This post is exciting for me to write – I LOVE abstract acrylic painting, and I know you will, too when you try out some of these easy ideas. Acrylics are the most user-friendly paints because they dry quickly, they are so versatile, and it’s easy to get great results with them.
If you are a total beginner to acrylics, keep your eyes peeled for a beginning acrylic painting post with tips and techniques, but for now, let’s brainstorm a bunch of really cool, simple abstract acrylic painting ideas anyone can do.
P.S. I hope you don’t really think I’ve come up with 30,000 ideas.
Random Abstract Painting Ideas
Paint a solid color or varied-colored background with acrylics. Let it dry, then add lines of painter’s tape in a design to act as a resist. Paint over the open areas, and peel the tape away to reveal a cool design. Alternative: use ripped pieces of tape instead of straight lines to get a totally different look.
Mix up 4 paint colors, or use 4 colors straight from the tube if you love them. Have all 4 ready in jars or in piles on your palette. Starting from the center of your surface, Dab a blob of paint on, and dab out in petal-like blobs until you reach the edge of the painting surface. You can use your colors in a pattern or haphazardly.
Rip a thick piece of paper or thin cardboard lengthwise. Use it as a stencil to lay down on your painting surface and paint along the edge of to create stripes all over your surface. Let one color dry before you move onto the next.
Circle Resist Pattern
Paint the surface all one color. After it dries, stick circle stickers all over it and paint over them. Remove them to reveal a dot pattern, whether you make a uniform pattern or go all loose is up to you.
Remember potato prints? Carve a design into a potato, dry it off and brush acrylic paint on to use it as a stamp for your painting surface. Thin the paint a little bit with water or gel medium so it isn’t too thick and gloppy. Of course, you don’t have to use potatoes. Feel free to grab anything you can roll paint on and use as a stamp.
Separate your surface into 3 differently-colored sections from top to bottom. When these dry, paint little shapes going across the separation lines where the colors meet. Ideas for shapes: circles, x’s, swirls, diamonds, cloud puffs.
Paint an organic bullseye. Get as colorful or muted as you like, and paint from the center out. Start by painting a small, organic shape in the center (think looking down form the sky at a lake). Paint around that with another color, and keep painting outward until you reach the edge of the canvas or board.
Paint the idea of a landscape – meaning, paint a rough horizon line and loose brush strokes of “ground” and “sky” using any colors you like. Let the brush strokes and paint daubs guide you as you cover the canvas. Don’t paint over any of your brush strokes or try to blend anything.
This one is so much fun: Choose 3-5 colors of paint you like together and glop little blobs of them on your painting surface. Using an old credit card or the edge of a piece of cardboard, scrape over the paint blobs to spread them over the surface. play around with scraping straight, scraping wavy, etc. If you like, you can let this dry and then paint over the top as this can look sort of like a base layer of paint. Or: you can scrape the paint in quick, short scrapes, lifting the paint blobs up each time and placing them down on another area. Play around!
Draw intersecting lines all over your surface, either straight or slightly wavy, separating your surface into several shapes that you can then paint in. This will look like a really cool, abstract kind of patchwork quilt.
Intuitive painting may just be the ultimate way to start abstract painting, and acrylics are perfect for this. What is intuitive painting? It’s like process painting for adults – grabbing your brushes and paints and going at the canvas in any way you see fit, purely for the experience. You are not concerned with outcome or anything, really, except tapping into your inner world to make marks on a canvas.
Doesn’t this sound lovely? You can do it yourself, but if you want a little guidance in the form of a class, check out Flora Bowley. She’s awesome.
Taking Photos For Abstract Painting Ideas
Visit several different locations and focus on keeping your eyes peeled for anything visually interesting. I used to walk around Providence in college doing this, and I would take snaps of trees, front doors, architectural details, mailboxes, etc.
Anything goes here, including shapes and patterns indoors or out. Don’t worry about looking like a nutball, you are 100% not the first person to be taking a photo of whatever it is you find. Ideas: town or city, public buildings, parks, grocery store, zoo, train station, mall, museum, old movie theater, nature center, amusement park.
Painting Abstract From Nature
If you’ve spent any time in the great outdoors, you’ll likely have noticed that it is a feats for the eyeballs. In fact, I would argue that every single artist is visually influenced by nature, whether through direct observation, or through the art and design they are influenced by.
Just take in a nature documentary, and see if you don’t pause it in the middle to dash off a quick sketch or note about something you want to create. Those sly nature documentaries have an uncanny way of making us appreciate all of nature’s visual bounties.
Here’s how to use nature in your abstract paintings:
- Take photos and bring them home to refer to – crop in on any really cool parts
- Watch nature documentaries on your device, taking screen shots of inspiring patterns or colors or shapes
- Look up images of patterns in nature
- Study your plants
- Spend a day somewhere outside with your sketchbook and draw
Using Other Art as Inspiration
Checking out other art is an amazing way to get ideas for your own paintings. Here are some links to places to poke around for your abstract painting ideas, and remember- you can grab abstract ideas from non-abstract art. If you find yourself drawn to a painting you see online, save the image, open it in your favorite image editor, and play around with cropping parts of it. This is actually really fun and you can find some cool designs to turn into an abstract acrylic painting.
Supplies For Acrylic Abstract Painting
I usually do not like to recommend cheap art supplies, because especially with art supplies you get what you pay for…. but! If you are just starting out with acrylics, I think it’s totally okay to buy basic acrylic paints, fairly inexpensive paintbrushes, and basic canvases (unless you want to paint with acrylics on wood – my favorite!)
Tips For Abstract Acrylic Painting Art
These may be a little random, but they popped into my head as I was writing this. Hopefully they’ll be of some use…
Don’t leave your paint brushes in water for too long – remember to clean them off when you are finished painting or they won’t last very long.
If you want to take a painting break, cover your paint palette with plastic wrap to keep the paint from drying out too quickly.
Music. Play music! This will loosen you up and it will show in your painting.
If you hate what you paint, you can always cover over the painting with gesso and start over. Leave the paint texture there from your original painting for added interest, or sand it away before you gesso over it.
And finally, don’t let yourself get frustrated if you are just beginning! You will not love everything you create, and the key is to just keep experimenting, showing up, and doing what feels fun.
Check out my post on finding your art style.