Spray Paint: Your New Bestie

You’ve likely crossed paths with spray paint at some point in your life, but I’m guessing the two of you never really formed a lasting creative relationship. That’s sums up my history with the medium as well, but artist Nathalie Kalbach recently got us back together via her Art Lesson, and I’m happy to report things are going well. Really well.

Nathalie’s Art Lessons Volume 10: Tactile Art Inspired by Street Art is all about using spray paint to create real and implied texture, and the effects are so incredibly cool. You may think of spray paint as just providing smooth, opaque coverage, but those cans of color have a lot more to offer. In her lesson Nathalie shows you six fantastic techniques for creating different types of texture, and you’ll want to try all of them. I selected a couple for an art journal spread, and I am thrilled with the results.

Discover six ways to create visual and physical texture with spray paint in this Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lesson.

Spray paint can be found in art supply stores or in the fine art section of craft stores. You’ll not only discover an array of amazing colors, but also a variety of spray nozzles that produce different results, so make sure to check those out. Here are some that I used, plus a couple of floral stencils.

Acrylic spray paint comes in a rainbow of beautiful hues.

For this project I began by brushing a layer of gesso over two 2-page spreads in my art journal, and I’ll reveal in a bit what the second spread was for. Gesso is a great base layer for paint and helps you achieve better results. When that dried, I tore a piece of scrap paper to mask off the center portion of the spread, leaving just the border. You can cut the paper instead, but I liked the organic look of the tears. I also placed scrap paper underneath each page of the spread to avoid getting excess paint on the journal.

Masking off areas of your substrate helps keep colors separate when using spray paint.

Make sure you follow all cautions when working with spray paint. Nathalie includes a recommendation for a respirator, and you should work in a place with good ventilation. I put a plastic tarp on the floor and used a tri-fold cardboard display piece from the craft store to make sure the paint didn’t drift.

One of Nathalie’s techniques is to scribble into the wet paint with a skewer or the end of a paintbrush; you can write words, make designs, anything you like. Using Liquitex Professional Spray Paint in Cobalt Blue Hue, I sprayed on a coat, then quickly created a combination of scribbles and writing. Depending on weather conditions, spray paint dries pretty quickly, so working fast is a must. For me, that’s a plus—it forces me not to overthink things.

Scribbling into wet spray paint produces great visual texture.

When that was dry I masked off the borders and sprayed on a coat of Liquitex Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue. This next technique involved a stamp, and I chose Nathalie’s Versailles ArtFoamies stamp.

A base layer of yellow was created on the journal spread.

When the yellow was dry I oversprayed Liquitex Brilliant Blue spray paint, then quickly removed the blue paint layer with the stamp. Pressing harder in some areas and lighter in others revealed more or less of the yellow, creating another great implied texture.

Pressing a stamp into wet spray paint is one way of removing it to reveal the layer below.

About that second gessoed spread—I used it for testing the techniques. Whenever I’m doing a technique or using a product for the first time, I create a test page or canvas. That takes all of the fear out of messing up, and you can use it as a jumping off point for a new spread!

Having a test substrate is a great way to insure you’ll get the best results.

I wanted to add one more feature to the border, and decided to use some Liquitex Iridescent Rich Silver. Not wanting to cover up the scribbles, I pressed the nozzle with quick blasts, resulting in some splotches, which gave the border subtle bling.

That stamp technique is a variation on the next technique I used from the lesson, removing areas of spray paint with deli paper. Using a partially masked off flower stencil, I sprayed Montana Gold Acrylic Professional Spray Paint in Gleaming Pink to create a few blossoms on the page, then used a wadded up a piece of deli paper to remove the paint while wet, revealing some of the blue and yellow pattern below. Texture on texture—you just can’t beat it.

Using deli paper to remove paint reveals hints of the design underneath.

Here’s the spread so far. Don’t worry about getting overspray on your artwork—you can always cover the excess paint with something else.

All spray paint, all the time.

To give the design a little more depth I added extra stenciled flowers with acrylic paint. Even though I used heavy-body tube acrylics, I noticed immediately that the coverage wasn’t nearly as opaque and deep as the spray paint—a fact I tucked away for future projects.

Using acrylic paint in addition to spray paint produces a variety of effects.

I like that spray paint gives you another option for mixed media; for this journal page, having a contrast between that and regular acrylic paint gives the piece so much more interest and depth. Here’s a close-up of one of the spray painted flowers:

So much texture in one flower!

And here’s a detail of the gorgeous iridescent silver paint:

Splattering iridescent spray paint livens up the artwork.

After shading the flowers, stems, and leaves, I added text with another stencil. I absolutely love what spray paint did for this journal spread, and I know I could not have achieved these looks any other way.

This journal spread is courtesy of the wonders of spray paint.

Download the lesson and set aside some time to play with spray paint—it will be time well spent. The lesson includes more of Nathalie’s gorgeous artwork that incorporates spray paint, so don’t miss it! If you’re looking for more texture techniques to used with mixed media, check out this tutorial that incorporates tea bags!


Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques

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