Abstract Art Tutorial

Abstract Art Tutorial | The Painted Hive

Okay, here it is.

Just in case you missed it, in this recent post I innocently posed the question of an abstract art tutorial following the surprising success of my own flukey attempt.

I thought there might be a little interest though the response was actually overwhelming!

Seems abstract art tutorials are in high demand.

Abstract Art Painting Tutorial

Now, you should know, I don’t lose sleep over too much, though the thought of having to produce a clear tutorial covering what was actually quite an ambiguous process made me restless. Compounding the self-imposed pressure was the level of excitement and anticipation you guys seemed to have about it. It was super flattering, though still…gulp.

How the heck was I going to convey my blundering process in a concise way?

Hopefully this tutorial does the trick.


Before I get started, here’s the usual yada-yada.

Of course, there are a zillion-trillion different ways to create a piece of art and a trillion-billion variations on my amateur process. For clarity and succinctness this tutorial will focus on the particular techniques I used to achieve the look of my artwork. In reality, it was probably much more time consuming, self questioning, step laden and fiddly than it appears though I don’t wanna confuse the bejesus outta everyone. I want this to be a straight-forward, step-by-step guide which arms you with some knowledge and, most importantly, the confidence, to find your own inner artist. So please, feel free to stray from my general directions (in fact, experimentation is a must!) and DON’T GET DOWN ON YOURSELF if things don’t seem to come easily.

This painting method is somewhat accidental. Have a general vision in mind though be open to adaptation and prepared to embrace the unpredictability of the medium. Although I think it’s important to undertake this project in a thoughtful way, try to strike that balance between discipline and abandon – I know, I know, much easier said than done!

I attempted to create this tutorial whilst painting a whole new large piece of art similar to my initial painting, though found it all too tricky. It was just restrictive having to stop frequently and take notes, stage strokes, demonstrate techniques and snap pics. The whole artwork felt too calculated. So, for ease, I decided to use a smaller canvas and merely demonstrate the basic steps. The resulting artwork turned out quite different though still kinda cool (there’s a photo towards the end of this post).

Anyhoo, here we go…



Abstract Art Painting Supplies

Stretched Canvas
I used a large 90cm x 90cm (36″ x 36″) canvas for my original painting and a smaller 60cm x 60cm (23″ x 23″) one for this tutorial.

You could use canvas sheet though pre-stretched frames are just so affordable and readily available nowadays. I like the deeper canvases as they tend to hold their shape better, don’t dip in the center as much and make framing easier. You might even find pre-printed canvases on sale for super cheap (I saw some HUGE photographic prints on sale at a clearance store the other day). Of course, if you do use a pre-printed canvas the additional step of an initial white coat may be required.

Note: Starting with a small canvas might seem to make sense, and whilst it is a good idea for practicing techniques and gaining an understanding of how the effects might transpire, in terms of producing an artwork it may actually be more difficult. Using a small canvas means scaling down details. Scaling down details means the need for extra finesse. Things can become all too muted then impact is lost. I also feel that large abstract paintings just have that air about them. That said, super large canvases carry their own problems as working on a huge scale can also be difficult. I recommend anything from around 60cm – 120cm (24″ – 47″) though it’s totally up to you.

Acrylic Paint
I used a combination of different craft paints I already owned. I know there are good and bad brands, though I’m not that fussy when it comes to paint. I used blues and greens to suit my colour scheme along with some white, black and brown.

Edicol Dye
I used regular food colouring. The dye works to give greater tonal variation. I don’t know how it does it, though it creates interesting transparent areas, distinct borders around shapes and is absorbed somewhat into the canvas which produces underlying patterns. As opposed to the acrylic paint, it also re-hydrates once dry which allows it to be picked-up and blended into subsequent layers. Just be careful if you want to produce a relatively muted painting though as dyes are heavily pigmented and tend to produce quite saturated colours. You only need a few drops.

Note: You can go as crazy as you like with colour though if you’re interested in creating a relatively monochromatic artwork similar to mine, opt for one principle colour (blue in my case) and one complimentary secondary colour (I went with green). White and black/brown can then be used to add depth and contrast. Also, keep in mind that when working with mixtures of paint, dye and water, colour creation is not an exact science. As colours merge and dry you will almost certainly notice some unpredictable results. You may want to trial any colours on a mini canvas first.



Abstract Art Equipment



Lay down a drop cloth (if required) and position your canvas horizontally on an even-ish surface. Gravity will play some part in the look of this artwork as paint ‘flow’ is involved; too much of a slope may cause an undesirable bias, too even a surface may cause paint to pool in the center of the canvas. Of course, levels can be adjusted as required during the painting process and I did find myself carefully re-positioning the canvas from time to time. I like to work at around thigh height though you may prefer to work higher or at ground level, just ensure you can paint comfortably and maneuver easily around your canvas.

I like to work outside. Preferably on a nice, hot day. Temperature actually plays quite a role in the look of this painting as drying time effects the amount of flow and blending. It also dictates pace as some drying time is required between certain applications. You can use a hairdryer to speed-up drying time if required though be careful with ‘pushing’ the paint excessively.

You can prime your canvas (using gesso) if desired though most stretched canvases comes pre-primed anyway. You may also choose to add some texture (see note below).

Note: Given the fluid nature of the medium used, little texture is achieved. I really love textural paintings though in this case like the way the character of the canvas weave is so prominent. If, however, you want to increase the level of texture, build some up before commencing painting. You can use anything which will stick, set firmly and retain its form. Gesso is commonly used, though anything from craft glue to plaster paste can suffice. I actually trialed this style of painting over a previous textural acrylic of mine and found the subtle textures produced some lovely results though the more bold textures were overly distracting. Of course, it all depends on the look you’re personally after, though if you’re considering adding texture, maybe concentrate on gentle stippling over more obvious strokes.



Abstract Art Tutorial | The Base Layer

1 The base.

Mix up a runny combination of white acrylic paint, dye (in your chosen colour – I went with blue) and water then casually coat the entire canvas using a wide brush. Don’t worry too much about visible brush strokes and un-even distribution at this stage. Some tonal variation is expected though any obvious areas should self-level out (you can also use the atomiser to further saturate and blend any particularly patchy spots). Keep in mind that the colour will most likely fade as it dries. If it becomes too insipid, simply brush over it again with a less watery paint solution. As it begins to dry you can also spritz the canvas with a slightly darker combination of dye and water to add a bit more colour and some speckles. Alternatively, you can spray it with some diluted white paint if you feel the need to tone it down.

Abstract Art Tutorial | The Streams

2 The streams.

Mix up a combination of white acrylic paint (you can also add some coloured paint – I used a little blue), dye (in your chosen colour – again, I went with blue) and water which is slightly thicker and more colour saturated than the mixture you used for the base (for some reason, the base appears quite white in the above photo – it’s actually more blue). Pour a few little pools onto the canvas, spread them out a little using a brush then allow gravity to do some work.

Easy Abstract Art Tutorial

You can help guide the shapes of the streams if you like though don’t worry too much about their form as subsequent layering will hide and alter that anyway. This is more about laying down some areas of colour and movement and creating a foundation to build upon. You can also use a brush to simply drop a few small splotches here and there and a straw to blow out some thinner streams. Whilst some of this detail will be lost, in certain cases it may continue to show through the following layers (if desired, you can add any detail back at the end).

There’s no need to be overly careful, though don’t go too crazy quantity-wise. The watery mixture will spread considerably and you don’t really want to coat your entire canvas. Whilst you’re not in total control and further changes are still to come, keep composition in mind and try to retain some background expanses.

Before the streams are totally dry, pour on a few pools of an alternate colour (I went with green) and repeat the process. Some mingling should occur which looks quite marbled to begin with (which is lovely) though it does dry to a more uniform, flat finish.

Abstract Art Ink Streams

Again, be careful with quantities. If you notice undesirable pooling or directional flow, try tilting the canvas mildly or sopping up excess liquid with absorbent paper towel. Don’t worry about paint dribbling off the canvas edge.

Abstract Art Techniques

Play around with spritzing the canvas with water or diluted paint to achieve greater flow, softer edges, more blending or additional speckles as desired. Once again, colours will change upon drying so be patient and make changes as needed. Try not to pre-empt things too much.

Abstract Art Tutorial | The Daubs

3 The daubs.

Mix up quite a thick combination of white acrylic paint, a little dye (in your chosen colour – blue again for me) and some water. You can also add any additional acrylic colours as desired (I used black to create a soft grey for my initial artwork though decided on a dash of brown for this tutorial). Whilst areas of the streams are still somewhat wet, randomly stipple/drop the mixture on, allowing the paint, not the brush, to form organic dappled shapes (to achieve this use a round-ish tipped brush, ensure you have a decent amount of paint on the canvas and flatten the brush bristles out so they push the paint – it just creates a more natural shape). I concentrated on concealing any particularly harsh dye lines or areas I simply didn’t like.

Abstract Art Paint Daubs Technique

In areas the daubs will blend together (as can be seen in the above close-up), creating larger shapes. In other areas they might mingle with sections of wet underlying paint, running into your previous streams or creating whole new ones. Don’t worry too much about this unless all of your daubs are turning to streams and contrast is becoming lost. In this case, allow the underlying layers to dry more thoroughly before re-commencing, or thicken-up your mixture.

As the paint dries the colour mellows considerably, so bring some extra contrast to the daubs by dropping thick dollops of undiluted white paint among them.

Abstract Art Techniques

Directly above is the whole canvas after my first daub application. Getting there, though still lacking something. I actually decided to lighten things up further so added some more white daubs. I also spritzed the canvas with some diluted white paint. This mellowed out the colour blocks and created some nice new muted streams as can bee seen in the close-up below.

Abstract Art Paint Streams

This ‘daub’ application is the stage which requires the most consideration and restraint. It’s easy to go too far and end up with one big mottled mess. Stand back often and assess where the daubs are really needed. Don’t just go wild daubing like a crazy lady! You want to retain sections of the background and portions of underlying colour. This helps create a more interesting painting with areas of both movement and rest.

Below is the whole canvas, still somewhat wet, after my secondary application of white daubs.

Abstract Art Tutorial

If at any time you feel you’ve gone too far, bring out the atomiser and play around with spritzing. I know it’s daunting watering down all your hard work, though you’ll be surprised just how easy it is to create new interesting patterns and, if need be, a nice fresh base from which to build upon again.

Note: Although not essential, it might help to determine the painting’s orientation before commencing this stage. Whilst abstract art can commonly be hung in any configuration, composition wise, I personally find it easier adding these final elements if I have an idea which way I think is up.

Abstract Art Tutorial | The Focus

4 The focus.

This isn’t necessary, though I like the idea of having a particular area which draws your eye. If you’d prefer a more uniform look, simply leave this step out.

Whilst the underlying layer is still a little wet, lay down a small area of diluted dye solution.

Abstract Art Focal Point

Now, use a brush to apply some thick acrylic paint in the colour of your choice (I like the neutrality of white) on top of, or just beside, that area of watery dye. Begin spreading the pant into a desirable shape. The dye should be pushed to the edges of the paint and form a subtle border around it in sections. This helps create the impression the focus shape is embedded within the artwork, rather than merely being plonked on top.

Abstract Art Focus Area

It’s pretty inevitable that your focus area will pick up some of the surrounding and underlying colours. If you find it becomes overly muddied, apply additional thicker areas of paint. Remember, the colours will most likely dry more muted and you really want this focus area to stand out.

At this stage you should also assess the overall composition and make any changes you feel are needed. You may want to add some more defined shapes or areas of colour to increase contrast or provide balance.

Note: To complete your painting, consider adding a frame. It really does help give a nice professional finish and is an easy DIY (I didn’t do a framing tutorial though it’s simply a matter of mitering some thin timber trim and nailing it straight onto the canvas frame – or, if you don’t like the idea of mitering, you can use simple abutting corners). If you prefer the casualness of no frame, you can paint the canvas edge a solid colour to co-ordinate with your painting or extend your painting to the edges during the painting process. Oh, and don’t forget to include your signature in the bottom corner!

So, here’s the finished painting.

Abstract Art Tutorial | The Painted Hive

Remember, I did create this painting primarily for demonstrative purposes so it’s different to my original work, and also quite a bit smaller, though I think it still has its own appeal. Which one do you prefer?

DIY Abstract Art Paintings

I quite like them both. I think. It’s kinda hard to separate yourself and look at them objectively. I know I do like the colours though!

Here’s a super-duper close-up to show the canvas texture and paint detail.

Abstract Art Tutorial Painting Close-Up



Inevitably, there will be hiccups and moments of doubt (I can certainly vouch for that!). If you find you’re absolutely hating the way your painting is progressing, don’t lose heart. If things aren’t too far gone, stand back and assess where you can make changes. It can be daunting to alter areas you’ve already painted, especially if there are sections you really like, though if you’re not totally in love with your art it’s worth giving it a go. If things are too far gone, simply water down the canvas and paint over it again. Remember, every mistake is an opportunity to learn something and you’ll almost certainly find that your previous attempts will have armed you with more skill and a better understanding of how to go about things again. Don’t worry too much if areas of muted paint from your previous attempt continue to show through the canvas. They can be used to add some extra interest. Please, just don’t give up too easily. I almost did!

Also, and I really have to stress this – DON’T DISMISS YOUR WORK TOO EARLY! I’ve been very lukewarm on a few of my paintings initially only to decide I actually quite liked them after a day or two. I don’t know what it is exactly, though it seems it’s easy to be extra critical early on. Bring your painting inside, lean it up against a wall, or hang it if possible, and allow it to grow on you a bit. You might be surprised!


Anybody can produce abstract art. I think the thing which causes trepidation among us aesthetic DIY’ers, is the fact we want to produce something with a specific, even professional, look. It can be daunting knowing where to start and doubly disheartening to take the plunge only to feel disappointed with the outcome.

As a fellow rookie (I’m assuming you’re reading this tutorial because you’re a novice too :-) I truly-ruly hope this tutorial, along with my advice, helps spur some confidence.

Have fun!




Oh, and send me a photo if you give it a go!



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Playing Vignettes | Sofa Table Styling

Accessorise Definition

I’m sure I’m not alone in labeling the act of accessorising one of the most transformative and enjoyable in home beautification.

Not only does this final layer help bring a room to life, it’s also just plain fun messing around with a bunch of beautiful objects (and, as far as decorating on a budget goes, there’s no denying the affordable impact some carefully considered styling can impart).

I used to re-arrange all the ornamental vignettes in my home often, though now, with a three and one year old, I find it’s a bit counter-productive. I’ve noticed that stagnant vignettes can remain ignored for several months though as soon as I move anything around the kids’ interest is suddenly piqued, and sure enough, five minutes later my pretty new arrangement is little more than a disheveled pile of discarded ‘play things’.

I know in a few years I’ll be the one playing around with the accessories once more, though for now I do miss it.

Which is why I was excited when my mum mentioned she was looking at doing some zhooshing in her lounge room. Rather fortuitously, her announcement coincided with an email from the guys at Super Amart who were looking to showcase some of their affordable homewares. Gotta love it when the universe aligns!

I fell in love with these BIG glass statement lamps (being cleared for half price – the website states $89 though I got mine for just $70 each in store!) so decided to make them my jumping-off point.

Now, just to work out where to put them.

I could have done the regular side table thing though mum had a big blank wall behind one of her couches which was just crying out for something.


See what I mean?

Soooo, we shifted the couch forward slightly, slotted in a narrow sofa table and set to work making things look pretty.

The Power of Accessorising

Aside from the gorgeous lamps, which I love even more now, and the big original abstract, which you can read more about below, we used things we already owned. Mum and I are fortunate to share similar taste so we often swap stuff around and even have a joint collection of ‘excess’ decor we can switch and change from.

Sofa Table Styling

Although there is nothing extravagant or expensive about this vignette I like to think it has a gentle sophistication, the contrasting elements working in harmony to impart a fresh, collected feel. And whilst it’s far from perfect to me there’s just something so lovely about the perfect imperfection of rustic meets refined (and something so rewarding about making the most of things you already own to create a new look on a tight budget).

Elegant Glass Lamp

When creating vignettes I usually have some kind of vision in mind however find I generally end up using more elements than originally planned. I don’t know what it is. I tend to like the look of quite clean, sparse-ish vignettes in photos though struggle when attempting to emulate that simplicity myself. I guess deep down I just like more stuff! Not too much though.

Sofa Table Vignette

When dressing the couch we actually had both green and blue velveteen cushions to choose from. Green is one of my absolute favourite accent colours to use when decorating though in this case I opted for blue to reference the artwork and give some relief from the foliage of the ferns.

Here’s a Photoshoped version which shows the green cushions instead.

Sofa Table Styling with Green Cushions

Which do you prefer? Blue or green?

Styling with Different Coloured Cushions

Either way, it’s a pretty cohesive scheme; the blue ties-in with the art, the green ties-in with the foliage. I guess it just depends how much you love green :-)

I’m not totally convinced with the boldness of the stripe on the lumbar cushion. I guess it does help break-up the solids though. Again, it’s really just a matter of personal preference.

Now, just in case anyone is wondering how the big original artwork isn’t “extravagant” or “expensive” I should probably mention that I painted it myself! Whilst I’m under no illusion it’s any kid of masterpiece it does look good (if I do say so myself :-) and works well in the space. It took me a few goes to achieve the look I was after though once I discovered the techniques I needed to use it was actually really easy…and fun! If you’d like to see a tutorial let me know and I might give it a go :-)

Sofa Table Styling

I realise it’s a bit skimpy only sharing this one snippet of the room with you, though the rest of the makeover is still in the works. I would promise a future full reveal however have no idea when the space will actually be complete. Regardless, I hope this tidbit does help highlight the power of accessorising. I’ve heard styling referred to as nothing more than ‘smoke and mirrors’ though I’m comfortable admitting it’s my kind of illusion!

Room Styling Before and After | The Painted Hive

Room Styling Before and After | The Painted Hive

Ahhh, playing vignettes – one of my absolute fave pastimes. Maybe I need to get out more!

Vignette Styling

Couldn’t resist squeezing this pic of Cooper in. I tried getting a shot of my parent’s dog though he was too fidgety. Gotta hand it to Coops, he might shed hair like a yeti though at least he’s an obedient model.



This post was sponsored by Super Amart.
Read my full advertising policy and disclosure statement here.


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New Reader-Based Consultation Segment…and a room before and after!

A little while back now I was contacted by one of my lovely local readers who was seeking some design advice. She was actually enquiring about ‘hiring’ me to help, and whilst this is something I’ve done in the past, the timing was just a little off for me so I felt uncomfortable committing to the work.

That said, I was still keen to help her out and do enjoy the challenge, and just plain fun, of playing ‘dollhouse’.

Fortuitously, I’d actually been toying with the idea of beginning a new reader-based design segment and her open plan living space seemed like the prefect kick-off candidate!

"Room with a View" 3D Concept Renderings

The segment will focus on breathing virtual life into your design visions. In other words, turning your dreamy home desires into realistic concept renderings you can actually see!

Notice how I said ‘your’? Whilst I’m super open to helping propel the design – filling in any gaps and dealing with dilemmas – at this stage I’d really like concentrate on rooms you guys already have some ideas for, rather than full-blown “I’m totally lost” re-dos. I love the idea of working in a collaborative way to make your own imaginings visible.

Maybe you’ve got a new colour scheme in mind, different furniture layout to trial or are even contemplating a mini reno. From using a specific wallpaper to creating a particular overall ‘vibe’, it can be as precise or vague as you like, as long as there is some intent. The general goal of the rendering is to provide a motivating (and hopefully exciting!) visual guide which you can then tailor to your needs during the design implementation process.

Anyhoo, back to the kick-off space.

My reader, Jelaine, had come to a stand-still in her combined living-dining area.

She wanted to work with what she already had (for the most part) to achieve a cohesive modern french country feel, with hints of vintage industrial. Although she had some ideas, she just wasn’t quite sure how to pull everything together.

Here’s her space…

Before 1

Before 4

Before 3

Before 2

Note: Jelaine purchased new sofas mid-way through the consultation process after I saw a great deal on some which I thought fit her criteria and suggested she check them out. Although I was sent a few fresh pics of the space including the new sofas – which were sufficient for my rendering purposes – the initial photos (incorporating the original micro-suede couches) were just a little wider angled and better showed the space as a whole which is why I’ve used them above. Of course, the new sofas are depicted in my plans and here they are in the room…

Living Room Before

She also shared photos of some accessories she’d like included…

Decorating Accessories

And here are her needs and wants…

– Table, chairs and clock to stay
– Lighting for above dining table
– Furniture (incorporating storage) for beneath clock
– Artwork for blank wall

– Rug, coffee table, new brown sofas and TV bench to stay
– Incorporate lamps somewhere
– Artwork for above three-seater sofa
– Use architectural prints if possible
– Lighten-up the overall brown-ness
– Additional furniture to accompany TV bench (likes the look of built-ins)

So, taking all things into account – including accurate dimensions of the room itself along with any existing furnishings – here’s what I came up with (side-by-side comparisons can be found further below)…

3D Room Rendering | The Painted Hive

Go on, you know you want to – it looks heaps better big!

3D Room Rendering After

Virtual Interior Design

Room Re-Design in 3D

3D Room Rendering

Pardon the funky shadowing. Just a quirk of the program.

Below is a ‘doll’s house’ view to more clearly show the spacial planning and furniture lay-out.

3D Dollshouse View

And a bit about the decisions I made…

I was initially going to suggest placing a small cabinet beneath the clock, though its high hanging position prompted me to recommend a 3/4 cupboard instead. Not only does it provide more storage, thought it’s also just a bit different. I went with a distressed mint green which references the artwork in the living area, breaks-up all the timber in the space and adds some needed personality. Atop the cupboard a simple collection of glassware befriends the solitary clock.

On the opposite dining room wall I have created a basic photo gallery. This area is currently a bit of a transient zone (you might have noticed both a spin bike and keyboard in each of the before pics – which were taken a few weeks apart) with no real defined future plan. The gallery, being both simple and interesting, provides flexibility yet works to give purpose and impact to the wall. If in the future Jelaine wants to pull in something more permanent (maybe in the form of a sideboard, low bar or bench) the gallery can easily be adapted to work.

A low central pendant helps define the dining area. I used an industrial pyramid style pendant, though a longer rectangular one would work equally well, as would an appropriately scaled pair of alternate pendants, like glass cones or traditional lanterns.

Rather than commit to the permanence and expense of built-ins, I have simply flanked the TV bench with two tall narrow shelving units. Although open to changing the TV bench, Jelaine did mention that she does like it, so I have retained it at this stage. That said, I do like the idea of switching it out for something simpler which can be painted to match the shelves (and doesn’t compete so readily with the coffee table). I mentioned this to Jelaine and she is now keen to find an alternative. Restrained yet thoughtful styling using co-ordinating accessories (notice I sneaked in her pair of lovely lanterns?) helps avoid a cluttered feel. Pretty baskets can be used to store any smaller, less decorative items. To bridge the shelves and take focus off the TV I have used Jelaine’s existing architectural prints which were purchased by her husband.

I retained the couch configuration – which, after brainstorming all the alternatives, I decided does work best for the space – though added a small occasional chair and two ottomans. The chair works to define the seating area without enclosing it. It also provides an avenue to introduce a lighter coloured fabric. I felt the rectangular shape of the coffee table was a little ill-fitting so have teamed it with a pair of ottomans to create a collective square shape which I feel works better in the space. Along with providing additional seating, the ottomans are easily repositionable as required and, depending on the style, can also be used for storage. To help brighten things up I have used a combination of light-toned linen cushions, some plain and some with simple grain-sack stripes to fit with Jelaine’s desired french feel. I have placed a brown ticking cushion on the occasional chair to tie it in with the chocolate couches.

To break-up all the angles in the room I added a round pedestal table between the couches. I went with something reasonably tall so it didn’t get too lost behind the sofa arms and chose a warm grey to add a bit of depth. Atop the table sits the shorter of Jelaine’s lamps. Positioned symmetrically at the other end of the three-seater sofa is the taller of her lamps. You can’t see it clearly in the pics though I’ve used a small milking stool to bring it up to the same level as the table lamp (books could also be used as risers to get the levels perfect if need be). Giving company to the occasional chair is a small side table, here in the form of a stump stool, however numerous different styles could work well.

To cleanly counter-balance the fullness of the shelves and create a focal point away from the TV I have placed one large artwork above the three-seater sofa. I chose a muted abstract for a bit of edge and colour (as mentioned above, the artwork colour is referenced in the green dining room cupboard to help unite the areas).

Note: Of course, all the specifics in my design are merely suggestive. Particulars concerning details such as colour, style, finishes, etc, can and should be adjusted as necessary.

Now, who doesn’t love a before and after? Here are some comparisons to save all that back and forth scrolling (remember, she already has the new couches)…

Before and After Virtual Room Makeover

Room Makeover Before and After 3D Rendering

Room Makeover Before and After Virtual Rendering

Before and After Room Redo - Virtual Style


Soooo, now I invite you guys to submit one of your spaces!

If you have a room you believe would be a good candidate for this new segment simply send me a brief overview of your vision for the space along with a few photos.

Email thepaintedhive@gmail.com with subject line “Room with a View”.

Guys, please don’t go into too much detail or send a million pics at this stage. Depending on the number of submissions I receive I may not be able to get to them all and I’d hate for anyone to take a heap of time composing a submission which doesn’t evolve into a rendering. I plan to select a space as often as time and motivation permits, any of the more nitty-gritty deets can follow if your room is chosen.

Although I have this awesome rendering program (and have somehow conquered the considerable learning curve in order to actually use it!) I can’t count the number of times I’ve just wished someone would simply show me how an imagined space might look. So, I’m really looking forward to being able to do exactly that for some of you! Eeeek!


Don’t want to gamble with the chance I might pick you? Feel free to contact me about a custom consultation.


This room was rendered using Home Designer Architectural.

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Create Your Own FREE Art Paintings (from photographs)!

Turn Your Photos Into Art (the ultimate guide) | The Painted Hive

In keeping with my completely, absolutely, totally not weird obsession with budget-friendly wall art I wanted to share a really cool and easy way to create your very own custom ‘paintings’.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the concept of digitally turning photos into paintings, and maybe some of you have already played around with the process, though for anyone a little sceptical or uncertain, hopefully this post sheds some light, sparks a few ideas and helps inspire.

I started playing around with applying painterly effects to photos a few years ago after I got Photoshop and stumbled across a few on-line tutorials. It was a new and exciting discovery for me, opening a whole world of possibilities. Achieving really good results using Photoshop can be tricky, so at the time I also trialed a few auto-painting programs which offered simple “one-click” filters.

Since then there has been heaps of progression in the photo-to-art realm. Having sooooo many options is awesome and empowering, though can also be confusing and overwhelming. So, here’s my little break-down.


The Photo

Of course, you need a photo to begin with.

The choice is entirely personal, though keep in mind that some may work more successfully than others. Certain compositions and subject matter just lend themselves better to artistic treatments. And remember, one of the bonuses of turning your photo into a painting is that it doesn’t need to be particularly spectacular to begin with.

The photo could be an existing one of your own, one taken specifically for the purpose of applying a painterly effect or a scan of an old photograph.

In addition to using your very own photos, it’s also nice to know that there are literally millions to choose from online. This can be handy if you’re after something specific that you simply don’t have the ability or inclination to capture. Online photos can be purchased through stock image websites or even downloaded directly for free (just be sure to obtain consent first).

A few of my fave subject matters for painting conversions are…

Drag the slider to compare before and after – if you’re viewing in a reader you may need to click over to the blog.

Who doesn’t love a painting of a beautiful animal? I especially adore the impact of large-scale animal art and, for whatever reason, am particularly drawn to farmyard animals and birds (along with the more obscure, like camels and giraffes – weird). I also like the idea of using photos of your very own pets.
The above deer has been converted by the team at Topaz Impression.


The natural romance of most landscapes makes them well suited to painterly transformations. Imagine turning your cherished travel snaps into custom works of art. Or converting scenic home-town pics into meaningful paintings.
The above lake has been converted by the team at Topaz Impression.


A grouping of themed isolated objects (that is, individual items on plain backgrounds) can have amazing impact. I LOVE the possibilities here. Think Gramdma’s old china, your kid’s favourite toys, fruit, leaves, shells, kitchen utensils, precious trinkets, vintage wares, little knick-knacks…anything! Simply place your chosen object against an all white background then snap your pic. If needed, further editing to clean-up the ‘canvas’ can be undertaken during the conversion process. As a shortcut you can also find lots of isolated images online.
The above car (not my usual style, I know, though this was done for my brother and I think a collection of cars would be great in a masculine space) has been converted by myself using a combination of Paper Artist and GIMP. Original image from Performance Garage.


From a vase of carefully orchestrated roses to clusters of clematis still on the vine, botanicals can range dramatically in terms of style. This makes them incredibly flexible. So, whether your taste is neutral and natural or bold and bright there is sure to be a composition to suit. For sentimental types I like the idea of immortalising a special bouquet. Or how about simply capturing your favourite backyard blooms?
The above hydrangeas have been converted by myself using Waterlogue. Original image from Jentertaining.


If you’re looking for an easy, fun and rewarding project, why not try composing and photographing your very own still life then converting it into a painting? You could use some of your favourite items and even incorporate sentimental objects. Remember, the photo itself doesn’t have to be spectacular though you might want to pay attention to light and balance.
The above composition has been converted by myself using Topaz Impression. Original image unknown.


Note: Generally speaking, you can’t simply download and print photographs taken straight from the internet because the resulting quality will be super poor due to insufficient resolution (refer to my Understanding & Editing Free Printables post for further information about this). Even high resolution photos carry limitations in terms of quality when it comes to enlargement. It doesn’t take much for them to begin to appear blurry or pixelated which is a shame because photos really rely on crispness to look their best. Digital paintings, however, are much more forgiving in this respect. This is part of the beauty of applying painterly effects – the flexibility they provide in terms of size and quality. This allows for the use of poor resolution images and the considerable enlargement of almost any photo with little discernible degradation. For me, the ability to create HUGE statement art is one of the most exciting aspects of using painterly effects.


The Effect

Of course, the look of the ‘painting’, and the way it’s achieved, is essentially dictated by the method (and program – more on those below) you use. Some processes are super quick and require absolutely no skill, whereas others demand quite a bit of patience and artistic ability. The options are almost endless, and needless to say, results vary.

I’m partial to the more traditional looking artistic styles, though the sky really is the limit here. From funky pop art to something more whimsical you’re only limited by your imagination!

Essentially, there are three main methods for turning a photo into a painting. Keep in mind these describe the different photo-to-art techniques. Photo-to-art programs may incorporate capabilities for one or all methods – refer to the program list below for more details.

This involves using pre-set filters which, as the name suggests, are applied automatically. Simply select one of the available styles (such as ‘watercolor, ‘oil painting’ or ‘pastel’, for example) and via smart algorithms your photo is instantly transformed! In some cases you can also make controlled changes by adjusting certain parameters (such as brush size, stroke direction and texture, for example) or making other edits to tweak the effect to best suit your image and desired look.

Photo to Painting with DAP

Dynamic Auto Painter

Unlike auto-painting, which is, well, automatic, assisted digital painting calls for the manual conversion of photos through the application of user-applied brush strokes. This might sound complex and labour intensive though smart technology, known as ‘cloning’, does much of the work for you. You see, rather than having to create your painting from scratch on a blank canvas, cloning uses the original photo as a source, instantly transforming areas in a painterly fashion as you apply custom strokes! This process does require some practice and an artistic eye though the results can be amazingly realistic and quite striking.

Photo to Painting using Corel Painter

Corel Painter

Note: Whilst you can certainly use a standard mouse to paint digitally (I do), a tablet and stylus does give greater control.

Of course, all of the methods involve image editing, though what I’m specifically pertaining to here is the clever blending of standard photo manipulation techniques. Different effects can be applied to your photo then layered in such a way as to mimic a realistic painting. I know this sounds kinda technical – and, well, it can be – though for beginners there are lots of on-line tutorials to educate and build confidence. Results can be fantastic and the process is really rewarding.

Photo to Oil Painting in Photoshop

Photoshop (via Thom Yorke)

Note: Although image editing isn’t the obvious choice for photo-to-art conversions, it’s a great technique to try if you already own a powerful image editing program. It can extend your knowledge of the program’s capabilities and ensure you get the most out of it. It also negates the need to buy any new software.


For the purpose of clearly explaining the different methods I have segregated them however they could be, and often are, combined. For example, you could begin by applying an automatic filter then build upon it with some custom digital painting and subsequent editing to achieve your desired look. This layering of styles can produce amazing results.

As an aside, keep in mind that the way your painting appears on screen may not accurately reflect the way it will look once printed. Play around with different resolutions and sizes and always choose the best available quality when saving your work. If possible, view at print size and print a test patch first.


The Program

From basic apps for hobbyists to comprehensive software packages for professionals, program options are vast and varied. Obviously, they all differ in terms of capabilities, cost, and out-put quality, and some are super simple to use and require absolutely no skill whilst others come with pretty steep learning curves and the need for some talent. I think you really need to use a program to get a good understanding of how it works and what it offers. Fortunately, most of the more pricey options provide free trials.

Here are just a few programs to check out (prices are a guide only)…

A popular app (Apple devices only) featuring a small selection of luminous watercolour filters.

An intelligent program featuring hundreds of realistic editable filters.

A fun app with a vast collection of different artistic filters.

A professional program with a focus on manual digital painting.

A condensed version of Corel Painter.

A fun program with several artistic filters and the ability to make some custom changes.

PHOTOSHOP ($30 monthly)
A powerful photo editing program.

A condensed version of Photoshop.

A funky app (Apple devices only) which renders splashy watercolours.

FILTER FORGE ($30 – $300)
A versatile program inclusive of thousands of filters and the ability to create and save your own effects.

A world-class program with numerous detailed filters and the ability to create your own effects.

A suite of artistic filters with some customisation options.

A comprehensive program featuring hundreds of editable and layerable filters plus the ability to paint manually.

An extensive program with hundreds of editable filters and assisted painting capabilities.

SNAP ART ($100)
An effective program featuring a wide selection of artistic style filters with options for customisation.

A simple program inclusive of several artistic style filters which can be adjusted and combined.

A free photo editing alternative to Photoshop.



Of course, there’s no denying the beauty and pure specialness of real art, though let’s face it, not all of us have the skill to produce lovely paintings. These clever digital alternatives are a perfect cheat – and just plain fun! To be honest, I’m actually reasonably artistic (if I do say so myself :-) and really enjoy drawing and painting, though I’m not exactly what you’d call ‘efficient’ (read: I am slow and messy!), so for now I’m loving playing around with this virtual substitute!

I’m also loving the possibilities it opens up in terms of gift giving. How cool would it be to gift someone special a custom ‘painting’ of something symbolic?

I’m actually working on some cool free printables for you guys using a few of these programs and techniques so will share more in-depth tutorials when I get around to that.


PS I’m trying out a new before and after image slider. If it doesn’t work for you, or something just looks plain outta wack, feel free to let me know.

PPS Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year!

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Christmas.

Thank you so much for your e-friendship throughout 2014.


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