Splatter Matters: How to Paint Jackson Pollock-Style

Splatter painting, the technique made famous by Jackson Pollock, is energetic, unpredictable and a whole lot of fun. There are three common methods used to add abstract expressionist style to art, and each can be done with either acrylics or watercolors. Just be ready: things are about to get messy!

How to Splatter Paint

Level: Easy

What You Need

  • Acrylic or watercolor paints
  • A brush (or brushes) with stiff, sturdy bristles
  • A canvas
  • An old toothbrush (optional)
  • Gloves (optional)

Pro Tip: Wear your designated painting clothes and move away any objects you want to keep clean — you never know where the pigment will fly!

1. Use Two Paint Brushes

Use when: you want to cover a large surface with splatter paint

Fill the bristles of a paint brush with pigment. Gently tap it with a second brush (or stick, or even your fingers) with your opposite hand. This will give the paint enough force to travel across your canvas.

2. Use a Toothbrush and Your Fingers

Use when: you want to cover smaller areas and have smaller flecks of splatter paint

Fill the bristles of a toothbrush or a stiff-bristled brush with pigment. Hold it at a downward angle, so the bristles are pointed toward the ground. With your opposite hand, run your fingers along the edge of the brush. (You may want to put on gloves first.) Go slowly and pull the bristles back so they launch paint onto the canvas.

3. Use a Stencil

Use when: you want to control exactly where your splatter paint falls

Control is a big challenge when splattering paint, but a stencil can help. It can be complex or simple (even as simple as a strip of masking tape), but make sure there’s plenty of positive space around it so the extra paint won’t get on your canvas.

More Splatter Tips

  • Dilute your acrylic paint with a little water to make splattering easier.
  • Feel free to use multiple colors! This will give your splatter depth and visual excitement.
  • Splatter last. Think of it like an accent color on your painting, and be deliberate when you use it.
  • Next time you want to paint stars in the sky, splatter them!

Good to Know: See splattering in action (along with other painting techniques such as scraping, stippling and sponging) while creating a gorgeous autumn scene in our class, Nature in Watercolor: Painting Trees.