Painting in backgrounds in landscapes is fairly straightforward. However, when painting still life or portraits the background area is often a cause for concern. Painting in backgrounds is a common problem. This article is about a way to use cheesecloth to give a lightly textured background.
These background techniques would usually be painted before the main part of the picture.
How to Paint a Textured Background using Cheesecloth
I like the background of a picture to have some texture or subtle colour. This has two benefits.
Firstly, by breaking up a flat background the painting is more interesting.
Secondly, if you smudge the main area of the painting it is a lot easier to repair the background area. When the background is a flat colour, all the background would need to be over painted. With a textured background you can (often!) touch up some areas without needing to repaint all the background.
Using Cheesecloth is Easy
For an interesting background texture you can use cheesecloth or muslin. This technique can also be effective with voile and lace fabrics too. Try to experiment with whatever loosely woven fabrics you have.
Use the Fabric like a Stencil
Start by spraying your painting surface with water and then place on your fabric.
Next, brush or use a sponge to apply a thinned paint over the fabric. Try not to use too watery paint or it will run underneath it and you won’t get a texture. If this happens just dry everything off with some paper towel and try again.
Let the paint dry for about 10 to 15 minutes (depending on conditions) and then remove the fabric before the paint is completely dry. The impression of the fabric will be left in the painted background.
Alternately use the Fabric for an Impression
Another way to use the fabric is to paint the background and then press the fabric into the painted surface for a different look.
In this case the fabric will soak up some of the paint giving thicker and thinner areas that will provide some texture.
When I Paint in the Background
When I paint pet portraits I have found the easiest thing is to lightly draw in the pet portrait shape and then paint in the background area. When using a stretched canvas I paint around the sides at this stage too.
This way I can leave the majority of the portrait area unpainted. A really textured background would need a thickly painted portrait to cover it otherwise.
Then towards the end of the picture I tidy up any background areas that need it and finally paint some of the fur over the background paint. This blends both areas a little and adds to the texture of the pet fur.
This would work equally well with flowers or other subjects that are the main focus of your picture.
These painting techniques will work well for abstract pictures too. However in abstract pictures these techniques could be used at any stage. They would be handy to use after the whole picture has been painted to add some extra interest. Then you can just define a few of the areas to bring them forward.
That is, paint most of the picture, apply the texture, and then emphasis a few of the areas once the texture has dried. These highlighted areas would be a good place to use some acrylic mediums to give either a gloss finish or perhaps metallic highlights.
I hope you find this helpful. There is no right way to paint, just different ideas for achieving the look you want.