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Acrylic Painting Technique: Alcohol Drops

acrylic Acrylic painting Art Blog how to paint Painting Technique

Here is a great technique for creating a sense of spontaneity and freshness with some interesting patterns to a painting. It can make a great painting on it's own or be used to make great backgrounds.

Here I have used it to make an abstract painting.

In this demonstration I have used watercolour paper taped to a board. But I use this method on stretched canvas for my paintings.

You will need: Isoproply  Alcohol ( rubbing alcohol ) I get mine at the chemist 

Acrylic paint

Water and a spray bottle with water in it.

Watercolour paper or a stretched canvas

Something to mix your paint on.


Method :

Step 1 Background colour

Choose your colours and decide if you want white to show or if you want to colour your paper first. Here I have coloured the paper yellow. Make sure this is completely dry before moving on to step 2.

Step 2 First coat.

Make a thin wash of your chosen colour. I have used orange.

Here is the trick to this method, you must make your paint thin, mix some water into it so it will cover the paper but not so thin that it just runs off. If you make your paint to thick the alcohol drops will not be able to push the paint away. Experiment a bit to find the right consistency. 

Tip: If you find that after applying your paint to the paper it is to thick then use a water spray bottle to dilute it right on the paper. This can work really well on canvas.  

Cover the whole picture with this coat

Step 3 Alcohol Drops

While the paint is still wet use a brush or dropper to drop little drops of alcohol on to the wet paint. You should see a reaction right away if not your paint is to thick or your paint is to dry. It pays to have everything ready before you start this method. Don't go crazy on this first coat although it is tempting as it's so much fun. As you still want some patches of orange.

Wait until this is completely dry before doing anymore.

Step 4 Another layer

Do another wash with a different colour. Here I have used Red

Repeat the alcohol drops. You do more drops this time so that the underneath colours show. Play around with different ways to apply the alcohol drops, Try big vs small brushes or use a dropper.  What happens if you drop the alcohol from different heights. Or try touching the alcohol brush to the paper, or try flicking your brush. Really experiment and see just what you can do.

That is all you need to do. You can do as many layers as you want until you get a pleasing design. Just make sure you dry your picture between layers. I've added green to this one and as you can see I decided not to put the colour over the whole picture this time.


As well as making an abstract painting with this technique I have also used it to make backgrounds for my flower paintings.

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I have also used it as one of the techniques to make the wood look old on the window frame on my Home Sweet Home painting.

  Here I have used this technique to create a sense of depth to this daisy painting. The alcohol drops make the background flowers. You can see I have used different size drops and also flicked the alcohol on with the brush.

 So give this a try, it's easy and super fun. I think you will be amazed at how many ways you can use this in your painting. If you do try it I would love to hear how you use it in your painting.

If you enjoyed this blog you may also like 

How to apply new techniques to your painting.

Here is a YouTube video showing how to this technique if you would prefer watching than reading.

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