Abstract Acrylic Tray Tutorial

VeryCreate.com acrylic tray final smaller

I have compiled all my thoughts and notes into an amazing abstract acrylic tray tutorial.

I wanted an abstract look that mimicked the hot acrylic pour trend without the mess and extra supplies.

I hope you love it and please let me know what you think!


Wooden tray, paint for base coat and brush OR spray paint, several small liquid acrylic craft colors, paper cups or disposable condiment bowls for mixing, spray bottle with water, stir sticks or popsicle sticks, acrylic varnish, blue painter’s tape.

Total working time

AFTER the base coat is dry, about 10 minutes!


This easy-to-do abstract art serving tray is so beautiful!  There are no unusual products or chemical additives needed to get this trendy and modern look.

You can repurpose a tray you have around the house, or try hitting up the second hand stores.  I tried all of the above and came up with a big zero. So I bought this set of trays online. I never thought I’d use all of them, but I surprised myself with how much I love them and how useful they are.  I use them to hold a drink while I’m lounging on the couch, hold my makeup in the bathroom, as a decorative accessory on my sideboard and of course, to serve snacks and drinks.

Multicraft Imports WS410 5-Piece Paintable Wooden Trays with Handles

VeryCreate.com acrylic tray wooden with no paint

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Step One: Preparation

No matter what kind of tray you are going to paint, the first step is to give it a light sanding with fine grit sandpaper.  This ensures that the paint will adhere to your tray surface.

Wipe off all the sanded dust particles with a damp rag or a tack cloth.

Apply a sealer or base coat sealer combination in your choice of color.  I used Rustoleum brand primer and sealer but you can use whatever you have on hand.  Just make sure that you spray outside: I gassed myself doing it in the garage, even though I thought I was being so careful. So NOT good for your lungs!!

It sure was fast though!  It took about 5 minutes to give a light coat of primer/sealer. (If you hand paint your tray with a base coat of craft acrylic paint, you only need to wait about half and hour to let the paint dry. Then you can get started on step two.  Spray paint saves time in application, but takes longer to dry because it’s too smelly to bring in the house to dry…at least in the damp Pacific Northwest where I live!)

VeryCreate.com acrylic tray rustoleum

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Step Two: Tape Off

After the base coat sealer is thoroughly dry ( I waited to the next day, just to be sure), tape off the areas you do not want to be painted in the new abstract colors.  Here, I taped off the raised border edges of the tray and handle areas. On the inside of the raised rim bring the tape ALMOST to the floor of the tray, so that it has a scant gap to the floor.

Like this:

Step Three: Prepare The Paint

Assemble your paints, a spray bottle with tap water, a few cheap paint brushes or popsicle sticks for stirring, paper cups or condiment bowls and a few paper towels.  

I selected budget priced craft acrylic paint from Michaels:  

Craftsmart brand:  Pool Blue, Robins Egg Blue, Royal Blue, Radiant Gold and White.

The next steps literally take less than 10 minutes to create.  (Well, you DO have to wait a few days while it dries before you varnish it, so plan ahead if you are gifting your tray creation)

Pour a couple of squirts of a single color of paint into a paper cup or paper condiment bowl  and stir in about a teaspoon of water. Mix well with brush or popsicle stick. You want it thinner than what came out of the bottle, but not as runny as ink.  Do the same for each color you plan on using with the exception of gold.

VeryCreate.com acrylic tray with masking tape before paint

Step Four:  Puddle On The Colors

Start laying down colors by pouring into the tray bottom as you wish, trying to get them close enough to touch and having varying depth of puddles.  Don’t make any one color too deep. The idea is to cover the tray bottom well, but not with fat, deep puddles.

Now give a random squirt of gold paint scribbles straight out of the bottle.  

VeryCreate.com acrylic tray puddles white


VeryCreate.com acrylic tray puddles

Step Five:  Tilt And Spray

Here’s where the surprises and the magic happen!

Tilt the tray in various directions and watch the colors start to intermingle.  Use a small brush or popsicle stick to nudge together colors that aren’t touching yet so that there isn’t any bare spots showing on the tray bottom.  

The next part is the best!  Using a spray bottle, spray a couple of spritzes of water into the tray and watch the colors morph and move.   You can tilt some more until you get a pattern you like, or spray again and keep tilting.

VeryCreate.com acrylic tray with masking tape

The idea is to release control and let the paint blend and move as it will.  You can give it another spritz or two, but don’t let the water dilute the paint too much or it won’t set up or dry well.  You can monitor it and see if it is starting to look inky in consistency and stop yourself from spritzing any further.

Some puddles will be less thick than others. That’s ok.

Stop yourself from being a control freak here.  Ya gotta be ok with letting the paint move and do it’s thing because there is freedom and beauty in allowing it be what it’s going to be.

Hmmm, that’s got life applications in lots of areas. And it’s a famous song too….L.O.L.

Here are some close-ups of what mine evolved into:

VeryCreate.com acrylic tray close up 2

VeryCreate.com acrylic tray close up 1

Step Six:  Let It Be, Baby!

Set the tray somewhere safe on a level surface where it won’t get stuff dropping on or into it.   Mine took two days to dry.

After it is thoroughly dry, (it should not feel dramatically cold to the touch or tacky)  remove the tape and varnish the entire tray with a glossy acrylic varnish for a shiny glassy look.   Or use a matte varnish for a muted waxed look.

If you plan to use your tray to serve glasses, I would give it two more coats of varnish, letting it dry for about 6 hours between coats.

I LOVE how it turned out. Sort of like marble, sort of like modern art, sort of like a galaxy photograph from outer space.

Voila, enjoy your new creation!  A beautiful modern high end look for a budget price and no extra materials needed!  

Now go experiment with several of your trays using different color combinations.  How about a navy blue tray with neon paint colors for that new high school graduate?

Or pastel colors for spring decor?

Or brown, lime green and orange for a Mid-Century Modern retro look?  

Or sprinkle on some pink glitter while it’s wet for a girl’s glam bedroom?

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I hope you are enjoying this article! I really care a lot that you find what you are looking for. There are so many ways to go about creating and my goal is to help you. Thank you again for reading!

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