How to Create Whitewash Abstract Art

If you love abstract art and wish to add a few subtle hits of colour to your decor, this whitewash abstract art may be just the thing! In this tutorial you will be taken through a simple step-by-step instruction that anyone can follow!I recently stumbled upon a series of photos that I had taken a couple of years ago that captured the progress of the artwork pictured above. I had so completely forgotten about them that it took me a moment to figure out what in the world I was looking at!  A lot of blotches of colour and several pics later, I realized just what they were.  I am so glad I kept them!  The process of creating a piece of art is difficult to explain in words – it must be shown.  And so today, I wanted to share with you how I created this whitewash abstract art, and how you can too.

Actually, if any word can describe the process at all, it would have to be layering.  I don’t know if this is the technical word for it, but layering captures quite well how to create a piece like this one.  It is probably my favourite technique, in part, because of the depth that it creates and, in part, because I love the texture and movement that layering evokes.

If you love to paint, you’ll have fun with this one.  But if you’ve never attempted abstract art before, this will be a great piece to start with. Not only is it easy to apply layers of paint to canvas, it is difficult to make any mistakes.  You can simply paint over any layers you don’t like!  Now that’s pure joy!

For this piece, you will need the following materials:

How to create whitewash abstract art - supplies

  • 3-5 acrylic paint colours (acrylic is a fast-drying medium which is great for abstract art)
  • Paint brush(es) (Choose wide bristle brushes)
  • Small foam paint roller (optional)
  • Paint palette (I use something called ‘Sta-Wet’ by Masterson available at Michaels and Amazon)
  • Jar (fill this with water to wash colour off your brushes)
  • Rag (to wipe excess colour left on your brushes OR to wipe wet paint off canvas, when needed)
  • Canvas of choice

Step 1:  Prepare Background (Optional)

This step is completely optional.  I learned this in a community art class and have stuck to it for any piece I’ve done.  Artists typically tone their canvas with a colour, such as ‘Raw Sienna’ in order to give their canvas a warm and neutral background to start.  This is especially lovely when doing portraits and landscapes, I find.  Starting with a neutral (rather than a stark white) background is a great way to build whatever colour tones you want without having to fight against a bright white canvas.

How to create whitewash abstract art - apply raw sienna

You can decide if you want to start with this step or simply skip to step 2. (Be sure to let the background dry before moving onto the next step).

Step 2:  First Layer – Colour Blocks

This is the fun part!  Starting with your first colour, load your brush and begin painting loose blocks of colour all over the canvas.  Just go crazy and apply your colour wherever you want.  Choose a second colour and repeat. And do the same for as many colours as you wish to use. (Note:  Because you will be painting white over these colours, you will have the option of completely covering any blocks you no longer like, which is what I ended up doing later in the process).

How to create whitewash abstract art - apply colour blocks

Let this first layer dry before moving onto the next step.  I would recommend at least 30 minutes, but it will all depend on how thick the application of colours are on the canvas.

Step 3:  Second Layer – Overlapping Blocks

Once your canvas has dried, begin adding more colour blocks, but this time overlap slightly over some of the other colours.  This will add some depth and interest.  For this step, I created fewer blocks of colour than the first layer.  I wanted to ensure there were still spaces of un-coloured canvas to play with.

How to create whitewash abstract art - overlapping colours

You may find that you need to load your brush quite a bit in order to overlap without the colour underneath showing through.  Let dry.

Step 4:  Fill Blank Spaces with White Paint

Once dry, begin adding white paint between the colour blocks.

How to create whitewash abstract art - apply white between colour blocks

As someone who loves to see texture in abstracts, I loaded my brush with a lot of white and simply allowed the excess to show on the canvas.

How to create whitewash abstract art - load brush with white paint

I also chose to overlap my white over some of the colours so that it blended into the piece.

Step 5:  Apply Whitewash

While I love bright, vibrant colours, for this piece I chose to create a whitewash effect. Creating a whitewash look is very simple to do.  Load your brush – though not as much as you would have done for step 4 – and dip it into the jar filled with water.

How to create whitewash abstract art - remove excess white in jar filled with water

Wipe the excess off the sides of the jar or onto your rag.  Apply whitewash directly over the entire canvas.

How to create whitewash abstract art - whitewash up close

The opacity of the paint on your brush all depends on your personal preferences.  If you only want a subtle wash over the colours, make sure that there is less white residue on the brush after dipping into your water.

How to create whitewash abstract art - applying the whitewash

If you are unsure about how much of the colours you want showing through, then start by adding your whitewash to a smaller area and take a step back.  If you’ve made a mistake and applied more ‘white’ than ‘wash’ (or vice versa) all you need to do is take your rag and wipe the paint off and start again.

At this stage, you can continue tinkering for as long as you like.

Here is my painting very early on in the application of both the white paint and the whitewash. Not much to look at at this point.

How to create whitewash abstract art - in process

I continued in this way for quite a while, painting and repainting, white-washing and (re) white-washing until I was satisfied with the overall effect.

How To Create Whitewash Abstract Art

Here are some images up close.

How To Create Whitewash Abstract Art

How To Create Whitewash Abstract Art

How To Create Whitewash Abstract Art

Now simply display and enjoy your new piece of art.

How To Create Whitewash Abstract Art

How To Create Whitewash Abstract Art

How To Create Whitewash Abstract Art

How To Create Whitewash Abstract Art

Painting, especially abstract painting, is such a relaxing way to release some tension after a long day at work!  I highly recommend it.  When you are feeling the stress – or just want to have some fun – I hope you give this one a try 🙂

Happy painting 🙂

How To Create Whitewash Abstract Art


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  • Reply
    Samara Thiessen
    April 18, 2016 at 6:00 am

    This is so beautiful – you are very talented, Jelica!!

    • Reply
      April 18, 2016 at 8:11 am

      Thanks Samara. So sweet of you to say. This was one of the best stress-relieving projects I’ve done. I highly recommend it!

  • Reply
    April 20, 2016 at 10:45 am

    What a beautiful piece of art! I usually shy away from making my own art pieces, but this looks so approachable, I can’t wait to try it!

    • Reply
      April 20, 2016 at 11:37 am

      Thanks Leslie. I’m all about easy-peasy art and definitely had fun with this one. Hope you do give it a try – would love to see the final product. Happy painting!

  • Reply
    April 21, 2016 at 8:04 am

    This is beautiful! I love the way the little bits of color show through the background in just the right spots. It looks so lovely and like a professional work of art!

    • Reply
      April 21, 2016 at 8:40 am

      Thank you! That’s so sweet. The fun part of doing a piece like this was that I could just keep layering on the paint until I had just the right balance – or at least the balance I hoped to strike. But, quite honestly, anyone can do a piece like this and at whatever size you wish, big or small. And it works in just about any style of space. I just loved working on it 🙂

  • Reply
    Debi @ Add Value To Your Home
    April 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    I love this idea! Thanks for the step by step tutorial Jelica. It’s good to see the process. Very detailed! I’m going to try this!

    • Reply
      April 22, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      Thanks Debi. I always like to switch things up when it comes to weaving and was happy with the way this turned out. Framing textured items can be tricky, but the Mod Podge really did the trick! I really do hope you try this. Would love to see it 🙂

  • Reply
    April 28, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    What a beautiful piece. Featuring when my link party opens up tonight!

    • Reply
      April 29, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Thank you so much Carol! What a treat. Thanks for the feature – will check it out, along with all the other great inspirations from bloggers linking up to the party 🙂

  • Reply
    April 30, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Lovely! And you’ve explained it in a way that makes me want to try it!

    • Reply
      April 30, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      Thanks Liz. I am just glad I still had all those photos tucked away. Glad you enjoyed the tutorial 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary-the boondocks blog
    May 2, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Jelica thank you for such an in-depth tutorial. I know very little about painting abstract art and you were able to give us some techniques so we can get a grasp on it. I am sharing this post with my girl who is a budding artist. Thank you for sharing this at Sweet Inspiration.

    • Reply
      May 2, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      Sometimes it is easier to show than to explain – this is certainly the case with art. Glad you will be sharing this post with your daughter. I hope she enjoys it – perhaps she can share her work when it’s done. Would love to see it 🙂

  • Reply
    May 4, 2016 at 8:46 am

    Great step by step instructions. I generally lean toward bold colors but I like this white washed effect. It is pretty yet subtle.

    • Reply
      May 4, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      Thanks Krista. You can definitely apply the same method with a different result, depending on how bold you wish your colours to appear from underneath the whitewash. I just love how versatile the technique can be 🙂

  • Reply
    May 4, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    This is beautiful! And such a cool layering technique – I can’t wait to try this out! Stopping by from Welcome Home Wednesdays.

    • Reply
      May 5, 2016 at 6:19 am

      Thanks Emily! I think I probably like layering so much because not only can you create some very cool art with it, but it reminds me of the way I used to paint when I was a kid – brush in hand and lots of brush strokes everywhere!

  • Reply
    May 5, 2016 at 12:09 am

    Oh wow, I really love it! Thank you for sharing the tutorial on how you accomplished this. Pinning to share. Appreciate you sharing with us at Snickerdoodle Sunday!

    • Reply
      May 5, 2016 at 6:23 am

      I was glad to share at Snickerdoodle Sunday – love the name of your link party by the way! Have a great week 🙂

  • Reply
    Mother of 3
    May 11, 2016 at 7:43 am

    Beautiful and simple when broken down into these steps. I think my boys would enjoy this project tremendously. Pinned for later!

    • Reply
      May 11, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      It is definitely a fun project and just as enjoyable for adults as it is for the kiddos 🙂

  • Reply
    May 24, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    This is just gorgeous! Thanks for linking up with Creative Spark last week; I’ll be featuring your whitewash abstract art tomorrow. Hope you’ll stop by and link up again! The party starts at 6am EST.

    • Reply
      May 24, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      Thant’s great! Thanks so much for the feature 🙂 Will definitely be stopping by – so many great projects there!

  • Reply
    Julie Briggs
    July 15, 2016 at 1:14 am

    This came out great! Thanks for sharing at #HomeMattersParty

    • Reply
      July 15, 2016 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks very much Julie!

  • Reply
    September 2, 2016 at 1:04 am

    Gorgeous! thanks so much for sharing on craft schooling Sunday a whole month ago. I am back now after a month unplugged, and the party will be resuming this sunday as well, hope to see you there!

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