5 Contemporary Abstract Painting Tips for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Start with a clear canvas
  2. Experiment with colors
  3. Play with texture
  4. Use different tools for unique effects
  5. Let your emotions guide you

Ever looked at a contemporary abstract painting and wondered how the artist created such a masterpiece? Today, we're going to unravel the mystery and gift you with five practical tips to kickstart your own journey in creating contemporary abstract painting ideas. No need for fancy degrees or expensive tools, just a dash of creativity, a sprinkle of patience, and a good dollop of fun!

Start with a Clear Canvas

Before you let the Picasso in you loose, it's important to start with a clear, clean canvas. Think of it as a fresh start, a blank page waiting for your story. It's like cooking a delicious meal - you wouldn't want to start with a dirty kitchen, would you?

Choosing the Right Canvas

When you're shopping for a canvas, consider its size and material. For beginners, a medium sized canvas (16x20 inches) works best. It's not too big to feel overwhelming, but not too small to limit your creativity. The material also matters - opt for cotton duck canvas. It's durable, easy to use, and ideal for experimenting with contemporary abstract painting ideas.

Preparing Your Canvas

Once you've chosen your canvas, it's time to prep it. This might seem like a boring step, but trust me, it's a game changer. Here's how you can do it:

  • Step 1: Start by applying a coat of gesso. This white paint mixture helps to prevent your paint from soaking into the canvas.
  • Step 2: Let it dry. This usually takes a couple of hours, but it can vary based on your environment. Patience is key here!
  • Step 3: Once it's dry, sand it lightly. This helps to create a smooth surface for your paint to glide on.

And there you have it - a clear, prepped canvas, ready for your contemporary abstract painting ideas to come to life!

Experiment with Colors

Now, this is where the fun really begins! Colors are the heart and soul of contemporary abstract painting ideas. It's like making music - the canvas is your stage, the brush is your microphone, and the colors are your notes. So, let's hit some high notes, shall we?

Understanding Color Theory

Ever wondered why some colors just seem to "click" together? That's color theory at play! You don't need to be a scientist to understand it. Here's a simple breakdown:

  • Primary Colors: Red, blue, and yellow. These are the parents of all other colors.
  • Secondary Colors: Green, orange, and purple. These are the children, made by mixing two primary colors.
  • Tertiary Colors: These are the grandchildren, made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color.

Try creating your own color wheel with these colors. It's a fun exercise and a great reference tool for your future painting endeavors!

Creating Mood with Colors

Colors aren't just pretty to look at - they can evoke emotions too. For instance, blues and greens can give a calm and peaceful vibe, while reds and oranges can add a dash of passion and energy. So, think about the mood you want to set in your painting, and choose your colors accordingly.

Experimenting with Colors

Now that you have a basic understanding of colors, it's time to go wild and experiment. Mix colors, play with shades, create gradients - the possibilities are endless. Remember, there's no right or wrong here. It's all about exploring different contemporary abstract painting ideas and having fun!

So, grab your paintbrush, dip it in your favorite color, and let's paint the town red...or blue...or green. You get the idea!

Play with Texture

Texture can transform a flat painting into a tactile wonderland. It adds depth and dimension, making your artwork more engaging. In contemporary abstract painting, texture is not just an add-on, but an integral part of the creative process. So, let's dive in and explore the textured world of abstract painting.

Understanding Texture

Texture in painting refers to the look and feel of the canvas. It can range from smooth and flat to bumpy and coarse. It's like the skin of your painting - it can be as smooth as a baby's cheek or as rough as a gravel road. It all depends on what you want to convey.

Creating Texture

There are many ways to create texture in your abstract painting. Here are a few techniques to get you started:

  1. Impasto: This is a technique where you apply thick layers of paint to create a textured surface. It's like icing a cake, but with paint. Delicious!
  2. Scraping: You can use a palette knife or a scraper to scrape off layers of paint, creating a rough, weathered effect.
  3. Sgraffito: This is where you scratch or etch into the wet paint to reveal the layers underneath. It's like digging for hidden treasure!

These are just a few examples. Feel free to experiment with other techniques and tools to create your unique texture.

Experimenting with Texture

Now comes the best part - experimenting with texture. Try mixing different techniques, or use unconventional tools like a toothbrush, sponge, or even your fingers. The sky's the limit when it comes to contemporary abstract painting ideas.

Remember, creating texture is like cooking. It's all about adding ingredients (paint), stirring (brush strokes), and adding spices (texture) to taste. So, put on your chef's hat and start cooking up some textured masterpieces!

Use Different Tools for Unique Effects

One of the defining characteristics of contemporary abstract painting is the freedom to use non-traditional tools. These tools can provide exciting textures and effects, adding a unique twist to your artwork. Here are some ideas that might inspire your next masterpiece.

Household Items as Tools

Who said you need expensive brushes to create art? The beauty of contemporary abstract painting is that you can use everyday items to achieve unique effects. Here's where you can start:

  1. Sponges: Dip a sponge in paint and dab it on the canvas. The result? A speckled pattern that can mimic nature or create an interesting abstract effect.
  2. Plastic Cards: Old credit cards or hotel keys can replace palette knives. Use them to scrape, spread, or layer paint for an edgy look.
  3. Toothbrushes: They're not just for cleaning your teeth. Flick the bristles to create a spray of fine dots, or use them to scrub in paint for a textured effect.

Art Tools in New Ways

Traditional art tools can also become part of your contemporary abstract painting ideas when used differently. Here are some suggestions:

  • Palette Knives: Instead of mixing paint, use them to apply thick layers of paint directly to the canvas, creating a 3D effect.
  • Brushes: Try using the wrong end of a brush to etch into the paint, or use fan brushes to create a streaky effect.

Remember, there are no rules in abstract painting. Your creativity is the limit. Explore, experiment, and most importantly, enjoy the process!

Let Your Emotions Guide You

Contemporary abstract painting is an emotional journey as much as it is a visual experience. The canvas is your stage, and the paint is your voice. Expressing your emotions through your art can lead to powerful, unique pieces that resonate with viewers. Here's how you can channel your feelings into your artwork.

Color Your Mood

Color is a powerful tool in conveying emotion. Think about how different colors make you feel and incorporate that into your painting. For example:

  1. Red: This color is often associated with passion and intensity. It's a great choice if you're trying to convey strong emotions.
  2. Blue: Blue is calming and peaceful. It's perfect for expressing serenity or introspection.
  3. Yellow: Bright and cheerful, yellow can express happiness or optimism.

Texture as Emotion

Texture can also communicate feelings in your contemporary abstract painting. Here are some ideas:

  • Smooth: Smooth textures can convey calmness and harmony. You can achieve this effect by using fluid paints or blending your colors well.
  • Rough: On the other hand, rough textures can indicate tension or conflict. You can create this effect by layering paint or using tools like palette knives or sponges.

Remember, your painting doesn't have to reflect what you see, but rather, what you feel. So, don't be afraid to let your emotions guide your brush. The result will be a truly unique piece that embodies your personal experience and emotions.

If you enjoyed these abstract painting tips and want to learn more about incorporating classical techniques into your modern art, check out the workshop 'Classical Painting in the Modern Day' by Eric Drummond. This workshop will help you blend the old and the new to create unique and captivating artwork.