Spray Paint Art - An Overview

By | 5:52 PM

By Kim Ridings 
artist painting with cans of spray paint on side walk
Watch artist video.


Traditionally on poster board, spray paint art is an art form done using spray paint. It can also be done on a variety of non-porous materials such as glass, metal, wood, plastic or ceramic. It is different from graffiti art in that it is done on more traditional surfaces as opposed to on places like trains, buildings etc for which graffiti is synonymous.

The Background

Generally performed on the streets of large metropolitan cities, this unique art form is credited with the creation of surreal landscapes of nature scenes, comets, planets, cities, and pyramids in addition to simple or multicolored backgrounds where paints fade or swirl together through a series of different shades. It is thought to have originated in Mexico City in the early 80s where it attracted a huge following as aerosol cans rather than brushes were the artists' tool of choice.

Requisite Tools

Perhaps the reason why this art form has taken off recently is that it is quite easy to source the minimal tools necessary. These include:
  • An oil painter's palette knife that should be chosen according to the artist's preference for shape and size.
  • Spray paint.
  • Buckets, bowls, cans, lids, or any other circular objects that can be used as stencils for creating designs.
  • Glossy magazine pages that are used to remove paint from the canvas in random fashion thus creating texture.
  • Plastic grocery bags, paper towels, tube socks, and any other items that could be useful in manipulating or applying the paint in different ways. Basically, anything other than what is associated with traditional painting is acceptable.
  • A respirator or mask is used in order to prevent the inhalation of toxic fumes. Plastic masks such as those worn by surgeons will not suffice as they offer little or no protection against the harmful chemicals contained in aerosol propelled paint.

The Substrate

Artists usually paint onto non/semi-porous surfaces including canvas, high quality poster boards, and photo paper or high gloss surfaces. However, spray paint art has and continues to be done on almost any conceivable surface and as a result, you are likely to find this art work on anything from car hoods to skateboards.

The Process

The process begins with the artist drafting a mental layout of how they would wish their picture to eventually turn out. He/ she needs to be particularly aware of where specific details of their project will go. For instance, you need to know well in advance where items such as trees, planets, stars, mountains, water, haze etc will go in order to appropriately layer the colors in the right places. It is akin to painting backwards as artists must first lay the paint for the foreground objects.

The techniques involved revolve around a series of well placed textures and layers, and predetermined masking and blocking using bowls, lids, and recycled items. To add ambient effects, use a window scraper, painter's spatula, or straight edge. Alternatively, you can use your fingers. As with any process, spray paint art takes time and practice but as happens with any learned art form, it can quickly become second nature to an artist.

spray painted planetary painting in black and white
Example from private collection

Kim Ridings is an affiliate manager from the Spray Paint Art website.  Here she goes into detail on how you can learn the art with the aid of Spray Paint Art Secrets.

Article Source: Spray Paint Art - An Overview
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