Layering Paint for Depth (A Tutorial)


I recently finished this custom painting for a client and thought it would be a great chance to share how easy it is to use layering to create an interesting background for a painting.

Here is the finished painting framed:

This tutorial is just an example of what you can do…..the more layers you add the more interesting your painting will become. I use acrylic craft paints and spray paints for my layers and I always love to experiment with different gels and mediums as well!

First I start out with a small piece of hardboard or Gessoboard (gesso means it is pre-primed). It won’t warp and it doesn’t have sap or woodgrain. It is also thin enough to frame under glass. You can buy it in several sizes.

Step 1:
Paint a base coat.


Step 2: Block off several areas with painters tape and paint each block a different color. I started with a yellow block….


….and then added a brown block. You’ll have to paint in stages using the painters tape.


Once the yellow and brown block dried, I removed the tape…..


….and added another color block. It is okay for the blocks to overlap too. It will just add more texture.


Step 3: Once all my color blocking was dry, I took the piece outside and used a wall stencil and some spray paint to cover it with a design:


Step 4: Next I took a lighter shade of brown acrylic paint and painted over the stencil design in some thick uneven coats to add texture. It doesn’t have to be perfect….you are going to add more layers after this!


Step 5: Once all my layers were dry, I took a watered down version of my original base coat and covered the entire painting:

Step 6: Once the top layer was dry I took a sanding block and sanded down different layers of the painting until the previous layers began to show through.

Step 7: After I have a base of a painting finished…..


…I use a simple stencil to draw out letters with a pencil and then I paint over them carefully with a tiny brush.

The finished lettering:

I’ll use a paint pen to add some other small details.

Step 8: To complete the painting I use a sanding block to distress the edges and then I coat with thin coat of water based varnish!


Here is a similar one I did in pink. Just change up your paint palette!

A gift they’ll treasure forever!

See some of my other painting tutorials for more ideas and information on materials and supplies:

Personalized Nursery Art

Nursery Art – Layering with Collage

Resolutions “Subway” Art

Transferring an Image with Gel Medium

How to Fake a Landscape Painting

Distressed Folk Art Painting






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About Ashley Hackshaw

Living a simple, creative life in #smalltownusa Bryson City, NC. Renovating a 1960s ranch house and an old train depot. Thank you for reading! Read more in my about section. 


  1. 1
    Tsuki aka LittleGrayFox says:

    That's a wonderful tutorial! I love the distressed look of all the layers. I gotta try this one, thanks! :)

    {Little Gray Fox}

    P.S. Don't forget to join the Crafty Challenge The deadline for entries is this Friday!

  2. 2

    so beautiful and what a precious keepsake! Thank you for the clear tutorial A! :)

  3. 3

    That's a neat tutorial. Thanks for sharing it. I really love how you achieved the layered look.

  4. 4

    Yay another art post :)
    Love it,
    I never get sick of seeing this kind of stuff! (or anything you do, really)
    Way to rock out the tutorial too.

  5. 5

    You are so cool! Thank you yet again! Can´t wait to try this.

  6. 6
    Spencer & Lorilyn Crum says:

    Great tutorial! :)

  7. 7

    I love your painting tutorials. My favorite art is abstract and layers of color and texture. Spot on!

  8. 8

    So inspiring! You come up with great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  9. 9
    taidyeoriginal says:

    This is very nice. I am not a painter at all! Beautiful. I just love your blog! I am just starting out and linked to you here:

    Thanks for the inspiration!!

  10. 10

    I tried to do a painting for my bedroom and was not happy with the results. It was totally one dimensional and boring. I knew it lacked texture and I kept thinking about you and your paintings. How did you know I needed you to do this tutorial? :)

  11. 11
    Jacinda Cote says:

    I am so in love with your paintings and get extra excited every time you post a tutorial!! This one is awesome! I will have to try for sure! I have a new blog too and have linked you here:

    Keep up doing what your doing… I love it!

  12. 12
    Lily's Laundry Boutique says:

    i love this and i'm going to have to try it. I love the sugar and spice one i bought for claire's room. hope you are doing well.

  13. 13
    Sister's Friday says:

    I love this saying from Dr. Suess. It comes from one of my favorite books of his…but who am I kidding I love all of his books. I love what you did with it. I want to do this same kind of thing for my kids' rooms

  14. 14

    This is a super tutorial! Thank you so much for sharing. I love the layering and the words are so sweet. I am putting this one in my project notebook!

  15. 15

    Really cute! Thanks for the tutorial!

  16. 16 says:

    Your paintings are gorgeous! I love how you layer them. Thanks so much for this, I'll be linking.

  17. 17

    The other day I just thought about the distressed folk art tutorial and I couldn't remember where I had seen it and alas! Here it is!
    Of course it was yours!
    You are super duper talented and one day I hope to try to make something like it.
    Thank you for posting this!