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Computer-Generated Abstract Art (A Beginner's Guide)

I wanted to create some art, but I lacked the skill, time, and materials to make it. So I wrote computer programs that could do it for me.

Easy abstract art. It took less than 30 seconds to make.

Easy abstract art. It took less than 30 seconds to make.

What Is Abstract Art?

In art, realism attempts to represent real subjects. The artist paints what they see. So it looks like something. Abstract paintings are often based on thoughts and feelings. So they may look like the artist randomly flung paint onto a canvas or used random brush strokes.

Is it good or bad? Free-form art is very subjective. Some people will think it is bad and other people may think it is great. Don't try to please everyone. You could attempt to paint a feeling or you could randomly splatter paint onto a canvas.

After receiving a lot of money to create abstract art, a well known artist can get away with sending a blank canvas to a museum. Take the Money and Run is a famous and very expensive blank canvas that is on display in a museum. As a beginner, focus on making images that looks good to you and your target audience.

I am not an expert. I am a computer programmer that was looking for easy ways to make abstract art.

Abstract Art Ideas for Beginners

Below you will find a list of ideas I came up with when I was attempting to create abstract and semi-abstract art using computer-generated imagery. I used them to create the pictures on this page.

  1. Create random lines or brush strokes.
  2. Randomly splatter paint on a canvas to create a colorful painting.
  3. Liquify a photo using fluid simulation. Then randomly splatter the colors.
  4. Liquify a picture using fluid simulation. Then stir it.
  5. Remake a photograph using thick semi-random lines and don't finish it.
  6. Blur a photo, then make a painting based on the blurry image.
  7. Make an unrealistic oil painting using a wide paint brush.
  8. Paint a picture with the wrong colors.
  9. Pixelate or distort an image to soften the edges so objects blend together.
  10. Use AI style transfer to remake a picture in the style of an abstract painting.
  11. Make a scribble line drawing using semi-random lines.
  12. Draw a face using dots, circles or text characters.

Computer Generated Images

Digital artists often draw or paint using a pen and a drawing tablet. You might try to draw from memory or use a reference photo. It can be harder than traditional art, especially if you are using a phone and your fingers, or a computer mouse.

The easiest way to create art is to press some buttons. I wrote computer programs to turn photographs into realistic drawings and paintings. When converting a picture, the goal is to reduce the realism. Reduce the realism enough and it becomes abstract.

AI style transfer allows you to remake the first image using colors and patterns from the second. Load a subject and a style picture. Then press a button. It is good for making surreal semi-abstract art. I like taking photos of ordinary objects and using them for the style.

You don't need to draw or paint and it can look like traditional handmade art.

Photo to abstract realism art using AI style transfer.

Photo to abstract realism art using AI style transfer.

Liquid Paint

Abstract painters often create their masterpieces by dripping, flicking or splattering paint onto a canvas. My favorite free-form paintings are colorful and chaotic. Looking at the colors makes me feel something. The random or seemingly random patterns make it unique and interesting.

Flicking paint onto a canvas reduces the amount of precision or control. Giving up control allows you to create unique paintings.

Random Brush Strokes

An easy way to create simple abstract paintings is to start making thick lines or brush strokes and see what you end up with. You can do it in a paint program. Select a color and create a random line by moving your hand. Don't think about it, just do it. Keep making lines until the artwork looks good to you.

It should not be completely random. Choose the colors you want to work with, have an intention, relax and move your brush across the canvas. Don't over think it. Try to go with the flow. Like swinging a golf club, you tend to get better results when you stop trying to consciously control everything.

Fluid Simulation

A fluid simulation app allows you to simulate wet liquid paint. Create random splatters and it is like you are randomly flinging paint onto a canvas. Quickly create a dozen simple abstract paintings and two or three of them may look amazing.

Options like velocity diffusion, pressure, splat radius and pause give you more control over the results. Experiment to see what happens. I got better results by pausing it, creating 4 to 15 random splats and then unpausing it for a second or two.

You can also liquify a photo. Pick an image that contains the colors you want to use in your painting. Then stir it around using a computer mouse or your finger. Change it a little to make a photo look like a realistic oil painting or turn it into a completely different image.

I used semi-random strokes and paint splatters to create good looking abstract paintings.

Random abstract painting. Created by pressing a button.

Random abstract painting. Created by pressing a button.

Semi-Abstract Art

Coming up with ideas, making the abstract art and judging the results is easier when it is inspired by something you have seen before. Semi-abstract art is loosely based on reality. Instead of making random images or trying to paint a thought, you could paint an animal or a castle.

Start with a real image. Then make a bizarre, unrealistic copy. Experiment and try new things. I tried using thick lines with my drawing program. Instead of looking like a realistic sketch it looked like a semi-abstract painting.

Ordinary to Extraordinary

I like creating semi-abstract art because it allows me to turn old ordinary photos into extraordinary ones. A boring selfie can be turned into a strange, captivating image. There are lots of ways to make an unrealistic version of a picture.

Ordinary images are common, like a swan amongst 50 other swans. Strange, unique pictures are interesting and captivating. They stand out. The image below was based on a photo of my dog in snow.

Semi-abstract art. Colored line drawing using thick lines.

Semi-abstract art. Colored line drawing using thick lines.

Understanding or Enjoying Abstract Art

As an amateur, I think it looks more impressive when the artist attempts to represent real subjects in an unrealistic way. If the abstract artwork contains the pattern of a dog, an owl or a horse, then I am probably going to like it. If it is based on a feeling or thought the artist had and it does not look like anything to me, then I may not get it.

I was interested in learning how to make abstract art because it is popular and some artists are getting rich. When I did a Google search I noticed that most of the paintings look bad to me because I did not understand them. Why did the artist paint a big red rectangle beside three orange squares and why do some people think it is worth a lot of money?

Even when I am making a random painting, I like to see patterns. In my mind, the first image kind of looks like something. It has eyes, ears and a mouth. People that don't get nonrepresentational paintings are more likely to prefer images that contain recognizable patterns.

For art critics and other people that study it, great abstract art has meaning. They want to understand the artwork. So it does not need to be visually appealing. The colors could be dull and the patterns can be very simplistic. Other people want to enjoy the effect. It is good if it is beautiful or captivating.

Making a visually pleasing effect is easier but meaningful art can be worth more if the right people see it.

Photo to random abstract painting. Loaded a photo and pressed a button 6 times.

Photo to random abstract painting. Loaded a photo and pressed a button 6 times.

My Results

Making a good nonrepresentational painting was difficult. Creating great abstract realism or semi-abstract art from a photo was easy. Now that I can use fluid simulation to quickly make simple abstract art, it is as easy as pressing buttons. I like that it does not need to be based on an interesting scene or image.

Experiment with making abstract and semi-abstract art. You may not be able create a masterpiece and sell it for a million dollars but you should be able to create some captivating images. Post them online and they will show up when people search for abstract art. You might be able to sell them as NFTs.

Keeping with the theme of being easy, I recommend doing it as digital art. Make lots of paintings and save the best ones. You don't need to buy paint, you will not make a big mess and a computer program can do most of the work for you. Since they are already on your computer you don't need to scan them.

Using a fluid effect was fun but the lack of rules and instructions meant I could do whatever I wanted. It was a little overwhelming. There were too many options and no way to tell if I could do better. So I did not know when to stop trying.

The hard part is deciding what you like and picking out the best ones. You may also want to name or describe your artwork.

A very simple digital abstract painting based on a selfie.

A very simple digital abstract painting based on a selfie.

Using a computer mouse and a random splats button, I created an unrealistic copy.

Using a computer mouse and a random splats button, I created an unrealistic copy.


  • How to Make AI-Generated Art With Style Transfer
    Create non-photorealistic images by combining the subject of the first picture with the style of the second. Making AI-generated art is fun, and the results are impressive and interesting to look at.
  • How to Convert a Photo to Scribble Line Drawing Art
    Learn how to create interesting sketches and drawings that stand out. Making pictures with thin visible lines can give you some interesting results. Draw them yourself or turn an image into line art using a computer program.
  • How to Make Abstract Art From a Photo
    Abstract art often looks like it would be easy to make. You look at a painting and think,
  • How to Make Digital Art Look Traditional
    Does it look like you used the latest app with virtual paint brushes and virtual pencils? Sometimes you want your digital art to look handmade or vintage. Learn how to make art on your computer that looks traditional.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Michael H