Paint and Draw

Have fun with textures

Experiment with painting techniques and textures to create your own textured paint masterpiece

Child experimenting with textured paint techniques

© Tate

Artists usually paint on canvas. Canvas is a strong, hard cloth made from hemp or yarn. It’s normally stretched across a wooden structure (called a stretcher).

But you could paint on any fabric or surface, like cotton or velvet or metal or glass. What else could you paint onto?

Artists also use some very unusual ways of putting the paint on the canvas dripping, splatting, even shooting!

For this activity, investigate some of the awesome ways that artists use colour, textures, textiles and paint and have a go at making your own textured paint masterpiece.

Start by exploring techniques and materials

Sigmar Polke, ‘Untitled (Triptych)’ 2002
Sigmar Polke
Untitled (Triptych) 2002
Tate
© The estate of Sigmar Polke/ DACS 2017

Before you start having fun creating your own textured painting, explore some of the exciting ways artists have used paint.

Sigmar Polke used resin and acrylic paint on fabric to make the artwork above. Look at his strong mark-making. His paintings combine found printed images with painterly marks on top. What kind of found images could you use to paint on?

You don't have to use brushes to paint with. Jackson Pollock dripped and poured paint over canvas. This meant he was able to work in a free way. He let all his thoughts and feelings out on the canvas.

Jackson Pollock, ‘Yellow Islands’ 1952
Jackson Pollock
Yellow Islands 1952
Tate
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2017

This looks like fun! Sometimes artists use some very unexpected techniques to make paintings. Here the artist Niki de Saint Phalle filled bags with paint and then asked people to shoot at them, so the paint exploded everywhere! This type of art was all about chance, you never really knew what it would look like until the end.

Niki de Saint Phalle Shooting Picture 1961 

Niki de Saint Phalle
Shooting Picture 1961
© The estate of Niki de Saint Phalle

Other artists use collage and different types of fabric along with paint. This artist, Enrico Baj, made funny decorated characters like this man below. He even used Meccano in this painting on top of fabric. What everyday objects could you use in your artwork?

Enrico Baj, ‘Fire! Fire!’ 1963–4
Enrico Baj
Fire! Fire! 1963–4
Tate
© Enrico Baj

We have seen how artists have used canvas and fabrics, collage and free-painting (without paintbrushes). Let's see what happens when we put this all together!

What you need

A range of art materials
bottles and blobs of paint
  • A canvas or other heavy fabric
  • Paint (I chose 3 acrylic paints)
  • Extra fabric and materials
  • Everyday objects to paint with instead of a paintbrush. (I picked a toy car, a leaf, corrugated card, a spatula and a washing up brush)
  • Glue

Step 1

Stick your fabrics onto your canvas (or the surface you're painting on) to make some interesting textured layers.

You can just stick these on randomly. Try using fabrics with lots of different textures.

Step 2

Detail of textured, painted surface
Textured painting

Take some inspiration from other abstract artists who make marks and paint on fabrics. Have a look at the artists on Tate Kids. Some favourites are Jackson Pollock, Sarah Morris and Frank Stella.

Start painting! What kind of marks can you make with the paint? Can you get inspiration from around you in your house, or in the garden or in your street?

How does it feel to go over the fabric? Can you see the threads in it? Is it easy or hard to paint on?

Build up colours and patterns. You may need to let the paint dry a little before adding another layer of paint. It's OK to make slippages and spillages – that will all add to the interesting texture!

Step 3

Textured painting finished

Ta-dah! Your tryout is completed! If it's a bit messy, that's OK! Art is all about experimenting and being inspired.

Have another go and see where it takes you!

More to explore