If your social media feed is anything to go by, textured art is having a moment. This fun technique uses gel medium, a paste-like substance that thickens acrylic paint to create three-dimensional textures on canvas. With paint knives, scrapers and other tools, it’s easy to create unique and impressive masterpieces at home. Better yet, there’s no formal art training necessary, as you’ll find out with this step-by-step guide on how to make textured art from Sydney-based artist Jess Reader of Textures by Jess.

After 20 years working in hospitality marketing (and no art experience to her name), Jess picked up this new hobby during lockdown. “I don't have an art background, although it was always the creative stuff I liked the best in my marketing role,” she says. “During lockdown, I was scrolling through TikTok and I saw a lot of different people doing textured art pieces and thought, that looks pretty cool. I really liked the style of it. And that’s how it started. I made one, and then I was just obsessed, so kept making more. 

“When the lockdown restrictions eased, I started selling the pieces on Facebook Marketplace. And they were just so popular. It was really exciting! It wasn't something that I'd done before, but it was really gratifying that other people actually liked them as well. It kind of got me thinking this could be more of a business thing.”

So, just two years after picking up the hobby from scratch, Jess quit her marketing manager role and ran her passion project as a full-time business. 

SEE ALSO: How to Express Yourself Creatively, Even if You’re Not Arts-y

A rotating gif of a woman sitting at a white table squeezing a paint tube onto a palette, then applying it on canvas to create a textured art piece.

Step 1. Prime Your Canvas

The first step in creating a textured artwork is to add a layer of colour to your canvas with a paintbrush and your acrylic colour of choice – and don’t forget the sides of your canvas, too. “I put colour on the canvas before I start with the textures so that background ties in with everything – it’s just an aesthetic thing,” says Jess, who chose to mix a light peachy pink colour using Born acrylic paint in Snow White with a small amount of Petal Pink, Sahara and Havana Brown. “Light base colours will only need one coat, although you may find darker colours will need two coats.” Then, leave the paint layer to dry for around three hours. 

It’s also worth checking if your canvas is ready-to-use straightaway. The Born canvas Jess used for this project was pre-coated and triple primed in acrylic gesso, so it already had a smooth base that was all set for painting. “If your canvas hasn't been pre-primed, then you would need to put a layer of gesso on to start,” says Jess.

Hot Tip:  Don’t forget to prep, says Jess.This is a fun but messy process, so it’s worthwhile placing some newspaper or a plastic drop sheet under your workspace prior to starting.”

Step 2. Choose Your Paint Colours

You’ll need to choose a complementary colour palette. Jess recommends taking inspiration from the colours in the room that your DIY textured wall art will end up in. “For instance, if you have some olive cushions that you want to match the piece to, go to Pinterest and type in ‘olive colour palette’ to find ideas of colours to put together,” she says. 

A rotating gif of a woman putting green paint onto a paint palette, putting the paint into ziplock bags and cutting the corner off a ziplock bag.

Step 3. Prepare Your Texture Paste Colours

Once your colours are chosen, it’s time to turn them into texture pastes. Jess worked with seven shades for her textured artwork to create a bright piece with tonal hues and a subtle ombré effect. “To create the texture paste, mix your acrylic colour with the gel medium using a painting knife on a wooden palette – a good ratio is roughly three parts medium to one part paint,” she says. However, you can play around with these quantities to get a texture that appeals to you. 

“I go by feel with the textures,” Jess adds. “If you like a thicker texture, add less paint to the medium. For a thinner texture, add more paint.”

Once the colour and medium is fully mixed together, place each texture paste colour into a separate ziplock bag. When you’re ready to start painting, snip a small corner off each of the bags so they can be used as piping bags. “This is so it creates a circular shape when you pipe it onto the canvas,” Jess says. 

A rotating gif of white paint being squeezed onto a canvas, green paint being dragged down the canvas with a palette knife and peach paint being applied to the canvas.

Step 4. Create Your Textured Art Design

Pipe a small $1-coin-sized dollop of texture paste on the top left-hand side of your canvas using your white texture paste. Next, use your painting knife to gently apply pressure onto the texture paste, before gently dragging it down the canvas slightly. Working across in a row, repeat this step, alternating your colours. “I like to use my lighter colours at the top and stagger in some pops of green and then gradually use darker colours at the bottom,” Jess says. 

Alternatively, for a less structured look, skip the piping bags and use the paint knife to apply textured paste straight from the palette, or place the pastes in separate small tubs. Whichever method you choose, wipe your knife after each scrape so your colours don’t mix. “Keep a sponge handy and wipe the palette knife between each stroke so the paint from the previous stroke doesn’t blend into your new stroke,” says Jess. “Otherwise keep the leftover paint from the previous stroke on your palette knife to create a marbling effect to the colour.”

To replicate the scale-esque design of Jess’s textured art piece, slightly stagger your next row, alternating colours, and gradually work your way down the canvas. Once you’re done, lie your artwork flat and leave it for 48 hours to allow the medium to fully dry. 

SEE ALSO: 3 Fun Projects to Try With Paint Markers

A woman’s arm holding a can of art varnish spraying a peach, white and green scale-like textured artwork.

Step 5. Seal Your Textured Artwork

Once your textures have dried, seal your work. “This protects it from dust and yellowing over time,” says Jess. Shake a can of matt varnish spray well and then, holding the can 30cm away from the canvas, lightly spray your textured artwork. Wait a few minutes for the varnish to dry, then repeat another couple of times. 

That’s it – your first piece of DIY textured wall art! “It's a lot of fun,” says Jess. “And there's no right or wrong. You can make any type of design you want; the options are endless. The best thing to do is buy a texture medium and some paints and experiment. Everything looks good!”

Tubes of paint, a wooden paint palette, a paintbrush, two types of palette knives, gesso and varnishing spray arranged on a wooden table.

What You'll Need 

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Other Textured Art Painting Techniques to Try

  • Extra texture: Experimenting with different textures is part of the fun. Add a handful of sand into your paint medium to create a grittier finished look.
  • Grooves: Metal scrapers are ideal for creating uniform grooves in your textured artwork. Try adding some medium to your canvas, then use a scraper to sweep it across in an arch shape for minimalist boho vibes. 
  • Petals: Make flower petals of varying sizes and shapes with assorted paint knives; for instance, more rounded edges will have a different style to pointier shapes. Load up a knife with your medium mixture, and then press on your canvas, gently sliding your knife down and away.
  • Textured background: Instead of painting your background, make a textured one instead. Mix your chosen paint colour with the medium then use a palette knife to spread the mixture all over the canvas, building up layers as you go. This will give you gentle, undulating waves and an abstract effect.
  • Stippled design: Don’t forget the humble paintbrush – those stroke marks will add a cool effect to your textured artwork. Stipple your medium onto the canvas with a small, stiff-bristled brush and blend hues together, or add small details to your piece.
  • Feathering: Palette knives also come in fan shapes, which are ideal for making geometric forms. The fan edge is serrated, which you could scrape through for a groovy effect, or turn it on its side to add nicks and scores for a more feathered look.

What to Try

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