Art Blog

8 Ways to Turn a Canvas Into an Abstract Masterpiece

Have you tried abstract painting? When you look at an abstract painting, it's easy to say, "my 5-year-old could paint that." But when you actually get down to painting abstractly yourself , it can be a bit intimidating. You don't have the conventional rules to follow, and your subject matter is wide open to interpretation. So where do you start?

abstract watercolor paintings

Photo via Grow Creative Blog

My advice for successful abstract painting is to first allow yourself the freedom to experiment and explore your materials. Don't worry about the end result right away. Let yourself explore as a child would, and you'll discover many beautiful ways to paint abstractly.

What Every Painter Should Know About Canvases

What Every Painter Should Know About Canvases

Set all your paintings up for success! Learn how to choose, stretch, prime and paint your canvas. Download FREE Now

Learn how to paint abstract art on canvas with these eight easy methods.

1. Watercolor spray painting

Watercolor Spray Paint on Canvas

Photo via Grow Creative Blog

One unconventional painting method is to use watercolors on canvas! A canvas primed for acrylics and oils is not very absorbent, so the watercolor paint flows and mixes a lot on this surface. You can buy a watercolor ground and apply it to your canvas beforehand if you prefer a less runny situation, but I highly encourage you to try it the messy way first.

To make an abstract spray painting, fill several old spray bottles with water and mix a different watercolor in each bottle. With your canvas laying horizontally, spray colors on top of colors and watch how they react to each other.

2. Watercolor, glue & salt on Canvas 

Abstract Watercolor painting with glue

Photo via Grow Creative Blog

Experiment with some watercolor paint repellents in a mixed media piece. Clear glue and Epsom salts push paint away from themselves and create beautiful textures.

First, lay some washes of watercolor paint on a primed canvas, then squirt some clear glue on top. Then sprinkle some salts on top while the paint is wet and let it all dry.  The salt can be rubbed off later. The glue can be left on or peeled off too.

3. Drippy abstract watercolor shapes

Abstract Watercolor Cactus

Photo via Grow Creative Blog

Once you're comfortable with watercolors on canvas, you can try something a little more representative.

Try some actual shapes with watercolors on canvas.  You can paint ovals and loose floral shapes for an abstract cactus painting.  Put lots of paint on the canvas and tip it a little and let it run.

4. Stamping

Abstract Bokeh Watercolor

Bokeh Sea Urchin via Craftsy Member Joyce Cozby

When working with acrylics or oils on canvas, you can use ordinary objects such as stamps to create an abstract painting. This Craftsy member used caps, cups and sponges to stamp the paint onto the canvas. Gorgeous!

5. Acrylic mixed media

Abstract Acrylic Painting With Mediums

Creek Bed via Craftsy Member margaretc7703771

If acrylic is your thing, get creative with acrylic mediums! Acrylic modeling paste can be combined with acrylic paint to create a thick, moldable paste that goes right on your canvas. Gel mediums canenhance or diminish the gloss of your paint or make it more transparent. There are so many possibilities here!

Create a texture-filled abstract painting by combining acrylic paint with modeling paste, gel medium, gel skins and colored pencil like this Craftsy member did.

6. Palette knife

Bokeh Stamped Abstract Flowers

Abstract Poppies via Craftsy member pinkpoppy31

One obvious abstract painting tool is the palette knife, since it gives you less control of the pigment than a brush does. Paint an abstract flower painting using only a palette knife — don't even think about picking up a brush.  

7. Dripping

Abstract modern painting

Home sweet home via Craftsy member Gannart

Have you every wanted to let loose and paint like Jackson Pollock?  This abstract painting method is very therapeutic and is guaranteed to help you loosen up and think more abstractly.  Drip paint from a loaded brush or pour paint straight from a can.  Just layer it on and go with the flow.

8. Melted wax crayon

melted crayon art

Photo via Grow Creative Blog

Leave the paints in the cupboard for this abstract painting method. Unwrap the paper from crayons and use a blow dryer to melt them onto a canvas.  Try all colors and all kinds of designs.

If you think of more ways to use your painting materials along the way, go with it. The more free you can be with your methods, the more creative your abstract paintings will be!

What Every Painter Should Know About Canvases

What Every Painter Should Know About Canvases

Set all your paintings up for success! Learn how to choose, stretch, prime and paint your canvas. Download FREE Now

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8 ideas to turn a plain canvas into an abstract masterpiece — acrylic or watercolor! </div.

One Comment

Patricia Stewart

How do I rejoin. My old password is not accepted. All the very best. Trish

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