Exploring Monochrome

Sometimes it is good practice to work with a limited palette – a limited range of colours. For this lesson we will concentrate on just black and white, with some greys and cream.

Materials needed:
  • Black and white paper
  • Oil pastels
  • Black and white pens
  • Water colours
  • White and black acrylic paint
  • Scissors / craft knife
  • Fan shaped paint brush
  • Glue
  • Small sponge

Begin by working on white paper. Be quite free and spontaneous in your approach. You could do a landscape, a view from your window or of your garden. There are lots of different techniques to try:

– a sponge for the background,
– a fan brush with quite dry paint for leaves, grass or water,
– sweep a black, grey or white pastel over some parts of your picture before adding a wash on top for a wax resist effect,
– use your black and white pens in the foreground to outline details.

Now use some sheets of black paper. Draw with a range of paint brushes – no pencil! You could also use your white pen. Have fun with this and explore the different effects possible.

Collage – experiment using simple abstract shapes that you have either torn or cut. Here I have used white on black but you could do the other way round. Stick the shapes on to a background and use pastels, paint or pens to add details

Positive/ Negative images – these work well with nature inspired shapes such as leaves, flowers and birds. Draw your shape and cut it out carefully. Mount it onto contrasting colour paper. Try out different shapes to see which are the most effective.

Patterns – cut a sheet of black and white paper into quarters. Put one piece of each colour to the side to use as your background. Draw a simple shape, inspired by nature (seeds, seed pods, leaves, shells), on a sheet of the white paper. Put this on top of the black paper and cut both out at the same time so you have 2 identical shapes. Mount them onto the contrasting backing sheets.


Black and white work can be very striking and bold. Play around and have creative fun.