Acrylic Abstract Painting Techniques

Looking to create an acrylic abstract painting? Cool. Let me share 5 cool techniques with you on how you can make your own abstract pieces.

Now, these acrylic abstract painting techniques are mostly for beginners, but who knows – maybe you’ll pick up on a method you haven’t tried?


The term acrylic is pretty broad. In the simplest sense, it means a water-based paint as opposed to an oil based paint. That being said, this post will cover different types of acrylics, as well as different brands. I’ll go into more depth at each point.


One of the keys to being successful with making abstract art is the colors used. Every piece, every situation will differ, but when selecting your colors, you’ll most likely want to pick colors that compliment the space. Many times, the pieces that I do use about 3 – 5 colors.

Use what you will – less colors can actually make a piece stronger. It’s less strain on the eyes and mind. Unless that’s what you want – then go for it.


Perhaps one of the easiest ways to create a modern abstract painting in via scraping. Scraping is exactly what it sounds like:

You put paint at one of the canvas or in lines from one end to the other. You then take a wide, flat edged device and, with light to medium pressure – scrape that paint across the canvas surface to the very end.

You can really use anything: a squeegee, a piece of stiff cardboard, a thin ruler. Whatever.

If you have any portions that the paint missed, you can either use the excess paint on your scrpaing device to fill those gaps or run a little more paint over the empty spots and scrape it again.

A couple of my examples would be Crystalline Shores and Blue Steel.

Crystalline Shores by Coty Schwabe

Crystalline Shores – A scraped crimson, gold and turquoise painting.

Blue Steel by Coty Schwabe

Blue Steel – A blue, black, and silver scraped painting.



I think that people tend to have this mental block in their head that they cant make abstract art because its too hard. But really its actually very simple.

Pastel Dreams by Coty Schwabe

Pastel Dreams

You can always make abstract pieces with good old brushes. In fact, David M Kessler, a great modern day painter I follow, uses large brushes and Golden Acrylics. And that’s it. And he has some of the most vibrant work I’ve ever seen.

Simply set aside one brush for each color, then brush over the canvas in sections with those colors. Using large brushes helps fill a canvas faster and gives it centers of interest.

And if you dont like it? Simply gesso over it, or add more layers of paint.

You could also do a simple abstract landscape style painting, where you simply paint square sections of one color, like in my painting “Pastel Dreams” – just without the little triple circle line design. (It’s kinda my thing)


Monochromatic Dream – An action Painting made with Gloss Enamel

Action painting is the style of painting that my man Jackson Pollock helped to start. Action painting or gestural abstraction, is the kind of work that has movement.

Things like dripping paint, pouring it in lines, and flinging it onto the canvas are examples of this.

In order to create a piece of action abstraction, you’ll need some very liquidy paint. Something like high flow acrylics works well, or gloss enamel (which is what I use). You can use watered down soft bodied acrylic paint like Liquitex Basics, but when the paint dries it wont be as vibrant.

Heck, you can even use regular house paint if you want, but there are mixed views on doing this. If its just for you, fine. If its for others, at least let them know what you used it.

Generally what I do to make a piece like this is paint the background with a single color (or two) to give it a tone. Then I’ll drip, splatter or pour the paint on to finish the painting.

But you do you.


Intersection by Coty Schwabe

Intersection – A scraped painting

So, instead of scraping the whole painting at once, area scraping is exactly as you’d probably expect. You scrape on paint in layers with a small tool. You can approach this however you want:

You could make a background, then scrape a design only. Or, I have seen some people make the whole painting with just a pallet knife. You can also use a small drywall knife (like an inch wide).

In my painting “Miscreants”, I created a grey, black and white background using Liquitex Basics paint, then scraped the big design with a pallet knife and heavy body acrylic paint.

In “Intersection” I only used soft body acrylic, and scraped the white and yellow parts with a drywall knife.


This beginner technique is easily the simplest way to make an acrylic abstract painting. It’s also one of the easiest to muck up.

sand between the waves by coty schwabe

Sand Between the Waves – A poured Painting

Just take a couple of cups of really wet paint – high flow acrylics, house paint whatever – and pour them onto a canvas, covering as much of it as you can. Then pick that canvas up and tilt it different directions until the whole thing is covered. That’s it.

Now, you can use just paint, or you can add in extra flow mediums like GAC-800, which dries clear. For this one, you just pour the crazing reduction medium onto the canvas, then add some Golden Fluid Acrylics to it. Then you pick it up and tilt.

I like doing both, but I prefer using just the paint.

An example of using just paint and no mediums is like my piece Sand Between the Waves (one of my favorites by the way, and unfortunately sold), which only had poured paint on it.

But if you want an example of a piece using a medium like GAC-800, then look no further than the Surface of the Sun. With that piece, I used GAC-800, and Golden High Fluid Acrylics. (Note: I also used some cheaper acrylics which broke apart. This can ruin a piece, but in this case it added character to it. Just something to be aware of)


There’s lots of great videos on YouTube (not mine) about how to make these types of paintings, so be sure to go watch them. If I get the time, I’ll record myself making some of these so you can watch those later.

Hopefully you found these abstract art & acrylic painting techniques helpful. If you like this article, mind sharing it? You can also join my newsletter for future updates, or check out my original pieces.

All the best,
Coty Schwabe

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