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Neutral Background Painting in Acrylics

Want to paint an easy background for your painting in acrylics? I have got you covered. This lesson is fast, creates an interesting effect and can be switched out easily with different colors.

Another benefit I like about this is if you use Plaid Folk Art Multi-Surface paint you get a sheen that has less drag when painting on your design.

I used this background painting trick for this free acrylic painting lesson of a bicycle. Note the different shades of gray blended across the canvas for an interesting yet neutral backdrop.

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Acrylic Painting Supplies for Background

Paint a Neutral Background in Acrylics

Paint a Neutral Background in Acrylics

Easy to create background for your acrylic paintings.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Difficulty Easy


  • Canvas or Surface of Choice
  • Plaid Folk Art colors:
  • Classic French Gray
  • Steel Gray
  • Wicker White


  • Sponge


Place paint colors on paint palette.

Load sponge with Wicker White

Touch slightly into the Steel Gray and Classic French Gray

Drag from top to bottom of canvas with paint loaded sponge creating streaks as you cover canvas with paint.

Add more paint to sponge as needed.

Add more gray or white depending on how dark you want the streaks of color.

Let dry.

Paint your design on the neutral background.


You can use colors of choice. This works in many different colors.

Start with your surface of choice. I used a 12″ x 12″ canvas from Michaels or here Art Alternatives Canvas for this demo but the bicycle painting is a 16″ x 20″

It is easier to have your surface flat on a table top rather than on an easel so you can apply pressure as needed.

Paint Colors on Palette

Place a large amount of Wicker White on your palette and two smaller amounts of each of the grays.

Be generous with the white as you will be using a lot.

Note: I typically add two additional coats of Gesso to all canvas before starting my acrylic paintings. Even pre-gessoed cotton canvas’ are thirsty and benefit from a couple extra coats. See how I Gesso canvas in this post.

Load the Sponge

First load the sponge with a generous amount of white.

Note: You can use sponge of choice, this one is just easy to hold on too and works best for me. I have only found these sponge painters here.

Then touch into each gray color. (you can use just one gray or mix your own with black and white)

Very small amounts of the grays will go far. Start with less than you need and add to it.

Apply Paint to Canvas

Drag the sponge across the canvas or up and down as I did in the video posted at the end of this article.

You decide how you want it.

Make long strokes from end to end as much as possible. You may need to go over an area a couple times to get the effect you like.

If you get an area to dark or a profound streak you wish to blend in more then add more white and go over it.

The reverse is also applicable. If you get an area too bland add gray and streak it through.

The time it takes to paint these type backgrounds depends upon the size of canvas you are painting. And you can use different sizes of sponge.

Neutral acrylic background painted with a sponge

For another fun background see How to Paint Faux Wood

See the full length video

Next up the bicycle painting!

Spring bicycle painting with pansies

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Blue bicycle painting with Text overlay, Paint a fast and easy background in acrylics. Pamela Groppe Art

Happy Painting!

Please enjoy and share!

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