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Easy Dot Painting for Beginners: The Complete How-To Guide

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author. I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Dot painting is fun, relaxing, and a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Anyone can do it, and I'll show you how!

Dot painting is fun, relaxing, and a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Anyone can do it, and I'll show you how!

Getting Started With Dot Painting

I have always been excited about using paper to create art. In the past, my primary modalities have been scrapbooks, cards, coloring books, and journal art—but then I came across a video about dot mandalas and got really excited. I began to think about all of the unique artworks I could create.

Simply put, dot painting is the art of making dots in different sizes in a pattern. You can practice this technique on paper, canvas, rocks, wood, and glassware. Really, the possibilities are endless.

This craft is easy on the budget, too. Many of the items that you will need you probably already have in your home. And if you need to purchase a few items, you will find that they tend to be very inexpensive. You can find everything you need at local craft stores, and I'll even share a few tips about cheap items you can find at hardware stores or home improvement stores.

Another great feature of this craft is that it's so easy to learn and grasp. This means it's a great activity to do with kids. It's also great for people who might not think of themselves as crafty or creative. I've seen it work well with older adults at nursing homes and retirement centers, too.

In This Article

  • What kind of paint to use
  • What surfaces work with this technique
  • Best tools and supplies (and where to find them)
  • Dot painting techniques
  • Clean-up tricks and strategies
  • Videos, links, and tips galore!
Homemade dotting tools

Homemade dotting tools

Dot Painting Without a Big Investment

You can get started in dot painting without a big investment. All you need are some pencils with clean erasers at the end and some good card stock or heavy paper,

Gather three or so pencils and sharpen the erasers to different sizes. There are your dotting tools. You can use the sharpened lead size to create the smallest dots.

Applying different pressure on the pencils will create different-sized dots.

You can also try things that are around your home. Different-sized drill bits, toothpicks, a thumb tack stuck to the bottom of an eraser will all work. Dowels are the perfect flat tool to dot with—you can purchase different sized dowels in your local home improvement store.


Which Paints Should I Use for Dot Painting?

Most dot painters prefer to use acrylic paints for their artwork. The brand you choose doesn't matter; it's the consistency of the paint that is important. Some paint may be thick and leave a point at the top of the dot. Others may be too flat. Find the brand that works well for you.

  • Acrylic Paints: While acrylic paint may be the most popular kind of paint for dot painters, there is a difference in the quality of paint used. Two good brands of acrylic paint are Folk Art and Deco Art.
  • Fluid vs. Craft Paint: Regular acrylic paint is perfect for dotting stones because it is permanent when it is dry. Typical craft paints would include brands like Decoart and Craft Smart (available online and at local craft stores). Fluid paint is better on canvas. Golden and Opus are the two most well-known fluid paints for dot artists.
  • Satin vs. Matte: Satin has more shine to it—but be careful, as it can sometimes be a bit thicker than matte.
  • Transparency: One thing to consider is the transparency of the paint. That means how much of the black or white paper of your base will show through the paint. It is up to you which way you want to go, but make sure that you understand the type of paint you are buying. If you have a more transparent paint, you can always add some titanium white so that the base paper will not show through.
  • Thickness: Some paints that are too thick will leave a gob of paint rather than a dot. Or they might create a peak of paint that would be difficult to add another layer to if you wanted to. If the paint is too thick, just add a pouring medium like Liquitex Professional Pouring Medium. Just a drop or two will make your paint just the right thickness. On the flip side, if your paint is too thin, your dots will bleed into each other and become one huge mess. This is often the case with low-end or no-name products. Some metallic paints will also tend to be thin.
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Any surface can be used for dot painting.

Any surface can be used for dot painting.

What Is Your Canvas?

There are so many ways and materials to paint dot paintings. Of course you can use a regular canvas—but there are so many more options to choose from!

  • Canvas: The first option you might think of.
  • Paper: Another popular surface. You can use it on greeting cards as well as scrapbook pages, journals, and any paper projects.
  • Glass: Glass jars, bottles, vases, and more.
  • Wood: Consider wall art, jewelry, and boxes.
  • Christmas ornaments: A fun way to express your creative side with dot painting.

As a beginner, it is wise to start with inexpensive card stock to practice on. Then graduate to a flat paint board. Once you feel comfortable with that, the world will open up to you!

Dot painting tools are similar to those used for nail painting.

Dot painting tools are similar to those used for nail painting.

Dot Painting Tools

You probably have many great painting tools around your home already! You just have to see their potential.

  • Very fine artist brushes: You may have many of these in your stash already. If you have a paintbrush that you no longer use, you can remove some of the bristles to create a fine brush.
  • Different-size paint brushes: Use the ends of the handle to paint with. Check out your stash to see the different sizes you may have.
  • Clean pencil erasers: Use these as a kind of stamp. They can be a handy tool for medium dots. You can use them as they are or taper the eraser to the size of your choice.
  • Nail or artist dotting tools: You might not have these, but you can get them easily enough.They come in ma ny different sizes.
  • Embossing tools: These come in different sizes, too.
  • Compass: Use to make circles on surfaces.
  • Pencils or chalks: Use to draw patterns.
  • Pencil erasers: Everyone has one or two in their homes!
  • Dowels: The end of a dowel is the perfect dotting tool.
  • Toothpicks: These make the tiny dots we all love.
  • Plastic palette: Use to hold paints. Very inexpensive.
  • Paper towels: Use to wipe off tools.
  • Parchment paper, craft mat, newspapers: Use to protect your work surface.
  • Q-tips: Handy to have. Use a leftover container of these to dump your used ones into.

How to Clean Your Tools

There is an old saying, "Be good to your tools, and they will be good to you." That same saying is true for all of your dot painting tools.

Here are some ideas that will help you keep your tool investment in tip-top shape for years to come:

  • Wipe the tool with a napkin or paper towel right after use. That way you will not transfer any color into another paint hue. Make sure to wipe each and every time. Keep a stash of paper towels in your craft space.
  • If you have hardened paint on your tools, soak in super hot water for 10-15 seconds and then wipe with a napkin or paper towel.
  • Avoid any solvents as they may corrode the surface of your tools.

Dotting Tools You Already Have at Home

Especially when we are starting out with a new type of craft or technique, it is good to find tools that you may already have in your home! Even if you have bee "dotting" for a while, you may want to consider adding some of these around-the-house items to your toolbox.

  • Toothpicks: These make wonderful little tiny dots.
  • Old paintbrushes: Use the end of the paintbrush to paint special dots.
  • Small and large make-up brushes: Use the ends of these to create dots in different sizes.
  • Pencil with a tack on the end: This creates a medium-size dot.
  • Spray bottle filled with water: Use to thin paints.
  • Plastic crochet hooks: Good dotting tools.

Dotting Tool Tips

There are a few easy tips that will make your dotting experience easier and much more enjoyable. Here are a few of my favorites on using tools:

  • If you are using a dowel or any other flat surface to dot, make sure to only dip the surface in the top of the paint. If you cover the side of the dowel with paint, you will not get a clean dot. (Make sure, however, that the flat surface is covered with paint.)
  • A light touch is always better! You want to barely touch the tool to the surface.
  • When you are making rings and want to keep your dots the same, use the dip and dot technique. Make sure to wipe the end of your tool frequently.
  • When you want to create descending dots, dip once and just keep dotting until you run out of paint.

Dot Painting Printables and Patterns

Dot painting is not limited to mandalas. There are many shapes and patterns that you can use to create a shape or design.

Start by looking for printables and patterns that are available for free online. Many browsers like Google and Bing have free printables and patterns available. There are some more lovely ones available from Free Jupiter.

You can print these out on your computer. Put them into a page protector and store them for future use.

Creating Mandalas

Mandalas are one of the most frequently used patterns in dot painting. The different designs and combinations that can be created are endless.

Mandalas are much more than mere designs. Mandala comes from the Sanskrit word mandal, meaning circle. It is a circular symmetrical design with repetitions of patterns that create an illusion of motion.

Mandalas can be used on all kinds of different projects. Think about canvases of course. But they can also be used on rocks, wood projects, and glass projects.

The mandala dot art patterns can be done on canvases, terracotta plates, coasters, pebbles, trays, and so on. The paintings can be used as gifts, home décor, wall hangings, fridge magnets, etc.

Start with a center dot and work your way out. There are no steadfast rules on how many dots to use or where to place them. Making mandalas is all about relaxing and enjoying the creative journey!

Since ancient times, mandala art has been considered as a form of meditative art. By drawing them, you can increase concentration levels and help the mind stay calm. Try it! I think you will end up enjoying the experience.

Mandala Resources

Another mandala pattern

Another mandala pattern

Why You Should Swatch Your Colors

Especially for beginners, it is a great idea to swatch your colors for reference later on.

Swatches are samples of the paint that you have. Sometimes, the color of the paint will look different wet versus dry, so having swatches lets you reference the colors to see how they will look together.

This is especially important if you have different brands of paint.

Taking this step will pay off on future projects.

  1. Take a piece of 81/2 by 11 1/2 " black paper.
  2. Cut a small strip of white paper at about 3-inches (2 pieces per page).
  3. Make columns alternating with the black and white paper-spacing them apart.
  4. With a white gel pen, write the name of the company and the color number. Start with the left column.
  5. Dot the color both on the black and the white column. Make one larger dot and then a few smaller dots.
  6. Paint a line of the paint.
  7. Follow along with the colors in the same family: all the reds, yellows, etc.
  8. You can place lines between the colors or not.
  9. Once you have finished the left column go to the right side.
  10. When your pages are done and dried overnight, place each one in a page protector.
  11. You can use a loose-leaf binder or connect them with metal rings.

Tip: You can also do the same thing on a rolodex or just on swatch samples.

Step-by-Step Dot Painting Guide

  1. Prepare your surface: Make sure that your surface is clean.
  2. Cover your surface: Use a craft mat, glass mat, parchment paper, or wax paper. Make sure to tape down the parchment paper or the wax paper so it does not curl.
  3. Cover the surface with a base coat of paint (optional): You can use any color. White and black are the most popular.
  4. Gather your tools: This includes your dotting tools, paints, plastic palette, a wet cloth, pencil or chalk, ruler or compass, etc.
  5. Draw guidelines: Use a ruler and or a compass to make guidelines with a pencil (either a lead or a white pencil). Find and mark your center and design from that point.
  6. Or use a stencil: Stencils come in different patterns. You can use all of the stencil or part of it.
  7. Or use a mandala design: I have seen some on Etsy. Perfect for beginners.
  8. Select your colors: Use a color wheel to decide on colors. Use what you have. There are no set rules about color combinations.
  9. Place the paint on your palette: Thinning is usually necessary. You can use a pouring medium or any other acrylic paint medium.
  10. Start dotting: Every time you dot, re-dip into the paint. Start at the center dot and work your way outwards.
  11. Erase any visible guidelines: You don't want those to show on the final work.
  12. Spray with fixative: And wait for it to dry!

Walking the Dots Technique

Walking the dots is a simple technique to add some detail to your design. This is in contrast to the basic technique, called dip and dot, where you dip into the paint and then dot.

This technique uses a smaller tool than the dot you made before.

  1. Dip into the paint with your tool.
  2. Place a dot outside the dot you made before in the center of that dot.
  3. Without re-dipping, use the paint on your tool to keep dotting around the outside.
  4. Re-dip the tool into the paint.
  5. Starting at the center, re-dot the center dot.
  6. Then go around the mail dot.
Dot painting stencils are fun and easy to use. You just hold then down with your hand and draw the stencil.

Dot painting stencils are fun and easy to use. You just hold then down with your hand and draw the stencil.

Dot Painting With Stencils

You can use a stencil to create a colorful pattern without having to draw it yourself. This makes dot painting easy, especially for beginners. They can be applied to any surface including rocks.

They are a guide to help you create a pattern. It will help make your project more aligned and even. No guessing about where to put your dots!

Most of these stencils are in a circular or part circular pattern. You can make or use all of the stencil design or part of it. It's up to you. You use the stencil once you have applied the base coat to your project. You can use a pencil to apply the stencil design or you can use a tool that will actually etch the lines into the base coat. Using the etching tool works well because you do not have to work with erasing the lines later. Your varnish coat will hide any leftover lines from your stencil marking.

Another idea is to use chalk to mark your stencils. Fabric chalk markers are good to use.

There are also stone stencils which are actually rounded stencils to fit around your stone.

Consider using stones to create dot paintings.

Consider using stones to create dot paintings.

Where to Find Rocks for Painting

I think the best place to find inexpensive rocks is at landscaping stores, as mentioned above. Beyond that, you can also find rocks at the following places:

  1. Amazon: You can even search specifically for "rocks for painting."
  2. Local hardware stores
  3. Garden centers like Lowe's and Home Depot
  4. Dollar Tree and Target: Be aware, however, that the rocks at these stores may be coated with a waxy substance.
  5. Craft stores like Micheal's or Hobby Lobby
  6. Search online for "rocks to paint on."
  7. Nature! Rivers are a great spot to look.

How to Dot Paint on Rocks

One of the most popular media for dot painting is rocks. This creates one-of-a-kind rock mandalas that can be displayed anywhere. Since rocks come in different sizes, you can create the art in the exact size that you would like.

You can either use acrylic paint or paint pens or markers. Acrylic brushes are best for this type of project. They are stiffer and will be easier to use to make your dots. Paint pens come loaded with paint and make them easier and quicker to use.

  1. Choose your rock: Choose a rock with one flat surface to make it easier to paint. It does not need to be totally flat, but a flatter surface makes it easier, especially for beginners.
  2. Prepare the rock: Rinse off your rock. Use your fingers to loosen any dirt. You can also use a vegetable brush to get into all the grooves of the rock. Then place it on a towel to dry. If you buy rocks from stores like the dollar store, they may have a waxy residue on them. That residue will not hold the paint well. You can boil them or use nail polish remover to remove the residue.
  3. Apply an optional background color: A background color rock on your rock is an optional step. The good part of using a base coat on your rock is that it will show your rock to its best advantage. If you decide to use a base coat. make sure to set it aside to let it dry.
  4. Paint! You can use a special stencil made for dot painting or you can draw a pattern on your rock with pencil or chalk. There are lots of patterns to choose from. Head over to the browser on your computer and search for rock dot patterns; you will find a wealth of ideas. Chose what you like and dot away.
  5. Dry and seal: Allow your rock to dry overnight. Then follow the manufacturer's directions to seal your project.

General Rock Painting Tips

Here are a few tips that you can use to help you paint on rocks.

  • You can use pencil erasers to make your dots. These are great inexpensive dotting tools. Sharpen the erasers to make different size dot tips.
  • Practice on some paper to get used to using pressure to make different dots. Once you feel comfortable, try dotting a rock.
  • You can also use paint pens as long as they have different-sized tips.
  • Use an upside-down cup as a stand to do the base coat, paint and dry.
There are a wide variety of sealants that you can use for your rock painting.

There are a wide variety of sealants that you can use for your rock painting.

How to Seal Your Rock Dot Painting

Sealing your rock dot painting is a good idea because it will make it last a lot longer. Spray sealers are perfect because you can seal your rocks quickly and evenly. If you need more ideas for products that will seal your rock, go over to Amazon and click sealants for rock painting. They will give you a host of options.

  • Let the paint dry overnight before you seal the rock.
  • Look for a sealer that prevents yellowing and is weather-proof.
  • Follow the directions regarding the application. Spray at least 10 inches from the rock surface.
  • Always spray outdoors or in a well-ventilated room.
  • Make sure to seal both sides of your rock.
  • Leave space between the rocks so that the sealant gets on the sides, too.
  • Start with a light coat. You can always add more coats later.
  • Let the sealant dry between coats.
  • Do not dry the sealant in the sun.

Free Resources for Rock Dot Painting

How to Avoid and Correct Dot Mistakes

You have options when it comes to the little mistakes that often happen in the process of learning and creating dot designs.

  • Is the dot too small? Just take a larger tool and dot over it.
  • Is the dot too large? Wipe the area with water before it hardens. A Q-tip works for small areas.
  • Made a really big mistake? No problem. Just cover it with black paint and start again.
  • Always start in the middle of the work and work outward. That way you will get a more even design.
  • Use a pencil outline to keep your design even. Use a plate, a glass, a paper towel tube, or a protractor.
Your dotty image can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be.

Your dotty image can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be.

Tips for Dot Painting Greeting Cards

  1. Tape the back of the card with low tack tape to your work surface; that way the card will not slip.
  2. Place a piece of parchment paper between the card front and the inside of the card. That way you will not get any paint on the inside of your card.
  3. You can add dimension by layering dots. You use a lighter color against dark and a darker color against light. The dots must be dry before you layer. Use a smaller tool than the original dot to layer.

More Dot Painting Projects and Ideas

Wood ring dish

Wood ring dish

How to Dot Paint on Wood

Wood is another "canvas" for your dot painting art. You can do birdhouses, boxes, trays, plaques, and more. There are lots of patterns that you can find on the internet.

  1. Prime your wood with either white or black gesso. Use a foam brush or any other brush you may have. Wet the brush first as the gesso is very thick. Smooth the gesso over the whole board. Brush in one direction only. Then brush the other way. Remember, to paint around the sides as well. Prop your wood piece on two pieces of glass so that you can cover the sides. Allow the piece to dry.
  2. Do a second coat. Most artists use black as the base coat. That way, all the colors you chose will be very vibrant. Cover the top and the sides as you did with the first coat. Allow the piece to dry.
  3. Take a white watercolor pencil to draw a pattern on your wood. Draw some lines in any pattern you would like. The idea is to create sections on the wood for the dots.
  4. Choose your paints. Use complementary colors (e.g., red and green, yellow and purple, or orange and blue). Use a color wheel to help you select colors that will be pleasing to the eye.
  5. Pour some paint into your palette. You can use a plastic palette or even a paper plate.
  6. Start by walking your dots with the paint along the edges you have drawn. Walking the dots means that you dip the dotting tool into the paint once—and then keep dotting. As you dot, the dots will become smaller and smaller.
  7. Walk the dots along the lines of the first section. Apply the same technique for each section.
  8. Make a large white dot in the center of each section. Mix a small amount of white paint to the outline color. Then dot around the white center dot.
  9. Continue making dot circles, swirls, or any other pattern within the section. Fill in the section until you are happy with the design.
  10. Let each section dry. If you need to leave the paints in your palette, take a damp paper towel and cover the paint with it. Wrap the whole palette tightly with plastic wrap. The paint will stay wet for up to 12 hours.
  11. Allow your project to dry. Use a spray sealer. Follow directions on the can.
Create your own abstract art on canvas using dot techniques.

Create your own abstract art on canvas using dot techniques.

Abstract Art Dot Painting Inspiration

Tips for Dot Painting on Glass

If you decide to tackle a dot painting on glass, here are a few tips to get you started on the right track.

  1. Wash the glass thoroughly in warm, soapy water to remove dirt, dust, and grease film.
  2. Rinse the glass in warm water and let it dry completely.
  3. Dampen a paper towel with rubbing alcohol or white vinegar and wipe the glass to ensure it is clean of any remaining soap film. Set aside for 15 minutes to air-dry.
  4. The glass surface is now ready for paint.

How to Care for a Painted Glass Surface

  1. Once the glass has been painted, allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before curing.
  2. Make sure to cure the painted glass project properly once it has dried. For glass that will be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher, cure the item in the oven; glassware cured using the air-dry method is not safe for use in the top rack of the dishwasher.
  3. After the glass has cured, wash it by hand in mild dish soap or, for items that have been oven-cured, on the top rack of the dishwasher. Do not soak painted items.
  4. Painted glass items are not microwave-safe.

Glass Dot Art Inspiration

Cleaning Up After Your Project

Here are a few suggestions to keep your dotty messes to a minimum:

  1. Use baby wipes or damp cloths for quick clean-up and to wipe away errant dots that you plan to reapply.
  2. For dried-on paint, try rubbing alcohol with a cotton swab.
  3. Clean brushes with dried paintbrushes. Use a few tablespoons of Murphy Oil Soap in water. Let the brushes sit for at least one day or two.

The Possibilities Are Endless!

Dot painting can be inspirational and is a craft that will both relax you and help calm your soul.

I love this hobby! It is easy to do and can be done by anyone. It's the perfect craft for all ages—and it can be really fun to do with your kids.

It is an economical craft, too. With just a few tools and some paint you can create custom and unique artwork on just about any surface. As we've seen, you can use this technique on wood, glass, canvas, fabric, paper, and so much more. It is a truly unlimited art form.

Give it a try and you may find yourself dotting everything! Happy crafting!

© 2020 Linda F Correa


Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on August 03, 2020:

Thanks for your comment. It is truly a creative art form that anyone can try and achieve great results. I appreciate your visist

Lakshmi from Chennai on August 03, 2020:

Wow,amazing hub and you gave given a complete guide for dot painting.It was really useful to know about the new craft .

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on August 03, 2020:

Thank you. We try to share information that will get creative juices flowing. We appreciate your input ! Happy Crafting !

Amy on August 03, 2020:

Interesting hub. You explained it very well. Thanks for sharing.

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on July 27, 2020:

Thank you for your comment. This is such an easy craft for all ages. Easy to learn and minimal investment. So much fun and relaxing to do

Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on July 26, 2020:

Great hub. Gorgeous effects all made with simple dots! Amazing.

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on July 23, 2020:

It does take some time to get the dots exactly where you want them. Time, patience and practice, like any other skill can eventually lead to great things. Thank you for the comment

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 23, 2020:

Fabulous and neat work. This looks easy, but I believe it’s not so easy. Needs precision, practice and patience to make such beautiful pieces.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful article, with helpful information.