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Spirograph Tree: Using a spirograph for visual texture by Sandrine Pelissier on ARTiful, painting demos

Spirograph Tree: Using a spirograph for visual texture

If you like to work in layers for your paintings, you usually start with some background of visual texture. There are many ways to make this background, recently I have been looking at using a Spirograph to add that visual texture: It is fun to use and fast ans you get beautiful geometric shapes on your background.


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Here are the steps I took

using terraskin stone paper on mixed media paintings

I worked on Teraskin stone paper because it has a very smooth texture that will be very nice to work with the spirograph. I used a 12 x 12 inches panel to outline my painting are on the paper.

painting on terraskin

You can leave a bit of extra space on the sides.using a Spirograph to draw textures

Using a spirograph, yo can start to add patterns to your background. Here with a Sakura Pigma micro marker.

using a pencil with Spirograph

You can also use a pencil. Spirograph fine liner

Here is a close up of some of the textures I get.

adding visual texture with a spirograph

painting on top of Spirograph visual texture To make your background a bit darker, you can paint a layer of Indian Ink, and add a bit of texture with rubbing alcohol
Spirograph and Indian Ink

Adding a bit of diluted India Ink on top of the Spirograph patterns.

India Ink spirograph

You can make your ink wash a gradated wash, darker on one end, so the branches of the tree will look lighter as you go higher on your painting.

alcohol textures on India ink

You can use your thumb to add drops of alcohol on your paper.alcohol visual textures

The alcohol will add textures to the India Ink washIndia ink and alcohol washlayering for visual textureIndia ink texture on top of Spirograph patterns
Spirograph patterns
painting the negative space on top of India inkWorking from a reference picture, you can start painting all the negative space in white, leaving only the branches and the tree in black

white acrylic over India ink

Try to make the branches smaller as they get further away from the tree.

painting a tree negative space

copying a reference picture

You don’t have to copy exactly your reference picture but it will give you a guideline to paint the space around the branches.

watercolor on top of acrylic paint

I want to add a bit of blue on the painting and make the branches lighter on the sides so I am mixing a bit of Turquoise watercolor with China White (gouache)

India ink and mixed media

You can paint that mixture on top of the India ink. I would recommend you try first on a corner of your paper to see if your India Ink is truly waterproof of if you would need to spray a layer of fixative before painting with the watercolor and gouache.

painting drying at an angle

You can let your painting dry at an angle to get a gradated wash, denser on the top of the painting.

tree painting with Spirograph visual texture

The finished painting: Spirograph tree

Spirograph Tree: Using a spirograph for visual texture
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  • Dear Sandrine you have such clever ideas.

    Thank you

  • Nancy

    Did you sketch out the tree before filling in the white space?

    • I did a rough sketch for the trunk and the main branches but for the tiny branches, I made most of them up.

  • Nicole

    I love to read your newsletter. I always find something interesting and beautiful =)

    • Thanks Nicole, I am very glad to hear you are enjoying the newsletter and the tutorials 🙂

  • Eddi Reid

    I like the background using this method. You are so consistently creative that my imagination is newly challenged. I don’t have a spirograph but you can bet it won’t be long before one appears!
    Thank you Sandrine.

  • donna

    Thank you for this demonstration. The underlying textures really complete the rest of the piece.
    One of the steps shows crinkled edges of the paper. Did you mount the paper
    on to a heavier paper after this step?
    I still use my son’s Spirograph with other techniques of drawing and designs.
    (Even after 35 years, all of the original pieces, including the pens, are still in the box!)
    This demonstration has given me new inspirations for future pieces. Thank you.

    • Thanks Donna!
      My first idea was to mount that painting on board once done, but I changed my mind and might leave it just on paper. I left quite a large margin on the sides so I could cut a bit to make it clean.

  • SD

    thanks for sharing. Loved spirograph as a kid.
    Was the white paint you used acrylic or watercolor? You seem to mix a lot of different mediums which I’m always hesitant to try.
    Are there any permanent markers that work well with acrylic paints?
    thanks so much for sharing.

    • Thanks SD. Yes the white paint is acrylic.
      If you spray fixative medium in between layers and follow the rule of fat over lean, you can mix pretty mix any media.
      Fat over lean means oil paint or oil pastels over acrylic is ok, but not the opposite.
      Sakura pigma micron markers will work well over acrylic, comic markers too.

      • Nancy

        I learned this rule as a rhyme: “Oil over acrylic is idyllic.”