How to Swirl Paint

Updated February 21, 2017

If painting with a brush and canvas is becoming a bit of a bore, swirl painting is an exciting change of pace. Swirl painting involves dripping paint onto a moving, suspended object to create a unique pattern of swirls, splotches and splatters. The paint streaks create a marbling effect which can be used to add decorative flair to cigar boxes, picture frames or vases. With some basic painting materials and some household products, you'll be making custom swirl paint creations in no time.

Clean the object you'll be painting using a soft cloth dipped in a solvent. Isopropyl alcohol or acetone will work fine to remove dirt and oil.

Suspend your object. The most common way to do this is by threading fishing line around the object and hanging it from a rafter in your garage. Holding it with your fingertips will also suffice. Place old newspapers underneath your work area.

Cover the object's outside surface with a coat of primer. Use a foam paintbrush for smooth, even application. Allow the primer to dry overnight.

Pour a small amount of the paint colours you wish to use into several plastic cups. Dilute the paint with thinner using a 3 to 1 ratio.

Fill the plastic droppers with each paint colour. Drop the paint onto the object as desired, switching off between colours intermittently. If the object is suspended, turn it slowly as you paint. If you're holding the object, invert and rotate it to create the swirl pattern.

Allow the object to air dry overnight. To expedite drying, place the object in a toaster oven at about 93.3 degrees Celsius.


Do not place anything that is easily flammable into the toaster oven (clothing, books). Allow objects of this nature to fully air dry.

Things You'll Need

  • Solvent
  • Soft cloth
  • Fishing line (optional)
  • Old newspapers
  • Foam paintbrush
  • Primer
  • Paint thinner
  • Oil-based paints
  • Plastic cups
  • Plastic droppers
  • Toaster oven (optional)
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About the Author

Brandon Getty began writing professionally in 2008, with columns appearing in "Thrasher" magazine. He received a Bachelor of Arts in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lives in Stockton, Calif.