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:
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- Air Compressor and Accessories (Read more about the exact products I use here.)
- 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.
- 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
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.
- Place your canvas on a couple of cups to raise it off your work surface.
- 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.
- 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.
- Using your white mixture, run a generous line/blob across the bottom of the canvas.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.)
- 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.
- Add your gold next. Hug the black lines. Let dry.
- And white around the gold. Let dry.
- Sign your piece. (Which I always forget to do…)
- 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!
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