Splatter painting is a technique made famous by abstract expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock. It’s energetic, unpredictable and a whole lot of fun. If you’ve ever thought about incorporating it in your art, you know that making a paint splatter can be messy and uncontrollable. But you’re in luck: I’ll show you how to splatter paint three ways.
Learn 3 techniques and 6 helpful tips for how to splatter paint in acrylic and watercolor!
The first thing to know about this technique is that it can get messy. You’ll want to wear your designated painting clothes and move the objects you want to keep clean — you can never know where the pigment will fly!
Tools needed for splattering paint
One of the best things about this technique is that if you’ve got a paintbrush, you can splatter paint. There aren’t any special tools needed, but here’s what I use:
- Your favorite acrylic or watercolor paints
- A brush (or brushes) with stiff, sturdy bristles
- An old toothbrush (optional)
- Gloves (optional)
Once you have your space ready and supplies secured, there are two different ways of splattering paint to your paper or canvas.
Splatter paint techniques
Technique #1: Use a second paintbrush to give you leverage
The basic idea for this technique simple: Fill the bristles of your paintbrush with pigment. Then, with a stick or second brush held in your opposite hand, gently tap the pigment-filled paintbrush. That will give the paint enough force travel across your canvas.
In this technique, you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground. One drawback, however, is less control of where the splatter goes.
Technique #2: Use your fingers to manipulate the brush
Here’s where your toothbrush will come in handy! Or, if you don’t have a toothbrush to sacrifice, a stiff-bristled brush will also work. In one hand, hold your brush or toothbrush at a downward angle so that its bristles are pointed toward the ground. Then, with your opposite hand, run your fingers along the edge of the brush. Go slowly and pull the bristle back so that they launch paint from the brush onto the canvas.
With this technique, the tips of your fingers will get dirty. If you’d prefer to wear gloves, now is the time to put them on. Because of the lack of force and length of the bristles, the splatter will be localized and in smaller quantities.
Technique #3: Control your paint with a stencil
Control is a big challenge when splattering paint. It’s a challenge to make unpredictable paint particles into something with sharp, clean edges. One way to control your splatter is to create a stencil. It can be something complex or simple (I’ve created a small circle), but make sure there’s plenty of positive space around your cut out — that way, the extra paint splatter won’t get on your canvas.
Tips for how to splatter paint
- Use Technique #1 for large areas because it has better range.
- Use Technique #2 for smaller areas and finer details.
- Dilute your acrylic paint with a little water to make paint splattering easier.
- Don’t be a afraid to use multiple colors! This will give your splatter depth and visual excitement.
- Make your splattering the last thing you do for your painting. Think of it like an accent color and be deliberate when you use it.
- Next time you want to paint stars in the sky, think about splattering paint!
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