Mini Tutorial: Fluid Flowers

HOW IT’S MADE

Making flowers with an air compressor is one of my favorite fluid techniques. I discovered this technique on accident in 2017. I was working on a canvas that wasn’t going the way I hoped and I started to mess around with my air compressor. One of the movements I made looked like a petal, and so I kept at it. Little burst of air after burst of air and I suddenly had a bouquet in front of me. I was hooked from that moment.

Learning this technique and working with new supplies takes a little practice (maybe a lot of practice!) so do yourself a favor and get some test canvases and don’t expect things to be perfect right away.

MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES I USE:

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thanks!

  • Air Compressor and Accessories (Read more about the exact products I use here.)
    • 2 Gallon Hot Dog Air Compressor (Amazon)
    • Hose
    • Handgun and thread seal tape (I’m not the biggest fan of this handgun, but it gets the job done and the kit at least supplies all the connectors needed. I’ll let you know what model I upgrade to when I get around to it.)
  • OR! Use a can of compressed air. (Amazon)
  • Fluid Paint Mixtures
    • Colors: Light Magenta/Pink, Turquoise/Teal, Medium Magenta, Black, and White
    • Flood Floetrol (Amazon or local home improvement/paint store)
    • My Recipe: Mix 1/2 soft bodied acrylic paint, 1/2 Floetrol, then add water and mix to desired consistency. Your paint should evenly run off your stir stick when lifted from the cup, but still be viscous. (By the end, about 1/3 of the total mixture or less is water.)
    • Store in squeeze bottles.
      • 4 Oz for white and colors (Amazon) and 1 oz for black (Amazon)
  • Other Supplies
    • 20 Gauge Fineline Applicators (Amazon or Blick)
    • Black and White Acrylic Paint (I use Brea Reese (Amazon), but Liquitex Basics (Amazon) will work too.)
    • Metallic Gold Acrylic Paint (Amazon)
    • 10″x10″ Stretched Canvas (Blick Brand)
    • Test Canvases (Optional from Blick)
    • Cake Spatula (Amazon)
    • Liquitex High Gloss Varnish (Amazon or Blick) and a cheap foam brush
    • Gloves, protective covering, cups for mixing and propping.
    • Paper towels, or paint rags

General Directions:

First, assemble your compressor and make sure you know how to use it. YouTube can help. I borrowed a compressor from a family member before I invested in one. Fill your compressor and turn off the switch so it doesn’t startle you when it kicks on to fill. I use the black rubber tip or the needle tips in the kit most often. Or, you could use a can of compressed air and save yourself all that trouble. (But, if you are going to use this technique a lot or on huge canvases, get a compressor.)

Second, mix your fluid paints. With fluid painting, you never really do just one piece. They are addictive. You may as well mix up a batch of paint that you can use for multiple pieces. But, for this tutorial on a 10″x10″ canvas, if you can get a 4oz bottle full of each light magenta, medium magenta, teal, and white, that will give you enough for this project with paint to spare. You’ll only need a small amount of the black mixture, so I store this in a little 1 oz bottle. You can also use those 1oz quilling bottles I linked for your fine lining.

Third, cover your work area and surrounding surfaces with protective covering like construction paper or plastic.

You’re ready.

THE BACKGROUND:

  1. Place your canvas on a couple of cups to raise it off your work surface.
  2. Take your medium magenta fluid mixture and cover the canvas. Use the cake spatula to spread the mixture. You just need enough to cover the canvas so the threading or white barely shows through. Don’t make it too thick.
  3. Take your light magenta and teal and drizzle a couple of lines around the surface. I like doing lines running vertically, making them heavier at the bottom.
  4. Using your white mixture, run a generous line/blob across the bottom of the canvas.
  5. Use your (clean!) spatula and gently slide it from the bottom of the canvas up to the top. You’ll want to barely touch the white so that your motion pulls the white layer up and over the color layer. With a small canvas like a 10″x10″ you should be able to do this in two even swipes after some practice.
  6. The goal is to have the colors hiding under the white layer as much as possible. If your colors are too bright, add another line of white paint at the bottom and swipe up again.
  7. Lift the canvas off of the cups and gently tilt the top and bottom to spread the paint more evenly and to allow the excess to run off. Again, you don’t want the paint to be too thick so it’s okay to let a good amount of paint run off the top and bottom edges. If your canvas threading starts to show through, then the paint is too thin.

The Flowers:

Learning how to make the flowers is a hands-on process. You have to get the feel for the distance you should be away from the canvas and the right air pressure to use. To practice, on a piece of cardboard or the canvas boards I linked, lay down a thin layer of white or colored paint similar to the thickness on your canvas. Put a drop of black fluid paint mixture in the middle. Then take your air compressor hand gun and slowly let out a bit of air at the base of the black dot and move upwards in the direction you want the petal to go. Return to the base of the black dot and repeat two or three more times in different directions.

The hand gun kit I linked can sometimes build up pressure and let out a blast of air blowing paint everywhere if you push too hard on the trigger or aren’t used to the pressure which is why I encourage practice and protective covering on everything around you. Or find a better gun attachment 😉

You can do big flowers with large bursts of air and more black paint, or you can do small flowers with a thin air stream and just a little black paint. It’s all in how you’re feeling!

Once you’re confident, jump in and work on your canvas. I usually start on on the left, up 2/3 from the bottom. I work my way down and to the right, one flower at a time until the piece feels balanced. I let some flowers overlap and some stand alone.

Once you are finished with your flowers, leave the canvas to dry for 24 hours, or speed up the process with a fan (this might lead to cracking so make sure your paint isn’t too thick.) I use a fan every time because I’m impatient.

Fine Lining:

Once your canvas is completely dry, you can see your flowers may have lost a little bit of shape. Also, when you use cheaper paints/paints with less pigment in the mixture, the colors will get darker once they dry. You can always invest in higher quality paints and use actual pouring medium to keep the colors consistent from wet to dry. (Follow @indigoimpressions for wonderful advice on paint and fluid techniques.)

I use the fineline applicators filled with acrylic paint and a little bit of water to redefine my flowers and make them pop. I fill my bottles about half full with acrylic paint, and then add just a tiny bit of water. I place my thumb over the top and shake the crap out of it. Then, I put the tip on and test the applicator on scratch paper to make sure it has a good consistency. The paint should flow easily, but not run all over the place. Keep adding water and shaking until you get there. The gold craft paint might not even need water so test that as is first.

(These applicators take some getting used to. Try drawing on a blank canvas to get a feel for how you should hold the applicator without it catching and skipping on the canvas texture.)

  1. Once your bottles are filled and ready, start with black. Go around all of the flowers in the areas you want to accentuate, and also add stems. I outline everything, because I love a more illustrative look. Let it dry.
  2. Add your gold next. Hug the black lines. Let dry.
  3. And white around the gold. Let dry.
  4. Sign your piece. (Which I always forget to do…)
  5. Varnish with a foam brush and you’re done!

Or you can just buy one that I’ve already made here 😉

I hope that gives you a good idea of how to get started on your own flower pieces. If you have questions, please leave them below while commenting is open!

***

If you enjoyed this little tutorial and want to learn more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine (See details below!) Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading:

Mini Tutorial: Fluid Art with Air Compressor

I get asked about the supplies I use on social media a lot. For those of you who have interacted with my Instagram account, you know that I am always open to sharing pretty much everything I do in the studio. Though, as my exposure grows on various platforms (like Tiktok!), I don’t have enough time in the day to respond to all of the comments and questions like I wish I could. So, I’ll try to post more tutorials like this in the future to make sure that I answer as many questions at once as I can.

Fluid Paint + An Air Compressor

This is my favorite way to work with fluid paint. Sure, a flip cup or dirty pour has its value, but when you use an air compressor you give yourself more control in the design of your artwork. I know that not everyone has access to a compressor so I will post alternative tools as well.

MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES I USE:

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.

  • 2 Gallon Hot Dog Air Compressor (Amazon)
  • Fluid Paint Mixture
    • Soft Body acrylic paint (your choice in 2-4 colors plus plain white)
    • Flood Floetrol (Amazon or local home improvement/paint store)
    • Water
  • Cake Frosting Spatula (Amazon)
  • Squeeze Bottles
  • Cups for mixing
  • Stir stick (I use free paint sticks from the paint store)
  • 9″x12″ Stretched Canvas (Blick)
  • 20 Gauge Fineline Precision Applicator (Amazon or Blick)
  • Black Acrylic Paint- Brea Reese (Amazon) or Liquitex Basics (Amazon)
  • Gloves and plastic covering for your work area

General Directions:

Mix Your Paint:

My fluid paint recipe is really simple and cheap(ish) to make. You don’t need to get all fancy with Liquitex Pouring Medium or anything like that. Floetrol is an excellent affordable mixing medium.

You are going to need more white mixture than colors. The white is your base. I store my white paint in 16oz squeeze bottles and my colors in 4oz bottles. I can get maybe 7-9 complete 8″x10″ or 9″x12″ paintings from 1 16oz bottle of white mixture and a few 4oz colors. Depending on how creative you’re feeling, mix accordingly.

Basic Paint Mix Ratio: 1/3 paint + 1/3 floetrol + roughly 1/3 water

To begin, take a cup and your first color of paint. Mix 1/2 acrylic paint, and 1/2 floetrol with your stir stick. Once smooth, mix a little bit of water in and stir. Lift your stir stick and watch the paint run off the end. You want a smooth, yet thick stream of paint running down. If it doesn’t fall easily, keep adding more water. By the end, the mixture is about 1/3 of each paint, floetrol, and water. I never go over 1/3 water, but you can play with less to experiment with thicker consistencies. I know some artists that feel water should never be used in fluid mixtures, but my style aims for more of a wispy watercolor end result so I like a thinner consistency.

Once your paint is mixed, pour it into a squeeze bottle and move onto the next color. (If you’re lazy like I often am, you can just pour everything into your squeeze bottle and shake the crap out of it to mix. Then let the bottle rest for a while to reduce bubbles.)

Assemble your air compressor Parts

If you splurge and get a full compressor, you’ll need to put the hose and hand gun together. You can find plenty of YouTube videos to help you assemble the hose and handgun. Just remember to wrap each threaded component with thread seal tape to prevent air leaks.

Compressor Alternatives:

  • A drinking straw- depending on your lung capacity this can work for small pieces.
  • A can of compressed air (Amazon)- works for small pieces, but can be wasteful if used often.

Air compressors are loud, so plan on operating away from people and use ear plugs. Always make sure to drain the tank to prevent moisture build up once you’re done. Also, I fill then tank and then shut off the compressor so it doesn’t auto-fill and scare the crap out of me when it kicks on.

Test the air compressor handgun after filling the tank to see how sensitive the trigger is. Sometimes, this particular handgun does an abrupt blast of air when I’m not expecting it. I’ve linked the kit I use, but you might want to upgrade to a better handgun.

Cover Everything In Plastic or Construction Paper

When you are blowing paint around with air, things can get messy. Cover the walls and your work surface. You’ll thank me later if your compressor handgun gets a little sensitive and lets out that big blast of air.

THE BACKGROUND:

That was a lot of prep work! You ready to actually paint now?

  1. Place your canvas on a couple of cups to raise it off your table.
  2. Fill your compressor and shut off the tank.
  3. Using the white mixture and the cake spatula, lay down a thin cover of paint. Spread it out with the spatula. You don’t need too thick of a layer. Just enough to cover the canvas threading.
  4. Place a few drops of your colors left and right of the center of the canvas.
  5. Using your compressor hand gun, let out a gentle stream of air at first and increase pressure as needed to blow the colors to the edges of the canvas creating a fan like look.
  6. Deposit more color if desired and blow with the compressor again.
  7. In the center, deposit a drop or two of color and using a gentle stream again, blow the color in a circle by moving your hand in a circular motion. You can add more drops of color for each circle you create, or just use the circular motion on color that’s already laid down.
  8. Once you are satisfied with your arrangement, let the canvas dry completely. (Usually 12-24 hours. You can put a fan on the canvas if you want to speed up the process. This may cause paint to crack if your mixture is too thick.)

Line Work

Once your canvas is dry, take your fineline precision applicator and fill it about half full with black acrylic paint. Then add a little bit of water and shake the bottle with your thumb over the top to mix it. The paint needs to flow easily out of the tip, so mix and test the tip. If it’s too hard to squeeze paint out, add a little more water and repeat. It the paint is too thin and pours out of the tip, add more paint.

Once filled, test the applicator on a blank canvas to get the feel for it. You’ll need to practice using different pressure with the tip, as it can “catch” on the canvas texture of you aren’t used to it.

My general process with art is to create a little controlled chaos and then organize it with line work. With this particular piece, the goal is to bring out the circular shapes made in the middle of the canvas. Choose an area and start doodling. Let the colors guide where your lines go, but then add your own little embellishments to it.

Once finished, let the canvas dry and then apply your favorite varnish. I like Liquitex High Gloss varnish (Amazon or Blick) for all of my work.

And that’s all! Let me know if you have questions.

***

If you enjoyed this little tutorial and want to learn more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine (See details below!) Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading:

Mini Art Tutorial: Ink with Golden Lines

HOW IT’S MADE: AS SEEN ON @MESSYEVERAFTER’S INSTAGRAM

As you know, I’m obsessed with line work and I am always trying to find the perfect tools for crisp lines. For this piece, I tested out a new gold ink that I have fallen in love with. It’s incredibly versatile and can be applied with a brush or a pen. You can buy single colors, or sets. I’d recommend a set as it’s a much better value.

MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES I USE:

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase within 24 hours of clicking. These are products I use regularly and absolutely love.

General Directions:

THE BACKGROUND:

  1. Cut your watercolor paper to your desired size. For this piece, I cut down to 3″x3″. You can tape your paper down with masking tape to prevent warping, but I find this small size doesn’t warp much at all.
  2. Use a protractor or any cylindrical object and draw a light circle in the middle of your paper with a pencil.
  3. Deposit a small amount of each ink color onto your palette. Using your smaller brush, mix the deeper plum/purple shade first. Use a bit of violet and lake blue, and magenta. Mix together on your palette. You’ll want a bit more magenta to push the hue to the plum side.
  4. Using your bigger watercolor brush, lightly wet the entire circle with clean water.
  5. Work the ink into the bottom of your circle with your small brush. Then mix a new hue that is heavier on the violet and work into the bottom layer up into the middle of the circle.
  6. Clean your brush.
  7. Work lake blue into the upper section of the circle. Blend all of the layers together. Clean your brush when working from dark to light.
  8. Dab areas of the circle with a paper towel if you want to lift the ink for lighter areas.
  9. Let dry.

THE LINE WORK AND STARS:

  1. Use any of the pen tips in the Speedball set. I like the softer/pliable tips.
  2. Using a pipette or watercolor brush, put a little clean water onto the Arabic Gold pan. Use a harder bristled synthetic brush and rub the water into the surface until it starts to soften and liquify. You want to stir in water until the gold is like a thin paint or thick ink.
  3. Use the brush to deposit some of the ink onto your Speedball pen tip. Then, test out your ink and pen on a scratch piece of paper to get used to the feel. If the ink doesn’t transfer to the paper, try thinning it with more water, or deposit more onto the pen.
  4. Once you feel somewhat confident in your control of the pen, grab your completely dry paper. Starting from the base of the ink work, create geometric lines. You can use a ruler if you’re more comfortable with that, but you’ll have to wait for each line to dry completely before moving the ruler. I find it’s easier to free hand, but it can take some practice to get to that point.
  5. Once finished with the lines, add stars with your pen or a fine tipped brush.
  6. If your pencil outline is visible, use your eraser and clean up the edges once the gold ink is dry.
  7. And voila! It’s finished!

***

If you enjoyed this little tutorial and want to learn more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine (See details below!) Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading: