One of the easiest ways to create texture to a painting is to simply use a textured surface or use thick paint as an impasto and then work texture into it.
This could be anything from canvas to paper to wood. The key is to experiment and see what works best for you and your painting style.
Another easy way to create texture in painting is by using different mediums or applying additives to mediums.
Let’s explore all these options in a little more detail.
14 Ways to Add Textured Items to Your Paint From Sand to Dirt
You can also simply add textured items like sand, dirt, or coffee grounds directly into the paint to create an interesting textural effect. Here are some of the usual items you can add to either oil paint or acrylic paint that are quite durable once the paint dries:
- Sand – can be found anywhere and is quite stable in paint.
- Dirt – Instead of using real dirt which is unpredictable, you can buy fake diorama dirt specifically for crafting at some stores.
- Coffee grounds – as with dirt, it’s not stable and can actually ruin a painting unless you want it to bleed or change the look of the paint over time.
- Sawdust – from the hardware store or make it your own as it’s quite easy. It’s quite fine and will give a different effect than sand but in the coarse form it can add to your painting a unique texture.
- Paper pulp – you can make it yourself by tearing paper and soaking it in water until it breaks down. I like to also apply some glue to the paint and mold or scrunch it up before painting over it.
- Shredded cork – this one is a bit more unique but can be fun. It’s not as fine as sawdust but still gives a nice effect.
- Pencil shavings – if you have ever drawn with a pencil, you know how fine the shavings can be. They can add a nice touch to your painting as the shavings usually contain traces of colored wood.
- Ground metal – this can also have the added effect of rusting over time giving the painting a different look as it ages.
- Graphite flakes – these can be found in the art aisle of your local craft store. Graphite is a great way to add weight and density to a painting.
- Gold leaf – this is a bit more of an advanced technique but can be stunning if done correctly. There are a few things to keep in mind when using gold leaf. Firstly, it is very delicate so you will need to be careful when applying it to your painting. Secondly, it is also quite expensive so you may want to use it sparingly.
These are just a few examples. Just make sure that whatever you add is dry and doesn’t have any oils or chemicals that will react with the paint and cause it to deteriorate.
Use a textured surface or base to paint on
One of the simplest ways to create texture to your painting is by using a textured surface. This could be anything from a canvas with an interesting grain or a piece of paper that’s been textured.
You can even use wood as a base for your painting if you want to add a rustic look. The key is to experiment and see what works best for you and your painting style.
You will also get different textures based on how much or if any undercoating is applied.
Use impasto paint or thickened paint
If you want to create texture by using the paint itself, then you can try either impasto paint or thickening your paint.
Impasto paint is already textured depending on how you apply it that is, with a palette or painting knife or by using brushes. So it’s easy to apply and build up.
Experiment with different mediums
As well as experimenting with surfaces and paints, you can also try using different mediums to create texture in your painting.
This could be anything from sand to leaves or even fabric. Again, it’s all about experimentation and seeing what works best for you and your painting style.
Add a medium or additive to your oil paint
If you’re painting with oil paint, you can also add a medium or additive to create different textures. There are plenty of mediums and additives available, so it’s worth doing some research to see which ones would be best for your painting.
A few popular options include:
- Texture gels: These add body to the paint and can create a range of different textures, from smooth to coarse.
- Glazing mediums: These make the paint more transparent and can give your painting a luminous quality.
- Impasto mediums: These make the paint thicker and more opaque, perfect for creating textured brush strokes.
With so many options available, it’s really up to you to experiment and see what you like.
Add a medium or additive to your acrylic paint
You can buy specialized acrylic mediums that will add various types of texture to your paint, from smooth to coarse.
Or you can experiment with other materials like sand, sawdust, or even coffee grounds to add a unique texture to your painting.
Just remember that whatever you add will change the consistency of the paint, so you may need to adjust your application technique accordingly. Sawdust and coffee grounds leads me to the next section.
You can even create your own textured surface by building up layers of paint and allowing them to dry in between coats.
Just be aware that the texture of the surface will show through in your painting, so choose wisely.
Scratch or add grooves to paint before it is dry
This is an easy thing to do when learning how to create texture in your painting if you want more of an organic look. Use something sharp like a fork or a toothpick to scratch lines or grooves into the wet paint.
Just be careful not to overdo it, as too much texture can make your painting look muddy.
Add objects to the painting
You can also add physical objects to your painting to create texture. Just make sure that whatever you add is dry and doesn’t have any oils or chemicals that will react with the paint and cause it to deteriorate.
For example, you could add sand, gravel, or even leaves. Just make sure that they are completely dry before adding them to the painting.
I have also used tiny seashells that I have dipped in PVA or wood glue and then added them to my painting.
Use materials to stencil over the paint before it is dry
If you want to create a more uniform texture, you can use materials such as lace, netting, or even leaves to stencil over the paint before it is dry.
This is a great way to create texture if you are painting something like a landscape or seascape.
Just make sure that the materials you use are dry and that they don’t have any oils or chemicals that will react with the paint and cause it to deteriorate.
Chemically alter the painting surface
Be careful with this option as it can be harmful. One chemical I used was a drain cleaner that I left on my paint overnight.
I had to wipe it down before it ate through to the canvas but it left tiny holes and circles of varying sizes on the paint as the chemical reacted with the painting.
Add resin to your oil paint
If you want to add a glossy, wet look to your painting, try adding resin. You can buy this at any craft store and it comes in different colors.
Just mix it into your paint until you get the desired consistency. The resin will act a little like adding glue to acrylic paint but works best with oil paints and painting.
Years ago I actually painted a window that had an outside scene on the glass.
I wanted to give the painting the effect of rain drops on the paint and I used drops of epoxy resin over the paint to simulate water.
Everyone who saw it actually thought it was real water!
Add glue to acrylic paint
Like adding resin to oil paint, adding glue to acrylic paint will give it a wet, glossy look. Just mix the desired amount of glue into your paint until you get the desired consistency.
Sand the painting to create texture
If you want to add a lot of texture to your painting, try sanding it. This will create a rough surface that will be very noticeable.
Just make sure to use fine-grit sandpaper so you don’t damage the painting. You can also try sanding and repainting and see what textured effects you get.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
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