Mixed Media Background Technique: Rubbing Alcohol

Mixed Media Art Tutorial

I used to look at mixed media art and think “How the heck did they get that background”.  I still do that often, but I have learned some techniques in my artful explorations that create some amazing effects.  Today I am bringing you a simple technique that utilizes rubbing alcohol, and gives drastic effects.  I hope you can tuck this in to your creative toobox.


  • Acrylic paints (I used Liquitex soft body
  • Paintbrush
  • Mixing palate or dixie cups
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Eyedropper or drinking straw
  • 2 surfaces (I used one canvas and a piece of MDF I prepped with acrylic gesso)
  • Water


  • Begin by randomly dripping several colors (I used colbalt teal, burnt umber, green-yellow, magenta and titan bluff) onto one of your surfaces.  Place the other surface on top and slide it across the paint, twisting and turning it as you go.  Repeat this until you like it.  Let the surfaces dry.  Pick your favorite of the 2 for the next step.  I used both in the various tut pics that follow…

Mixed Media Background Technique

Mixed Media Background Tutorial

  • With a magenta, burnt sienna wash that has the consistency of milk, I painted half of the piece.  It is important not to have this layer too thick because the rubbing alcohol step needs to be able to get in there to produces this neat effect.  You also don’t want it to thin, so play around and you will find the balance you prefer.

Mixed Media Background Technique

  • While the wash layer is still wet, take a few drops of rubbing alcohol into your dropper or straw (if using a straw, keep finger over top to keep alcohol in until you are ready to drop it.  Release drops of the alcohol onto the wet paint.  Watch it pool!  You can also use a spray bottle with alcohol for a different look…Mixed Media Background Rubbing Alcohol


  • Let this dry completely before moving on with your artwork on your newly created background!  I love how the drops of alcohol cause the paint to spread out from the center, revealing the layer underneath, and collects around the edges forming a darker rim.  So cool.  You can do this on paper for all your paper crafting projects and card backgrounds.  Super easy and effective.

Mixed Media Background Technique Tutorial

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