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Spray paint art reminds me so much of hip hop dance, both originated from the streets, invented by people who had no formal training, yet both have the power to touch our souls.

2 weeks ago while traveling in lovely San Francisco, a forgotten dream of painting a galaxy was awakened within me, as I watched street artists painting a bright moon floating above a silhouette of Golden Gate Bridge.

I often painted clouds in art school, and know that it can take days or weeks to give a painting light, air and volume. So you can imagine my excitement when it finally clicked that I can, perhaps, paint a galaxy filled with light, air and volume in 30 minutes!

Not to mention the chance to act like a bad a$$ street artist!

Step 1: Language of Spray Painting

In dance, when you really practice and know the steps, you can forget the steps and become one with the music.

The purpose of this section is to try to clearly define some useful methods and techniques unique to spray painting, which has not been written about widely. Some I learned from watching in the streets and on YouTube, some I figured out and modified through my failed paintings.

The ultimate goal is to forget the techniques and fly with your imagination.

Here's a summary, and each is covered in more detail in the steps they are used.

  1. Soft Mist :after creating some uneven blobs of paint, I figured this out- it sounds so counter intuitive- instead of pressing the nozzle then start moving the paint can, do the opposite, get the can moving, then press the nozzle! This will create a even and natural looking mist, without a heavy starting point. See Step 3 & 5
  2. Newspaper :while the paint is wet, use newspaper to lift some of the paints and create a cool texture. Can be used to create planets, mountains, etc. See Step 4
  3. Covered Stencil : stencil touches the painting, creates defined shapes with sharp edges. See Step 4
  4. Raised Stencil :stencil is lifted a couple of inches from painting, creates defined shapes with soft edges. See Step 3 & 6
  5. Bounced Paint :spray not the painting, but a straight or curved surface perpendicular from the painting to create a very soft line. I used it to create the spiral galaxy in an earlier painting -see last 2 images in Step 7- but find method 4 easier and quicker. Still, this method has a lot of potential for sure!
  6. Star Clusters :spray some paint on a small piece of thick paper and tap with your fingers on the back of the paper to create clusters of stars. See Step 6
  7. Comet :a quick tap on the bottom of a upside down spray can will create a comet / shooting star. See Step 6

Step 2: Materials and Tools

This painting will take about 30 minutes. If you feel nervous, you can follow along a simple 5-minute painting here which only uses a few of the techniques as a warm-up!

Materials and Tools:

  • 3M Mask 5201– this mask is under $20 but works great, I can’t even smell the paint. If you plan to do a lot of spray painting or other types of finishing, it’s very important to use a mask!!
  • Spray paints: I used Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch, and Metallic Blue which is widely available. In this painting I used black, white, pink, yellow, metallic blue, lime green and purple. See final step for tips on colors.
  • Poster Boards: Target has a great heavy weight kind, 22″x28″ which is used in this painting.

    Make sure to use the glossy side for painting! Tape it onto your work surface, here i used a piece of plywood covered with recycle paper.

  • plastic pots, cans, lids, of various sizes, anything with a round shape and a raised or hollow side so it does not touch the paint when placed over the painting
  • newspaper, and a small piece of thick paper such as magazine cover
  • cardboard for stencils
  • gloves

Step 3: Spiral Galaxy

Place an oval stencil (Covered Stencil) in the center of the galaxy, and create a dark background covering half of the painting with soft mist of black and metallic blue.

Make 3 cut-out oval stencils, going from larger to smaller, lift them about 1" to 2" above the surface of the painting (Raised Stencil) and paint the center of galaxy from yellow, to pink, to white.

Cut out a couple of spiral forms in another piece of cardboard, and again use the Raised Stencil method to create several spirals going outward from the center of galaxy, using purple and blue paint.

This method allows us to create more accurate spiral forms with nice soft edges.

Step 4: Planets

Place some of the circular objects where you want the planets to be, gently spray a little black paint to mark them, and remove the covers.

You probably won't see the street artists do this, because they know very well from hundreds of paintings where the planets should be. We do it because it allows us to play around and find a balanced composition before we put all the paints down,

Start with the first planet, use 3-4 colors, and start with either the lightest color, in this case lime green, and quickly go to the next shade – metallic blue, and the darkest – black, overlapping the adjacent colors. Don’t be concerned about staying within the planet makings. You can also go from dark to light colors, which creates a lighter planet.

While the paint is wet, quickly crumble a piece of newspaper, open it, and lay it on top of the painted planet area, very gently run your fingers on top of the paper. This will lift some of the paints and create a cool texture on the planets. Lift the paper and here we have the start of a planet!

The colors for some of the other planets are white-purple-blue-black, pink-green-blue, etc. See final step for more tips on color harmony!

After all the planet areas are painted, we will cover them with those cans and lids, and create the space around them.

Step 5: Void and Aurora

Starting with black, create a dark void between the spiral galaxy and around the floating planets using the Soft Mist method. Then using metallic blue, lime green and purple, softly spray some flowing colored light through the dark space. Keeping the nozzle at least 12" above the paper will create softer transitions.

In this painting I wanted to create a subtle movement of light from the edges toward the center. You can improvise and create any flowing forms you like!

Step 6: Stars and Comets

Now we can lift the covers, and move on to the final and super fun steps: stars! Spray some white paint onto a small piece of thick paper, there should be enough paint yet not too much that it drips. Face the paper down where you would like to have the stars, and tap with your fingers on the back of the paper to create clusters of stars.

The bigger stars are created with the Raised Stencil method - poke a hole in a piece of cardboard, lift it a couple of inches from the paper, and spray with white over the small opening, now you have a shimmering star!

And those comets! They are the easiest – just place the can upside down, face the nozzle toward the direction of the comet, and give a quick tap on the bottom of the can.

Step 7: Tips and Tricks

In the final step I want to share my "failed" painting, and a few resources and painting tips that may be helpful for not just spray painting but painting in general-

  • the last 3 images show a painting I made earlier that did not quite match my vision of a galaxy - the colors are a little busy, and there are some heavy paint spots in the spiral galax. The bounced paint method (described in step 1) has a lot of potential though!
  • failures are to be embraced and celebrated, because they led me to finda more harmonious color palette, and the raised stencil method, which created the galaxy in a lot less time!
  • consider the temperature of colors from warm to cool. warm colors such as red, orange, hot pink creates a more exciting feeling, and cool colors such as blue, green and lavender creates a more peaceful feeling
  • another great way to bring more harmony into a painting is to see all the elements not as objects but as movements - the flow of light, the flow of space, the shifting of shapes - let the movements determine where the light shines and where the shadow falls
  • clear spray paint can extend your working time! if the paint got dry and you wanted to use the newspaper method, just spray a clear coat and they can be worked on again!
  • there are many spray paint artists on YouTube worth checking out.
  • I hope water-based spray paint can become a reality soon (maybe it is already?) so there's no more harmful solvents, which means no more masks!

I am really in love with spray paint as an art medium! It offers lots of new creative possibilities, and it's super fun to use. It almost feels like you are not painting with paint, but painting with air!

Whew! Thank you for staying till the end of this long one, and happy painting!

sorry here is the one with tardis
<p>Those are very nice! They look great! I love how you approached using darker colors instead of bright ones! Looks great!</p>
Can you please give me some tips for doing this on a wall. Id greatly appreciate it
<p>Doing this on a wall would be really interesting, because once it's done, it's done. You can't change it. So here are a few tips if you DO want to do it on a wall:</p><p>-Practice: Practice at least 5-6 times your design on poster boards taped together or something the size of the wall.</p><p>-Make sure the wall isn't textured</p><p>-Figure out a way to get your planet stencils on there</p><p>And that's all I can think of...sorry for the 2 month margin of time..\_&gt;.&lt;_/</p>
<p>Is there any way to do this on a ceiling or a wall in a bedroom?</p>
<p>ceiling might be hard, but walls could be fun! =)</p>
OMG! that is beautiful... I am so totally gonna try and make one of my own... thnkx so much :-)
<p>Nice! Stylistically, I can just see Mew flying around this right now. :D</p>
thank you again blissfull. this will be a great gift for my 8 year old niece.
<p>hi superboy, that looks fabulous! thank you for sharing! =)</p>
The only thing missing (according to me) now is a TARDIS (time and relative dimensions in space) =^&bull;^= meao
I love the tardis too. so I made my own version and threw in a tardis.
bella99 here is my version including your tardis. thank you so much for this instructible it was so fast and so much fun.
<p>Really nice,and fast.thanks for posting.</p>
<p>just gorgeous! Well explained too. I know practice makes perfect but I do think you having amazing talent too!!!!</p>
<p>thank you dear gilly! i truly believe everyone is super talented, some may not know it, yet! =)</p>
Ok, ok, ok..... Three words: OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! I mean my friends think I'm good at painting, but this..... It's sooooooo coooooool &lt;3&lt;3
<p>thank you bella, and i too, LOVE everything about relative dimensions! =)</p>
<p>Thank you ive seen this on youtube and you explained it , its great , cant wait to try</p>
真漂亮,有创意
<p>much 感谢!</p>
<p>Awesome! Amazing. Voted and hope you win :) Thanks for sharing this wonderful technique.</p>
<p>thank you passion! you are so kind! =)</p>
This is beautiful! I think that it truly looks like a real galaxy! Wonderful job=)
<p>thank you so much loom! =)</p>
<p>I bought some paintings like this from a traveling artist at a fair, and I put one inside a shadow box and mounted some white &quot;holiday&quot; lights inside behind the painting. When lit, it gave the painting an even better look, as the illumination made it come alive. Sort of.</p>
<p>cool idea mike! maybe someone will invent spray-glow-paint, that would be awesome! =)</p>
<p>Amazing, you make me believe that even I can paint a galaxy! Thanks!!!</p>
<p>thank you so much for you kind words! have fun! =)</p>
<p>I've never commented on a lesson before, but this is awesome!</p><p>I can't wait to try this.</p>
<p>thank you so much! have lots of fun! =)</p>
<p>Reminds me of Bob Ross: The joy of paiting....</p><p>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjrWKuJWR1U</p>
<p>thanks for sharing gustav!</p>
<p>I've had best luck when spray painting something other than art to start the spray then cross the object then release the spray and do the same going back that helps keep runs at the beginning of the pass. Works better than intuitive? P.S I think I'll get My air brush out and try it. Acrylic paints &amp; can mix colors except metallic, &quot;No mask needed&quot;. Thank's for getting Me going with that expensive air brush equipment again. Definitely Favorited and voted +. ~(:- })={ &gt; --- ]</p>
<p>thank you snoop! that might be the best alternative to spray cans right now!</p>
<p>This is <em>awesome</em>! Definitely got my vote.</p>
<p>thanks chabias!</p>
<p>Nice job! I like how you made the plannets! Beautiful </p>
<p>i have to thank all the street artists for inventing this! =)</p>
<p>i once saw a guy do this on the street and was really amazed! it looks really cool. </p>
<p>Amazing, one vote from me</p>
<p>oh man this is really cool!!</p>
<p>thank you pat!</p>
<p>WoW ! definitely vote worthy! I hope you win cause this is amazing! </p>
<p>thank you shazni! you are so sweet! =)</p>
<p>Wow, that's beautiful!</p>
Beautiful work and all without an air compressor spray gun--just spray cans! I've seen sidewalk sale art vendors sell similar paintings for a lot of money for a product that can be made in a short amount of time. Now, thanks to your 'ible, I can make my own. <br><br>Something I noticed about the comet drawings. Comets get a full tail when close to a sun or star and the tail generally flows away from the sun. The planets are illuminated by another light source and from a different angle to the comet. I would think that the dominant light source would be the sun which in the painting is off frame and the planet highlight and shadow should be responding to the same light source.<br><br>Another observation about the comet is the split tail. Some Comets obtain a split tail when one tail is a stream of dust and pebbles being left behind the comet's path, and the other tail occurs from light gasses being blown away from the solar winds. That tail tend to be a different color like blue or purple, a bit more subtle than the dust tail and being pushed away from the nucleus in a curved path at a different angle than the dust tail. These Comets are quite spectacular to behold. <br><br>Here again I commend you for your beautiful work. Cheers.
<p>thank you alcurb for the fun facts about comets! </p>
<p>thank you emily! </p>
<p>Great job, this looks amazing!</p>

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