Mini Tutorial: Acrylic Swirls

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How It’s Made

Guys, you know by now that I am OBSESSED with line work. Pretty much every variation of tutorial I post will have something to do with fine lining. I can’t help it 😉 It’s my therapy.

I will link everything I personally used to make this piece and give you general directions, but feel free to swap in your own favorite paints and supplies.

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!

  • 10″x10″ stretched canvas (Blick– I usually order in bulk for the best deals!)
  • Acrylic Paint:
  • Paint Brushes: I love cheap synthetic brushes!
    • 1/2 inch white synthetic brush of any sort will do.
  • Catalyst Wedge (Blick or Amazon)
  • Fluid Paint Mixtures (Blue, white, and violet)
  • 2-20 gauge Fineline Precision Applicators (Blick or Amazon)
  • Liquitex High Gloss Varnish (Blick or Amazon)
    • Applied with a cheap foam brush.

General Directions:

Anytime I do a tutorial, I don’t want you to think your piece needs to look exactly like mine. Honestly, I don’t give enough direction for that to happen. I just want to give you tools and techniques to go and make your own version. So let’s get started!

THE BACKGROUND:

The Basics: For the background, you are going to slowly build up layers of color. Start light, build up darker layers, and keep adding white around the edges of each color section for a loose blend between sections.

Broken Down Instructions: Starting with white, a little cadmium yellow, and lake blue, use your 1/2″ brush to create a light background. You’re going to be heavy on the white here. You can blend vigorously here to get a soft base layer.

Then, with looser brush strokes while the first layer is still wet, apply lake blue to the bottom right of the canvas. Don’t blend too much. Then add Golden Pthalo green and blend upwards to the middle. Then add Golden Teal to the bottom left and top right corners. You’re still working while the entire surface is wet (use a misting spray bottle to keep your paint moist while working if needed).

Next blend Golden Permanent Violet to the upper left corner. Then a little more cadmium yellow in the middle and blend with the green section.

Now you have a soft background that you will continue to build upon. Let this layer dry. Then using violet, darken the upper left corner. Using prussian blue, darken the bottom right corner. As you can see from the video, I keep moving around the canvas and building up layers of color. As I work with darker colors, I blend a little white into the edges and keep my brush strokes loose to create more expressive blends.

You will want to let some sections dry, and work some sections while still wet. I encourage you to feel it out.

Once you have built up your colors to a point you are happy, let it dry completely.

The Wedge:

I use a the Catalyst wedge to create even more layering and depth on my pieces. Once your background is dry, you can use the wedge to layer white, blue, and violet upon different areas of your canvas.

I use a fluid mixture of these colors to create a light opacity. The key is being able to see beneath the layers. You can use colors straight from the tube with more pressure, or you can use the Golden Fluid Acrylics. If you want to use my recipe for the colors I used check out this post.

Experiment with the pressure you use and use a flick of your wrist to create more expressive layers. Let each color dry before adding the next one. Then let dry completely.

THE LINE WORK:

Using your Precision Applicators, fill one with gold paint, and one with white paint and a little water. (See this post for detailed use instructions on the applicators) The gold paint is already pretty thin so you may not need to add water.

I started doing gold lines on this, and to be honest, I hated it. Rather than giving up, I just considered it another layer and kept going. There are no mistakes! For this portion, I applied the gold, let it dry, and then came in with the wedge again and added layers of white and purple. Then let that dry.

Whenever I start my line work, I stare at the background colors and wait for it to tell me where the natural contours of the lines should go. Sometimes I follow the curves of the wedge applications. Sometimes I work on the dark areas only for more contrast. There is no wrong place to apply the lines. Let your piece speak to you and start to follow the flow of the background.

For my swirls, I started with a thick pattern. You can apply a two thin parallel lines and then fill in the center for a bold line. After I had a general layout, I then came in with thin lines. Watch the video to see how I did it, and then go with your own flow 🙂

Final Touches:

I LOVE me some splatters. After my line work is done, I come in with my white fluid mixture and a flick a coarse bristled brush to add a layer of splatters. Then, I paint the sides of my canvas black and let it dry completely.

Lastly, I come in with two layers of Liquitex High Gloss Varnish and the piece is done!

***

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 to support more content like this. Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

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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:
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