You don't have to be a professional painter to make this large-scale abstract artwork. Its free-form swirling pattern is simple to create (and forgiving of flaws), and a DIY frame elevates the look of inexpensive canvas.
Read step by step instructions after the video.

This easy canvas art is just what your blank wall needs. Although it’s made with watercolor paints (so you might get your hands a little dirty in the process), the swirling modern design is a far cry from your school-day artwork of yesteryear. You can create the easy watercolor artwork in about an hour or less, depending on how long it takes to reach your desired look. Finish your masterpiece with an inexpensive frame made from painted wood lattice strips.

Related: Our Easiest Canvas Art Ideas

 

  • Working time 1 hr
  • Start to finish 24 hrs
  • Difficulty Easy
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What you need

Tools
Materials
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How to do it

Part 1

Step 1

Apply Water to Canvas

Saturate your blank canvas with a foam brush and water. If you are using a large canvas, it's easiest to work in quadrants down the page so the water at the bottom doesn't dry up before you get to it.

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This unusual watercolor technique creates a bright bubble effect.

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dropping watercolor paint on canvas for artwork
spreading watercolor around canvas with foam brush
Step 2

Apply Watercolors

Add a few drops of watercolor to your canvas, then gradually add water until the color begins to spread. You can use either liquid watercolors in a dropper bottle or watercolor tubes for this project—or both mixed together. We used a combination of Reeves tube watercolors (for the peachy tones) and Dr. Ph. Martin's Synchromatic Transparent Water Color (for the blue-gray). Add a second color and blend edges with your initial color using your foam brush.

Editor's Tip

If you've added too much water or paint to one area, you can use a paper towel to lightly blot the excess.

smearing watercolor on canvas with finger
blowing air to push watercolor around canvas
Step 3

Create Swirls with Watercolor Techniques

We used a few different techniques to move the paint around the canvas. Pick up the canvas and tilt it gently to blend colors. Press down on the canvas in desired spots so that the ink pools into the impression. Squeeze an empty condiment bottle at an angle to blow the ink around. Add additional colors and water until you are satisfied with the texture and saturation of your design. Use the watercolor painting techniques to work your way across the canvas in quadrants.

Editor's Tip

To achieve organic swirls and prevent your colors from turning muddy, don't manipulate the paint too much beyond the techniques shown.

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large framed watercolor swirl artwork and bench
Step 4

Let Dry and Frame (Optional)

Let your artwork dry overnight. Watercolors dry quickly, so your canvas will likely feel dry within a few hours. If desired, frame your canvas with painted wood lattice strips. Simply cut them to fit each side of your canvas then use a brad nailer to attach the pieces for a professional look.

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    Comments (2)

    How difficult was this project?
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    January 14, 2020
    Difficulty: Very Hard
    Why did you remove my last post? I warned your valued readers not to paint watercolors on top of primed canvas because there will be no stability. I suggested that they first paint a ground on top of the canvas, then the watercolors will be stable. I guess you prefer deception over truth. A little scary.
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    January 8, 2020
    Difficulty: Very Hard
    Sorry. This tutorial is clueless. You can't put watercolor directly on a primed canvas, and expect stability for any length of time. If you want to paint with watercolors on a canvas, you must first paint a GROUND over the canvas. The ground is a base that readily accepts watercolor.
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    January 21, 2022

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