Techniques for creating easy acrylic backgrounds

Hey Y’all, Katie here for my first post as a part of the 2017 Creative Team! This week, Misty and I are featuring Acrylics here on the blog. Misty wrote up an amazing list of the different types and uses of acrylics and I am going to be sharing with you a few easy ways to use those acrylics to make backgrounds.

These are an easy way to just get started on that intimidating blank page- perfect for both beginners and long-time painters! Watch me paint each background in the video and then I’ve shared a bit more about each technique below that.

Okay, more on those techniques-

Ombre Backgrounds

The Ombre or Gradient pattern is a classic look. To achieve this look, you’ll need a colored paint and a white paint. Brush the color onto the top half of the page, without washing your paint brush off, add a bit of white paint to the bottom half and blend the two colors together in the middle.

Abstract Brushstrokes

This is a really fun technique that I’ve seen multiple artists do, including the lovely Riet, Lauren, and Ckelso. Add multiple colors to your palette, and using a medium sized brush (I think I used a #4?), choose your first color and begin painting brushstrokes onto your page. You can do them in a circle, or whatever shape you like.  Continue adding more and more colors, layering your brushstrokes you go until you fill in the page.

Blended Swirls

The only real trick to this technique is to work fairly fast, so that your colors don’t dry and can blend.  Swirl on multiple colors of paint, or shades of the same color, blending the edges of the swirls together.

Faux Marbling with a Plastic Bag

I learned this technique from a post by Alisa Burke, It’s really fun! All you need is a plastic bag and some acrylic paints for a faux marbled look. Squirt some paint onto a plastic bag, multiple colors are great! Fold and scrunch the bag up to mix the paints a small bit, and then place your page on top, and pull a print.

Stamping into Paint

This is a fun one if you want some texture! You can use heavy body paint for this, but I didn’t have any so another solution and what I did is to use a heavy gel medium mixed with a bit of paint. Apply it to your page and spread it out using a paint spatula, you want it a little on the thick side.  Take a stamp and stamp into the wet paint for texture. Be sure to wash your stamp off good!

High Flow Acrylic Color Pooling

To achieve this look, you’re going to need some high flow paints! I started with a gesso base, and once it was dry i misted it with water to help the high flow, flow. 🙂 I applied multiple colors, and let them pool together.

High Flow Acrylic Drips

This is a technique similar to the color pooling, apply one color of high flow paint to the page, mist it and let it drip down. Add another color to the page and let them drip the opposite direction.


A well known and easy way to make a patterned background! Start with a painted background and lay the stencil over top. Use a sponge dauber to apply paint over the stencil. Don’t apply it too heavily or it will bleed, you want to keep just a light amount on your sponge!

Stamping with a Sponge

For an easy dot pattern, use a sponge dauber and just like with the stenciling, dip your sponge into a small amount of paint, and press down onto your page and lift straight up to make a circle.

One more technique I would like to mention (but didn’t include in the video) that makes AMAZING backgrounds, is gelli printing! I did a tutorial on this last year, which you can find here. I love using gelli prints in my journals as starter points for my page.

What are your favorite background techniques? I currently love making backgrounds using the high flow paints! If you want more information on the different types of acrylic paints you can use, be sure to check out Misty’s post from earlier in the week!


Katie is an Artist located in Washington, USA. She loves anything and everything crafty- from scrapbooking and art journaling, to drawing, to quilting. Katie is constantly inspired by nature, outer space, and colors.


  1. Lauren Hooper

    Katie!!! This tutorial is one of my all time favorites! I love all that you shared so many simple but GENIUS ideas! My favorite is for sure the plastic bag 🙂

    • Katie Smith

      Thanks, Lauren!!

  2. Deborah Hosaflook

    Katie, this was a great tutorial, thanks so much!!!! What was the name of that dark blue that you were using? It is really lovely!!!

  3. Misty Granade

    So good!!

  4. Melody Willoughby

    So many great ideas! This is definitely one of my favorites. i am always looking for ways to use high flow acrylics as i am still learning how to not make mud. lol i love the background with the stencilingin paint. they are all fabulous and i cannot wait to play. thanks!

    • Katie Smith

      Ha, thank you Melody!

    • Katie Smith

      I can’t wait to see!

  5. Sasha Zinevych

    Oh my word, Katie! This Watching this tutorial I felt like a kid in a candy shop – I wanted EVERYTHING! To try everything and to buy everything! 😀 Thank you for sharing so much of your wisdom! That marbling technique is just delicious! And where did you get that beautiful fern stencil, may I ask? 🙂

  6. Nancy Frisch

    That was just an amazing video and fabulous beautiful backgrounds…loved and will watch it again!!

  7. Lea

    This is super rad Katie. You’re very talented. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Clare Davis Etheridge

    I did the ombre one as I watched and I can’t wait to try the plastic bag marble, such a great idea! Thanks Katie.

    • Katie Smith

      You’re welcome, Thanks for watching!!

  9. Ashley Rodgers

    Oh my goodness, Katie! I am seriously mind blown. I enjoyed your tutorial so much. All these techniques are incredible, and I can’t wait to try them all.

    • Katie Smith

      Thank you, Ashley!!

  10. Suzanne Thoolen

    Love that faux marbling! Definitely gonna try that!

  11. Heidi Lilley

    I love this……. love the colors and envious of all the luscious painted papers you have to collage with now !

    • Katie Smith

      Oh thank you Heidi! That’s one of my favorite things about painting backgrounds- having them to collage with!