Grungy Background Painting Tutorial

I love a good background painting tutorial, don’t you? This technique will leave you with a yummy, distressed, sepia-toned background. It is absolutely forgiving as you literally can’t do anything wrong.Grungy Background Painting Tutorial


  • Any substrate (I used paper)
  • Zinc White, Burnt Umber, and Mars Black acrylics
  • Walnut Distress Ink (Ranger)
  • Sewing pattern paper
  • Stiff bristled filbert paintbrush
  • Flat brush
  • Foam brush
  • Matt medium

Step 1… Establish the tonal range of the background

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Establish the tonal range with several shades of sepia. Use Burnt Umber, with a smidgeon of Mars Black and several mixtures with varying quantities of Zinc White. Use as wide a range of values from dark to light as you like and apply in whichever way you like. Let it completely dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 2… Avert your eyes and just breathe

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By now you should have something that looks like utter crap. Something so mediocre that you don’t even want to waste more paint on it. Don’t worry though — we’re going to be covering it up soon.

Step 3… Create collage and coat with matt medium

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Spread a fairly thick layer of matt medium on the substrate. Lay the sewing pattern paper down, creating folds, wrinkles, and exposed torn edges as you go. Brush on a light coat of matt medium on top of the paper, either creating more texture with the brush strokes or smoothing with a brush and your fingers as you go.

Step 4… Distress surface with dry brushing and ink

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Using the stiff bristled filbert paintbrush, dip it into one of the darker sepia tones and immediately unload most of the paint on paper towels before applying it to your substrate. Swipe the paint over the textured and raised areas of the sewing pattern paper to accentuate them and give them a burnished look. Rub the Walnut Distress Ink pad around the edges to accentuate the vignette look.

Voila! Easy, grungy background.

5 Comments Grungy Background Painting Tutorial

    1. Katherine

      Hi Stephanie, I leave the sewing pattern paper on. It provides a nice sepia tone to the background :)


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