Set the Mood for Your Story With a Mood Collage

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Writing

Remember back in grade school when we used to cut up magazines and glue the pictures on a board to make beautiful artwork?  Believe it or not, collaging is a great way for writers to explore and express the mood of their project.

I learned the benefits of this technique when I was in design school studying toy design.  “Mood boards”–where we captured the mood and overall look of a design project–were an integral part of each portfolio presentation.  In these focused collages, we learned the importance of communicating the essence of a product or brand through imagery.

How do you make a mood collage?

There are no rules.  You can clip pictures from magazines or cut out letters and words in different fonts.  You don’t even need to use concrete objects or words but can make a cool background by using printed fabrics or textured papers.  Use whatever inspires you, as long as it fits the mood of your project.

Idea: Think beyond the flat page and create a three-dimensional collage by gluing down trinkets or 3D objects.  Flat canvas not your style?  Glue your collage to the outside of a round metal canister or the inside surface of shoebox.

Once you’ve collected your materials, lay out the pieces in a way that inspires you and move things around until you’ve got a design that you like.  Finally, break out the glue-stick or glue-gun and start sticking the pieces down.

Sometimes I use Photoshop to create mood collages because it’s easy to download pictures from the web, clip them compile the images in one digital file.  A bonus of making collages digitally is that it’s easy to print them out in different sizes, email them to people or even post them on websites or blogs. Other times, though, I prefer making my collages the old-fashioned way with scissors and glue.  Whatever your preferred method, the goal is the same: to capture the mood of your work-in-progress with your collage.

Here are a few mood collages I’ve made:

Mood collage for a road trip project.

Mood collage for a project about a wedding.

Mood collage for a project about cats.


Try This: Set aside one hour to make a mood collage for your work-in-progress.

Tip: The one-hour time limit is crucial.  After all, you don’t want to invest so much time making a mood collage that you sacrifice your valuable writing time.  Force yourself to work quickly so you stay within this time limit so you avoid tinkering with the collage for too long.

Clip pictures from magazines or print images you find online and cut them up.  If you like, while you’re clipping pictures and gluing, listen to some mood music that inspires your story.  The idea with this project is to get completely immersed in the mood of your work-in-progress.

Once you’ve finished your collage, give it a place of honor in your writing space.  To those brave writers among you, scan the collage and share it on the DIY MFA Facebook page so we can all ooh and ah at your awesome project!  Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Enjoyed this article?