How to: Drip Paintings

Make colorful art by splashing paint.
Make colorful art by splashing paint. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Drip painting is an art technique that encourages both adults and children alike to be expressive and creative in making art. There are no rules in drip painting. Use this freedom to express yourself through the creation of a kaleidoscope of colors and textures on canvas. In the art world, drip painting is referred to as abstract expressionism or "action painting", a technique introduced by American artist Jackson Pollock. Action painting focuses on the act of creating an expressive painting, rather than the finished piece of art.

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper
  • 18 by 24-inch canvas
  • Small paint roller and tray
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Jar of water
  • Old clothing
  • Smock
  • Old towels
  • Dish soap

Spread newspaper on the ground outdoors to protect the surface from paint. Drip painting is messy, so add a few layers of newspaper.

Put on old clothing and a paint smock. Wear old socks and take off your shoes.

Paint a background color to cover the canvas using a small paint roller. Pour acrylic paint in a tray and roll the paint roller through the paint. Roll the paint over the entire surface to cover the canvas. Choose a background color that complements your drip colors. Use a light background color if you are dripping dark paints, and a dark background to drip light paints for contrast. Allow to dry for at least one hour.

Reuse containers such as butter containers for the paints. You will need a container with a wide brim for dipping paintbrushes. Pour several paint colors into separate containers. Have a different paintbrush available for each container.

Cover a table with newspaper and place the paint containers and brushes on the table. Keeping the paints at arm's length will prevent kicked over containers.

Place the canvas on the ground, face up, on top of the newspaper.

Drip the paint on the canvas. Dip a paintbrush into one color of paint. Stand at the edge of the canvas and hold the paintbrush over the canvas, allowing the paint to begin dripping. Move your wrist around to create curved and wiggly lines with the dripping paint. Stop moving your hand for a few seconds and let the paint puddle in certain areas to create splotches. Movement is the key to successful drip painting. Experiment with moving your hands, wrists and body around the canvas to create textures, shapes, lines and splotches with the paint. Create layers using different colors of paint.

Bring the painting indoors and allow to dry overnight before touching.

Clean up the area by disposing of the newspaper and pouring leftover paint back into the bottles. Wash your paintbrushes with dish soap and water.

Tips & Warnings

  • Drip painting can be very relaxing and meditative. Focus on the feeling, the act of creating the drips, rather than focusing on making a perfect painting.
  • Use a garden hose to remove paint that spills outside of the newspaper area.
  • Cut a hole for a head and two holes for arms in a garbage bag to make an inexpensive painting smock.
  • Make sure children do not get too rowdy when drip painting to avoid a huge mess. Encourage them to focus on creating a masterpiece.

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