13 Abstract Painting Tips: Easy Art Techniques for Beginners

Let’s explore 13 easy and effective abstract painting tips that will help you bring your abstract paintings to life.

By incorporating these techniques, you’ll find the process more enjoyable and see improvement in your artistic creations. 

13 Abstract Painting Tips For Beginners

1. Simplicity is Key

Start with the basics. Break down your artwork into basic shapes and forms rather than detailed objects. This gives you a foundation to gradually layer and expand upon.

2. Nature as Your Muse

There’s no better inspiration than the world around you. Step outside and observe the natural patterns, hues, and forms.

Let the shapes and colors that resonate with you find their way onto your canvas.

3. Embrace a Limited Palette

Consider using a restricted color palette, like blues and whites. With just three to five shades, you can experiment and mix to create a variety of new tones.

This limitation can sometimes lead to more creativity than having a multitude of colors at your disposal.

4. Dive into Acrylics

Acrylic paints are incredibly forgiving, especially for beginners. They dry quickly and can be easily painted over if you want to rectify mistakes.

To give your paint more body, add a medium, making it more rigid and providing varied textures.

5. Relish the Journey

The act of painting is just as significant, if not more, than the final product. Be present in each stroke and moment.

Play some music to maintain a flow and keep your analytical mind at bay, letting creativity take the forefront.

6. Impasto is a Commonly Used Technique to Create A Textural Effect

The painting technique that applies thick layers of paint to create texture and depth is known as impasto.

Impasto is commonly used with oil paint to enhance the textural effect. Oil paints are thick and slow-drying, allowing artists to build up layers of paint and create rich, textured surfaces.

The impasto technique can also be used with acrylic paints when thickening agents are used. Acrylics with thickening agents can be manipulated like oil paints to create texture due to their quick drying time.

Texture can elevate an abstract painting to new dimensions. Use the Impasto technique: apply paint thickly with a stiff brush or palette knife.

This creates a tactile and visual depth, making your artwork come alive.

7. Intuitive Gestures

Let your subconscious lead the way. Sometimes, unplanned strokes, splatters, or smudges can lead to the most captivating elements in an abstract painting.

Trust your instincts and let your emotions guide your movements.

8. Use Tools Beyond Brushes

Don’t limit yourself to traditional brushes. Experiment with sponges, palette knives, fingers, rags, and even unconventional tools like credit cards or combs.

These can produce unexpected and unique textures and patterns.

9. Layers and Translucency

Incorporate layers into your painting to add depth. Using thin washes, glazes, or even transparent mediums can allow the layers beneath to subtly show through, adding richness to your composition.

10. Push and Pull with Contrast

Contrast can be a powerful tool in abstract painting. Play with light and dark, opaque and transparent, or coarse and smooth textures.

This dynamic can create a push-pull effect, drawing viewers into the painting and guiding their eyes around it.

11. Explore Different Mediums

Apart from acrylics, consider mediums like oils, watercolors, gouache, or mixed media. Each medium has its own characteristics and can offer a distinct feel to your artwork.

12. Study the Masters

While creating your unique style is essential, studying the works of abstract masters like James Gleeson, Jackson Pollock, Wassily Kandinsky, or Mark Rothko can offer insights.

Analyze their techniques, compositions, and color choices to draw inspiration.

13. Engage in Regular Critiques

Feedback can be invaluable. Share your work with fellow artists, mentors, or art enthusiasts. Regular critiques can provide fresh perspectives on your work and introduce you to different techniques or ideas you might not have considered.

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James Gleeson Abstract Painting – This artwork may be protected by copyright. It is posted on the site in accordance with fair use principles.

Are there rules to abstract painting?

Abstract painting is a form of art that departs from representing the external world and instead focuses on evoking emotions, ideas, or concepts through shapes, colors, forms, and gestural marks.

Because of its very nature, abstract painting isn’t bound by strict rules like some other art forms.

There are certain principles and guidelines that many abstract artists consider:

  1. Composition: Just as in other forms of visual art, composition—the arrangement of elements within a work—remains vital. Even in abstraction, a well-balanced composition can help engage the viewer.
  2. Color Theory: Understanding how different colors interact and the emotions they can evoke is invaluable. Even in abstract works, colors can create harmony, contrast, or tension.
  3. Texture: Introducing varied textures can add depth and interest to an abstract painting. Techniques like impasto, dry brushing, or scumbling can be used to create diverse textures.
  4. Form & Shape: Although abstract paintings may not represent recognizable objects, the use of different forms and shapes can still play a crucial role in conveying emotion or concepts.
  5. Balance: Even in the chaotic world of abstraction, there’s often a need for some balance. This doesn’t necessarily mean symmetry but rather a harmonious arrangement of elements that feels right to the artist.
  6. Emotion & Intuition: One of the hallmarks of abstract art is its ability to convey emotion. Often, artists will paint intuitively, letting their feelings guide their brush strokes.
  7. Experimentation: Abstract art thrives on experimentation. Trying out new techniques, materials, or ideas is encouraged. It’s about breaking boundaries and seeing what emerges.
  8. Continual Learning: As with any art form, continuously learning and evolving is essential. This could involve studying the works of other artists, understanding art history, or experimenting with new mediums and techniques.
  9. Personal Voice & Authenticity: Finding one’s voice is crucial. Abstract art is highly personal, and it’s important for the artist’s authenticity to shine through. It’s not about mimicking another’s style but discovering what’s unique to each artist.
  10. No Fear of Judgment: Since abstract art can be polarizing, artists must be prepared for a wide range of reactions. Being confident in one’s work and not fearing judgment or critique is essential.

While these principles can guide abstract artists, it’s also crucial to remember that abstract painting, at its core, is about freedom of expression.

The “rules” can be bent, broken, or completely disregarded depending on the artist’s vision and intent.

Break the rules when it comes to abstract painting tips

Rule of Thirds in Abstract Painting

If there are no rules in abstract painting, what about the rule of thirds? Does that apply to abstract painting?

Many academics, bloggers and artists like to throw around rules regarding art.

Art has no rules; there are some guidelines to help you meet the criteria for some aspects of art or movements of art but generally, rules are only made up by the gatekeepers of art and they are not laws.

The rule of thirds is a compositional principle often used in visual arts, including photography and painting.

It divides an image into nine equal segments by using two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines.

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Rule of thirds – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Third-Rule.jpg

Placing compositional elements along these lines or at their intersections can create a sense of balance, focus, and interest.

In abstract painting, the rule of thirds can certainly apply. Here’s how:

  1. Balance and Focus: Placing key elements or focal points on the intersections can draw the viewer’s eye and create balance within the composition, even if the elements themselves are abstract shapes or color fields.
  2. Guiding the Viewer’s Eye: Abstract artists can use the rule of thirds to guide the viewer’s eye around the painting. By placing elements of interest along the lines, artists can create a visual journey.
  3. Creating Movement: The rule can also be used to introduce a sense of movement or dynamism. Elements that stretch across one of the third-lines can guide the eye in that direction, creating a flow across the artwork.
  4. Breaking the Rule: Just as in other art forms, sometimes deliberately breaking the rule of thirds in abstract painting can lead to compelling results. Abstract art often thrives on unexpected choices, and deviating from this rule can create tension, surprise, or intrigue.

However, while the rule of thirds is a valuable tool, it’s important to remember that it’s just one of many compositional techniques available to artists.

Some abstract artists might rely on it heavily, while others might ignore it entirely in favor of other compositional strategies or intuitive layouts.

Like other “rules” in art, the rule of thirds can be seen as a guideline or starting point rather than a strict commandment.

Can anybody do abstract painting?

Absolutely anyone can dive into the world of abstract painting, but a little guidance can go a long way.

While there’s no rulebook saying that abstract artists need to be maestros with the brush or master draftsmen, many have solid foundations in drawing, composition, and color theory.

They’re well-versed in bringing elements like form, light, color, and line harmoniously together on a canvas.

The spectrum of abstract art is vast. On one end, there’s simplicity, and on the other, mind-boggling complexity.

Splashing paint onto a canvas? Sure, anyone can do that. But standing out and crafting memorable, high-quality abstract pieces in the vast sea of the art world?

That’s a challenging endeavor.

Since abstract art doesn’t depict clear, recognizable subjects, it can be a bit of a maze for some viewers.

There aren’t familiar landmarks to latch onto, which can feel unsettling or even intimidating to those who are more accustomed to finding inherent meaning in what they observe.

Speaking of the art realm, abstract works are quite the showstoppers in galleries.

Auction houses often cleverly curate modern and contemporary pieces together, drawing connections between yesteryear’s legends and today’s trailblazers.

Understanding Abstract Painting

Definition and History

Abstract painting is a creative style where the artist expresses emotions and ideas through shapes, colors, and forms, rather than depicting a scene or objects from reality.

The history of abstract art can be traced back to the early 20th century, when pioneers like Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich broke away from traditional art forms and developed a new way of visual expression.

Abstract expressionism emerged in the 1940s and 1950s, characterized by artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

This movement aimed to emphasize genuine emotional expression while rejecting any hints of visual objectivity.

Notable Abstract Artists

  • Wassily Kandinsky: Known as the father of abstract art, Kandinsky was a Russian artist whose paintings evolved from landscapes to more abstract forms. He believed that colors and shapes had a spiritual essence and could evoke emotions.
  • Kazimir Malevich: A Russian artist and theorist, Malevich was a pioneer of geometric abstraction. His famous painting, “Black Square,” was considered a revolutionary work and became a symbol of the movement known as Suprematism.
  • Jackson Pollock: An American artist, Pollock specialized in “drip” paintings, a technique where he poured and splattered paint onto large canvases. His unique style made him a key figure in the abstract expressionism movement.
  • Willem de Kooning: Another influential abstract expressionist, de Kooning was a Dutch-American artist known for his bold brushstrokes and abstracted human figures.

To create your own abstract artwork, remember that working with colors, shapes, and forms is necessary. Let your emotions and ideas guide you, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Exploring different techniques will help you find your unique style as an artist, and understanding the history of abstract art can be a valuable source of inspiration.

Starting Your Abstract Painting

Embarking on an abstract painting can be an exciting journey. To begin, clear your mind and focus on the abstract design you want to achieve.

Remember, there’s no need to rely on the outside world for inspiration; your emotions and imagination can be powerful sources for your art piece.

Selecting your abstract art ideas is the first step. Jot down some concepts on paper or create rough sketches of abstract art drawings to help solidify your vision.

This process will guide you in creating a compelling abstract composition.

Now, it’s time to face your blank canvas. To begin, apply the first layer of paint. This can be a plain color or an uncomplicated pattern.

The purpose of this stage is to break the starkness of the canvas and provide a foundation for your artwork.

While working on your abstract art canvas, remember that balance is vital. Strive for a harmonious blend of colors, shapes, and textures to create a visually captivating piece.

Be open to adjusting and modifying your original ideas as your painting evolves.

Keep your art fresh and engaging by experimenting with different techniques.

For example, you can use fluid paint to create dynamic patterns or paint to the rhythm of music to inject energy into your composition.

To make it visually captivating, play with contrasts and different textures. Here are some ideas for added visual interest:

  • Color contrasts: Mix warm and cool colors or pair complementary colors.
  • Shape contrasts: Combine geometric patterns with organic shapes.
  • Texture contrasts: Use thick and thin layers of paint, or incorporate other materials, such as sand or paper, to create various textures.

Finally, be patient with yourself. Abstract painting is an exploratory process, so enjoy the journey and let your creativity flow.

Over time, you’ll develop your unique voice in the world of abstract art.

Tools and Conditions

Different Brushes

Selecting the right brush is key to the outcome of your abstract painting. Synthetic brushes and acrylic brushes are excellent choices for various techniques.

For a smooth finish, choose fine bristles, while for a more textured look, opt for coarse bristles.

Palette Knives

Using a palette knife allows you to experiment with different brushstroke styles. You can create bold lines, thick layers, and unique textures.

Remember, you don’t need to limit yourself to traditional palette knives—old credit cards work just as well!

Other Alternative Tools

Get creative with tools like sponges or even your fingers for an innovative approach.

Other household items, such as spray bottles or aluminum foil, can also help add unique effects to your artwork.

Choosing a Paint Medium

Paint mediums, like oil paint or acrylics, drastically change the textural quality and drying time of your artwork.

Consider your desired result and painting surface when selecting your paint medium.

For example, oil paints take longer to dry, which allows for more blending, while acrylics dry quickly on a canvas, making them ideal for dry-brushing techniques.

Remember, practice and experimentation are vital to mastering abstract painting.

Embrace the freedom and versatility offered by the various tools and mediums, and create a unique piece reflective of your artistic vision.

Techniques and Tactics


Layering is a key aspect in abstract painting, as it allows you to build up depth and create a sense of complexity in your artwork.

Start by choosing your color palette and applying a base layer of paint. After the first layer has dried, you can add more layers of paint with varying colors.

Experiment with a new way to create effects by using layers of paint that mix when wet. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques to achieve interesting effects through layering.

Brush Strokes

Different brush strokes can create diverse styles and effects in abstract painting. Pay attention to the type of brush you use and the pressure you apply while painting.

Softer brushstrokes can produce a more delicate effect, while heavy strokes can add energy and boldness to your piece.

Make sure to clean your brushes regularly and maintain them in good shape.

Color Mixing and Matching

Selecting the right color combinations is necessary for creating effective abstract paintings. Try various color mixing techniques to develop unique hues for your artwork.

Bright colors can make your painting stand out, while more muted tones can provide a subtler effect.

Experiment with color palettes that can enhance the emotional impact of your painting.

Creating Texture

Developing interesting textures is vital for adding depth to your abstract painting.

Use various acrylic painting techniques to build texture on your canvas. You can experiment with:

  • Adding sand or other materials to your paint
  • Using a palette knife or other tools for scraping
  • Applying paint with a sponge or spray bottle

Feel free to explore new ways to create texture and to give your artwork a three-dimensional quality.

Creating Your Focal Point

Your focal point is the area of your painting that draws the most attention. Strategic positioning of this focal point is essential for guiding your viewer’s eye through your artwork.

You can create a focal point with bright colors or unique shapes that stand out from the rest of your piece.

Be careful not to overdo it, as too many focal points can make your painting appear chaotic.

Exploring Colors

Understanding Color Theory

Color theory is a vital part of abstract painting, so it’s necessary to familiarize yourself with it. Start by learning about primary colors: red, blue, and yellow.

These are the foundation of all other colors. To create various shades, mix primary colors in different proportions.

This way, you can find unique color combinations for your artwork.

Color Schemes

When it comes to choosing colors, many artists find it helpful to work with a set color scheme.

Some popular options include:

  • Monochromatic: Using different shades of a single color
  • Analogous: Combining colors that are next to each other on the color wheel
  • Complementary: Pairing colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel
  • Triadic: Selecting three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel

Experimenting with these schemes will help you find the best way to achieve harmony and balance in your work.

Warming and Cooling Colors

Colors can evoke emotions and influence the mood of your artwork.

Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow are often associated with energy and excitement, while cool colors like blue, green, and purple create a calming, soothing effect.

When creating abstract paintings, be mindful of the energy you want your work to convey and choose your colors accordingly.

Understanding color theory, experimenting with color schemes, and being aware of the emotional impact of colors are key aspects of abstract painting.

Devoting time to these aspects will enhance the quality of your work and give it more depth and expression.

Keep your audience in mind and don’t be afraid to explore various color choices to create your unique, captivating abstract art.

Tips and Tricks from Professional Artists

Perfecting Your Palette

Choosing the right color palette is a key factor in creating impressive abstract paintings.

Professional artists often recommend using a limited palette to avoid overwhelming the viewer.

Start with the primary colors and gradually add more variety. Experimenting with paint colors on cardboards is a good place to begin.

Using Different Paint Formats

Incorporate different paint formats like acrylics, oils, and watercolors in your artwork.

Each medium has its unique properties that enable a variety of visual effects. For instance, translucent watercolors are great for layering, while thick acrylic or oil paint can create bold and vibrant strokes.

Getting the Most from Your Brushes

Your brushes are essential tools in your artistic arsenal, so make sure you use them wisely.

Familiarize yourself with various brush shapes and sizes to understand their impact on your painting. As an abstract painter, experiment with unconventional brushstrokes.

Remember, cleaning and maintaining your brushes is vital for their longevity and performance.

Learning from the Masters

Studying the works of well-known abstract painters can provide valuable insights. Observe their techniques, compositions, and color choices closely.

Identify the elements that resonate with you and draw inspiration from them. Workshops, online tutorials, and local art classes offer beneficial lessons from experienced artists to help improve your skills.

Remember, practice makes perfect.

Utilizing these tips will aid in sharpening your abstract painting prowess.

Taking Your Abstract Painting to the Next Level

Mastering Representational Art

Before diving into abstract painting, mastering representational art is necessary.

This will provide you with a strong foundation in perspective, color theory, composition, and shading.

With these skills, you can bring unique abstract works to life that maintain a connection to their subjects.

Remember, having a solid foundation will help you explore your creativity in the most effective way.

Innovating with Different Techniques

Be bold and experiment with different techniques to create innovative abstract art.

Try adding and removing layers of paint to achieve different effects.

Texture is key to creating a visually captivating piece.

Use a variety of brush types and thick canvas materials to make your artwork stand out.

Developing your texture style makes your abstract work more dynamic and engaging.

Working Large and Small

When creating abstract art, don’t limit yourself to specific canvas sizes. Working on both large and small canvases will let you explore different ways to use space and create abstract designs.

Large canvases allow for broader strokes and vast color combinations, while small canvases challenge you to focus on finer small details.

At first glance, the only difference might be the canvas size, but the creative approach transforms with each new dimension.

Embracing different scales will take your artwork to new heights, continually broadening your artistic horizons.

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