Can You Do Acrylic Painting Without Brushes? Yes – 10 Ways!

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Can you do acrylic painting without brushes? Short answer: Absolutely! The long answer will be covered throughout this post. Don’t think for a second that you absolutely need a set of brushes to create a unique piece of artwork. And some tools are just familiar objects, too, that you’ve used plenty of times.

Better yet some of these can be applied to three-dimensional objects, too, so you can jazz up terra cotta pots vases, if you want to up-cycle them into killer yard and garden art pieces.

As an added bonus they are so much easier to clean than brushes. So let’s dig in and look at a number of ways you can use various tools and acrylic paint.

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acrylic painting without brushes

 

Fluid or “pour painting”

This is another hot trend that involves brush-free painting. I have tried my hand at several painting pours because I heard so many people talking about what a great technique it was so I had to find it out for myself! It involves the use of pouring paint from a cup or series of them, combined with a medium to make the paint flow more readily, and oil to create unusual patterns within the designs, known as “cells”.

Here is my first attempt, and below it is an example of what you can do if you choose good colors to blend together. I picked a red/orange/yellow scheme and a small amount of black to add intrigue.

finished fluid painting

It can be a lot of fun and addictive if you can master some of the techniques!  One of the most popular is called the”dirty pour” which involves layering all of the colors into the same cup. Here’s how mine turned out:

completed art with dirty pour

Brayer or scraper

A tools like one of these normally used in printmaking, can be good for applying paint in large areas. such as a large backdrop or background.. It probably would not work well for small details, If you’re into abstract art this is a good tool to use.

Painting with Palette Knives

Palette knives on their own can be great for creating impressive art. Are you familiar with “impasto”? This is a  technique that involves heavier layering with paint through knife (most of the time) application on the canvas, Historically a lot of artists who utilized impasto worked in oils, but if you use heavy body acrylics you too can accomplish this skill.

Impasto comes from an Italian word “impastere” that translates from “to knead dough”, or it might simply have been “paste” emanating from “pasta”.Which is highly appropriate, as it does appear like a paste in action, at least by the artist. It’s a technique with some antiquity behind it, going back to the Renaissance era and employed by masters of the craft to capture the essences of light, gold, fabrics like velvet and silk.

The famous Starry Night painting by Vincent van Gogh is a great example of impasto, with the swirling texture of the background. In fact, Van Gogh was a true connoisseur of this style, he was known for using paint very generously and would dispense paint right from the tube to the canvas.

impasto example

When you dab paint onto your substrate like a paste, try not to overwork it – focus on developing the overall design, but don’t spend too much time trying to manipulate the paint as you will lose the effect. It will stand out, there won’t be obvious brush marks revealed, and the key to controlling the level of depth is: lighter on the texture, lighter effect, heavier texture to create darker shadows.

Some subjects that do well here – flowers, foliage like trees and shrubs. With the use of gels and pastes, in addition to knives with varying blade styles, including rounded as well as the diamond-shape. Palette knives give you that leverage to scrape up even rolls or beads of paint to create uniform shapes.

The key goal of impasto was to create a level of depth and dimension through the different layers.. Yes there are some artists out there who work exclusively in knives.

Drip Painting

Painting with a drip effect is a really fun approach. Splatter painting a la Jackson Pollock is making a comeback. It’s very simplistic, yet you can create effects that are stunning and classy too, that will complement most decor if you combine the right colors together.  You can also employ drip effects on standalone objects too.

Things like flower pots, vases, fruit jars, etc., all are good possible objects you could employ this on. Some of the most ordinary objects make great painting tools. You might surprise yourself by what you can find.

Spray or squirt bottles

Using an ordinary water bottle, misting the paint lightly can cause the colors to run into each other and if you execute it right, it looks really amazing. Another take is to apply a solution of water and paint (try to get a certain ratio of one part paint to one part water) to a squeezable bottle  so it will have the consistency to “run” in different directions.

This below is my take on the splatter paint approach…a guitar I never learned to play that I turned into a “conversation piece” via paint (and a little bling)

splatter painted guitar

Drinking straws

Yep, you read that right. Some people blow paint through a straw. You have to thin out the paint to a certain degree to make this work though. How they do this without making a mess, though, is anybody’s guess. One technique that makes use of straws in this manner, is known as the “Dutch pour”. I always thought the idea of blowing paint through a straw sounded uncouth and amateurish, but I managed to swallow my pride and just do it – I guess, don’t knock it before you try it.

Forks

Create ridges in the paint with the prongs of a fork, how cool is that? Kids can learn that too. And it is getting popular in teaching kids about art. It’s reminiscent of sgraffito, a technique that involves scratching or etching designs into the paint which usually involves the point of a knife or something similar.

Like this approach to the famous Van Gogh’s style as seen below:

Sponges

Sponges are great for creating texture with paint. Here is an example of some small decorative paintings I did that involved craft paint and sponges. If you haven’t tried it already, those ordinary cellulose fiber sponges made for household use are ideal as a tool. Whenever I’d buy a pack, I would always pull one of them out and set it aside for art uses. I also cut mine into different sized pieces to make it easier to do “stamped” shapes from time to time.

acrylic painting with sponges

Also did you know that most sponges have two sides – one being a little more like a scouring pad – the “other” one is good for creating texture. I used pretty metallic pinks and purples overlapping to create an ombre effect and then I added a little glitter for good measure.

The words on the canvas are actually plastic adornments made for art journaling or something similar – they have little tabs on the back that will pierce through objects, it sounded like the perfect finishing touch.

String

String painting is very popular. and kids and adults alike are enjoying working with string and acrylic paint. Dipping paint into string is a really cool technique that when done right, can create awesome floral shapes and impressions. It does take practice though, and you have to be careful and deliberate when manipulating the string, but it can be well worth it.

Here’s a “string pull” I attempted to do not too long ago. It was a little tricky, but it was fun, too!

floral shape

Cotton swabs

And who can forget this cosmetic staple that is all too familiar? If you are familiar with a technique called “pointillism” which involves creating paintings with serial dots applied strategically in a pattern, you know that the results can be really impressive. I’ve seen flowers like hydrangeas done in this approach on Pinterest.

Like this one here…isn’t that pretty?

Wrapping up

Well that is ten ideas….ideas and tools if you really want to learn how to tackle acrylic painting without brushes, try experimenting with at least one of these items and see what you can come up with, you may just surprise yourself!

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