piece.


Whilst I prefer to hand make most of the imagery in my art, preprinted ephemera offers the convenience of high quality, multi-colour images without the faff and for this reason, I do keep a small supply to hand. To finish off the collage I created on MR3, I opted to use a butterfly from my stash of Tim Holtz Ephemera as the final focal point. To take the shine off the preprinted card I embossed over the top in Ranger Frosted Crystal embossing powder, a trick I learned in one of Tim's demo videos.


There's so much you can do with a stamp to give your focal point a final bit of pazazz. For BR1 I stamped a moth (Tim Holtz's Moth Study set) in Versamark and then used Ranger Gold embossing powder to give it some bling that matched the gold details on the background. A small focal point works on this piece because of those background details drawing the eye to the centre of the piece.

The focal point for BR4 needed to be bigger to balance the two areas of stencilling on the diagonal corners of the page. I stamped a large butterfly from Tim Holtz's Speciment stamp set in Distress Archival (Ground Espresso) and carefully painted it using my palette of Distress Reinkers. I then glued it in place and added a sentiment to finish.

Metal Cutting Dies

I love adding hand drawn/painted elements to plain white dies to create unique focal points in my pieces. For TR3 this just had to be done in the form of a butterfly so that all those details in the layers underneath remained mostly exposed. I used a mix of normal and metallic watercolours to add colour to the plain white die and once dried I added some pen details in black ink. I then glued the butterfly down, with some thread underneath and glued on some sequins for a final bit of sparkle. I love all the little elements that go into making a piece like this and it is definitely one of my favourites from the twelve finished images.


Flowers are a signature part of my work and are what inspired me to start creating in the first place. As I sat indoors, ill and recovering from treatment, I decided to try to learn to paint flowers and so began my creative journey. They're still my go to feature in what I create and I often use them as the main focal point in a piece. You literally have the rainbow at your finger tips when adding floral elements to your work, so it's a great opportunity to use all of those colour supplies.


Since drawing and painting is where my art journey began, it will be no surprise that I like to use my own images as focal points in my work. I keep a tin of pre drawn/painted flowers that I have fussy cut, just for this purpose. It means that I always have focal points to hand, should I be short of either time or inspiration and is a key part of my creative process. If I'm in the mood for drawing or water-colouring, I'll fill a sheet with images and then cut them out and add them to my stash. The blank canvas that MR4 provided was perfect for one of my big, bold flowers. This one had been drawn in black ink and painted with watercolours. I then added some Stickles glitter to the centre of the flower before adding some stencil splatters with Nuvo Glimmer Paste and some watercolour splatters with my brush.


I like using floral stamps for different mixed media techniques, that keeps some variety in my work. For MR2 I wanted to keep the focal point smaller, to once again expose lots of that yummy background detail. I stamped the small flower from the PaperArtsy Scrapcosy (ESC22) set and embossed it in Wow (Fiery Fun) embossing powder, before finishing off with some flower sequins and a sentiment.

The watercolour stamping technique I used for the Tim Holtz Floral Outline stamp in MR1 was inspired by Stacy Hutchinson who has a great step out process for this on her blog Tattered Nest Designs. I love the colour interest this technique creates and thought it would be a perfect compliment to that gorgeous stencil detailing in the background. Once stamped I added some extra middle layers to give the eye a rest between that lovely background and the busy focal point.

Metal Cutting Dies

TR4 was a challenge due to the bold pattern I'd created in the middle layer. There was just too much going on when I placed the flower dies on top and the flowers got a bit lost. To make it work I lightly brayered some white acrylic paint over the background pattern to knock it back. I then added some blue and metallic Distress Paint onto the Tim Holtz Sizzix flower dies and completed it with a sentiment and a twine bow.


I find painting these little loose florals so relaxing. The brush strokes that make up the petals and leaves are so easy to do, I can just get lost in the colours and the flow of the water/pigment on the page. I wanted all the attention to be on the watercolour floral, so adding it to TR1 with a foam pad was all that was needed to finish this piece.

Words, Numbers and Sentiments

Before I finish, I wanted to mention words, numbers and sentiments, which can be either the star of the show or the supporting role. I love letters and numbers featuring in my work and I tend to split this into two types of makes; Cards where I often use them as the main focal point and Journal Pages, where I use them as a supporting element.


There are so many sentiment stamps on the market, you can quickly amass quite a collection. I have a mix of sentence sentiments, words and letters (so that I can stamp out my own words). As part of my studio prep, I like to pre stamp them and keep them in a pot on my desk so that when needed I can just rummage through for one that fits the piece I'm working on.


I also have an old typewriter so that I can create my own sentiments and I keep a Pinterest board of quotes and word inspiration. This is a great way of creating the prefect sentiment without having to hoard a million different stamps. I've been meaning to start incorporating my hand writing in pieces as well and practicing hand lettering has been on my to-do list for so long. Watch this space, maybe this year I will finally make it happen!

Finishing Touches

We're almost finised and there's nothing more satisfying than holding a piece in your hands as it's almost done. What started out as a plain piece of paper is now something with colour and texture that takes the eye on a journey of happiness as it travels over the page, taking in all the details you put there. It's often at this stage, as I assess what I've made, that I decide to add final finishing touches, to either fill a spot that isn't working or to draw attention to an element within the piece. There's lots of options for adding a final bit of something to a piece, so as we finish I thought I'd share some of my favourites.

Glitter and Sequins

This is one of my go to choices for a final bit of detail. I don't like to overdo the glitter, but do like a bit of sparkle in my makes. It often doesn't pick up well in photos but in life, I love how the sparkle picks up the light and draws attention to a piece.


Sometimes when I look at a piece the background just needs something small and simple to finish off and splatters are a great choice for some random, little extras. There's so many ways you can add splatters depending how much control you want over where those dots of colour land. On this piece I used a splatter stencil and applied some colour paste through it with a palette knife. I also loaded a small brush with Paynes Grey watercolour and tapped it against another brush to add some small splatters. Flicking an acrylic pen and a splatter brush are also good options for creating some splattery goodness.

Lace, Ribbon and Thread

My final piece from the twelve backgrounds I started out with two weeks ago, just had to feature the texture that lace, ribbon and thread can add. I often use stitching and materials in my art and for BR3 I used a piece of lace to add an extra layer underneath the butterfly which otherwise would have looked lost on the background. The lace shrinks the surrounding background space and anchors the butterfly to the rest of the piece, whilst also expossing some of the detail underneath. I stamped the largest butterfly from PaperArtsy, Scrapcosy set ESC23 and embossed it in Wow Platinum embossing powder and then coloured it using PaperArtsy Infusions (Terracotta) for a bit of extra contrast against the background.

So here are the twelve mixed media pieces all finished, which is your favourite? I love them all in different ways. It never ceases to amaze me the variety you can get in your makes just by switching up colours, supplies and techniques. Just making the tiniest tweaks to a process can give you a whole new result and hopefully sharing my basic process has given you some ideas for projects of your own.

I hope you enjoyed following along over the past few weeks and feel inspired to get creative. Anyone can achieve great results, with the right tools/techniques and a little inspiration. I'd love to see what you make, so don't forget to tag me on social.

Take care and have a creative, happy week

Tori x

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