28 painting prompts and actions: a free download to help you finish those stuck paintings

Recently I’ve had a few paintings lying around that just seem to defy completion.

Having tried all my usual tactics, I decided to create a kind of ‘art magic eight ball’ {magic art ball?!} situation for myself, as a way of attempting to bypass the stuckness and get in through the back door, so to speak.

I came up with 28 painting prompts and actions, loosely based on one of my most popular blog posts Of All Time.

I popped them into a grid, printed them out, chopped them up, and challenged myself to pick one at random and do it {unless it really was too awful/irrelevant/boring to contemplate, but the ‘rule’ was I had to give each one fair consideration}.

painting prompts

It’s been proving pretty useful – to date I’ve finished three paintings with it!

So I thought I’d share it with you, free of course, in case you ever have similar trouble. {I’m sure you never do. 😉 }

Simply click the button below to download the PDF, print it out, cut those puppies up, and away you go!


click here to download the painting prompts pdf


I thought it might also be worth expanding on some of the prompts, since they can be interpreted more widely than would fit in my neat boxes. So here are some extra ideas:

  • Cover up one thing: this could be with the commitment of paint or the tentativeness of collage papers; I find even using my hand sometimes helps see what to do
  • Scratch into the wet paint: with the end of the brush, a fork, twigs made into a ‘brush’ – whatever you can think of
  • Wipe, wash or sand off half: if you’re working on canvas/wood panel with acrylics you can literally take it to the sink and scrub some off with a scratchy sponge, even if it’s dry
  • Add text or handwriting: scratch words into the paint, stick collaged text down, write out your feelings and cover them over with more paint, try hand lettering
  • Use an unusual tool for mark making: something from the garden or kitchen is often good
  • Take a photo and check it on the screen: can really help make anything not quite right jump out, and you can also run it through apps to make it black and white to check values, or to try out different layering ideas {eg. Diana app}
  • Use tape to mask off an area: this could be stripes, shapes, zig zags, a frame, whatever you can make with tape!
  • Look at it alongside others: then they can talk to each other, give each other ideas, or show you what’s not quite working

You may find that just printing out and cutting up the prompts gives you ideas for more, so you can always add to the collection with ideas specific to your needs.

Finally, consider that the painting in question might already be finished, and just hasn’t told you yet.

Let me know in the comments how many paintings you get finished. 😉