Paint Splatter Art the Easy Way: Tips and Tricks for Your Next Project

Take heart, aspiring artists! Paint splatter art is here to provide the easy, stress-free creative outlet so many of us crave — without the time commitment that mastering brushstroke painting requires. All that’s needed  is some paint, a few brushes or common household items, a painting surface of some kind, and a room (or outdoor space) that has been prepped to withstand unpredictable splashes of color. Paint splatter art is expressive, low-cost, and loads of fun. Read on for a guide to basic materials and techniques, and then get ready to splatter paint to your heart’s content

Brace yourself: paint splatter art is messy. But that’s kind of the point. ( image source )

Brace yourself: paint splatter art is messy. But that’s kind of the point. (image source)

What is Paint Splatter Art?

“Splatter painting” refers to a set of techniques for using brushes and other implements to flick, throw, or drip paint onto a painting surface — instead of painting with brushes to create original abstract art. Also known as “drip painting” or “action painting,” the technique took off  when the abstract expressionist art movement that began in the 1940s (Jackson Pollock was one of the form’s most accomplished practitioners). Unlike other types of visual art,  splatter painting it celebrates spontaneity, improvisation, and a highly physical approach to making art, . so it requires no formal training.Enthusiasm and a playful spirit, on the other hand, are important prerequisites to enjoying the process. .

Basic Supplies

One of the best things about paint splatter art is that you need very few tools to get started. You can use just about any type of paint, but acrylic is probably the most popular. Acrylics are inexpensive, come in loads of colors, and clean up easily. Watercolors and gouache paint are also used for many of the same reasons and give your artwork a softer look than acrylic. Latex house paint has a stringy texture that makes for unique splatter art, and it’s cheaper than traditional art paints.

Watercolors are a great paint option and tend to give your splatter art a softer look ( image source )

Watercolors are a great paint option and tend to give your splatter art a softer look (image source)

Different sizes and types of brushes will give you different splatter effects, but smaller ones with stiff bristles offer the most control. Toothbrushes work well and are the brush of choice for many splatter artists. Other types of implements can work very well for splatter, from sticks to spoons to straws, whatever you can throw paint with (the first rule of paint splatter art is that there are no rules!).  Any painting surface will do (though canvas is best), but beware of using paper that will saturate easily —  a lot of paint can soak right through! Smocks (or clothes you no longer need) and vinyl gloves are a must. Try splatter painting outside or use you garage, basement, or attic, and cover the space with plastic or newspaper. Remember, this is going to get messy.

How to Splatter Paint: 13 Tips and Tricks

  1. Most paints splatter best with a little water added, so experiment with different consistencies before you find your preferred water level — you can always add more paint if you go too far.

  2. Be sure to have at least one brush for each color on your palette and keep your paints separated in individual bowls to keep your hues vibrant and distinct,Multiple colors add depth to your paintings, as long as you let each color dry a bit before moving on to the next.

  3. Mount your painting surface  on a wall for the full horizontal-throw, action painting experience, or place it on the floor to mix in some drip techniques.

  4. Consider limiting your splatter area. Use painter’s tape to section off your canvas to try cutting a shape out of construction paper or cardboard to make a stencil. Planning and painting one section at a time will give your finished work a more intentional look.

  5. Experiment to determine how far you’d like to be from your canvas. Standing farther away will make your splatters smaller. Move closer into to mix thing up with larger splatters.

  6. Assemble a toolkit of brushes (and other implements) of varied sizes and shapes. Each will create a different splatter pattern on your canvas, as will moving your arm at different speeds, angles, and directions.

  7. When you using a brush, fully load the bristles with paint. Try flicking your wrist toward the canvas, then switch to using your entire arm. The wrist action creates concentrated splatters while the full-arm method yields looser, more spread out results. When flicking, move your wrist quickly for thinner lines.

  8. Try tapping your paint-covered brush with a stick or another brush to launch your paint, or run your finger along the edge of the brush at close range to the canvas for smaller and more delicate splatters. Also use your finger to gently flick paint from a paint-covered toothbrush to create a fine mist.

  9. Dip one end of a straw in paint and blow into other end up close to the canvas. This technique results in small and concentrated splatters that spread out from a center point.

  10. Using a paint-covered spoon like a slingshot — pull back at the top of the spoon with you other hand — can yield a unique set of splatters.

  11. After placing your canvas on the floor, fully load your paintbrush and point it down. Try squeezing the paint from the back of the brush down to the tip for large and lush drips effects.

  12. You can also use spray paint to create unique splatter effects, as is often seen in graffiti-style art. Try using a large cap and nozzle and hold the trigger a quarter to halfway down. Spray close to your canvas for a variety of drips and splatters.

  13. Splatter paint techniques can be used to paint a gorgeous night sky full of stars. A detailed tutorial from Scratchmade Journal shows how to make a rich, multi-layered background for your night sky, and then add stars by gently flicking a toothbrush covered with white paint.

Make sure that you take pains to protect your floors…and walls…and ceiling…and clothes…and skin. Unless you’re ready to turn those into splatter art projects too! ( image source )

Make sure that you take pains to protect your floors…and walls…and ceiling…and clothes…and skin. Unless you’re ready to turn those into splatter art projects too! (image source)

Beyond the Canvas: Other Uses for Paint Splatter Art

In addition to creating individual works of art, paint splatter techniques can be used to add a vibrant splash of color to many other areas of your life. Here are a few of our favorites:

Interior Walls or Wallpaper: Nothing gives a studio or workspace a uniquely art-focused character like spatter painting the walls. Be sure to cover your floors, ceilings, or  any other areas you wish to remain splatter-free before you begin painting. For smaller rooms try standing in the center of the room and spin in a circle while flicking your paint. Use squirt bottles full of diluted paint for splattering from a distance. Try filling balloons with paint using a funnel, tying them closed and throwing them at the wall, or throwing darts at paint balloons fastened to your wall.  If you’re feeling especially adventurous, throw a paint-splatter party and let your friends go wild — they’ll have lots of fun participating.

Once they’ve dried, your splatter walls will be able to be enjoyed as their own work of art  or used as a paint splatter background for the more conventional works of art you hang on your walls.. Want the look of a paint splatter wall without making it ultra-permanent? Making paint splatter wallpaper means you can easily change your room’s look when you tire of the abstract motif. .

Cape Cod Floors: Paint-splattered floors are a centuries-old tradition unique to the summer cottages of the Massachusetts coast (for pictures of these historic floors, check out this feature recently published The New York Times Style Magazine). According to the Times,. historically, the process often began by painting a wooden floor a vibrant solid color. “After letting the base color dry fully, whack a paintbrush, dipped in the pigment of one’s choice, against an iron pipe. For small dots, strike a foot away from the floor. For larger ones, add more paint and bring your brush a bit closer to the ground.” The splatter paint floors make such a charming addition to any space, there’s no reason why these floors should be isolated to Cape Cod. If you’re feeling like splatter painting your floors, go for it! You’re in historically good company.

Keeping your colors separate until they are splattered together on your painting surface will give your work more depth and visual interest ( image source )

Keeping your colors separate until they are splattered together on your painting surface will give your work more depth and visual interest (image source)

Clothing: Splatter-painted clothes have enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity. But there’s no need to pay haute couture prices when you can make your own using many of the techniques outlined above. Start with an old pair of jeans or a t-shirt, dip a vinyl-gloved hand in fabric paint, and then, making a fist and opening it quickly, throw the paint over the clothing. For splatter-clothing inspiration from labels like J. Crew and Urban Renewal, see Brit + Co’s article, “19 Styles That Prove Paint Splattering Is Spring’s Most Creative Trend.”

Digital Paint Splatter Art: creating paint splatter art on your computer is a very different experience than flinging real paint at a canvas or other object, but like all digital media, it offers precision, control and flexibility not available in the analog world. It also allows you to start developing your eye for paint splatter art without making a mess. Custom made paint-splatter brushes for use with Photoshop, Illustrator, Procreate, and other digital art applications are widely available on the web, often for free. Procreate makes it especially easy to create your own splatter brushes and export them to other digital art programs as needed. It’s also easy to find paint splatter vector art on the web for use in your graphic design projects. Creative Bloq offers an in-depth tutorial on creating drip-effect portraits in Illustrator; the Houston Chronicle has an article on splatter painting in Photoshop.

Digital paint splatter art gives you the spontaneous look of splatter with more control over the final outcome ( image source )

Digital paint splatter art gives you the spontaneous look of splatter with more control over the final outcome (image source)

Conclusion:

No matter how or where you throw your paint, don’t forget that splatter is a unique form of expression that may give you a sense of  catharsis or creative renewal. Experimentation is key, as is bringing a certain fearless audacity to your work methods. So get going! Have big fun splattering your paint and creative success won’t be too far behind.


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