Easy Tips for Creating Stunning DIY Abstract Art on Canvas
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 11 min read


1. Choose Your Materials

2. Prepare Your Workspace

3. Experiment with Colors

4. Learn Abstract Techniques

5. Find Inspiration

6. Create Your Masterpiece

7. Finishing Touches

Creating your own DIY abstract art can be a fun and rewarding experience, allowing you to express your creativity and add a personal touch to your living space. In this guide, we'll walk you through the process of making stunning DIY abstract art on canvas, starting with choosing the right materials for your project.

1. Choose Your Materials

To begin your journey into DIY abstract art, it's important to select the appropriate materials, as they will significantly impact the outcome of your artwork. Let's explore the various options for canvas, paint types, and brushes or palette knives.

Canvas Selection

When choosing a canvas for your DIY abstract art, consider the following factors:

  • Size: Select a canvas that fits your intended display space and accommodates your artistic vision. Canvases come in various sizes, ranging from small (8x10 inches) to large (36x48 inches) and beyond.
  • Material: Canvases are typically made from cotton or linen, with cotton being more affordable and easier to find, while linen offers a smoother, more professional surface.
  • Stretching and priming: Pre-stretched and pre-primed canvases are the most convenient options, as they save you time and effort. However, if you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can purchase unstretched canvas rolls and stretch and prime them yourself.

Paint Types

There are several paint options for your DIY abstract art, each with its own set of characteristics:

  • Acrylics: These are water-based, fast-drying, and versatile, making them ideal for beginners. They can be thinned with water or mediums to create various textures and effects.
  • Oil paints: These are slow-drying and require solvents for thinning and cleaning. They offer rich colors and can be easily blended, making them popular among professional artists.
  • Watercolors: These are water-based and transparent, allowing you to create delicate, luminous effects. They work best on paper, but can also be used on specially prepared canvases.

Brushes and Palette Knives

Having the right tools can make a big difference in your DIY abstract art project. Here's what you need to know about brushes and palette knives:

  • Brushes: Choose brushes that are compatible with your chosen paint type. For acrylics, synthetic brushes are a good choice, while natural hair brushes work well with oil paints. Experiment with different brush shapes, such as round, flat, and filbert, to achieve various effects.
  • Palette knives: These versatile tools can be used for mixing paint, applying thick layers of paint, and creating textures. They come in various shapes and sizes, so try a few to find the ones that work best for your style.

2. Prepare Your Workspace

Before you dive into creating your DIY abstract art, it's essential to set up a comfortable and efficient workspace. This will ensure that your creative process runs smoothly and helps prevent accidents or damage to your surroundings. Let's discuss the key aspects of preparing your workspace, including protecting your space, organizing supplies, and ensuring proper lighting.

Protecting Your Space

Painting can be a messy process, so it's crucial to take steps to protect your workspace:

  • Floor protection: Lay down a drop cloth, plastic sheet, or old newspapers to catch paint drips and prevent stains on your floor.
  • Furniture protection: If you're working near furniture, cover it with a sheet or plastic to shield it from potential paint splatters.
  • Proper ventilation: Ensure that your workspace has adequate ventilation, especially if you're using oil paints or solvents, as they can produce strong fumes.

Organizing Supplies

Having your supplies organized and within easy reach will make your DIY abstract art project more enjoyable and efficient. Consider the following tips:

  • Set up a table: Arrange a table near your canvas to hold your paints, brushes, and other supplies, so you don't have to constantly reach or move around while painting.
  • Use containers: Keep your brushes, palette knives, and other tools in containers to prevent them from rolling around or getting lost.
  • Have a water source: If you're using water-based paints like acrylics or watercolors, have a container of water handy for rinsing brushes and thinning paint.

Proper Lighting

Good lighting is essential for accurately assessing colors and seeing details while creating your DIY abstract art:

  • Natural light: If possible, set up your workspace near a window to take advantage of natural light, which provides the most accurate color representation.
  • Artificial light: If natural light isn't available, use daylight-balanced bulbs or LED lights to mimic natural light. Ensure that your workspace is well-lit without creating harsh shadows or glare on your canvas.
  • Adjustable lamps: Consider using adjustable floor or desk lamps that can be directed at your canvas, allowing you to control the lighting as needed.

3. Experiment with Colors

Colors play a significant role in creating eye-catching DIY abstract art. Understanding color theory, mixing colors, and creating a color palette will help you achieve the desired effect and mood in your artwork. Let's explore these aspects of working with color in more detail.

Color Theory

Color theory is the study of how colors interact and influence one another. Familiarizing yourself with the basics will help you make informed decisions when choosing colors for your DIY abstract art:

  • Primary colors: Red, blue, and yellow are the primary colors, which cannot be created by mixing other colors.
  • Secondary colors: These are created by mixing equal amounts of two primary colors: green (blue + yellow), orange (red + yellow), and purple (red + blue).
  • Tertiary colors: These are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color, resulting in colors like yellow-green, blue-green, and red-orange.
  • Color wheel: The color wheel is a visual representation of the relationships between colors, helping you understand complementary colors (opposite on the wheel), analogous colors (adjacent on the wheel), and more.

Mixing Colors

Learning to mix colors will give you a greater range of hues to work with when creating DIY abstract art:

  • Start with small amounts: When mixing colors, begin with a small amount of paint and adjust as needed. This will help prevent waste and make it easier to duplicate the color if needed.
  • Use a palette: A palette (or any flat, non-absorbent surface) is ideal for mixing colors and keeping them organized.
  • Experiment with shades and tints: Create shades (darker colors) by adding small amounts of black, and tints (lighter colors) by adding white to your base color.
  • Keep a color swatch journal: Documenting your color mixes, along with the ratios used, can help you recreate them in the future and serve as a reference for future projects.

Creating a Color Palette

Developing a color palette for your DIY abstract art will help you maintain cohesion and harmony in your piece:

  • Choose a color scheme: Start by selecting a color scheme, such as complementary, analogous, or monochromatic, to guide your palette choices.
  • Limit the number of colors: Keeping your palette limited to a few main colors can help create a more unified and visually appealing piece.
  • Consider mood and emotion: Colors can evoke different emotions and moods, so think about the feelings you want to convey with your artwork and choose colors accordingly.
  • Test your colors: Before applying colors to your canvas, test them on a separate piece of paper or canvas to see how they work together and make adjustments as needed.

4. Learn Abstract Techniques

Developing a variety of techniques will help you create unique and captivating DIY abstract art. Here, we'll introduce some popular techniques, such as pouring paint, texture and layering, and splattering and dripping, which you can experiment with and incorporate into your artwork.

Pouring Paint

Paint pouring is a technique that involves mixing paint with a pouring medium and then pouring it onto the canvas to create fluid, organic patterns. Here's how to get started:

  • Mix paint and pouring medium: Combine acrylic paint with a pouring medium (such as Liquitex or Floetrol) in a cup or container. This will help the paint flow more easily on the canvas.
  • Layer colors: Pour multiple colors into one cup, layering them one on top of the other, to create interesting color combinations and effects.
  • Pour onto the canvas: Gently pour the paint mixture onto your canvas, either in a specific pattern or randomly, depending on the desired effect.
  • Manipulate the paint: Tilt the canvas or use a tool like a palette knife or straw to manipulate the paint, creating unique patterns and designs.

Texture and Layering

Adding texture and layers to your DIY abstract art can create depth and visual interest. Here are some techniques to help you achieve this:

  • Use a palette knife: A palette knife is a versatile tool that can be used to apply paint in thick layers, scrape paint away, or create lines and patterns in the paint.
  • Add texture mediums: Texture mediums, such as modeling paste or gesso, can be mixed with paint or applied separately to create a variety of textures on your canvas.
  • Layer paint: Apply multiple layers of paint, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next. This can create a sense of depth and complexity in your artwork.
  • Experiment with tools: Try using unconventional tools like sponges, crumpled paper, or even your fingers to create unique textures and patterns in your paint.

Splattering and Dripping

Splattering and dripping paint onto your canvas can add energy and spontaneity to your DIY abstract art. Here are some tips for successful splattering and dripping:

  • Thin your paint: Mix your paint with water or a medium to achieve a thinner consistency, making it easier to splatter or drip.
  • Choose the right tool: Brushes, palette knives, or even sticks can be used to flick or drip paint onto your canvas. Experiment with different tools to find the effect you like best.
  • Control the splatter: Practice your splatter technique on a separate piece of paper or canvas before applying it to your artwork. This will help you control the size and direction of the splatters.
  • Protect your surroundings: Splattering and dripping can be messy, so make sure to protect your workspace, and wear old clothes or an apron to protect yourself!

5. Find Inspiration

Finding inspiration for your DIY abstract art can come from many sources, including the works of famous abstract artists, nature, and your own emotions and experiences. Let's explore some ways to gather inspiration for your masterpiece.

Exploring Abstract Artists

Studying the works of famous abstract artists can provide valuable insights into different styles and techniques. Some artists to explore include:

  • Jackson Pollock: Known for his "drip paintings," Pollock's technique of dripping and splattering paint onto the canvas revolutionized the world of abstract art.
  • Mark Rothko: Rothko's large-scale paintings featuring vibrant color fields evoke deep emotional responses and can inspire you to experiment with color and scale in your own work.
  • Wassily Kandinsky: Often credited as the pioneer of abstract art, Kandinsky's work combines geometric shapes, bold colors, and expressive lines to create powerful visual statements.
  • Agnes Martin: Martin's minimalist grid paintings are a study in subtlety, showcasing the power of simplicity and repetition in abstract art.

Nature and Surroundings

Observing the world around you can offer endless inspiration for your DIY abstract art. Look for interesting textures, colors, and patterns in nature, such as:

  • Landscapes: The colors of a sunset, the patterns of tree bark, or the texture of sand can all inspire your artwork.
  • Weather phenomena: Storm clouds, raindrops, or the movement of leaves in the wind can provide ideas for dynamic compositions.
  • Microscopic patterns: Studying the intricate structures of crystals, cells, or plant tissues can inspire you to create detailed, abstract patterns.

Emotions and Experiences

Abstract art often conveys emotions and experiences that are difficult to express in words. Use your own feelings and experiences as a starting point for your DIY abstract art:

  • Express your emotions: Use color, texture, and composition to represent your feelings, whether it's joy, sadness, anger, or peace.
  • Represent a memory: Think about a significant moment or experience in your life and try to capture its essence through abstract shapes and colors.
  • Explore a theme: Choose a theme, such as growth, balance, or chaos, and create an artwork that embodies that concept.

6. Create Your Masterpiece

With your workspace prepared, materials chosen, and inspiration gathered, it's time to create your very own DIY abstract art masterpiece. Let's dive into some key steps to help you bring your vision to life on the canvas.

Planning Your Composition

Before you start applying paint, it's a good idea to plan your composition. Consider the following:

  • Size and scale: Think about the size of your canvas and how you want your design to fill the space. Larger canvases may require more dramatic techniques, while smaller ones can benefit from finer details.
  • Shapes and lines: Sketch out the basic shapes and lines you want to incorporate into your art. This can help guide your painting process and create balance in the final piece.
  • Color scheme: Refer back to your chosen color palette and think about how you want to distribute the colors throughout your composition.

Applying Paint

With a plan in place, it's time to start applying paint to your canvas. Remember the techniques you've learned and don't be afraid to experiment:

  • Layering: Start with a base layer of color and build up layers, allowing each one to dry before applying the next. This can create depth and texture in your DIY abstract art.
  • Blending: Use brushes, palette knives, or even your fingers to blend colors directly on the canvas, creating smooth transitions or interesting effects.
  • Adding texture: Use various tools or techniques, like palette knives, sponges, or even crumpled paper, to add texture and dimension to your painting.
  • Experimenting with techniques: Combine pouring, dripping, splattering, and other techniques to create a unique and dynamic composition.

Evaluating and Adjusting

As you work on your DIY abstract art, take a step back occasionally to evaluate your progress and make any necessary adjustments:

  • Assessing balance and harmony: Look at your composition from a distance and check if the colors, shapes, and lines are balanced and harmonious. Adjust as needed to achieve the desired effect.
  • Adding details: If you feel your artwork needs more visual interest, consider adding small details, like lines, dots, or patterns, to enhance the overall composition.
  • Knowing when to stop: One of the most challenging aspects of creating abstract art is knowing when your piece is complete. Trust your instincts and remember that sometimes less is more.

Remember, the beauty of DIY abstract art lies in its freedom of expression and creativity—there's no right or wrong way to create your masterpiece. Embrace the process and enjoy the journey!

7. Finishing Touches

Once you've completed your DIY abstract art masterpiece, it's time to add some finishing touches to protect your creation and make it display-ready. Let's explore the final steps that will take your artwork to the next level.

Varnishing and Sealing

Protecting your painting with a varnish or sealant is essential for preserving the colors and texture of your artwork. Here's what you need to know:

  • Varnish types: There are several types of varnishes available, such as gloss, matte, and satin. Choose one based on the desired finish and protection level for your DIY abstract art.
  • Application: Apply the varnish evenly with a brush, ensuring all areas of the painting are covered. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying and curing times.
  • Removable vs. permanent: Some varnishes are removable, allowing you to clean and reapply the protection over time. This can be useful for maintaining the longevity of your artwork.

Framing Options

Framing your DIY abstract art can enhance its visual appeal and make it easier to display. Consider these framing options:

  • Canvas floater frames: These frames create the illusion that the canvas is floating within the frame, giving your artwork a modern and sleek appearance.
  • Traditional frames: Choose a frame style that complements your painting and your home's decor. Keep in mind that framing can either enhance or detract from your artwork, so choose wisely.
  • Frameless: If you prefer a minimalist look, you can display your canvas without a frame. Just ensure the edges of your canvas are painted or finished for a polished appearance.

Displaying Your Artwork

Finally, it's time to showcase your DIY abstract art masterpiece. Here are some tips for displaying your artwork:

  • Location: Choose a location where your artwork can be easily seen and appreciated. Consider factors like lighting, wall space, and the overall aesthetic of the room.
  • Height: Hang your artwork at eye level to ensure it can be comfortably viewed. Adjust the height based on the average viewer or the specific space where it will be displayed.
  • Groupings: If you've created multiple DIY abstract art pieces, consider displaying them together in a cohesive arrangement, such as a gallery wall or a diptych or triptych.

With your masterpiece completed, protected, and displayed, you can now take pride in your DIY abstract art creation. Remember, the most important aspect of this process is enjoying the journey and expressing your unique artistic vision. Happy creating!