How to Paint an Acrylic Abstract

Abstract painting relies on color and texture for appeal.

Acrylic paints have two big advantages over oil paints for beginning abstract artists. The first advantage is ease of cleanup. While oil paints require paint thinner to clean up, acrylic paint comes out of brushes with soap and water, and many spills clean up with a damp rag. The second main advantage to acrylic paint is that it dries quickly. Many beginners do not want to spend days or even weeks working on a painting. An artist can paint an acrylic abstract in a single day and have it ready for framing or hanging the next day.

Painting an Acrylic Abstract

Choose the basic color palette you want to work with. If you want colors to blend at the edges you will need to have all your paints ready, so you can work quickly while each layer is still wet to create a blended or swirled effect. You may want to use a spare canvas or even a sheet of white paper to test how the colors work together.

Paint your entire canvas in a neutral color. Don't forget to paint the edges. Even if you intend to paint a very vibrant abstract with a bright background, getting a light neutral color on the canvas first helps the other paint glide smoothly. If you don't want a colored background, a neutral white or cream looks more polished and finished than unpainted canvas.

Add color. When working with acrylics, colors will remain more true if you put down the lightest colors first then proceed to darker colors. Experiment with different size brushes and with different amounts of paint on the brush until you get the look you want. Even things like sponges, feathers or aluminum foil can be used to apply paint that takes on different characteristics from the different techniques.

Step back. If you like what you see, you are finished, or if you like more shine and protection for your painting, you can paint a coating of varnish over your abstract once it is dry. If you aren't satisfied with the painting, touch up the areas you dislike.

Hang your artwork. Acrylic paintings on canvas may be placed in a frame if you prefer, hung without framing or even displayed framed or unframed in a large easel. Since you are the artist, you can choose the look that fits what you wanted to accomplish.


Acrylic paints that dry too fast for blending can be slowed down by adding retarders or flow releases to the paint.

Interesting effects can be added to the paint by using gels and pastes to change the texture and appearance of the paint.

Other additions can change the sheen of the paint or add texture. Using wood putty, ceiling texture or plaster can also add a three-dimensional quality to your abstract.


Once acrylic paint dries, it can be difficult to remove from cloth. It can also leave stains if not cleaned promptly, so if a spill or mess happens, clean it before the paint dries.

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