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Feeling Moody? The Art and Craft of the Mood Board.

I was talking with an artist friend recently, and asked if they ever made mood boards. I don’t know what response I was expecting, but it surely wasn’t the one I received.

“What are mood boards?”

I was suddenly filled with an urgent need to illuminate and extol the virtues of a good mood board... and decided I shouldn’t leave you out, either. So please continue, dear reader, whilst I enumerate my fondness for the fantastic creative tool that is the Mood Board...

What is a mood board?

A mood board is like a mind map for visual thinkers. It's a tool that communicates concepts and ideas with an assemblage of images, materials, and even words, all meant to evoke something greater than the sum of its parts.

Have you ever had an idea that words just couldn't describe?

Maybe a mood board is for you!

Why make mood boards?

These collections of scraps, & pieces, & parts of ideas can be helpful tools in expressing a greater artistic vision.

As part of the creative process, creating a mood board can help us focus our ideas, refine themes, tease out the feelings we want to evoke in our work, and decide on the central visual elements. Selecting the pieces that "fit" and deciding which ones don't can help us to hone our vision. It forces us to ask questions and make decisions about the visual "story" we're telling and the -ahem- mood we're creating.

And I would be remiss not to mention that... making mood boards is fun.

We don't have to have a bigger project we're working on. We can make a board for board's sake. Er- you know what I mean. It's a fun creative exercise that gives us something pretty to look at when we're finished. And who knows? Maybe it will serve as a guide for a project in the future...

How to make a mood board

I won't give a step-by-step guide for how to make a mood board. Placing parameters on what is meant to be a creative exploration process is kind of unhelpful. There are no "rules." Our board may focus on concepts, ideas & feelings, or it may emphasize more concrete aspects, such as colors, textures & patterns. Or both. We may use exclusively images, or add words. We may choose to add pieces of fabric, wood, metal, leaves, paint- like I said, there are no rules.

And logistically, there are many ways to go about putting your board together. You want to pile a bunch of items on your workbench and call it a mood "assemblage?" Go for it. But generally, to get the most out of the mood board as a tool, we need it to do two things:

  1. We want to be able to look at it and use it for creative guidance. That's the "board" part.

  2. We want it to be easy to add to, take from, & rearrange because that's the process part.

Bulletin boards are great places for mood boards. They're big "canvases," that are literally made to be places for pinning up visual reminders- plus it's super-easy to add, subtract, and move around images, words, & scraps of material.

Paper collages are another easy way to organize and assemble images for a mood board. And once we're finished, we've got a physical piece you can prop up, move around, and place wherever we need it (even if that means putting it away in storage for a bit). This has the advantage of being more permanent than the bulletin board option, and can be helpful when we're working on more than one project at a time.

Example of a Pinterest mood board
One of my (many) mood boards made with Pinterest.

Then, there are the digital possibilities. There are lots of advantages to creating a digital mood board. While many of us enjoy the tactile process of assembling our images and enjoy being able to incorporate physical materials, digital boards need not be confined by size or available space. No need to flip through a bazillion magazines or print images. We've got the whole internet of images & words at our fingertips!

I know people who make digital collages in Photoshop, dedicate entire Tumblr accounts to use as a "mood board," or use Pinterest to create boards where they can curate their visual ideas, and find new images.

These also have the advantage of being easy to share and access from virtually anywhere. We can choose to print out our digital mood boards to display, or keep it filed away until we want to reference them. We can set our mood board as our desktop wallpaper, or keep it bookmarked on our browser for easy reference. Endless flexibility.

Now go forth and get moody!

Do you make mood boards? What are your favorite ways to curate your ideas?

Do you have mood boards to share? I would love to see! Tag whatpennymade on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter!

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