How to Manipulate Paint—Without a Brush!

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Drip. Splash. Splatter. Broken Glass. Which artist comes to mind when you hear these words? If you’re thinking Jackson Pollock, you are correct. One of the world’s most famous artists rarely touched canvas with a brush. Instead, he dripped paint from knives, sticks and other similar objects while wildly moving around the canvas. Sure, people thought he was ‘crazy’, but his now famous splatter and action technique “revolutionized the world of modern art,” according to A&E’s Bio.


Jackson Pollock isn’t the only person that thumbed his nose at paint brushes. Just about every person on the planet went through a finger painting phase as a child and a number of famous artists, such as Iris Scott, decided to carry the art form into adulthood. An oil finger painting artist based in Brooklyn, New York, Scott “makes her color-saturated canvases burst with movement using a form of textural Impressionism all her own, and without using a brush,” according to her site. “There’s nothing between me and the paint – I feel all the tiny nuances. I can manipulate thick paint with my fingers in ways brushes never could,” she says.


Besides splatter and action and finger painting, there are at least a dozen other unique methods of painting that do not require a brush. Sponges and pads, spatulas and scrapers, paint rollers, airbrushes and spray guns are a few.


If you’re interested in trying one or more of these unconventional approaches to painting, keep reading and we’ll tell you how they work.


Sponges and Pads

In the Artist’s Handbook, Ray Smith says, “natural sponges are useful in watercolor work for dampening paper, applying washes, removing color or for textural effects. In addition, they can be used on a large scale with acrylics.” Synthetic painting pads, on the other hand, “were developed as an alternative to decorating brushes. The smaller sizes offer some interesting effects for artists,” says Smith, “including the ability to sustain a band of color of uniform consistency and width over a longer span than a traditional one-stroke brush.”


Spatulas and Scrapers

Plastic spatulas and scrapers can be used to apply priming or paint or to create textured effects using several colors simultaneously. Just a few implements include old credit cards, car windshield scrapers, a window cleaner’s squeegee, and any scraper with molded edges for texture paint effects.


Paint Rollers

When a smooth finish is not required, some artists may opt for a paint roller to apply grounds. Pure lambswool, rubber, and plastic types with molded textures are just a few types favored by artists. Great for work on rigid supports or stretched canvas, such as Fredrix Pro Series Dixie Stretched Canvas, paint rollers can be used with thin, wet paint to “quickly produce an overall texture effect similar to that created with a sponge,” says Smith. They can also be used with thick paint to create a “characteristic texture that can be used in a variety of ways for expressive purposes,” he says.


To cover a very large area quickly, attach a broom handle to the roller. “The long handle provides greater leverage than the standard length and makes it much easier to distribute the paint evenly over a large surface,” says Smith.


Airbrushes and Spray Guns

Because airbrushes are small and penlike, they allow artists to control their work over a very small area, while spray guns can be used to apply “uniform or graded tones over large canvases,” says Smith. The best types of systems for painters are gravity-feed guns and suction-feed systems.


Whether you’re painting with your fingers, a spray gun or a brush, always start with high-quality canvas from Fredrix. Fredrix proudly manufactures over three dozen styles of roll canvas, in over 175 different sizes ensuring the perfect surface for every artist, every project, & every occasion. Start shopping for Fredrix canvas today!