Using Ink Blots to Connect to Your Intuition

Hello lovely artists, Vanessa with you for this first tutorial of the Season. I am very much looking forward to where this Season of Introspection will take us, aren’t you? Let’s get started. Open your journal to a blank page and choose three acrylic paints that make your heart flutter. For this tutorial, you need to use acrylics because we need paint that dries relatively fast.


Once you have chosen your colors, put three or four splotches of paint onto your journal. Make sure they are different sizes and that they are not one on top of each other, yet relatively close.


Now the fun part! Take your right page and fold it over the left one.


With the palm of your hand, gently smoosh the pages together. You will feel the blobs of paint moving under your hand. Slowly guide the paints in different directions so they spread out and touch each other.


Make sure you have an assistant there to supervise your work!


Wait about one minute to a minute and a half, depending on the thickness of the paint. Then slowly peel apart the pages.



You will have a lovely ink blot (or paint blot), the fruit of complete randomness, dependant only on the way the paints moved under your hand.


As you can see, waiting for the paint to dry just a little bit creates these lovely ‘veins’ or ridges in the paint.


The colors blend together in intricate ways.


I love this effect.


Now we wait for the paint to dry completely. While you wait, look at the image you created closely. What does it remind you of? What do you see in those paint splotches? Is there an image or is it completely abstract, a swirl of colors and texture? Imagine your are doing one of those ink blots tests and you have to describe what you see in the paint.


After studying my image, I clearly saw a butterfly held within. Butterflies are important to me. My name is a butterfly genus and the Vanessa Io (or peacock butterfly) is one of my favorites. They represent the souls of the departed and I work with human remains. Butterflies are also a metaphor for transformation, evolution…metamorphosis.


Look for the hidden symbols or meanings in your image and finish your spread either with line work or collage. I actually used both for my page.


I suck at drawing butterflies, but I love this page anyway! I may go in later and refine the line work on the butterfly wings. It is also a crying/angry skull face (do you see it?), so I may work more on it to bring that imagery forward as well.


It takes a couple of tries to get this technique down but it is so versatile and fun. I definitely recommend it when you are feeling uninspired. You can also try smooshing together two journals instead of closing your pages. If you vary the drying times or the types of paper, you will see different results. Most of all, have fun and experiment!


Vanessa is an archaeologist and an artist. She oscillates between these two poles of her personality and explores the many iterations of her reality in her art journal. She loves to share her art and process with others.


  1. Stephanie manic

    I love, love, love so much this “course”! J’aime ce que tu proposes et ce que tu en fais. C’est toujours si personnel et original !

    • Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

      merci! Et moi j’adore ton enthousiasme! xx

  2. Gilly Welch

    Oh my goodness this is brilliant V! The paint technique is awesome but your finished page sheer genius, thank you.

    • Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

      thank you my dear !

  3. Jennifer

    I AM SO EXCITED FOR AND BY THIS. The second I saw your blots I knew it was a butterfly too <3
    Gahh this is brilliant. Thank you for sharing V!!

    • Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

      Yay! Go forth and have fun!

  4. Gina Nieto

    Can’t wait to do this tonight. Your page came out beautiful!

    • Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

      thank you! What I love is that there are so many ways to change things up

  5. Michelle LaPoint

    I adore your finished page! The images and that quote together are so powerful!

    • Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

      thank you, I had a specific situation in mind. When that happens, the journaling comes easily to me…

  6. Essie O'Rourke-deGraaf

    V, this is brilliant. It’s a playful process, but it holds so much potential for serious reflection.

  7. Sarah Maddox

    gorgeous madame

  8. Ann-Margaret Arnold

    What a fun technique!! 🙂 I love how yours turned out!! I immediately saw the butterfly and also saw a cute doggy face with floppy ears wearing a fabulous flower hat! It truly sparks the imagination! Can’t wait to try this and see what blooms from my paint spot! Great tutorial! 🙂

  9. Kristin

    Love this so much V.

  10. Tanyalee Kahler

    Such a fun technique to play with. And so much fun trying to ‘see’ what you’ve made with your inkblot. Me, I can only ever see pelvic structures and cat faces. Haha.

  11. Clare Davis Etheridge

    Love it! I am skipping off to create right this minute!

  12. Romana

    This is so nice for so many reasons! It has the nostalgia of childhood with the strong simplicity of good graphics!! I can see more than one of these happening! Thanks Vanessa.

  13. MrsNoffy

    Thanks for such a fun technique–it pushed my thinking and made my heart smile.