How To Paint with Smoke

Most of us have dabbled in painting a few times in our lives. One of the most important ideas that can guide us through this relaxing hobby has to do with choosing the medium and the technique with which you want to indulge in this activity. Traditionally, painting involves a canvas or any other flat surface upon which the image will be painted; it also involves the right medium that shall be used to paint the image. Some of the more popular media include watercolors, acrylics, and charcoal, among others.

For the more daring, there is a totally different technique involving smoke. This technique is called “fumage” or painting with smoke. It was developed and first used by Wolfgang Paalen who used smoke coming from a candle to create images on a canvas. The resulting images are surreal, and might even be disturbing, owing to the totally unexpected forms that can be conjured using smoke. If you are intrigued by such a concept and want to try out this technique for an upcoming project, here are a few simple steps to help you learn how to paint with smoke.

Step 1

Visualize your design. As with any creative project, the very first step that must be performed is visualization. Not all of us have the ability to “see” clear pictures in our minds. Thus, it is a good idea to visualize the overall picture that you want to achieve by manually sketching the design or by using a form of computer software that will allow you to produce a rough sketch. Given the nature of the medium, keep your designs simple and/or abstract (e.g., human forms, basic shapes, etc.).

Step 2

Assemble your chosen materials. For this project, you could use any tool that produces smoke in minimal forms, for instance, a candle or a kerosene lamp. Since this project is for beginners, candles of varying thickness and wick lengths are ideal. This is because longer wicks produce smoother patterns, while shorter ones produce solid and dark shades and forms. Using these will allow you to come up with varied images with different intensities or shading. Aside from the candles, you will also need a canvas and protective gear for your eyes and hands.

Step 3

Paint with smoke. After choosing a safe workplace where there is no risk of anything burning, you may begin the process of painting. First, prop up the canvas in such a way that you can move it about while you paint. You might need to paint from the side or beneath the canvas. Next, begin painting by using any of your chosen candles to apply the shading. In doing so, keep in mind that the angle and speed with which the candle flame is dragged across or beneath the surface can help produce different shades. If you are hesitant, try doing some practice strokes on a different canvas before applying anything to your ongoing project. Remember that you are encouraged to be as creative as possible and thus, you might want to experiment with different ways to produce images using smoke.

Step 4

Apply the finishing touches. Once you are finished, don’t forget to spray fixative on your canvas. This will help preserve the image you have created.

Alyssa Davis is a prominent online author and the senior staff writer for – a distinctive wall art store specializing in tropical wall art and wall decor.

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