Complimentary Colours & Masking Fluid Techniques


Complimentary colours are the colours on the colour wheel that are opposite each other. These colours are a primary and secondary colour that have nothing to do with each other so to speak; they are the colours that contrast most and are not in harmony in the way same way other colours blend in more easily.

There are three sets of complimentary colours:

  • Green and Red: green being the secondary colour made with the two primaries, yellow and blue, in contrast with the primary red colour.

  • Orange and Blue: orange made up of the primaries red and yellow in contrast with the primary blue colour.

  • Purple and Yellow: purple is the combination of red and blue in contrast with the primary colour yellow.

Look through your collection of deli paper sheets. You will find suitable colours with different textures and a variety of hues and tints. These sheets are suitable because you can use them to create textures and marks with the masking fluid. The lighter colours are particularly suitable.

Masking fluid offers additional ways to create blocked out areas. Patterns and textures as well as painterly marks and drawn lines are possible with masking fluid. You use the liquid-like paint; it dries to form a rubbery substance. A colour layer is painted on top then once dried, the masking fluid is rubbed off to reveal the area beneath.


You will need Q-tips (cotton buds), a dip pen and other ways of applying masking fluid. I used a matchstick sharpened with a craft knife. You can also use a piece of cardboard to apply the masking fluid in a stamping technique.

The idea is to create colour variations within the same basic colours such as green, where you have a light green background. A pattern is created on top by drawing or stamping with masking fluid. Once dry, you paint over this area with a darker colour within the same colour range, like a deep green.

Once the darker colour has dried you can rub off the masking fluid areas to reveal the marks that were originally created with the masking fluid. It might take a bit of time to figure out how thick you want the marks and lines to be. The fluid can be a bit gloopy as well, so it is a bit tricky to work with. The marks on the deli paper need to be thick enough to rub off easily, but not so thick that it takes ages to dry.

The objective with this project is to create interesting textures and patterns in tones of a colour, using the complimentary colours as guide.

Contrasting colours are possible with this technique as well, but not all colours will work. A dark blue on top of a light orange might work, as will a deep purple on top of yellow. Green on red or red on green is unlikely to work. Stick to the same colour ranges for this technique at first. Keep it simple but make a variety of interesting textures and patterns to use in this Module’s collage project. The collage projects will use limited contrasting colours in creative ways to create retro-inspired flowers.

© 2020 Esté MacLeod

© 2020 Explore Colour