Tutorial: Monochromatic Collage

Working with just one color is a study in shifts and changes, a challenge in training your eye. But the work is rich, and the rewards many. One of the most amazing parts of this work is to see the effect in a changing light. Shadows, highlights and shading creates a display you can watch as the sun moves through your day. Try viewing your work under different lights and at different distances from the light source. You’ll be delighted at the different look you can achieve from one card, just by changing the light source.

white cardBoth of these cards are monochromatic. Made on 90-lb. recycled paper, the card background is plain white. Not the bright blue-white of sketching paper, but a simple, matte white.

Fold the paper in thirds, trimming to fit a standard envelope. Then open the paper, and place it so the back of the card is at your upper left. (If you are right handed, try it with the back of the card on your upper right).

Using an X-acto™ knife, cut in freehand waves from the top corner to about halfway across the bottom edge of the paper. In other words, the bottom edge of the paper should be the shortest part, about half as long at the top edge.

Now refold the card. It will be in an accordion fold, with the tallest part in the back.

Cut squiggles, triangles and other shapes from other shades of white paper. You will be surprised at how many shades of white you can find without using paint. Washi papers are creamy white, photocopy papers are blue-white, pages from old books are almostwhite card 2 tan.

In monochromatic collages, you can use several shades, even if you can’t do the same thing with fully saturated colors.

Arrange them in interesting patterns. In the two cards shown, the triangles become trees, a larger circle of natural washi becomes the moon, squiggles of white paper printed with black become shadows and hills.

Once you find a pleasing arrangement, use a small brush dipped in diluted glue or liquid matte medium, paint the back of the entire squiggle and apply it, glue side down, on the card. Try not to reposition it, as the glue will leave a visible mark.

Note: Never glue on your cutting mat. It will ruin the mat. Use the back of photocopies you are going to toss out. Glue one piece and move down the sheet, so you don’t wind up with glue on the front of the piece your are gluing.

When gluing triangles or circles, be careful what side you want to glue. Sometimes you want to glue the front of a triangle onto the back of a card. You won’t need a lot of glue. When you are done, stand the card upright to let it dry. When it is completely dry, press lightly under a heavier book. Do not press in a book press, as the shorter pages will imprint on the longer pages.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist and writer. She teaches several art and journaling classes at the Mesa Art Center. See her work at QuinnCreative.com


4 thoughts on “Tutorial: Monochromatic Collage

  1. Hi Quinn,

    I absolutely fell in love with your collage idea and reproduced it for a class assignment that we had dealing with monochromes. I used a different color palette – reddish orange and browns – and it turned out beautifully, in my opinion at least! However, after I presented it to the class, I immediately had the thought of asking you whether you were OK with a reproduction of your project and my presentation of something that was originally your concept. I hope you don’t mind! Just wanted to make sure for my peace of mind!


  2. Wow, excellent idea – beautiful and simple. Thanks for sharing.

    –Thanks, judy. What I love about this technique is that it is totally green–it uses all parts of small scraps you may have and lets you use your imagination fully. -Q

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