{F} Fun, fearless backgrounds

Now that we’ve spoken about supplies and collecting ephemera, and gone into the basics of color theory, it’s time to bring out the paints and create! Let’s start with backgrounds. Here are three of my favorite background techniques.

Technique 1: Spread some color


The quickest (and best method to get over the fear of a blank page) is to grab your favourite color and spread it on the page. To create some interest, while your paint is still wet, dab with a damp rag to remove some color here and there. Kick it up another notch by edging the page with a darker color and adding some drips.

Technique 2: Collage + Paint

Gather together some collage elements. Choose a mix of text pages, music scores and scrapbook papers (for best results, not more than 2-3 colors that work well). You can also incorporate some imagery if you like. Glue down with matt medium. Don’t over think this step – most of it will get painted over in the next layers anyway. But what if you want to keep an element on the page? Just wipe off any subsequent layers of paint from the image while it is still wet. This will ensure that your collage element looks integrated into the page instead of standing out as something that has been deliberately glued down. {In the image below, you can see some of the collage elements peeking through from below the paint.}

Technique 3: Intuitive painting


This is my favorite techniques for doing backgrounds. Fair warning: It can make you cry at first, but as you go along and do this a couple of times, it will become a very rewarding process, that is a promise!

Ok, so – pick 3-4 colors (I used blue, purple, orange and pink, along with some white in this example). Paint intuitively – move the colors around the page and just have fun putting different colors next to one another. Don’t over think this too much – but just be aware of warms and cools and that the two together can make mud.

Once you’re happy with it, let the page dry and then come in with some white and these same colors and make marks here and there. The key is to have fun. Let this layer also dry completely.

At this stage, you can choose to add more marks to your page – drips, splatters, more mark making. Or, think about what you want to draw and which areas of the page you love. As you can see, I chose to draw birds. Draw your images with watercolor pencils if you have them, or with a normal graphite pencil. Once you’re pleased with the composition, let go of the rest of the background by painting over it with white gesso. And viola! Isn’t that pretty?

Join me tomorrow for a more in-depth lesson on gesso. I’ll also introduce you to intuitive painting, which builds on some of these techniques, soon.

Put this lesson to work: Pull out your journal and start making a background, and then share them with me in the comments!

Posted in Art Journaling and tagged , , , , , .


  1. There are infinite amounts of techniques and ways to start adding color and texture to your art, you don’t even have to start with color and texture… maybe you want to work on a white background! Just play around, and experiment. Sometimes, a technique you learn somewhere or in a book will never work out for you, but perhaps you will stumble upon a mistake of your own!

  2. Shinjhini is it? I love love love this! I think I like intuitive painting technique the best.
    What’s the technique called where you paint one side, close the other side over it and you get a mirror image on the other side. That would be interesting too!
    Things are warming up nicely…..!!
    @KalaRavi16 from

    • Oh intuitive painting is fun! Until you get the hang of it, though, it can make you cry. At least I have ended up crying a couple of times. 😉

      Mirror images – those are cool too! Sadly they don’t always work too well for me…my paints dry very quickly in the horrid Delhi heat! And getting the paint to water proportion right for a cool print is a matter of trial and error – depends on lots of factors like heat, humidity, dryness etc. But it is very interesting, and when it works, it gives a beautiful, mottled background!

  3. Uhhmaazing it is!! I’m sure by the end of this month and all ur posts on making a journal, will make me start working on it soon….thats sooo challenging and fun at the same time. Thanks for bringing it on the table.

    @bloggerabhi1 from

  4. Pingback: {L} Creating layers in your art journal – Modern Gypsy

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