7 Abstract Painting Techniques

Abstract painting techniques

Before playing with abstract painting techniques, it is best to understand several of the principles that make abstract paintings stand out to an audience.

These can be broken down into three main areas: composition, colour and texture.

Art studio with abstract art being worked on


The idea of composition is finding some form of subject matter to base your work on. Some people prefer to manipulate an existing object whilst others experiment with more subjective areas such as moods or feelings. Knowing your idea will help you translate it better to your intended audience once the work is finished.


Nothing plays a bigger role in abstract art than colour. It is the colour selection that makes works stand out and catch the eye of passers-by. Experimenting with different forms – whether it be natural, pastels or even negatives – all give different roles. If you know how to select the right types for your work, then it will take your abstract piece to the next level.


Thinking about the different textures available also gives you room to experiment throughout the painting process. Having thicker canvas materials, different brush types or even switching between 2D and 3D can all have dramatizing effects. Just be sure you pick ones that complement each other as different blends may not work together and negate the impact you want to achieve.

7 Abstract Painting Techniques

When going on to try your abstract painting ideas, there are plenty of ways to achieve your goal. There are many different abstract painting techniques for you to get your message across. Some of the common ones include:

Action Painting

Best understood as the style utilised by artists such as Jackson Pollock, action painting generally consists of an artist moving splashes of paint around a large canvas. The “splatter” effect is a lot for the eye to take in but it also brings a mix of colours to life.

Action painting isn’t random either – the splashes can be manipulated into directions and fill any lingering spaces left on the canvas.

Abstract painting using broad action strokes


Everyone has done collaging at some point in their life. In abstract art, collaging just takes this schoolyard practice to the extreme. It’s all about manipulating images to intersect into one big theme. By putting lots of small pictures into one larger picture, it gives you great variation in depicting many small details into one space.

It’s a great abstract painting technique for anyone who wants to create a work based on time or space-based subjects.

Collaging used in abstract canvas prints


How about taking an image and disassembling it across the canvas? That is what the art of fragmenting or de-collaging is all about.

In your work, dissect your subject matter as much or little as you want and warp it to tell your story and viewpoint to the world. It gives a dramatic effect when a work is finished and gives the audience a much different perspective on the subject than what they already had.

It is a style that Picasso mastered as part of the Cubism movement and became famous for throughout his career.

Fragmenting used in abstract art paintings


Printing may not seem like an abstract technique but it is one of the most popular forms around. As it involves transferring an image onto another canvas, it gives a thicker texture that can’t be found on original works put straight to the canvas. The key to making successful print pieces is knowing how the printed image will look once it has been transferred. Whether it was done by stencilling, lithographs or other means, each look will be different, giving no two pieces the same feel.

It is a technique Andy Warhol used brilliantly to make his works unique and never look identical to one another.

Printing used in abstract wall art


Most painters will prime their canvas to ensure the colours stay fixed to their work and to be manipulated through brushwork. Staining is very much the opposite of this as it directly involves pouring your paint straight to a natural canvas. Without the primer, the colours soak through and run together giving a natural clash where they meet.

The “soak staining” style was originally pioneered by Helen Frankenthaler and has become popular with artists who like to experiment with colours without leaving physical marks in their work.

Staining used in abstract art


Sometimes, famous artists like to think there is more to discover in their works. This can be done through layering which effectively involves hiding a piece under another. Usually, the bottom painting is only just barely visible and is then covered by colours and shading.

The top layer itself can be distinctive enough to form its message but hiding a piece “behind” the top layer will always have an audience trying to figure what exactly is behind the top layer.

Layering used in abstract prints creating standout art


The name says it all. Flipping essentially involves drawing an image on one side of the canvas and then rotating it to a different angle and drawing another image until you fill the piece.

The images can be identical or different but the different angles each give a different impact when viewed by the audience. This “kaleidoscope” effect helps the piece always seem busy to the eye and help things flow from one side of the canvas to the other.

By understanding these multiple abstract art techniques, it will allow you to experiment freely with different styles and let you create your own abstract painting ideas.