Art au gratin
About my art, cheddar, and cute furry kittens.

How to make an abstract painting with texture

After awhile, I got a little bored with painting traditional-style paintings. I started adding texture to the mix to make things interesting. Click on these photos for some close ups- then you’ll really see the texture. Here’s the basic process:

I place the canvas on the floor, then apply the various textures in layers.

Here's a close up of the texture: vermiculite, molding paste, housepaint.

Assuming you’re all ready with a canvas that’s all stretched, gessoed and ready to go….apply molding paste (some call it modeling paste, depending on the manufacturer). I use Golden brand, and apply it with a plastic spreader, like the kind used by folks who work with auto body or surfboards. This stuff dries like most acrylic substances do, which is to say like plastic.

I take a glob of this stuff and I add vermiculite to it. Vermiculite is used in potted plants and can usually be found at your local nursery. It comes in different grains: fine, course, etc. It’s grainy, and when applied to a painting, it opens up all kinds of possibilities. I use the plastic spreader here again.

Another possible layer is housepaint. I occasionally like to add this, Jackson Pollock-style. You can take a wooden paint mixing stick  (or like object) and drip, fling, drop or however else you like apply the paint to the canvas. Use flat paint; the gloss and semi gloss are hard to layer more paint atop. Glossy surfaces repel water.

Rolling with a brayer or housepainting roller is cool, too.

A great way to add to the complexity of the painting is by rolling paint on, too. You can use a brayer, which is a tool used by printmakers, or a regular housepainting roller. I like to roll, let it dry, then add more layers, semi-covering each other. Also, you can use a fan or hair dryer to dry these layers. (This is all intended to be done with acrylic mediums, which are water-based. Oil based paints are whole different story.)

This has some rolled-on housepaint.

This paint is regular acrylic artists' paint. It's been applied with a brayer.

Now we start using our good old acrylic artists’ paint. My favorites are Liquitex and Novacolor. The simplest way to unify all this mess is to apply a wash to it. It’s simply paint with a lot of water in it. You can spray water on the canvas’ surface with a small spray bottle if you like. Then brush on your watery paint. Take another, wider brush and spread this around the canvas. Try to work relatively quickly, before the paint dries too much.

A wash of blue paint.

Here's another look at the wash.

I usually use this process when making a background of sorts. You can make great abstracts atop this. Or, use muted colors and just use it as an interesting background. It’s up to you.


5 Responses to “How to make an abstract painting with texture”

  1. i use a Revlon RV408 hair dryer for myself and i like it better than Conair;”‘

  2. when using hair dryers, it would be better to use those low wattage types because they are not very damaging to the hair .;-

  3. Interesting instructions……I’m an Artist too and have decided to go into Abstract Expresssionism with a Textural Element. Happened upon your site here and thought it was interesting to say the least……I’ve been experimenting with Golden’s Modeling paste and Behr Tuscany Pasto Paste, which is very wet and easily spreadable…..Haven’t come up with a series factor as yet, but am just dabbling now.

    I’m a 68 yr. old retired Photographer and have been working in Photoshop and different experimental substrates as canvas which I call Digi-fuZion…..RE: My Website or you can go to

    Thanks for this LOOK into textural abstraction.


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