How to Paint Abstract Paintings

Written by nora zavalczki
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How to Paint Abstract Paintings
An abstract representation of lights. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Abstract art encompasses a wide range of art, including paintings, sculpture, mixed media, photography and video. A broad definition of abstract art describes it as a type of representation that presents subjects in a stylised manner. An abstract painting may be inspired by an object, an idea, emotions or even music. The beauty of abstract art lies in the fact that you don't have to adhere to any rules of drawing and you can create a visually pleasing painting without knowing how to draw. The composition, colours and textures play a key role in abstract art.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Canvas or paper
  • Colours
  • Painting palette or a piece of cardboard
  • Paintbrushes
  • Palette knife
  • Sand, gravel (optional)

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  1. 1

    Choose a theme for your painting. If you want to stylise a few objects, squint with your eyes and observe the outlines of the objects. You may decide to make a composition inspired by your feelings or an idea.

  2. 2

    Prepare a sketch on a piece of paper to help you while you paint. Use composition elements such as lines, curves, spheres, cubes, or triangles or invent structures using basic elements. You may make your painting symmetrical or asymmetrical.

  3. 3

    Choose a colour scheme for your abstract painting. Paint with similar tones or complementary ones. Prepare the colours on your palette.

  4. 4

    Apply a thin colour on the entire surface of the canvas or paper and allow it to dry. This is the background for your painting, but you will add more colour later.

  5. 5

    Sketch the main elements on your canvas using thin lines.

  6. 6

    Colour the elements of your painting, but allow your creativity to interfere. Add more elements and colours to the painting, if you feel like it. Use paintbrushes or apply thicker layers of paint using a palette knife.

  7. 7

    Analyse your painting and decide if you need to add any other elements to achieve the desired effect. Decide if you need to add more colours. For instance, if your painting contains only shades of green, add a line or a dot of red to contrast with the green and intensify the colours.

Tips and warnings

  • Use acrylic colours, which dry faster and don't require the use of a toxic thinner such as turpentine.
  • Instead of applying a single colour as background, divide your canvas in two or several parts and apply a different colour in each section.
  • If you want to create a balanced composition, use both vertical and horizontal elements in your painting. Heavier elements should be placed at the bottom of your painting.
  • You may also opt to skip creating a sketch and improvise as you paint.
  • Mix various materials in your paints such as sand, gravel, plaster or clay to obtain different textures on your painting.

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