Swirling Paint Technique Using Water

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There are several painting techniques to use on canvas, houses or other materials. One of the more creative ones is called the swirling technique, where water is used mixed with paint to create a swirling pattern or design. It will take some time and practice to get the paint to the best consistency for you and to develop the technique, but be patient and have fun with it.

The Basics

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The swirling paint technique using water is basically paint, such as watercolor or acrylics, and water mixed together, then swirled slightly to give a barely blended appearance to the paint. You can also control the thickness of the looping lines. It can be used to paint a house, canvas, wood or any other art project you want, and can create a modern, eye-catching effect. You need only a couple of materials for it, but it does take time to master.


Anthony Romano/Demand Media

The materials you will need include an oil-based paint; water; a large container to hold the paint and dip your item into; and an item to paint. Start out practicing the swirl technique on smaller items that you can either paint over (if you're not satisfied with the end result), or that you won't be upset about if the item is ruined. These items include boxes, wooden planks, jewelry boxes, a small canvas or picture frames. The surface of the item should have been painted prior to this project, and it should be completely dry. This is not only to help create a base on the item, but also to provide a background color of paint for contrast to the swirled tecnique.

Swirling the Paint

Anthony Romano/Demand Media

Fill the container with your desired paint color. Make sure the container is wide enough and deep enough to dip your item into. The paint must be oil-based paint to assist in creating the swirling effect. Think of it as an oil-slick-swirling design. After you have filled the container up with paint about 1/2 of the way, begin to water down the paint with room temperature water, 1 cup at a time. Use a stretched out coat hanger, long thin stick or rod to slowly blend the paint and water slightly in swirls. When it gets to the point where it has a swirling, oil-slick-like appearance, stop adding water. If you over-dilute the paint (you will know this because all the colors will blend, not swirl, or the paint will become too watery to stick to any object), just add a little more paint into the container. Pick up your item, and dip it carefully and slowly into the container at an even level for a couple moments. Remove it slowly from the container, keeping it level and not letting paint drip all over it. If not satisfied, re-do the process, or add other colors or color combinations. You can do this by letting the first swirling colors dry, then doing it again with a different color.


Photo Credits

  • Anthony Romano/Demand Media