How to Use Mixed Media Part 2 – Adhesives & Soft Matte Gel

How to Use Mixed Media – Part 2:  Adhesives & Soft Matte Gel


(* This series of tutorials is aimed for beginners, but of course advanced mixed media artists are very welcomed to peek how I use these materials, too. *)

When I want to attach papers to my journal page, I have two options as adhesives. Glue or Soft Matte Gel. Which one I choose, depends on how I want my papers to go into the journal. Glue is my usual choice, when attaching little details, flowers, lace, or just maybe one or two papers or prints into a page. It’s easy. But. If I want to have an even base on my page, for working further, if I have quite a few papers in my journal page or spread, like a glorious mess of vintage paper scraps, or if I want to protect some images/prints/papers, I go for Soft Matte Gel. 


There must be an endless number of adhesives out there, but I shortly introduce my favourites, just in case you are searching for Your Reliable Crafting Companion. My first choice of adhesive brands is Aleene’s Tacky Glue

Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue

For general adhesive (meaning, glueing paper into paper) I use the Original glue. Normal papers, normal backgrounds, normal glue. Only, with this one I can be sure it really sticks, and nothing falls apart when the glue dries.

Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue & Quick Dry Tacky Glue

If I glue lace, haberdashery, ribbons etc., I use Fast Grab or Quick Dry glue as they tend to stick a bit better/dry faster. Honestly, I have noticed no difference between these two in my use, so I use whichever there happen to be available in Finnish craft stores. 


Aleene’s Turbo Tacky Glue

My firm favourite at the moment is the latest release, Turbo, as it dries so fast that even with the pathetic pressure power in my hands, I can manage to attach sturdier papers or cardboard together. Originally, I bought this one for making cardboard album covers, but soon noticed this will be my choice of glue from now on, from papers to laces to linen to cardboard. So, if you want to test one glue, I’d recommend this one. 

Glue isn’t always enough or the best option when attaching papers together. Sometimes you need a bit more than glue to be able to fluently work ahead.

Finnabair Soft Matte Gel

There are endless ways to use this medium, but we’ll concentrate now simply on how to use this medium in journaling – or actually, how I use it. You might have quite a few techniques on your own sleeve, too. 

Soft Matte Gel by Finnabair & Prima Marketing is, according to the text in the label: 

Transparent, flexible, permanent, acrylic medium with matte finish.
Light, spreadable gel, great as a collage adhesive, for varnishing effects and for transfer techniques.
Great base for custom gels and paints – mix with pigments, inks and acrylic paints.
Water-based. Archival safe. Non-toxic.

That, my friends, didn’t tell me a thing when I started journaling and tried to get acquainted with mixed media. So, what for it is actually used and how? 

I use Soft Matte Gel basically and usually for two purposes. One is for protecting and sealing. When I have finished a journal page or a journal cover, I apply a layer of Soft Matte Gel above it all. After that, it is waterproof, fingerprint proof, a bit more secure to handle. Or, I apply gel to just a part of a journal page, maybe to a print or a vintage postcard or a handwritten vintage message that I want to protect from water and other media I am going to add/use soon. For a messy, glumsy person like me, it’s a saver!

Another way I like to use Soft Matte Gel is to use it as a transfer medium, like a decoupage gel, for example. When I attach papers to a journal page with this medium, they kind of blend into the page completely, seamlessly, and beautifully. The page will look like it has always looked like that, and you won’t notice the edges of different papers like you would if you have used glue. The matte, soft look natural, too, and as the medium is flexible, journal pages aren’t thick and stiff even with several layers of paper. 

 So, even if you wouldn’t be using anything on top of the papers, I really recommend testing Soft Matte Gel for attaching papers to your journal. But, if you’d like to work further, like adding Distress Crayon (another story, another tutorial), inks (likewise), gesso (yep, this one too), acrylic paints (oh my, this is going to be a massive tutorial list) etc., Soft Matte Gel has done wonders for you. It has made sure that your journal page has an even base. Your pens won’t shadow through or spread. Your papers won’t absorb anything remotely moist unevenly but the paints/inks/etc. stay on the surface for you to work with.

How to use Soft Matte Gel, then?

First of all, there’s a tutorial video in here:

Emilia’s personal harvinaisenkauniselama YouTube channel: 
Paper Garden’s YouTube channel Varalusikka: 

Using Soft Matte Gel is simple and easy. It’s water based, so it won’t destroy your desk or clothes (if you are a messy person like me, this is a good point). It doesn’t smell. It’s not messy.

 What you’ll need is:

       Soft Matte Gel by Finnabair and Prima Marketing, or similar

       a brush, size depending on how large papers you are attaching with it

       a jar of water (so you can put your brush into it immediately after using it; when dry, this stuff will stick forever)

You have your journal and papers at hand, paper scraps are perfect for this, but also botanical cut outs or other images from vintage books, labels, postal stamps, anything really, works the same way. So here we go. Ready?

With your not overly-wet but not entirely dry brush, take a modest amount of Soft Matte Gel (if you take masses, it will take forever to dry and makes your papers to grumble) and spread it to your journal page or whatever base you are working with. Don’t even try to work the whole page at one go unless you are superfast, as this gel might be even faster than you; it dries quickly. Taking smaller steps usually leads to better or neater results.

Ok, so, you have added Soft Matte Gel to your page? Take a piece of paper/cut out/ephemera you have chosen for the spot and put it on top of the gel, add another layer of gel to attach it to place, just like you just did before, and that’s it. It’s there. 

You can work on with the page step by step, add more papers when it is still moist, or you can leave it to dry and continue whenever you want, the choice is yours. I usually have my heating tool at hand, as I am embarrassingly impatient with waiting things to dry… After the gel has dried, you can start applying other mediums. Or leave it like it is.

Easy, isn’t it? Our 7-years old daughter can handle it, she has used Soft Matte Gel and other media since the age of 4, so there, you can do it, if a 4-years old can do it. 

Where to find?

Unfortunately, at the moment you won’t find it on Paper Garden shop. Easiest way might be to google where’s the nearest/most convenient place or webshop to find Soft Matte Gel.

If you live in Finland, there’s lots of webshops you’ll find the medium, for example:

You see, mixed media isn’t overwhelmingly difficult or mysteriously complicated at all! 
Wishing you inspirational moments,
Emilia xx
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