How to Make an Easy Abstract Painting Using String and Oil Crayons

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In this exercise, you will learn how to make a beautiful abstract painting using the string exercise as a starter, see my post “Be Random – Make and Easy String Painting

In the above post you will see where to stop the process and continue here with this exercise.

Allow 2 hours for this exercise. Find a quiet place, set time aside for yourself, just relax and enjoy the process.  To be unconcerned about the outcome will bring out your best work.

You will need:

  • good quality watercolour paper, at least 180gsm
  • a box of oil crayons (childrens’ quality is okay)
  • an inexpensive set of watercolour tubes, (you can make all the colours you need with red, yellow, blue, black and white)
  • rags for spills
  • a container for water
  • a palette, (I used an old kitchen plate)
  • a large brush (I used a new household paint brush)
  • string
  • acrylic paints, (red, yellow, blue, black.)
  • a board and tape if you have them, this is helpful but optional only
  • scissors
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This is similar to what you will start off with. I actually pressed the string a second time with this one using a lot more paint on the second application.  I did not pull the string through as with the first pressing,  I just laid the string down, pressed it and lifted the paper off. Make sure to allow the string pressings to thoroughly dry before proceeding.  This should take from 15 to 30 minutes depending on the weather.

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Proceed to colour in the shapes using oil pastels. Try to choose either red, green and yellow, OR blue, yellow and green.   See if you can isolate some shapes (in this case I imagined  fruit, cut oranges or similar.)  If you can see shapes, colour them in and in some places go over the original colour with another to make it interesting.  In the background follow the lines made by the string using parallel strokes every which way and that.  Try to leave lots of white space if you can.  This is called “repetition with variation”,  a very powerful tool when making art.

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Continue to colour in the work and you will notice it start to look interesting.  Make sure you leave lots of white spaces for the surprise step that comes next!

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Next, absolutely flood the paper with a watery watercolour paint mix (see image below.) To make a watery wash see below * Remember it is not wise use paint out of the tube directly, always make sure there very small amounts of the other primaries e.g. red, yellow and blue to make a beautiful tertiary colour.  It seems best to  choose your wash colour as the opposite of the main colour you used in the isolated shapes. For example, if you have used mainly yellow in the isolated shapes, the opposite is purple, mainly orange, the opposite is blue, mainly red, the opposite is green and vice versa.

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Here is the finished work!  See how the oil pastel marks have resisted the water colour to make a lovely abstract painting.  In the right frame with a colourful matt board this work could possibly look fantastic! :

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This image shows how to use horizontal strokes to flood the paper using a large brush.  Make sure to always put the wash down and leave it!  It is best to let the paint run in its own way.  Then magic happens!

* To make a watery wash blend about 1/2 cup of water with small amounts of pigment. You may need to use a small flat plastic bowl for this.   Always test on a piece of paper first to check the colour.

How did you go?  Did you have fun and enjoy the process?  Inbox me your work if you like at  I would love to see it!


To Be Random is to Make an Easy String Painting

String Exercise String Exercise2

Did you know you can use string to create wonderful abstract paintings?  Here I show you how!

Allow about 1 1/2 hours for this exercise.

You will need these art materials

  • String
  • scissors
  • good quality acrylic paper (A3 size)
  •  brushes (1 large, 1 medium and one small)
  • acrylic paints, cool and warm red, blue and yellow plus black and white
  • palette
  • board (optional)
  • rags for spills
  • container for water

Coating the string with paint

Firstly cut 4 longish pieces of string, then lay out a good amount of black with smaller amounts of both red, blue and black.  Wear gloves to coat the string with this acrylic mix. All the colours will mix together when the string is completely coated in paint.

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Laying the string on the paper to make the painting

Lay your paper on a board or table and place the 4 pieces of string on to your paper leaving the ends slightly off the page. It is a good idea to allow the string to fall randomly on to the page although it helps to make circles with the string as you lower it on to the paper.

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Pressing a clean sheet on top to make the painting

Next lay a clean piece of A3 paper on top of your “paper with string” and press down with some books, magazines or similar.

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Pulling the string every which way to make the painting

Next, pull the string by the ends which are resting off the edge of the paper.  Gently move the string from side to side to make an interesting pattern.  This is done quite quickly.

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Lift the paper off to see your abstract painting lines

Once this is done you may lift the books and the top page off the work to reveal the interesting pattern beneath.

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At this point you may wish to create an ABSTRACT PAINTING USING OIL CRAYONS

What can you see in your painting?

I immediately saw the figure of a boy in a car in my pattern and proceeded to isolate it by filling in the background with a light warm orange/pink. Can you see anything in your work to isolate?  Is there something jumping out at you?  Check it out upside down too!  If nothing is appearing, just colour in the shapes as I did in the abstract above.

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Putting the paint down

To create colour harmony, it is wise to use mixtures of red, yellow, black and white OR blue, yellow, black and white paint to fill in the spaces   Try to use a cool painting colours in the background to recede and warm painting colours in the foreground object to bring it forward.

Just keep patiently putting the warm colours in the foreground in triangular spots throughout the figure (or whatever).  You can white out some of the painting if you do not like it and go over it again, I did! Eventually, it will all come together.

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