Use Contrast to Make Your Collage Art Pop

My daughter and I went shoe shopping the day. The outing was supposed to be all about her, but when we walked into the big-box shoe store, a display of a dozen different pairs of coral shoes stopped me in my tracks.

mixed media collage by cynthia bendix
Mixed-media collage
by Cynthia Bendix.

I circled the table of beautiessome strappy, some high-heeled, some sportyand immediately fell in love with a pair of patent leather flats. They had my size and I had a coupon, so I scooped them up.

My teen was thrilled. "Mom, those will give you a little pop of color. And they don't look like old lady shoes. I'm proud of you," she said.

I chose to ignore the slightly patronizing tone and also let the "old lady" comment slide.  When you have teenagers, it helps to pick your battles. Instead I thought about the phrase "pop of color" while my daughter tried on 5-inch heels.

A little pop of color isn't just beneficial to your wardrobe or home. It can create interest in your collage art as well. The contrast of a bright or complementary coloror even of using black or white against a neutral or analogous palette can make a piece of artwork pop. Here are just a few examples I found in the Cloth Paper Scissors community gallery.

When you have a collage that is primarily composed of dark or neutral colors, a pop of a bright or contrasting color can help move the viewer's eye around the piece. If the pop is complementary to the main palette, such as blue and orange, the colors will resonate and give the piece energy. Notice how the orange bits in this primarily navy and neutral collage by Cynthia Bendix keep your eye moving around the page.

seabird collage by vintage k
Seabird collage by vintage k.

One of the ways you can make an element in an analogous color scheme (made up of colors neighboring each other on the color wheel) stand out is with white or black.

In the seabird collage, the analogous greens, blues, and browns are very calming. By adding the scalloped layer of white in the background and the dark twig under the bird image, the artist adds contrast without jarring the eye.

In the portrait, "A Miniature Romance," the woman's pale skin stands out with the help of her dark hair and the black and white polka dot dress yoke. Black and white dots and doodles also lend contrast and interest to the primarily analogous color scheme.

a miniature romance collage art by suzieq30
Collage art by suzieq30.

Think about these color and design principles when the collage you're working on seems flat or boring, or you're looking for a way to make a focal point stand out. Ask yourself what might make it pop, and then pop in a bit of black, white, or a contrasting color.

Learning color theory takes practice, and it helps to study the subject and look critically at other people's artwork to see what works and what doesn't. In the interactive eMag Collage in Color II, there are many examples of artists using color theory to enhance their mixed-media collage art. Plus, Editor Jenn Mason walks you through the process of using various analogous color palettes to alter the look of your design.

P.S. How do you make collage projects pop? Leave a comment below.


Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques


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