How to experiment with unfamiliar colours

If you have been collaging or journalling for a long time and feel you have a distinctive style, it’s useful to notice your patterns and try to break out of them from time to time. First, think of a color that you don’t normally use in your work. I flipped through my journals and my piles of painted papers and noticed a lot of pink, orange, purple, and teal, but not a lot of green, specifically a more yellowish green.

I recommend starting this project with a large piece of heavy paper; I use Bristol board, but anything from heavy card stock to watercolor paper would work. You could do the initial experiment in your journal but to complete the project it’s best to have a loose sheet that you can cut up! I also gathered my favorite paints (I use Golden Fluid Acrylics but any acrylics or even watercolors would work), some different brushes, and a paint palette.

For this experiment, I started by painting 9 small squares in my medium greenish yellow color. You could do more if you wish, but I think this was about right for me.

After the paint had dried, I added details on each square in different colors.  Try to include a few neutrals, a few similar colors, as well as a few more contrasting colors. I chose white, off white, yellow, black, blue-green, a slightly lighter green than my original, red, light blue, and purple. Then, make simple brush marks or shapes in each color, making sure not to cover your original color entirely. The marks could all be the same, or different, as long as there’s enough added marks to really understand the color juxtapositions.

An optional third step, if you’d like some extra texture, is to make some very small spatter marks with neutrals.

At this point, take a step back and just look at your squares. Which are you most drawn to? Are they any you absolutely detest? As you continue this experiment, keep those judgements in mind and see how they might change or stay the same as you use these color combinations in a few projects. Once this part of the project is finished, you have a number of options for using your squares.

First, cut a small shape from each square. I chose a circle, feel free to use square, triangle, blob, etc. Arrange your shapes on a grid and label them. Be as literal or as conceptual as you like! I chose to cut text from a book, but you could handwrite or stamp your words.

Or, make a smaller grid to accompany a quote or journalling.

Cut letters are another of my favorite techniques! I mixed my large cut paper letters with some handwritten words and a few accent pieces of my green paper on an old black and white photo.

After you’ve completed one or more of these projects, again, take a step back and reflect on your colors. Do you appreciate this color more or less now that you’ve taken the time to use it in your work? Are there any color combinations that surprised you or you’d like to explore more? Maybe there’s another color you think you might like to try with this experiment.

I still don’t think of this green as a favorite color of mine, but it was helpful to notice which combinations I loved most, the neutrals, especially the black on green. I wonder if using a very safe neutral helps me feel more comfortable with a color out of my comfort zone. I was also surprised that a combination i originally did not like, the bright red on green, was one that I most enjoyed using in my project.

I hope this project helps you discover something new about using color in your work!


Katie Licht is a homemaker, mother of two, and graphic designer/artist. Her inspirations are nature, children, her spiritual life, and library books. She has been making collages for over 20 years.


  1. Katie Smith

    I love green, so I think you pages are gorgeous!

  2. Riet

    Such a wonderful tutorial, Katie! Thank you! It’s giving all the ideas! I think this is a good way I could work with a color I don’t like very much because it’s so small, haha!

  3. Sasha Zinevych

    Haha, this is sooo spot on! When I do this tutorial, I will definitely be using some green too! 😀 Thank you fr sharing, Katie!