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Colourful DIY Abstracts – How to Make Your Own Art

DIY abstract art

What seems like ages ago, I painted three abstracts for our bedroom that have seemed a bit ho-hum since I added brighter touches to the room, like the cheery Marimekko blanket.  Readers have asked how I made the paintings but, since I was actually trying to recreate this painting, it was a crazy, un-documentable journey from blank canvases to finished pieces.  Anyone curious about the how-to is in luck though, because I recently tweaked the triptych (by adding new pops of colour to the two blander paintings) and I captured the transformation in photos, so you can get a sense of how to make your own DIY abstract art (it’s easy, I promise).

DIY abstract art

To make a simple abstract like this, the key is in layering colours:

How to paint a colorful abstract - step by step photos

This is the same method I used originally: with acrylic paints I painted some random, colourful squares in different colours and then, once they had dried a touch, so as not to smear the paint around, I painted over them in white.  Then I layered in some pastel shades to soften the look.  The result is an abstract with colour peaking through shades of white.

I worked and I fiddled.  I did the old step back, paintbrush between my teeth and my head cocked to one side, with a really pompous expression.  The kind that requires a black beret.  I also covered myself in paint in the process.  I continued fussing until I liked the finish product.  The same process unfolded with another of the three paintings:

How to paint a colorful abstract - step by step photos

How to paint a colorful abstract - step by step photos

The trick is to apply the paint thinly, with a large, very dry brush.  This way the paint won’t drip and will dry quickly so the paint can be layered easily.  I used artist’s acrylic (not craft paint) because the colours are more saturated and the quality is better.  I don’t buy the most expensive kind, though.  I buy whatever is between kid’s acrylic paint and professional grade (I switch brands and stores).

I worked around the canvas, instead of concentrating on one area at a time.  Here are a few detailed photos of some deliciously layered colour:

DIY painting // make your own art

Here is the “before” and “after” of all three paintings together:

How to paint your own art

I like the brighter, more colourful paintings better.  They suit the room  better.

DIY colourful abstract art // how to make your own paintings

The middle canvas remained untouched

The paintings are a cheery scene to wake up to each morning, as I begrudgingly
haul my butt outta my warm, toasty bed and face the cold, snowy world.



  1. gemma@thesweetestdigs
    March 6, 2012 / 2:25 pm

    they look great! nice work 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 6, 2012 / 2:35 pm

      Thanks Gemma! I'm a lot more happy with them now.

  2. Wendy (SpikesnSparkles)
    March 6, 2012 / 3:01 pm

    you really are an amazing artist! these look so good – both the before and after versions!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 6, 2012 / 8:41 pm

      Awww, thanks, but I promise I'm not a good artist. Anyone can do what I do. The only difference is I have no fear! I smoosh paint around until I like it, and then sometimes revisit something months later and re-smoosh some paint. I also keep a pinterest board and real-life-not-online folder of paintings/patterns/colours I love for a steady stream of inspiration. But thanks for the vote of confidence.

  3. Faith Pike
    March 6, 2012 / 3:19 pm

    lovely 🙂

  4. Elaine
    March 6, 2012 / 4:53 pm

    looks great! Love the little hits of pink in there. lovely!

  5. Beatrice @
    March 6, 2012 / 6:47 pm

    They look great and love the pink throw. So cheery and happy!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 6, 2012 / 8:41 pm

      Thanks Beatrice! It's funny how two little changes made the room all of a sudden seem so much more colourful.

  6. Sheila @SZInteriors
    March 6, 2012 / 9:19 pm

    These are really, really lovely. I like this kind of art, and so it resonates with me… and I do like the brighter cheerier versions better, but didn't mind the 'befores' either! What a nice way to wake up 🙂 The first two photos following the 'Details' and the 'Before & After' section, I totally LOVE with the sunlight streaming in. Great capture!!!

  7. Rosa @ FlutterFlutter
    March 6, 2012 / 9:51 pm

    I love how these bring out colours that are on your bed! Great look Tanya!! I'm going to share your post on my Facebook page!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 6, 2012 / 10:17 pm

      Thanks for the shout-out. I don't have a facebook page, but I will take a peak at yours 😉

  8. Dora
    March 6, 2012 / 11:16 pm

    These are really beautiful. i love the new bolder colors 🙂

  9. Keira
    March 7, 2012 / 2:41 am

    Wow! These are really beautiful! Love the colours you chose.

  10. Carol@TheDesignPages
    March 7, 2012 / 3:25 am

    Beautiful Tanya! Such a talented lady:)

  11. Dana@Mid2Mod
    March 7, 2012 / 5:01 am

    Love the pops of pink you added…but what I really covet is your easel. I need a large one like that!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 7, 2012 / 2:15 pm

      Thanks, Dana! Handy Hubby made that easel for me years and years ago. I didn't want to get paint on it, so for years I used it for display only! I started using it a couple of years ago. We looked at some ones in the art department at Lakehead University (in our hometown) and he made some drawings and designed it himself. Yep, that's when I knew he was handy enough to marry 🙂

  12. Ashley@AttemptsAtDomestication
    March 7, 2012 / 6:50 pm

    Those look awesome! I know it wont turn out as great as yours, but I think I'd like to try one of these…

  13. mistergandme
    March 7, 2012 / 7:11 pm

    Tanya, your paintings really inspire me! I hope to try my hand at abstract art soon. 🙂

  14. Maggie
    March 7, 2012 / 8:42 pm

    Hi TanyaI never comment on blogs, but I just wanted to say two things:1. These paintings are awesome. 2. I love your blog. I also live in Ottawa, in a townhouse, and it's good to live vicariously through someone who lives like I live, but has much more energy and skill than I do.MaggiePS. Ok, one more thing. If you ever wanted to do a post sharing your fav spots to shop around Ottawa, I would love it.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 8, 2012 / 4:34 am

      Hi Maggie, well I'm so flattered you commented on my blog! It is so lovely to hear from a fellow Ottawa-er and townhouse dweller. Thanks so much for your kind words. It really means a lot to me when people leave such nice comments. I'm glad you're keen on a post about Ottawa shops because I'm partnering with Gemma, from, a fellow Ottawa blogger, for a few posts about where we thrift and where we shop in town. It won't be for a few weeks, but I hope you will enjoy it.

    • Maggie
      March 8, 2012 / 12:47 pm

      I'll look forward to it, thanks!

  15. March 8, 2012 / 6:25 am

    These paintings are amazing! So fresh and cheery. (I thought the before was great too!) I'm feeling inspired to pull out the paints again, it has been so long. 🙂

  16. Anonymous
    March 14, 2012 / 1:47 am

    I love it, super fun!

  17. Alyssa
    March 17, 2012 / 5:01 am

    Your paintings are beautiful! I'm pinning this one too 🙂

    August 9, 2012 / 1:21 am

    Very pretty!!! It totally makes me want to paint…

  19. Mike Williams
    December 12, 2012 / 8:34 pm

    Earth tones are nice, but a some bright happy colors always put you in a good mood for the day 😉

  20. Ria
    February 9, 2013 / 12:44 pm

    My sisters and I will try to make a painting like this tonight to celebrate being together for the Chinese New Year. Such an inspiring blog.

  21. Inspire Me Heather
    August 26, 2013 / 1:34 pm

    Hello Tanya, I love how your wall turned out after your revamp – just gorgeous! I have this linked to my bloggers triptych roundup post too today, for inspiration!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 26, 2013 / 7:54 pm

      Thanks Heather! I'm excited to take a look. Thanks for the link 🙂

  22. Kristen
    November 13, 2013 / 11:46 pm

    Hi Tanya, All your art projects are awesome! They have turned out so well! I may just have to pick up a canvas and try something out myself!

  23. Artsylady
    September 17, 2015 / 7:38 pm

    Late to the party here, but I love these! Wondering how thick (or thin) you make your acrylics? Do you water them down at all or use them right out of the tube? You've inspired me to take a stab at something like this!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      September 19, 2015 / 5:01 pm

      I usually use them right out of the tube! I do keep a jar of water nearby for rinsing my brush, which I pat dry with a paper towel, but that rinsing does leave some water on my brush so my acrylics do get watered down a bit as I work. I promise you'll have a ton of fun!!

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