Gouache and acrylic paints are so versatile, and you don’t have to use them only in the traditional way, with a paintbrush. By pooling blobs of paint onto a surface and using a fine instrument, like a needle, to blend the paints, you can create intricate patterns and even figurative pictures. 

Here, we’ll walk you through the process of painting a dancing figure using the puddle painting method.

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What You Need

  • Gouache or acrylic paints in two contrasting colors, such as black and white or navy blue and beige
  • A needle, safety pin, or other fine pointed object
  • A surface made from thick paper (such as watercolor paper) or card

How to Paint Puddle Dancers

Step 1: Add Paint to Your Surface

Place two blobs of contrasting-colored paint onto a surface.
Place two blobs of contrasting-colored paint onto a surface.

Roughly in the center of your paper or other surface, place a blob of the lighter colored paint at the top and a darker colored blob below, touching. Wait for the paint to spread slightly and collect in a “puddle”, but don’t wait so long that it dries.

Step 2: Start Outlining Your Figure

Paint with the darker color onto the lighter colored puddle of paint.
Paint with the darker color onto the lighter colored puddle of paint.

Taking a needle and dragging it through the darker paint, transfer that up to the lighter paint to start outlining your figure. 

Because you’re working with two colors, you’ll be painting with the darker color onto the lighter colored puddle, and painting with the lighter color onto the darker colored puddle.

Step 3: Create the Dancer’s Upper Body

Outline the head, shoulders, torso, arms, legs, and skirt of the dancing figure.
Outline the head, shoulders, torso, arms, legs, and skirt of the dancing figure.

Begin with the head, then work down to the torso and shoulders. Once you reach the darker colored paint, you’ll need to reverse the process and paint with the lighter color. Wipe the tip of the needle before transferring, if you need to. The figure’s full skirt and legs and feet appear in the bottom half of the picture, so use the lighter color on the darker background.

Step 4: Create the Dancer’s Lower Body

Add details with clean lines.
Add details with clean lines.

Keeping dragging the paint through the puddles to add details in the form of lines, being careful to keep the lines clean. 

This is a stylised image only, so don’t worry if you don’t get many details into the picture. The aim is to create an outline of a figure using this creative and surprising technique. 

Once you’ve practiced with this dancing figure, be creative with the subjects you create through puddle painting. Enjoy!

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