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How to Make an Abstract Watercolor Painting

12.03.13 By //

I promised you guys yesterday that I would be posting tutorials for handmade holiday decor and gifts for the next few weeks, and true to my word I am excited to share this project with you guys that could easily be considered both and would make a fabulous gift for someone special. It’s not precisely holiday-ish, but that makes this all the more exciting to give (or receive), since you won’t be giving a gift with a shelf life of no longer than the holiday season! If you just need a pretty backdrop for your holiday decor, this might be a good option!

Watercolor is one of those mediums that is adored by just about everyone, and with a simple two toned color scheme and an abstract pattern, you really can’t go wrong. If your gift recipient decorates with blue, then by all means this would be fabulous in blue and white. Or maybe pink is more their jam… no problem, this beauty would look amazing in practically any color under the sun. It’s virtually foolproof to create, you truly need absolutely no painting skills to do this project. Shoot, you could even let your kiddos give this a whirl and give your piece that extra bit of meaning and heart! It will at the very least make your kids feel like veritable Picasso’s, that alone would make this an easy project to get excited about.

 The materials you will need for this will vary depending on the size you want to make your painting and whether or not you want it framed or unframed. I recommend framed if you are planning a larger piece like the one I did here (30″x24″).

  • Frame in size of choice (I purchased mine from Target for $30).
  • Poster Board, Canvas or Watercolor Paper in coresponding size (I actually used the frame backing and skipped this).
  • White Acrylic Paint – this will act as a primer for your poster board or canvas
  • Watercolor paint in your choice of color
  • Paint Brush

You will want to paint your poster board, canvas, watercolor paper or frame backing to give it a good priming. Poster Board is a nice thickness but it tends to have a bit of a sheen to it that makes it difficult to use with watercolors unless it’s primed so be sure to not skip this step. It also helps tremendously when you are painting on canvas.

Set up your palette. You can use any type of plastic shallow bowl or plate and simply add a bit of water and your chosen color. You want your water to appear fairly opaque (not see through) so you will add a decent amount of color to it. If you can’t get enough saturation, you can also add a drop or two of craft paint or acrylic paint. It will work in a similar way.

Lay down your general pattern or shape. I began with my darker areas and added color in a relative wave shape, running all the way across the bottom and up one side and part of the top on that side. I used applied my color in a horizontal messy pattern at first and then switched to a circular pattern, only to switch back later to a a horizontal application. You will be able to feel it out as you go and do what feels most natural to you.

Keep in mind that the idea here is to have the outside edges be the darkest, working your way to a lighter shade near the middle or inside edges of your shape. You will want to

You can layer your color to darken where necessary and honestly just slap it on there. You don’t have to worry about keeping a ‘wet’ edge since we are basically working with water, so if you need to fix something along the way, you can!

Once you have your darker section applied in the shape you want, you will dilute your paint puddle by half and basically apply this lighter shade just above your previously painted section all the way around the inside edge.

You can vary the shape of this inside section from the outer section, so it isn’t too uniform and looks organic and realistic (for whatever it might be). You can see in the images above and below that I didn’t keep the exact same shape going and made it just slightly different.

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