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Applying Paint to a Textured Surface for Abstract Acrylic Painting

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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.

A heavily textured painting called 'Earth'

A heavily textured painting called 'Earth'

Creating a Textured Base

If you have read my previous article on creating your own homemade texture, then you will have already started to create your textured paste to use in this painting style. If not, then check out that article to make some really thick texture!

Tips and Tricks for Textured Painting

  • Once you have mixed up your texture (or you could use gesso but I find this is not thick enough for the texture base that I want to create), apply it with a spatula, trowel, cake slice, or whatever else you can get hold of.
  • You don't have to apply it to the whole canvas but can just add it to certain parts if you want to.
  • Make marks and patterns in the texture with either homemade items (e.g. cardboard cut into spikes), or items bought from hardware or homeware shops like a grout spreader. You can also scrape parts of the texture off so that the canvas appears through in patterns.
  • Try to make the patterns random and think about the rule of thirds or the golden mean for places to put strategic large pieces of interesting texture. Try not to put things right in the middle of the canvas.
  • The texture should be left to dry for 24 hours or longer if a heavy or thick texture is used.
Some implements that I use to apply the texture and make marks in it.

Some implements that I use to apply the texture and make marks in it.

Ways to Apply the Acrylic Paint

Once the texture is dry, the key I think to a good abstract textured painting is to apply many layers of paint. There are a number of methods of applying acrylic painting and some of them are as follows:

  • I always apply a first layer of slightly watered down cream or white paint to the textured canvas to cover everything evenly and give a base coat to start working on. Make sure this layer is dry before starting anything else and make sure you get into all the cracks and crevices.
  • The second layer I apply is a layer of very watery acrylic paint (practically only coloured water). I will apply a dark colour that will go with my planned colour scheme (or burnt umber that will go with everything). When this layer is still wet, use a wet sponge to gently take off some of the paint that is covering the higher parts of the texture so that you have some white peaks showing.

After the second layer is dry, I will start with some more layers and continue until I think I have done enough. Only you can decide when this is and this may be three or even up to ten layers of paint in different thicknesses. I apply the paint as follows but not necessarily in this order:

  • A layer of blended paint applied neat onto the canvas with different colour blended into each other
  • A layer of very watered-down paint to again get into the cracks and crevices
  • Apply paint straight from the tube with a dry brush. Dry-brushing is a good way to just cover the tops of the texture and allow the paint underneath to show through. you should really have very little paint on the brush
  • Apply paint straight out of the tube with a roller. This should also only get the top levels of the texture.
  • You can also apply paint to another surface e.g. some material or paper, and then place this onto the painting so that only parts of it reproduce on the painting.

Keep alternating with applying the paint in different ways—sometimes when the paint is still wet I will apply a damp sponge to take off some of the excess. You can also use sandpaper in a similar manner to get back to the base coat but only use it lightly.

Finally, I will apply a wash of burnt umber to finish the whole painting off—keep it very watery and sponge some of it off at the same time as applying it. I will then varnish the painting with a heavy gloss to bring out the colours.

Part way through the painting, I have applied a few layers of paint and also used a sponge to wipe some paint away.

Part way through the painting, I have applied a few layers of paint and also used a sponge to wipe some paint away.

This painting has patches of heavy texture with paint applied as above.

This painting has patches of heavy texture with paint applied as above.

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Marian L (author) from UK on April 08, 2018:

Hi blah blah! Yes I mostly let each color dry between coats so that the colors don't mix. Not sure what you mean by separating (?) the colors...

OrlyVilla on October 05, 2017:

Nice and very helpful. Thanks

Better Yourself from North Carolina on October 02, 2011:

Enjoyed reading your article!

Marian L (author) from UK on August 08, 2011:

Hi Helmut, thanks for your comment. I would recommend using lots of layers of watered down paint but leaving them to dry in between. Then maybe use some slightly thicker paint but rub it off with a cloth or tissue before it has completely dried and that will enable some of the colour below to show. Keep using lots of layers like this and you can get great effects. If it gets too dark dry brush on a small amount of white (hardly any paint on the brush) and layer colours on top again.

Helmut Krackie on August 07, 2011:

I am looking to build up color layers slowly until I get good pigmentation while at the same time have very little paint on the the canvas. Similar to working with oils by scraping the pigment off and then he paint. Any suggestions?

Marian L (author) from UK on March 01, 2011:

Sorry for the delay in replying cardelean but thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed the hub :-)

cardelean from Michigan on February 21, 2011:

Interesting. I don't know much about creating paintings, thanks for sharing.