top of page

Creative Phase Activities
Techniques & Tutorials



1. Enhancing competences in visual perception
2. Recycling materials, especially paper and other easy to find materials
3. Recycling images transforming them into visual optical effect
4. Empowering creative processes and visual education
5. Learning easy and creative techniques to foster self-expression and satisfaction
6. Reworking the techniques to adapt them to one's professional and expressive context

Time frame

90 minutes

Material needed

- Black paper sheets

- White paper sheets (bigger than the black one)

- Glue sticks

- Pencils or white pencils;

- Scissors

Exploring and understanding the different attributes of images contributes to improve our skills in visual communication. To make this learning process easier, you can begin to work with techniques where you don't need to deal with all at once, only one or two of them. Through the Notan technique, you can explore the concepts of shape and contrast.

Notan (濃淡) is a Japanese term which means "dark/light". It is a concept of art and design, which consists in reducing an image to a combination of black and white shapes.


fig 1.jpg
fig 2.jpg

Artists use "Notan studies" to explore different arrangements of light and dark elements in a painting, without having the distraction of other elements like color, texture and finer details.

An example of notan studies on a painting to understand how the contrast between the white dress and the darker background forms a very elegant structure:

James McNeill Whistler, 1864, Symphony in White No. 2: The Little White Girl, oil on canvas

Exploring Notan technique can help us to quickly see how the graphical design of an image is working and it also helps us in composition by creating a pleasing arrangement of shapes.

fig 4.jpg

To make a Notan composition you will need:

- black paper sheet
- white paper sheet (bigger than the black one)
- glue stick
- pencil or white pencil
- scissors


Cut out from the black paper a very simple shape; shapes can be geometric or organic.
Pay attention: the cutout of the figure has to be continuous, that is, the scissors will have to follow the drawn line in order to produce only two complementary pieces of black paper. Do not make corrections to the cut and keep each piece: in this technique no piece of paper must be thrown away.


fig 6.jpg
fig 6a.jpg

There are 2 visual effects you can try:

Half Shape and Double Vision

1. Half shape

Use the edge of the paper as central axis: the resulting figure will be created by flipping the cut paper.


This effect is very nice for symmetrical figures like some objects or animals

2. Double vision

To create a double vision effect, draw a whole shape, cut it out and then move it in the white part.

In this way you obtain two equal figures, one black and the other white, creating a double vision effect.

fig 10j.jpg

This use of light and shadow opens up infinite narrative possibilities.

You can change colors, create abstract or personal shapes, complex landscapes, faces and objects.


fig 10e.jpg

You can also add a double or triple cut for more hypnotic effects.

The Notan technique should be explored in depth, because it allows an infinite number of graphic and visual solutions, from the simplest to the most complex. We recommend taking the time to experiment with it and try to produce as many prototypes as possible, even without thinking about specific objects to be cut out but starting only from geometric figures and random cuts.

Learn more about the RE-STOR-E local workshop in Potenza with the video description of Mariangela Tolve from Il Salone dei Rifiutati.

Recommendations to combine "Optical Postcards" with other activities: