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Difference Between Collage, Assemblage and Papier Mache


From the mailbag this week: What the difference between collage, assemblage and papier mache ? Aren’t they all pretty much the same since they are made by piecing together paper or other material? 

Answer:  Good question.  You’re right – all three can have elements of paper construction and all three do combine a bunch of little pieces to make a whole.  However, there is a difference between each art form.


The hallmark of collage is that the same type of material is used to form the artwork.  You start with a surface to glue your material to such as a thin piece of plywood. Then you glue the same types of raw materials to the board to form a picture or design.  For example, a single collage will be made from many different types of paper, or many different types of fabrics.  You could also use leaves, twigs, pieces of metal or plastic – whatever as long as you use the same type of material.

Papier Mache

Also using paper, many times papier mache artists use white newsprint for their canvas instead of the decorative paper collage artists use. The newsprint forms a neutral base for other decoration such as painting. If you glue or attach the same type of raw material to the paper mache form to decorate it you’ll have a three dimensional collage.


Assemblage is similar to collage, except you combine different raw materials.  In addition, while you can use paper and fabric in an assemblage, these two types of materials will not be your predominate raw material. Many times you will have to use methods other than glue to attach the material to the mounting board such as screws or nails since the raw material will be too heavy or cumbersome to glue. Three dimensional, assemblage lends itself using found materials.

Using a Dapping Block for Assemblage

Many assemblage artists like to use convex or concave shapes. An easy way to create these types of shapes is with a dapping block and punches.  Can't find a piece of found metal in the right size or shape? You can use a pair of metal shears to cut a piece of sheet metal, copper, sterling silver or the like then shape your cut piece of metal using a dapping block. I have a great dapping block with eight different sized cavities that I purchased from Contenti.

Recommended Reading Material about Papier Mache, Collage and Assemblage

DollMaking with Papier Mache and Paper Clay:contains detailed information on how to make dolls and other figures using papier mache and paper clay.  Interested in doll making? Check out HauteDoll magazine too. It has some crazy, creative ideas for high fashion, edgy dolls.

Collage Discovery Workshop:Written in two parts: techniques and collage. The technical part has instructions for using beeswax, transfers, glazing paint, peeling paper, stamping in wax, and creating textured paint. The second part of the book shows how to build a collage using different techniques.

Secrets of Rusty Things: Transforming Found Objects into Art: This book goes over each step in the assemblage art process with an emphasis on assemblage using found material.

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