How to Make Your Own Painting Texture

Updated on August 7, 2016
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Marian (aka Azure11) has been working as a professional artist since 2006 and has sold over 600 paintings in that time.

Paintings with Texture

As an abstract artist, a lot of the paintings I create use a texture base on the canvas before I start painting. This painting texture can be added in pretty much any thickness to give the impression that either you have used an impasto paint technique or else just to build an almost 3 dimensional base to your paintings.

In abstract art in particular texture is useful underneath the painting so that you can bring out different colours and show all the layers of paint. if you look at a lot of abstract paintings in hotels for example, you will see that they may have a textured base.

In this article I will tell you how to make your own texture for your paintings using ingredients that are much cheaper than the texture that you can buy in the shops (and also much more effective).

This is the kind of texture effect you can create.
This is the kind of texture effect you can create.

Creating Your Own Texture

When I first started painting I would use gesso both as a primer and for a slightly raised effect under the painting. It still has it's uses and I like it particularly to give extra brush stroke definitions under the main painting, but overall i like to have quite a thick texture base and gesso just doesn't quite cut it (and it is expensive!).

So I have come up with my own recipe for a texture base that adds a great amount of definition to my abstract art. It is made from materials that you can get from a hardware store and that cost a lot less than buying readymade texture from an art shop.

There are two main ingredients to my texture base and that is stucco and PVA. Stucco is a kind of plaster that you might use to patch up areas of wall in your house. The stucco I have comes in a pot ready mixed but you can also buy it in powder form. PVA (or poly vinyl adhesive) is a kind of glue that is also used in building work and craft projects. I tend to buy both in bulk so that I have plenty available for big paintings and commissions.

Stucco is not a particularly flexible medium and so that is why you need to add the PVA to the mix so that it allows it the flexibility to be used on stretch canvas as well as giving it extra adherence to the canvas.

So, mix up your stucco and PVA in the ratio of around 3:1 - you can experiment with different ratios and the more stucco you have the more the mixture is prone to cracking (which can add some interesting effects). You can also add other ingredients to your texture mix to give different effects and the article below will give you some extra ideas on this.

Finished painting with a heavy texture base. Painting (c) Azure11, 2011
Finished painting with a heavy texture base. Painting (c) Azure11, 2011

Applying The Texture

Apply the texture with a spatula, grout spreader, cake slice or anything similar. You can apply it pretty smoothly to the canvas or you can make it really rough. If you want rough effects give the texture a few minutes to start drying and scrape your spatula over the texture to roughen it up. You can also use various other tools to create different marks and effects in the texture including kebab sticks, wooden forks, chopsticks, bubble wrap, cardboard cut-out shapes etc. Just look around the house and start scraping and marking!

The texture should be left to dry overnight or maybe longer if you have applied it really thickly and it may need a light sanding before you paint over the top of it to get rid of any rough edges.

Using Texture for Different Effects

A well as 'roughing up' the texture to get some really interesting kind of 'mountain peak' textures, you can also use this texture to create regular patterns. Below are a few examples of the kind of work that I have created using the texture base, carving out the patterns while the texture is still wet (it can dry pretty quickly so on large canvases I have to carve as I put the texture on) and making marks in the texture:

This painting was made by carving out squares and rectangles in the texture before leaving it to dry and painting.
This painting was made by carving out squares and rectangles in the texture before leaving it to dry and painting. | Source
Again the squares were carved out of the texture first before making different patterns with carious tools in each of the squares.
Again the squares were carved out of the texture first before making different patterns with carious tools in each of the squares. | Source

If You Can't Get Hold of Stucco

In some countries it is quite difficult to get hold of stucco. In this case you can try using plaster - in either the powder or the ready mixed form. It doesn't give quite such a smooth finish as the stucco but can give some good rough effects.

Experiment with different materials that you find in a hardware or DIY shop for patching up walls and plaster and you should be able to find something that works for you. But always add the PVA as this should stop it from breaking off the canvas. If you are experimenting then try things out on some cheap canvases first to see what will work for you.

Questions & Answers

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      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 6 months ago from UK

        Yes that's right.

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        Angel-Leigh Fox 6 months ago

        Hi there. The ratio 3:1 is that 3 parts stucco to one part PVA?

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        Raji 15 months ago

        Thanks for your nice information

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 19 months ago from UK

        What don't you agree with Dejah?!

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        Dejah Grigsby 19 months ago

        Dntt Agree .. ^^SORRY!!!!!

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 3 years ago from UK

        That's great info thanks Suzinne I'll give that a try too.

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        suzinne 3 years ago

        Great blog! Currently I'm using nonsanded tile grout which, like stucco comes in powder and premixed form. After applied, dries to a very matte, rough textured finish. Great as a ground for mounting and mix with acrylic for chalkboard paint. Extend the life of your grout (that will dry completely within hours) with some wheat paste. Lasts for days Sanded grout also available.

        $5.00 for 5 pounds @ Home Depot. Really love gesso, but at $10.00 a quart, can't afford it. All of us are living on a shoestring these days.

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 4 years ago from UK

        I haven't tried it so I'm not sure. Best to try it on a spare bit of wood first. I think if you plaster normally on wood it can crack so there may be a danger of that rather than it not adhering.

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        birdy 4 years ago

        hi this post is extremely helpful! thank you. i'm curious can I use this on wood, or will it not adhere properly?

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 4 years ago from UK

        Yes you can use liquid PVA that should be fine and also try mixing it with wall compound but I would recommend you test it out first on a sample. I get my materials from a building merchant quite often so you should be able to get hold of this kind of stuff.

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        harold bronswinkel 4 years ago

        i send a note all ready ,but please helpme

        my question is , can i use liquid pva , and can i usewall compound use fo celling and wall????

      • profile image

        harold bronswinkel 4 years ago

        Okay , i,ll try to say at first thanks , i am an artist living the Caribbean

        and allways have to order my materials from the states wich is very very expensive ,i been looking long time for this!!!!!~here i can not get pva glue , but the pva liquid that use in acrylic paint (can i use that with some glue ???) AND ALSO THE DAP I VERRY EXPENSIVE HERE can iuse join compoud wich they also use on wall and e selling ( please help my e-mail is mmbrons @setarnet.aw

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 4 years ago from UK

        I'm not sure what you mean carol, why would you use this on fabric?

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        carol 4 years ago

        has anyone tried this ratio on fabric?

      • carol7777 profile image

        carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

        I really enjoyed the hub and the different texture ideas. I am also going to bookmark this page. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

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        Scott T 5 years ago

        Amazon =[

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 5 years ago from UK

        Hi Scott, yes PVA primer should work. So was Lowes or amazon cheaper on the stucco?!

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        Scott T 5 years ago

        I bought PVA Primer from Lowe's. Will this work the same way? Also...holy crap on the price different between amazon and Lowe's for the stucco...I just wasted $12

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

        I really like this idea! Thanks for sharing it. I've already bookmarked this for future reference. Voted up and useful!

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 5 years ago from UK

        Hi maria, it sounds like the LJC would be worth a try but yes I would definitely add some PVA too. I've not tried it but I would imagine it would work in a similar way to stucco.

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        mariatepper 5 years ago

        Thank you so much! I've wanting to try an abstract very textured painting for a while now, but couldn't get myself to use large amounts or expensive gesso for it.

        I've also read that Lightweight Joint Compound can be used to create texture. I'm wondering if it may be easier to work with than Stucco... Though I imagine that it too will require some PVA added for flexibility. Any idea on that?

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 6 years ago from UK

        Hi beatriz, the addition of the PVA makes it more flexible so it is OK to put on stretched canvas. The more PVA you add the more flexible it will be.

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        beatriz garcia 6 years ago

        I would like to know if the texture you use is flexible?

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 6 years ago from UK

        Thanks Elaine, good luck with the painting and for sure let me know how it went!

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        ELAINE 6 years ago

        THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING YOUR KNOWLEDGE. I LOVE YOUR PAINTINGS AND HAVE REALLY ENJOYED READING YOUR HUB PAGES. I DO ABSTRACT PAINTINGS MYSELF AND GET VERY EXCITED BY COLOUR AND SHAPE. YOUR INFORMATION IS REALLY CLEAR. YOU HAVE GIVEN ME GREAT INSPIRATION. AM GOING TO ORDER SOME STUCCO AND PVA AND TRY A TEXTURED PAINTING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. HOPE TO LET YOU KNOW LATER HOW IT WENT!

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 7 years ago from UK

        Thanks imatellmuva, love your frugal hub too, always good if you can save money in any kind of way!

      • imatellmuva profile image

        imatellmuva 7 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

        This is sooo right up my alley. I always wanted to try my hand at painting my own abstract piece. Being a frugal-minded person, this is an awesome hub for me or anyone like me who has a passion for personal expressions in their home.

      • Azure11 profile image
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        Marian L 7 years ago from UK

        Thanks Peggy, it is definitely cheaper (and I think better) than gesso!

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Interesting information about cost cutting ways to apply texture to paintings. Thanks! Voted up and useful.

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