Studio Saturday: Acrylic Paint Techniques That Will Blow Your Mind

Think you’ve seen everything there is to see about acrylic paint? Have you looked in your trash lately? Because there’s probably something there that will shake up your mixed-media art and give you a new reason to love acrylic paint. I’m talking about skins. Paint skins. On your canvas. Now. Let’s go.

Thank artist Staci Swider for this fantastic idea for taking leftover dried paint skins and turning them into vibrant abstract flower collages. In the September/October 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors she shares her secrets in the article “Skin Deep,” even explaining how the pieces came to be.

I immediately connected with this technique because I’m guilty of squeezing out a lot of paint when I’m working on an art journal page or canvas—a lot. I try to be thrifty in my art practice, but for some reason acrylic paint always comes gushing out of the tube like toothpaste squeezed by a four-year-old. I feel so guilty looking at the leftover paint that eventually gets tossed in the garbage.

But no more! Let’s put that color to use, shall we? You may have excess paint at the ready, but if not, no worries. Let’s make some skins. Spread acrylic paint on a sheet of freezer paper or a nonstick craft sheet. I used the latter, swirling various shades with a palette knife to create some marbled effects. Don’t mix the colors too much or you risk making mud with the wet paint, but do try for some cool color combinations. As Staci says, “Don’t be afraid to use unusual colors; the crazier the better.” Be sure to leave some open spaces on the sheet.

Spreading acrylic paint on a craft sheet for making paint skins
Swirl several colors of acrylic paint on a craft sheet or freezer paper, creating a marbled effect.

When that layer is dry or almost dry, spread on another layer of paint, making sure the sheet is covered and filling in any gaps. Let that dry completely.

Applying a second layer of acrylic paint for paint skins
A second layer of acrylic paint ensures a substantial skin to work with.

Now it’s time for the big reveal! Pull up an edge of the paint skin and carefully peel it away from the sheet. You’ll be amazed at how great the underside looks, and what wonderful color combinations you’ve created.

Peeling acrylic paint from a craft sheet to make a paint skin
After carefully lifting the acrylic paint skin, the mixed colors are revealed.

To create the painted collage, cut or tear a piece of heavyweight watercolor paper; I used a 5″ x 7″ piece of 140-pound cold press watercolor paper. I then painted it with a few layers of acrylic paint until I achieved a lovely shade of pale aqua, with a few streaks of yellow and magenta thrown in. I mounted it to another piece of watercolor paper that measured 7″ x 9″.

Acrylic paint background for a paint skin collage
For the painting, start with plain paper, or paint a light background with acrylic paint.

Staci shows a great way of making flower stems and leaves—she coats pine needles in light and dark shades of green paint and presses them to the canvas. I could only find short pine needles, so I used some long grass blades, better known as weeds, which worked great. Don’t even think about going for precision here—Staci’s stunning abstracts will convince you that imperfection is the way to go.

Printing with leaves and acrylic paint for a paint skin collage
Create leaves and stems with real leaves and stems and acrylic paint.

To create the blossoms, Staci tears the paint skins into shapes and layers them, emphasizing the abstract look. I discovered that the skins can also be cut easily with scissors, and I cut rough petal shapes for the flowers. The petals were adhered to the paper with thick white glue.

Cutting acrylic paint skins for flower petals
Cut or tear the skins to create flower petals; paint skins cut easily with scissors.

Using acrylic paint I added a little depth with shadows around the leaves and stems.

Adding depth to the painting around the leaves and stems
Add depth to the painting with shading around the leaves and stems.

What makes Staci’s collages even more more eye-catching and dramatic is the addition of fabric scraps. These can be added a number of ways, and you’ll see lots of her finished artwork in the article, which will inspire more ideas. I glued some wool and faux silk scraps to the bottom of the piece, and added a small scrap of acrylic paint skin to tie everything together. The cherry on the sundae is Staci’s easy shadow box technique that uses another surprising recycled material, plus plaster gauze. This is not to be missed.

Fabric scraps add texture to the acrylic paint skin collage
Fabric scraps add texture to the piece.

If you have paint skins left over, hang onto them! Store them between sheets of freezer paper so the pieces don’t get stuck together, and incorporate these little gems in future paintings, collages, cards, tags, and art journal pages.

More great techniques for acrylic paint are waiting for you in these terrific resources from the North Light Shop. Don’t miss Staci’s fantastic book and video series!

See Staci Swider's full article on how to make acrylic paint skin collages in the September/October 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.
See Staci Swider’s full article on how to make acrylic paint skin collages in the September/October 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.
Acrylic Expressions by Staci Swider
Acrylic Expressions by Staci Swider will show you how to develop your own style, as you learn dynamic acrylic painting techniques.
Acrylic Painting Studio Kit featuring videos hosted by Staci Swider
The Acrylic Paint Studio Kit has great resources to create unique acrylic paintings: four instructional videos hosted by Staci Swider, a digial copy of her book Acrylic Expressions, and a set of Sennelier oils pastels.
Cloth Paper Scissors Mixed-Media Acrylic Painting digital download
Get tons of techniques, ideas, and projects in this Mixed-Media Acrylic Painting digital download, featuring fantastic articles from Cloth Paper Scissors and other magazines on acrylic painting techniques and projects.

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Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques

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