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How to do Spray Paint Art

Updated on December 29, 2014

Want to learn how to spray paint?

Love spray paint art? Ever wondered how to do it?

Let me give you the grand tour of this art-form in all it's colors and magic. Then I'll give you some great tips on how you can do it yourself.

spray paint art cosmic cat

Gerardo Amor's beautiful cosmic cat.
Gerardo Amor's beautiful cosmic cat. | Source

How Spray Paint Art Began

Let's start out with a bit about where spray paint art came from. It all started in the early 80's when a man named Ruben Sadot accidentally discovered the amazing textures that layers of spray paint mixed with newspaper can make.


How spray can art got started

The first spray painting artist

Sadot was an eccentric artist, skilled with both brush and with pencils. He had a good understanding of figure drawing and had a slightly surreal feeling to his work.

When he discovered spray paint art, he began painting on the streets of the Zona Rosa in Mexico City. His classic performance was to sit, indian style and improvise with spray cans on paper, occasionally sticking his tongue out at his audience.

He attracted many students this way. Gerardo Amor was among the artists who learned to paint from Sadot. He started out working with another disciple, Hugo Montero, and together, with many others, they began to create the first of the classic spray paint art planet and space effects we know today.

Ruben Sadot, first spray paint artist of Mexico

Ruben Sadot, the first spray paint artist of Mexico
Ruben Sadot, the first spray paint artist of Mexico | Source

The first space painting effects

The first effects that Gerardo and Hugo worked on were all about space painting and cosmic art. They worked out how to create planets using a few layers of spray paint, newspaper and some plates. They experimented with how to create mountains and land using layers of paint by spraying light colors underneath dark colors and then removing paint with sheets of newspaper. They experimented with painting simple cosmic effects. They would spray on different colors, creating a dramatic center of attention. Then with a palette knife or simply a torn piece of paper, they would shake paint all over their creation to make the stars. Finally they would turn the can upside down and give it a pump to create a comet whooshing across the universe. All of this took place in minutes.

Early spray paint art

Early spray paint art by Gerardo Amor
Early spray paint art by Gerardo Amor | Source

Early spray painting by Gerardo Amor

Early spray painting by Gerardo Amor
Early spray painting by Gerardo Amor | Source

The spray paint art lifestyle

When they had discovered this set of techniques, they brought it to the streets of the Zona Rosa and found that many people would wait in line to purchase their work. This gave them the freedom to be outside “the system” and the grey world of daily office work. They led extravagant party filled lives. Their days were filled with relaxation and art, nights were spent painting and then partying until morning.

Hugo, Ricardo, Sadot and Augustine? Photo taken by Gerardo Amor in Mexico City

Ricardo Huet, Hugo Montero, Ruben Sadot, Augustine? photo taken by Gerardo Amor
Ricardo Huet, Hugo Montero, Ruben Sadot, Augustine? photo taken by Gerardo Amor | Source

Where spray paint art started in Mexico

A markerMexico City Zona Rosa -
Zona Rosa, Cuauhtémoc, Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
get directions

This is where Ruben Sadot and the first spray paint artists of Mexico began to paint in the streets.

Spray Paint Art Travelers

After a while, seeing their amazing success, they began to have imitators who didn't respect the artistic sentiment of the original spray paint artists. These new painters didn't bother to invent new effects or cultivate quality. In fact they simply copied the paintings of the original artists and mass produced them. Unfortunately the original artists, including Sadot, were crowded out of the best areas of the Zona Rosa and many moved on.


Gerardo Amor was one of these, and he went to Puerto Vallarta to continue painting. He invited his brother Ruben to come with him and learn the art. Then of course, they both found artist love. Gerardo and Alisa Amor became partners and Ruben found Veronica Muniz and later Paloma Coronado. Luckily the whole group was composed of artists who were interested in adding new effects to the spray paint art techniques they had learned from Gerardo. Cecilia Banos and Ricardo Huet, also students of Sadot were also painting in Puerto Vallarta. All of them enjoyed the classic spray paint art lifestyle of late mornings, relaxed days, a night of painting and partying. New effects were discussed and shared at the parties and then brought to the streets for experimentation. It was an amazing time!

Spray Paint Art in Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Gerardo Amor doing spray paint art on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta, Ruben Melody is to his left
Gerardo Amor doing spray paint art on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta, Ruben Melody is to his left | Source
Alisa Amor painting on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta, notice the student behind her taking careful note
Alisa Amor painting on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta, notice the student behind her taking careful note | Source

Spray Paint Artist Alisa Amor

I just wanted to introduce myself before you read more. My name is Alisa Amor and I learned spray paint art from Gerardo Amor, my ex, and one of the original spray painters of Mexico.

I have over 20 years of experience in live spray paint art performance and creation.

Keep reading to learn how to create some of these amazing effects yourself!

Spray Paint Artist Alisa Amor

Alisa Amor spray painting in San Jose, Costa Rica
Alisa Amor spray painting in San Jose, Costa Rica | Source

New Spray Paint Art Effects

Here are some of the paintings that came out of that period. I'll divide them up into sections so I can talk a little bit about each of them. I'll also begin to give you some tips and tricks for creating these amazing paintings on your own.

Classic Space Paintings

Gerardo Amor's beautiful space painting
Gerardo Amor's beautiful space painting | Source
Spray paint art by Alisa Amor
Spray paint art by Alisa Amor | Source

How to spray paint a black and white planet

OK, lets start out very simple. I'm going to show you the steps to spray paint a black and white planet. You will need some poster board, a bowl or plate, black and white spray paint newspaper,and a spray paint respirator mask with organic vapor cartridges to protect yourself from inhaling the spray paint. Please try this outdoors only!

The first step is to spray a little bit of white and a little bit of black in layers onto your paper.

How to spray paint a planet

How to spray paint the colors of the planet
How to spray paint the colors of the planet | Source

How to create a spray paint texture

Notice that the black and white are in different areas. Most of the planet is white and there is a curve of black along the bottom part of the white area. This is helpful to get a real 3D looking planet.

The next step is to tear off a piece of newspaper and to crinkle it with your hand. The smaller and tighter the crinkles, the more intricate the texture of your planet will come out. Here Gerardo Amor demonstrates a useful way to crinkle the paper.

How to crinkle the newspaper

How to crinkle the newspaper
How to crinkle the newspaper | Source

The perfect newspaper crinkle

Notice how he is holding the paper around his fist. This is a great way to get big crinkles! Take a look at the kind of texture this creates.

Newspaper Texture for Spray Paint Art Planets

The correct newspaper texture for spray paint art planets.
The correct newspaper texture for spray paint art planets. | Source

Newspaper and spray paint, perfect together.

Now notice how gently he applies the paper to the paint. The more you press down, the more paint will be removed. It's important to have a gentle touch as you brush the paper over the paint using your fingers. Experiment with this until you like what you see. Feel free to add more paint and try again.

How to apply the newspaper to the spray paint layers

How to apply the newspaper to the spray paint layers
How to apply the newspaper to the spray paint layers | Source

The texture of a spray paint art planet

This is a perfect texture for a spray paint art planet. Not too tightly crinkled, with broad angular patterns that will look intriguing once they are seen in context. Practice until you have a good idea of what patterns will happen with different kinds of newspaper crinkles and pressures.

The amazing result!

The amazing result!
The amazing result! | Source

Adding the shadows

The next step is to add some black paint or other shadow color to one side of our planet. Notice the black is added on the same curved line that we originally applied that color. Do this gently so that the paint is not too wet on the shadow side. This is important to prevent the plate or bowl from marking it's edge into our planet.

Shading the edges of the planet

Shading the edges of the planet
Shading the edges of the planet | Source

Drying the shadow

If our paint is too wet to be able to put our plate or bowl on it and we are in a rush, we can dry it using a lighter. This is also great for show when we are doing a spray paint art performance.

To dry the edge, hold the lighter above the shadow colored paint and heat the paint from about 2 inches away. If you touch the lighter to the paint, it will catch on fire! You don't want this. It may look cool, but the paint will bubble and look ugly. It's also dangerous because the rest of your painting may catch on fire.

Only do this if you have a steady hand and are in a big rush. Otherwise just wait until it's dry enough to put your plate or bowl on top.

Drying the shadows with a lighter

Drying the shadows with a lighter
Drying the shadows with a lighter | Source

Masking with plates and bowls

Put a plate or bowl on top of your planet to protect it from the spray paint we are about to use.

Making the universe around the planet

Making the universe around the planet
Making the universe around the planet | Source

Spray paint around the planet

With a darker color, spray paint gently around the planet. Be very careful not to aim the spray directly at the plate or bowl. You need to make sure that no paint gets underneath the bowl and that it does not pool next to the bowl. These mistakes will result in an ugly mess. Be gentle and use only the minimum amount of spray paint needed to surround the bowl.

Surrounding the planet

Surrounding the planet
Surrounding the planet | Source

Expanding the spray paint universe

Gently spray your dark color in concentric circles around your planet. Get wider and wider. Avoid applying so much paint that it drips in any one area.

Careful with the edges!

Careful with the edges!
Careful with the edges! | Source

Adding a bit of light behind the planet

If desired, add a little big of white right next to the darkest area of the planets shadow. This will help it to look even more real. Be very gentle and careful so that you do not get any dripping.

Adding some light behind the planet

Adding some light behind the planet
Adding some light behind the planet | Source

Careful with that bowl!

Be very careful how you remove the plate. If there is wet paint on it, it could slip. If you struggle with this step, place a folded piece of duct tape on the top of your plates and bowls. You can use this as a handle.

Removing the plates

Removing the plates
Removing the plates | Source

Your Spray paint art planet!

And there it is! You have done your first spray paint art planet! Show it to your friends and enjoy!

Spray Paint Art Planets!

Spray Paint Art Planets!
Spray Paint Art Planets! | Source

Learn Spray Paint Art

Want to do it?

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New Directions in Spray Paint Art

The next step is to start using color in your cosmic scenes. Here are more spray paint art paintings that will inspire you to learn more.

Pyramids are a great next step for beginners. Pyramids are made by using the corner of a piece of poster board. Create a texture. Let it dry. Place the paper corner over your texture and spray around it in the same way you did when you were creating a planet. Then use the edge of the paper to create a shadow by spraying a bit of black all along the edge.

Spray Paint Art Pyramids

Monochrome spray paintings

For some reason monochrome spray paint art seems to sell really well. I don't know why that is, but it certainly simplifies things. Painting with just a few colors makes life really easy. Try adding one other color such as green or blue to your black and white paintings. Then you can expand into two additional colors. For example yellow, red, black and white. This is a great way to expand your skills.

Monochrome Spray Paintings

Ruben Melody, green spray paint art
Ruben Melody, green spray paint art | Source
Gerardo Amor, Red spray paint art painting
Gerardo Amor, Red spray paint art painting | Source
Gerardo Amor, black and white spray paint art
Gerardo Amor, black and white spray paint art | Source

Spray Paint Art Poll

Have you ever seen a spray paint artist painting live?

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Spray Paint Art Galaxy

Alisa Amor and Paloma Coronado spent hours and hours comparing notes in an attempt to create the defining spray paint art galaxy. Here are a few of their discoveries. Most galaxy techniques utilize a sponge or piece of foam to apply or remove the paint.

Spray Paint Art Galaxy

Paloma Coronado, spray paint art galaxy
Paloma Coronado, spray paint art galaxy | Source
Alisa Amor spray paint art galaxy
Alisa Amor spray paint art galaxy | Source
Alisa Amor, spray paint art galaxy
Alisa Amor, spray paint art galaxy | Source

Spray Paint Art Waterfall Paintings

There are many ways to create waterfalls. The techniques used by Mexican spray paint artists are quite different from the direction that the United States artists took. Mexican artists generally apply blue and white and drag it with a newspaper. Spray paint artists from the US tend to apply the paint with a torn piece of paper and then add white spray to represent foam. Here are a few variations on both techniques.

Waterfall paintings in spray paint art

Waterfall painting by Alisa Amor
Waterfall painting by Alisa Amor | Source
Waterfall painting by Ruben Melody
Waterfall painting by Ruben Melody | Source
Waterfall painting with planets by Alisa Amor
Waterfall painting with planets by Alisa Amor | Source

Spray Paint Art Secrets

I hope you have enjoyed this brief tour of the world of Mexican Spray Paint artists. If you would like to learn more, there are many free resources available at www.spraypaintartsecrets.com

The owner of that website, Alisa Amor, is happy to be a resource for developing spray paint artists. You can contact her with your comments and questions at spraypaintartsecrets@gmail.com

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    • helenstuart profile image

      Helen Stuart 2 years ago from Deep in the Heart of Texas

      thank you for being so generous with this information. The paintings are beautiful. It must have been amazing living in such a beautiful part of Mexico and exploring art with like minds. I am bookmarking this page. You are a wonderful artist.