I recently tried finger painting for the first time (as an adult, that is) and I can’t believe it took me so long to do it. I’m not the kind of person who’s bothered by getting their hands dirty, so it’s not like I’d been avoiding doing it.
But now I’ve done it once, I keep trying to think of ways to use this fun technique. After all, I don’t see why toddlers should have all the fun! If there’s one thing we adults need to do, it’s embrace our inner child, especially when it comes to creativity.
Finger painting is great for abstract paintings, and for designs that don’t have a lot of detail. It’s an easy way to create flowers, trees and clouds. It’s also nice to control the paint directly, and not have a paintbrush or other tool in between your hand and the paint.
The key to finger painting is not to be stingy with the amount of paint you use. I think this is one of the most important things to bear in mind to keep it fun and not frustrating. For that reason, it’s probably best if you don’t use your most expensive paints, especially when you’re first playing around with the technique.
I use acrylic paints as that’s what I have and it’s my favourite medium, but craft paint and poster paint would work too. I’m not sure how well it would work with a more fluid paint, as you need to be able to scoop up the paint and hold it on your fingers. Something like watercolour would just run right off, and I think all you’d only end up recording your fingerprints on the page rather than building up colour!
Different mediums and surfaces will also give different effects, so experiment with what you have in your art supplies (or your kids’ art supplies!) to see what you can come up with.
It might be best to wear gloves, especially if you’re not sure if the paint you’re using is potentially harmful, or might stain your skin. If you’re using non-toxic paints designed for finger painting, then just go for it! But if you’re in doubt, or your skin is particularly sensitive, I’d always recommend you wear gloves.
Now we’ve dealt with that, let’s get onto the four ways you can use finger painting in your artwork.
It was the following tutorial on YouTube from Painting with Jane that got me into finger painting in the first place, and it’s also how I painted the flowers in the picture below.
There are many techniques you can use to paint flowers, depending on the kind of flowers you’re painting. A fingertip is enough for some tiny flowers, but others require a whole fingerprint, and a swoosh of paint can indicate larger blooms. Check out Jane’s video above for exact techniques.
Grab some brown paint — a couple of different shades if you have it to keep it streaky and a bit more realistic — and stroke down the page to make the trunk. Use one finger with brown paint to make branches going up and out, and some coming off to the side too.
When that’s all dry, grab a slightly different shade of green on your index, middle and ring fingers, and tap them onto the page to represent the greenery of the tree. Try and shape it around the branches so your tree doesn’t just look like a lollipop! Pick up more paint often, and don’t worry if the different greens mingle slightly — it’ll make it look more realistic.
Finger painting is a great way to paint clouds, and it can actually produce a very realistic effect. So, assuming that the sky is already in place in your painting, and completely dry, we can start putting in the clouds.
It would be easy to grab the white paint and get stuck in, but clouds are rarely just white. Even the big, fluffy “cotton wool” clouds aren’t entirely white — there’s often a little grey shadow underneath which will help give the clouds shape in your painting. And at different times of day, like sunrise or sunset, clouds can turn pink, yellow, or orange.
Start by grabbing some white paint and working it onto the page with circular motions to create the shape of the cloud. Try not to make it too uniform in shape, and be generous with the amount of paint you use. While it’s still wet, work a tiny bit of grey into the bottom portion of the cloud, to give it a bit of shadow.
Background for an art journal page
Finger painting is also great for covering large spaces, and it’s really satisfying to smear the paint over a larger area. So why not try it next time you want to create a background in your art journal?
Start by choosing a few colours that will look great streaked and marbled together. Depending on how bold you want your background to be, you could use mainly white paint with a touch of a couple of colours with a bit more punch, like red and blue.
If you’re using red and blue, for example, touch one finger into the red lightly and another in the blue, then pick up a lot of white with both fingers. You don’t need to worry about mixing it, as we want that streaky effect. Then all you have to do is smear it onto the page.
The more you work it, the more the colours will mix, so be mindful of the effect you’re aiming for.