Collage Ideas for Every Aesthetic

Collage has an impressive lineage, blossoming in the 20th century art movements cubism and surrealism, but it's also earned serious street cred as a powerful visual communications tool (hello marketers!), an accessible art practice, and a handy way to create ravishing images that demand attention. 

Whether you're making a collage for a social post, a personal project, a Facebook cover, or a digital ad, we've collected seven on-trend looks to inspire you. And if you want to experiment with any or all of these looks, PicMonkey's your new best friend—create a free account to give it a go (you'll need to start a free trial to export).

Mixed media collage 

Perfect for: Facebook, Instagram, ads.

Mixed media collages were pioneered by Georges Braque and  Pablo Picasso in the early 1900's as a way to break the traditional boundaries of art by using everyday objects and materials in their works. In the digital realm today, mixed media collage employs graphics, photos, and videos to change up textural feels and get that sweet three-dimensional look.

Tips: 

  • Composition is key, here. Decide which element is the central focus of the piece, and work from there to add variety, balance, and movement. 

  • Textures like wood, foil and marble add visual depth, and photo-realistic graphics like paint strokes or polaroid frames are extra tactile.  

  • Add a drop shadow to graphics, text, and shape layers for 3D trompe l'oeil.

  • Video is hot, like burn-your-fingers hot—short clips dropped in and around static elements really bring a design to life.

  • Cut an object or photo subject from its background by using a background remover. PicMonkey's works instantly and amazingly.

Film strip collage

Perfect for: Instagram Stories, Pinterest, social covers.

This nostalgic collage look is trending, especially in social media. For some, it calls to mind old photo booths that spit out a vertical strip of photos; for others, it's a hunk of 35 mm film from a movie; and others see the film strips of 1960's classroom projectors. Whatever the reference, it's retro-licious and reclaimable. 

Tips: 

  • The fastest way to create a collage like this is to use a film strip template, like the one on the left, above. Just replace the images, customize to your liking, and you're done. 

  • Or start with a blank canvas and add photo frame graphics, then drop your photos into the white spaces.

  • Match the retro vibes of the film edges by applying a camera look photo filter like Polaroid Film or Film Stock to your photos. Or apply a Dust and Scratches or Film Warp texture.

  • Great fonts to pair with this look are modern, bold ones like Monserat or Lato.

  • Consider dropping your filmstrip over a video background, for a little movement.

Classic gridded collage

Perfect for: Invitations, Pinterest how-to Pins, event posts, Instagram Stories.

If you're one for rectilinear perfection, this look couldn't get any more crisp and clean. But you can still get your creative freak on: There are a ton of creative choices to be made inside those rectangles. You'll want a workhorse collage tool to get your images in place, sized perfectly for whatever output you have in mind. Play and explore with editing your photos (in PicMonkey you can apply photo filters even after they're placed in a collage), adding text, and adjusting the layout.

Tips:

  • Break up the visuals and give the eye a visual rest by filling some of the cells with color and adding text or a pattern.

  • Consider zhuzhing it up by adding video to some of the cells.

  • In PicMonkey Collage, layouts are just the starting point—adjust the dimensions of any one cell and all the others instantly resize to fit the design.

  • Don't limit yourself to images you're able to shoot with your own camera—stock photos are legit, and you can customize them to make 'em yours.

Sliced collages

Perfect for: Ads, print-and-frame artwork, Instagram, Facebook.

Sliced text has been a trend for a few years now, and collages with sliced images are a natural cousin. You can get this look with masking, a process by which you create shapes and then apply photos to appear within their boundaries. It's an incredibly sophisticated look and 1000% easier than you might think to create it. Try interlacing two images together for extra mind-bending puzzle-ocity.

How to create a sliced collage in PicMonkey:

  • Create a blank canvas.

  • Go to Graphics > Basic, and drag some rectangles to the canvas.

  • Hold down the Shift key on your keyboard and click to select all the rectangles. 

  • Click the Textures tab, then click the Add your own texture button.

  • Choose a stock photo or pick one of your own. Add/apply it. Boom!

  • If you want to move your slices around, click to deselect the shapes, one by one, and then go for it.

Color aesthetic collage 

Perfect for:  Instagram, Facebook, ads.

A collage of photos that share a specific color aesthetic just feels so harmonious and orderly... and who couldn't use a little harmony and order? Again, you'll want a workhorse collage tool to get your images lined up where you want them, then you can go nuts obsessing on color. And the juicy hot tip: You don't have to start with photos that have perfectly matched colors. You'll get that with a photo editing technique called color shifting.

How to color shift in PicMonkey to change the tint of a photo: 

Be sure you're starting with an image that has colors somewhat adjacent to the color you're aiming to end up with. You won't, for example, succeed in turning a bunch of yellow-tinged photos purple, without distorting all the blacks and whites.

  • Drop all your photos into a grid layout using Collage.

  • Select the first photo you want to adjust, and click the Effects tab on the far left.

  • Scroll down to choose Tint, then click the purple color dot to open the color picker, and choose a color.

  • Click anywhere outside the color picker to close it, then click the drop-down arrow under Blend mode, and choose "Multiply."

  • Adjust the Fade slider to make it perfect.

Surreal portrait collage 

Perfect for: Printing and framing, ads, event posts.

Surreal portrait collage might sound like a strictly fine arts endeavor, but hey, who's to say that a whooshy, lucid-dream-y portrait couldn't get folks super interested in transport-you-to-another-dimension bath salts or a sleek fashion 'fit, or a forensic psychology conference? This look definitely draws in the eye and leaves the viewer thinking. 

Obstructing faces and replacing heads with objects or flowers is a mega trend for this look. Because we're wired to draw meaning and narrative from faces, it flips our expectations and asks us to make connections with the other elements in the design.

Tips:

  • Similar to mixed media collages, composition is core to creating a good design. Start with a focal element, and build out from there.

  • Smoke and fire graphics add mystery and depth.

  • Try double exposures—combine cloudy ink (use that search term in stock photos) and a portrait for an extra cool look

  • To isolate an object from a photo, add the photo to your canvas, then use a background eraser.

  • Try using shape masking: Add a shape to your canvas, click to select it, then click Textures, and click Upload your own.  When you add your own photo it'll peek through the shape. 

Modern scrapbook collage

Perfect for:  Instagram, Facebook, ads, Pinterest, digital memory-keeping.

Scrapbooking—the gluing of photos, ephemera, journal entries, and decorative embellishments in memory book pages—exploded in the 90's, and along with it, an aesthetic that revels in intentional disarray. Nail this look for a vibe that says: Live in the textures of life.

Tips: 

  • Get thee to Washi tape, masking tape, and crinkled paper graphics.

  • Make liberal use of rotate buttons to turn some of your images askew.

  • If you're adding film frames, try adding them to some and not all your images.

  • Embrace your inner scribe: script fonts that go great with this look are Summer Palms, Ultra System Script, Sebastian Bobby, Belmot, and Amoret Script.

Now it's your turn—hop in the driver's seat and create your own unique-looking collages. And remember: The only rule is that there are no rules!

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As PicMonkey's content director, Cooper says her goal is to make words happen good. She's been spearheading PicMonkey editorial since day one, relying on insights from her years working at Microsoft, other startups, and producing television programs for PBS and NBC.