ILLUSTRATING KNOWHOW Mixing Tools and Styles Part 2

Following on from her first piece on mashing up various techniques in one picture (see here for Part 1), Layn Marlow takes us through the stages of using frottage-collage.

I remember Raymond Briggs complaining once, about the tedium of drawing bricks when illustrating a house. Faced with an expanse of sameness in a composition, I like using ‘frottage-collage’ as part of my mash-up of techniques, to add some interest to what might otherwise be a boring patch.

Using layout paper, I trace the outline of the area in question.

The frottage simply involves placing this layout paper onto an interesting texture and making a pattern by rubbing with a pencil or crayon to fill the traced area. I’ve experimented with textures from sandpaper, furniture, basketry… anything really. Samples of textured wallpaper from B&Q can be useful.

Once the traced area is filled with the frottage pattern, I give it a watercolour wash and let this dry before cutting it out, along the original traced outline.

The collage part can be a bit fiddly. Using a paintbrush, I apply watered down PVA glue to the patterned piece, rather than to the artwork itself.

If it’s a large piece, I might cut or tear it into sections first, depending on the pattern. Then I paste one end of it down, before gradually and gently easing the rest into position with a dry brush - like wallpapering in miniature. Tweezers help avoid getting glue everywhere.

Serendipity can also play a part; sometimes a wrinkle or a tear might look good! And even if it goes wrong, it’s usually possible to peel the piece off and start again.

Once the collage is in place and the glue dry, I gently rub around the edges of the piece with a pencil or crayon, to give it an outline, sometimes adding another colour wash or two.

For someone who likes messing about with materials, this method’s much more fun than drawing every brick or stone!

Many thanks to Layn for sharing her techniques! Next time, Bridget Marzo will be here to discuss some of her methods of using mash-ups techniques.

Layn Marlow’s picture books have sold over a million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 20 languages.


  1. Hey, you guys should do a VIDEO! Love this series. Thank you!

  2. Good idea! But what do you do if the textured part is the background to a character (like in the picture of the dog on the steps)? Do you have to stick the character and background together digitally?

  3. Why did I never think of this? When I think of all the wood texture I've drawn for starters...Thanks Layn for this exciting tip and another chance to experiment!


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