Easy Abstract Art—Step by Step

DIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosHi, it's Mandi! Large, textural art can make such a statement in a space, but not all of us are able to purchase original art. So for those of us who aren't art collectors, it's actually not too difficult to make our own abstract art!

I've been wanting to dabble my proverbial and literal brush into abstract painting for so many years, but I've always been really intimidated to give it a try. Finally I gave it a go and even found enough nerve to share it on the Internet! The process was really enjoyable, and I'm already dreaming up my next piece. If you, like me, need your hand held through your first abstract painting attempt, check out the easy step-by-step process I used below.

DIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosDIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosFor my paint, I used these heavy-weight acrylic paints in similar hues, blending them together to get specific hues and shades. I used a pre-stretched and primed canvas from an art supply store and applied my paint with a variety of drywall spatulas and one large painter's brush.

DIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosDIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosBecause I don't have an easel, I secured my painting to the wall and worked from there. Be careful if you try this, though, because I definitely got paint on the wall and had to touch it up later! For blending my paint, I used a coated masonite board from an art supply store and mixed the paint on it with a drywall spatula. I also applied the paint to the canvas using the same spatula.

You can mix acrylic paint with water to help it spread with less texture build-up. If you are using oil-based paint, each layer may take longer to dry than acrylic, and if you would like to thin it, you will need to use chemical paint thinners to do so.

DIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosTo start my painting, I applied the light magenta paint onto the canvas with a spatula and spread it around with a wide painter's brush. I made sure to get around the edges of the canvas, but didn't worry about painting the sides, because I was planning on framing it when I finished.

DIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosDIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosAfter the first coat of pink dried, I mixed more white paint with the light magenta and layered the lighter pink color over the top of the darker, leaving some of the darker paint showing through. I used a spatula for this to drag the paint along the canvas and create some texture.

DIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosDIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosAfter the second coat of pink paint was dry, I went over it with undiluted white paint. I applied the goopy paint to the canvas using a really wide drywall spatula so the drags of paint would be even and wide. After covering a lot of the upper part of the canvas, I used a smaller spatula to dabble white paint in lines and smears around the bottom of the canvas to give a little interest over the top of the pink paint.

DIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosDIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosDIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosAfter the white paint dried, I used the same technique with a wide spatula to apply yellow paint. I mixed the yellow paint with a little bit of light orange to give two tones to the paint before dragging it across the canvas.

When I started this canvas, I really had no idea where this painting was going to go, so I just kept adding layers of paint to it. I figured the more texture the better! Though I did have to run to the store to get more of the orange paint in between coats, because I had run out.

After the first coat of orange paint, I wasn't pleased with how the yellow looked when it showed through. I decided that I wanted more of a bold body of orange, so after the first coat dried, I used a wide spatula to add even more orange over the top of it and softened the edges by stippling them with the wide painter's brush. I also stippled the surface of the orange paint here and there to add more textural interest to the thick paint.

DIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosNext I added more paint over the yellow areas to muddy it a bit more and give it a bolder presence. Then I used the edge of my wide spatula to add more textural white lines in places. The last touch was dragging some lighter orange paint on the upper right corner of the canvas to create a textural square. After dragging the paint, I wiped off my spatula and did another wipe across the orange paint to take away any excess. Then I stopped painting because I was afraid I might mess up the whole thing! So I decided it was finished.

DIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosDIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosDIY abstract art— complete with step by step photosI'm much less intimidated to create my own artwork now, after learning how forgiving the process of layering paint can be. Next time I'll probably plan more of how I'd like the finished composition to be, but I don't think it's a bad idea to just go with how you're feeling in the moment and change it up to your heart's content! -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Spring and Valentine of the Signature Collection.

  • This is awesome, I bought all of the supplies to give this a try myself. I bought 2 oz tubes of the Golden heavy body paint, do you recall how many you used for this size of art?

  • Hey, this is helpful. I also found one blog”How To Paint Abstract Art For Beginners”
    which may like you. Check it out: https://www.showflipper.com/blog/How-To-Paint-Abstract-Art-For-Beginners

  • Thanks for your article and information! After reading your article, it inspired me to do abstract paintings on vinyl records. I wrote a small blog about it if you’re interested: http://www.redideostudio.com/abstract-paintings-vinyl-records/

  • Put your pallet on the ground, cover if area under art pallet important. Buy your paint at Home Depot and lowes in the paint department, oops section. These are paints that have been mis mixed but can be purchased in small amounts, colors available are hit or miss but a couple of trips and you will be set. Take your brush and dip and throw, daub and or any other way of applying the paint. Use anything you have to form texture I,e, old comb, etc. Search for frames at your local thrift stores. The cost of the frame with a rand On my way! Piece of art in it may be cheaper to remove and redo at than to build and or purchase new. Just make sure that the frame is deep enough to hold your pallet. I have done this for my art in my home and given as gifts to friends. Oh and buy the way, the art piece pallet that you removed for that frame. A good coat of kills and viola, you have a new pallet for your next piece of art.

  • So Mandi- I’ve been so impressed with all your DIYs here on ABM lately! Everytime I go to pin, I notice it’s you and I thought you should know how awesome I think you are.

  • Also an option: The top 2/5 or so of color A, bottom 2/5 color B, and the remaining middle 1/5 in color C and blend with up and down paint strokes.

  • I know what I’m dong this weekend!
    Great stuff as all ways. You guys have the coolest crafts!

  • Good job! Just a tip though: instead of adding water to acrylics to thin them, try a matte medium. Water breaks down the paint and ruins the integrity of it. There are a bunch of different types of mediums to change the texture (thicken, thin, ect.). It’s fun stuff! You should check it out 🙂

  • Love this kind of tutorial! Making art is definitely easier than so many people think it is. So few rules 🙂 It might also be fun to add a texturing agent to the paint, to be able to sculpt in some 3D peaks and lines.

  • Dudes, I never comment but I had to on this one! I’ve been looking for a great tutorial on art that I could make and actually like. I’m so thankful for this post! I’m pumped to buy some supplies and do my own this weekend!

  • Oooo, so pretty! I drew something for my bedroom that was on the abstract side too, but this tutorial is very nice and maybe I’ll draw another something for maybe my hallway.

  • really cool! I’m very into abstract art and really need to find the perfect one for the steps going upstairs area in my home. thanks for sharing this!! xx. gigi. www.gigikkitchen.com

  • What a statement! I love large pieces of artwork on the wall but they can be pricey. It turned out well.

  • You made yourself a real art piece to be proud of! I love it! Don’t stop there, keep making them.

  • I use wall paint (sample size) to make my abstract art. It is much easier to spread over a large space and is cheaper than acrylic paint.

    – Meredith
    www.etsy.com/shop/MeredithMHoward

  • That pink looked so lovely in the blending pic I actually wanted to eat it! There must be something wrong with me at the mo. Thanks for the lovely idea!

  • Wow! This looks absolutely beautiful, Mandi! I love the way it turned out! I’m definitely inspired to try out this technique on my own as well.

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • Yes, I love Rothko! I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted fields of color with little detail, so I kept telling myself not to make something too much like a Rothko! I don’t think I could help being a little derivative, but I think students of Rothko’s work will see quite a difference in the style and technique. 🙂
    -Mandi

  • I just bought a pre-primed canvas from the art supply store that is connected to a local craft store. I bought it there because they’re the cheapest around, but you could save a 50% off coupon from JoAnn and buy one there! You could also make your own by stretching and stapling canvas over stretchers.

  • Yep- sure did! The full tutorial for 3 framing techniques is coming up soon.
    -Mandi

  • We’ll be sharing a detailed post about making frames really soon!
    -Mandi

  • The post about framing is coming up very soon! 🙂 Stay tuned!
    -Mandi

  • Tell me about it! I cracked open a couple of ciders for this guys. 🙂
    -Mandi

  • Good job!
    This picture reminds me the great artist mark Rothko !

  • So cool this picture! I like those kind of colors effect! The make the environment looks so cool. J

  • I’ve been looking for a great piece of LARGE abstract art for my new apartment – I think I’ll give this a shot and make my own! What size canvas did you use/ where did you buy it? I feel like canvas can be tricky!

  • Such a fun tutorial! I did something similar earlier in the year with my 3 kiddos with a few canvases and bottles of cheap acrylic paint from Michaels. I handed my 2 and 3 and 9 year old a few different sized brushes and let them go to town. The final result actually turned out really incredible (http://www.lifeoutloud.kelseymcevoy.com/2014/04/weekend-project-diy-canvas-art/) and I’ve been wanting to try my hand at something like this for awhile. Definitely going to keep these tips and techniques stashed away. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks for the tutorial! Did you make the frame too? Can we have a tutorial for that? 🙂

  • It looks amazing! I love the step-by-step tutorial, and I can’t wait to dabble my own brush into some colors 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!

  • That looks amazing, Mandi. I think having the courage to start is probably the hardest part… but you definitely have the creative eye. I have a huge wall up a stairway that I’ve been wondering how to decorate- dare I?

  • Such a great idea, thanks for sharing 🙂
    X Willemijn Sofie

    Amsterdam So Fashion

  • Love it ! Nex time maybe you can try this way…
    http://evaetsandra.com/faisiez-vos-propres-tampons-avec-des-pommes-de-terre/
    Your heart will be happy as well 😉

  • This looks awesome!! The colours work so well together. The beauty of abstract painting is that you can simply play and enjoy the process. I don’t think you ever need to plan too much, it’s nice to have a starting point or a source of inspiration but it’s very rare that something I’ve painted turns out exactly how it looked in my head.

  • This DIY is amazing! I’ve always wanted to bring more texture to my abstract painting, but struggled. This makes me want to get back out there and grab a canvas and a nice big drywall spatula! xoxo

  • It looks awesome! You guys are so brave and inspiring 🙂

  • Perfect decoration painting. I make some too. I love colors. xa
    http://www.fashiondenis.com

  • You did such a good job!! We did a similar DIY in a slightly different style, you would love, check it out here…

    http://www.204park.com/blog/2014/5/20/gtl-diy-canvas-art

    xoxo, Kali

    www.204park.com

  • this is beautiful!!
    And such a great step-by-step, so that I feel like I understand the process.
    Thank you!

  • Loved the idea! Have to try too!! 🙂

    Filipa G. ♥
    ♥ http://passiionforfashion.blogspot.pt/

  • I love how you can paint this any colour to go with any room! The pink gives this painting a unique, one of a kind, look 🙂
    emmasbeginning.blogspot.com

  • would love to hear how you finished the piece off with that beautiful wooden frame!

  • I love abstract art! It’s such a cute and easy way to decorate, plus it’s always unique! 🙂

    http://everydayingrace.blogspot.ca/

  • Nice! Love the step by step pictures on how to the hold the brushes.

  • Beautiful colours! Love the details, too.

    Hope you have a beautiful day!!!

    xoxo,

    the bbb blogger

  • I love how this is an art project anyone can do. So much of doing abstract art is not over-thinking it. Sometimes a cocktail can help, haha.

    Cat
    http://oddlylovely.com

  • This is awesome! I’m feeling inspired and it sounds like something I can actually do! WAY better than paying a boat load of money and it looks just as good 🙂 Thanks

  • I just love the pink, yellow and orange! So bright and fun and hey, I think I can do this!
    www.dancingthroughsunday.typepad.com x

  • This looks so pretty! I love the idea of applying the paint with a spatula, it really creates a lot of texture. Fun!

  • Love the wooden frame in first and second to last photograph! So understated and compliments the art beautifully! Good job Mandi, it looks great! 🙂

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