Freehand Spray Can Tutorial


I apologise that I didn’t start taking photos sooner. I got the idea a little late, but I want to show people the process of my art done with spray paint cans! This isn’t those cheesy outer space scenes, this is a portrait of real people done all freehand. No stencils, masks, friskets or shields were used. All can control baby! I hope this will help you advance your skills with a can.



Elapsed Time: Two Hours

The subjects for this painting were John & Ana from a photo taken seven years ago in California. Although the detail in Ana’s face is mostly done, I started by first sketching the faces on the canvas with a charcoal pencil. As you can see, I first lay down the base color which is a Medium Brown. I then lay down the lighter color for my light source (Sweet Cream) and blend in the darker colors (Dark Brown & Nougat). I work from the center out. I started at the nose and went out from there. It’s easier to cut and blend outwards in case you need to make corrections.



Elapsed Time: Five hours

The glasses are finished since they are the darkest color on her face. I start to add her hair with Chocolate Brown, which almost looks black. The light reflection is added on top with the lighter brown. Spray paint is so opaque you can go over the dark colors easily, so save the highlights for last. I then start on John’s face. I layed down all the shadows first and later cleaned them up with the lighter tones, then added the darkest shades. I leave the eyes black for now and will add the white to create the pupil later.



Elapsed Time: Eight Hours

The detail in the mouth is finished as you can see from the photo before. The black was put first and then cut with the lighter colors so as not to risk making a big mess of black on the lips and having to redo any good cuts. I then finished the neck working light to dark, then cutting the bottom with the White for the collar. You may also notice the water is then added. This can sometimes be tricky because you don’t want to get any overspray on the faces. If it’s a dark area, like in her hair and glasses, don’t worry, you can fix it after.



Elapsed Time: Eleven Hours

Next, I fix where there was overspray in the face. It can cause a real headache. I totally messed up on John’s eye trying to fix some overspray (I had to totally redo his entire right eye). I then start working on the hair, which is sometimes the most important feature in a portrait. In this case, I used a combination of Black, Chocolate Brown and a little Transparent White for highlights. The same process is applied for Ana’s hair as well (Just from the point where you can see her hair in this photo). Later, I will use lighter colors for where the sun is hitting her hair.



Elapsed Time: Twelve Hours

The highlights in the hair are then accomplished by using several different browns and simply making “S” strokes with the can. The light source on the face is white, so any overspray can easily be gone over. The faces are now pretty much done, I just have to go in with the White and hit some highlights and the eyes. I then start on the background beach scene by randomly placing people in the water and placing the pier in the background as well. Don’t worry if it’s not as crisp. The fuzziness adds to the depth of the portrait.



Total Elapsed Time: Seventeen Hours

And here is the finished product. The border of the frame was also painted a dark blue. The title of this painting is “Best Friends”. I hope this was usefull in some way to help progress your spraypainting skills. If interested in a demonstration video or personal lessons feel free to contact me for prices.


Thirty different colors of spaypaint were used in this painting, none of which were harmed.



White, Black, Baby Blue, Sea Breeze, Sweet Cream, Khaki, Leather Brown, Pewter Grey, Smoke Grey, Watermelon, Regal Blue, Colonial Blue, Sea Green and Peach.



Flesh, Breakfast Brown, Medium Brown, Chocolate Brown, Clay, Red, Orange, Transparent White and Transparent Black.


Montana Gold:

Nougat, Purple and Red