Splatter Matters: How to Paint Jackson Pollock-Style


Splatter painting, the technique made famous by Jackson Pollock, is energetic, unpredictable and a whole lot of fun. It's also a lot harder than it looks.

But it can be done! There are three common splatter-painting methods that will help you add abstract expressionist style to your art, and it can be done with either acrylics or watercolors. Be warned: things will get messy. You’ll want to wear your designated painting clothes and move away any objects you want to keep clean — you never know where the pigment will fly!

What You Need

  • Acrylic or watercolor paints
  • A brush (or brushes) with stiff, sturdy bristles
  • A canvas
  • An old toothbrush (optional)
  • Gloves (optional)

1. Use Two Paint Brushes

Use When: you want to cover a large surface with splatter paint.

Fill the bristles of a paint brush with pigment. Then gently tap it with a second brush (or stick, or even your fingers) with your opposite hand. This will give the paint enough force to travel across your canvas.

2. Use a Toothbrush and Your Fingers

Use When: you want to cover smaller areas and have smaller flecks of splatter paint.

Fill the bristles of a toothbrush (or a stiff-bristled brush) with pigment. Hold it at a downward angle, so the bristles are pointed toward the ground. With your opposite hand, run your fingers along the edge of the brush; you may want to put on gloves first. Go slowly and pull the bristles back so they launch paint onto the canvas.

3. Use a Stencil

Use When: you want to control exactly where your splatter paint falls.

Control is a big challenge when splattering paint, and a stencil can help! It can be complex or simple (even as simple as a strip of masking tape), but make sure there’s plenty of positive space around it so the extra paint won’t get on your canvas.

More Splatter Tips

  • Dilute your acrylic paint with a little water to make splattering easier.
  • Don’t be afraid to use multiple colors! This will give your splatter depth and visual excitement.
  • Make splattering the last thing you do for your painting. Think of it like an accent color and be deliberate when you use it.
  • Next time you want to paint stars in the sky, splatter them!
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