Thursday, 8 May 2014

3D-effect painting tutorial

I still get requests for a tutorial of “my” 3D technique which I “discovered” by accident when I was trying to recreate a look I'd seen somewhere else. [I avoid saying “invented” because someone else out there might be the original “creator”.] After several failures, I found suitable supplies and improved the whole process. It is now something I'm comfortable with, something I know very well, something that works for me, something I rarely fail at.

I tried to explain it several times but now I decided to make a video. (see it here)

I usually start sketching the outlines on a piece of cardstock/chipboard/canvas. I recommend using a thicker background that won’t curl. 
Then I apply something that will stay dimensional after drying. I usually work with "Potch 3D Effect" or "3D Lack" varnishes (see the note on supplies below). But you can experiment with paints and mediums and find a paint/medium/glue/structure paste/whatever that works best for you. I don’t usually use my paints/mediums on surfaces they are primarily intended for...

When the 3D pattern is dry, I paint over it with acrylic paints. [I sometimes gesso the surface first.] Crackle paints look nice when I have a more intricate pattern with lots of small spaces. 
I start with a coat of background colours - just a simple background layer, nothing fancy.
Then I start adding more paints on top. I use kitchen sponge to dab the paints on because it helps me to blend the paints better. Sometimes, I shade it around the raised areas with a brush pen (Faber-Castell PITT pens are ideal for this).
When I'm happy with the result, I highlight the raised outlines with a white contour paint. 
To seal it, I usually apply some medium on top of the finished piece - regular gloss or matte acrylic multi mediums, Glossy Accents or anything that dries transparent. Here, I used the same product I used for the raised areas (only a different brand - see the note on supplies below).

Note on supplies: 
  • Most of the paints and art supplies we get here are from Germany. I'm sure there are similar products on your market. 
  • 3D varnish: The two I use (Potch 3D Effect by C.KREUL, 3D Lack by Nerchau) are intended for “découpage” (napkin technique). Both are opaque when wet, transparent when dry. So they can be used to create a “glaze” effect (similar to Glossy Accents) on a finished piece. 
  • Outlines: The ones I use (Glas-konturen Paste (Outlining Glass Paste) by C.KREUL, Relief Paste by Marabu, Cerne Relief Paint by Pebeo) are intended for glass art - to create an outline on glass or porcelain which you then colour in with paints. But because they are water based, I use them in my art. I tried Enamel Accents but the consistency is too thin for a detailed outline. Stickles might work too... The key is in the thin applicator and thick consistency of the paint.
Here are some other examples (more on my Flickr):

altered painter's palette 

a canvas

I call them doodle-tiles, I'm not sure what they are 
good for but I had fun making them ;-)

Thank you.


  1. Love these so very much. This technique is extremely fascinating. Thanks for helping me try to learn about this and figure out the consistency of the supplies and everything. I am still trying to master embarrassed to show my attempts yet. With practice I am sure it will get better.

  2. Enjoyed the video, just what I was looking for because I wanted the 3D effect for a painting I'm working on. 'Aliens' is the name of my painting. Will share it when it is complete.
    Thanks again!