Tips to Make DIY Abstract Art

Two years ago, Finn and I were living at my mom’s condo for the summer while our home was being renovated. It was one of the best summers ever and the three of us had a blast together. My mom and I enjoyed doing lots of projects around her place during our stay and one hot summer day we decided to paint over an old piece of artwork she had. It was just a canvas that she found at HomeGoods and we painted over it with a variety of blue and green paints. That artwork has been hanging in her main bathroom ever since.Main bathroom ready for demo

As you know, her bathrooms are currently being renovated ( I can’t wait to show you the progress soon!), and when she was prepping for demo day, she decided to get rid of that old canvas we painted together. Instead, I scooped it up and vowed that I would paint over it and try to create something new and exciting.

The Canvas BeforeThe canvas before

Here’s a look at the canvas before. She had it hung vertically in her bathroom, but I decided that I would flip it horizontally for my new piece of art. We really had no clue what we were doing when we painted the piece, but it sure was a fun afternoon painting away on her rooftop!

My Art SuppliesCraft supplies and brushes to create DIY abstract art

While I already had a pretty large stash of acrylic paints, from years of random craft projects, I needed to grab a few more items…

Amateur Tips to Create DIY Abstract Art

Here’s my big disclaimer…I am not a pro at this. I’m sure there are so many amazing artists out there who will cringe at my “techniques” and tips. But this is a good starting point and it just shows that if I can create DIY abstract art, then so can you! This is all about having fun, getting creative, and channeling your inner DIY spirit. So,  just know that you don’t have to have any artistic ability to create something really special for your home. You got this!

Find an Inspiration PieceCanvas Inspiration

Because I was flipping the canvas horizontally, I knew I wanted to create some sort of landscape painting. I browsed some of my favorite art sites and ended up finding this gorgeous piece of art (above) from Artfully Walls. I love how it’s a subtle sky and sea landscape and the colors are gorgeous. Printing out my inspiration picture

I saved the image and printed it out so I could use it as my inspiration for my own DIY abstract art. I wasn’t going to be able to recreate it (Let’s be real, there was no way that could happen!), but I thought it would be nice to have something to inspire me as I got started and created a color palette. I highly recommend finding something online that inspires your own piece! If you’re a newbie, like me, it’s probably easiest to go with a piece that is more abstract as opposed to one that has defined trees or people in it.

Start with GessoUse gesso on your canvas when making DIY abstract art

When Jan and I did our painting project two years ago, so many followers chimed in and suggested that we start with gesso (pronounced “jeh-sow”). At the time, I had never even heard of the word! I now know that gesso works kinda like a primer and prepares the canvas for paint.Paint your canvas with gesso

My first step was to apply a thin coat of gesso all over my canvas. I just used a thick brush for this and it was dry to the touch in about thirty minutes. My canvas with gesso

The gesso didn’t cover the color underneath completely, but that was okay with me. It was kinda nice to start with a bit of color and depth as the base of my painting. In fact, I’ve even seen people do a second coat of gesso mixed with a tiny bit of color to create a nice base for their artwork.

Have a Spot for your PaintCreating the colors

When researching painting tips, I came across a cool technique to keep your paint from drying out. Take a baking sheet, layer on a wet paper towel, and then put parchment paper on over it. You can then put your paint directly onto the parchment paper and it will keep your paint wetter longer! Of course, I started this project at 8 pm on a weekday night and realized we didn’t have any parchment paper, so I couldn’t even use this tip. Instead, I just used a baking sheet and foil for my paint, which worked fine and was easy to clean up, although the paint did dry out!

I have to say that creating the colors was the most difficult part for me. I had to think back to elementary school (red and blue = purple) to figure out how to create custom colors for my canvas. I had lots of fun mixing things up and trying to get the colors darker and lighter. I suggest having white and black acrylic paint on hand so you can change the shades of your colors fairly easily.

I also don’t think you have to run out and buy every color of the rainbow for this. Instead, buy larger bottles of the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) so that you can mix up any color combinations from there.

Keep Layeringpainting my canvas

I got started with my lighter colors and then layered on darker colors from there. Really, there was no rhyme or reason for my technique. I just put on a movie and got to work, having fun mixing things here and there. I used larger brushes for the big spots and then I would grab smaller brushes for the detail work. I found that there was no right or wrong way to do it!

I spent about two to three hours on this, stepping back, now and then, to get a look at the piece from far away. If a spot looked wonky, I would then tweak that area for a bit and add more layers of color. I think the hardest part was knowing when to stop. In fact, I stopped for the night thinking I would add some more color in the morning. But when I got up and looked at the final piece, I decided it was officially done!

My DIY Abstract ArtMy DIY abstract art

Here’s my final creation! I’ve gotta say, I’m actually pretty proud of myself. I had a lot of fun and it turned out really beautiful. My best tips to create DIY abstract art

Here’s a closer look at the “clouds” in my painting. I just did lots of layers of whites, grays, and yellows to try to add some depth. Painting a canvas

I didn’t paint the edges because I’m actually building a wood frame for this piece and I have a tutorial for that coming soon. If you don’t plan to frame your canvas, I would recommend painting the sides so it looks more finished. My best tips for DIY abstract artI’m not really sure where this piece will even end up. I didn’t really have an end spot in mind when creating it. I just wanted to do a fun project! Once I build my DIY frame, I’ll have to find a special home for it. My DIY abstract art

It’s looking nice here in the soon-to-be nursery with the dark green walls. We’ll see if it finds its final resting spot here! How to make DIY abstract art on a canvas

I’ve gotta say, this was a really fun project that got my creative juices flowing. I highly recommend giving it a try. You can find a large piece of art on clearance at a store like HomeGoods or wait until Michaels has a good sale to buy a plain canvas and then turn on a movie or music and get painting!My best tips to create DIY abstract art


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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