How to Draw Psychedelic Art (Explained for Beginners)

Peter Max, an artist who has become the poster child for the psychedelic graphic art of the 1960s, is a great source for learning how to draw psychedelic art. 

Through his psychedelic shapes, splashes, and bursts of bright colors, rainbows, stars, and odd-looking figures that shone under a black light, Max introduced poster art into the era.

It is clear that Max got his inspiration from the Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine, even if the producers deny Max’s claim.

What Is Psychedelic Art?

From the late 1960s, psychedelic art encompassed all forms of art that presented an incredibly graphic, visual representation of the inner world of the psyche. 

Consequently, art that appeared to resemble the experiences and hallucinations common to those who consumed psychedelic drugs like LSD, psilocybin, and other psychoactive substances was regarded as “psychedelic”.

Humphry Osmond, a British psychologist who extensively worked with psychedelic drugs, coined the term “psychedelic”. 

As Osmond explains, the term was used to describe a type of “mind manifestation” that occurs after consuming drugs, as well as the emotions one feels after viewing psychedelic artworks.

Psychoactive substances, like psychedelics, are also derived from the Greek words “psych*” that mean “soul” and “d*loun” that mean “reveal.”

Psychedelic Aesthetic

The name of the genre, Psychedelic Art, also refers to the drugs that were popular among youth culture at the height of the movement. 

As they were believed to depict the inner workings of the brain, psychedelic art featured exceptionally distorted and almost surreal qualities through the use of excessive color.

During the Psychedelic Art period, different types of creative media as well as artworks were considered. 

In addition to rock music, album covers, concert posters, murals, comic books, and liquid light shows, there were also video games and dance shows.

While the art pieces belonged to different worlds, they were united by their common attempt to create kaleidoscopic patterns of color evoking LSD-like effects.

Elements of Psychedelic Art

  • Meaningful themes
  • Spiritual concepts
  • Stylistic lettering
  • A spectrum of rainbow and bright colors
  • Fluorescent paints
  • Geometric & free-form shapes

Digital Psychedelic Art

Digital Psychedelic Art

Start by doodling and drawing elongated bubbles and shapes on your computer screen when you have a drawing stylus and pad connected to your computer.

These shapes wrap around each other, leaving only a small border between them in the process.

To add color and contrast, you can draw straight-lined rainbows, use multiple colors to create high-contrast effects, or simply draw some round-shaped mushrooms and write the word “peace” in fat, plump, but free-form lettering.

Think Kaleidoscope

Psychedelic art is similar to a child’s kaleidoscope that divides a single image into multiple pieces of color and light. 

You could compare psychedelic art to a stained glass window, which is almost a type of abstract art. There are bold lines that connect everything together, but the shapes and images are distinct, like the leads between the shards of multi-colored glass in a stained glass window.

When drawing the shapes on paper, use a ruler if necessary, then expand rays of light before painting each shape with a bright color. 

Alternatively, you can draw a silhouette of an object on the page, such as a parrot or butterfly, but fill the surrounding space with lines and shapes or keep the shapes confined to the butterfly’s wings. 

With a watercolor pen, acrylic paint, or colored pencil, draw lines through the parrot that break up its form into multiple shapes. Then add color to the shapes.

Geometric Shapes

With its variety of geometric shapes and spirals, psychedelic art draws inspiration from early 20th-century art deco posters. 

Geometric Shapes

Using your geometric shapes, fill the page with overlapped and sometimes merged shapes. Color the page in bright colors in any way you like, using all the colors on the color wheel.

Rock Stars

Posters of psychedelic art from the 1960s often featured icons of musicians and rock stars. On a piece of drawing paper or canvas, draw a pencil portrait of Doors front man Jim Morrison with his face facing forward. 

Make free-form shapes, light rays, stars, and more by painting in the hair and the space around his face with oil paints or acrylics.

Free-form Drawing

Free-form Drawing

If you like, you can draw free-form shapes, paisleys, stylistic letters, round mushrooms, or anything else that strikes your fancy. 

Draw what pleases you, and don’t be uptight about those images. 

With water colors, acrylics, oils, or pen and ink, you can color the shapes as you wish. 

Drawing psychedelic art is a no-fail endeavor. The meaning and beauty of art is entirely subjective.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1. Is psychedelic art popular?

This is a difficult question to answer because of the many different types of psychedelic art. The most popular form of psychedelic art is pop-surrealism which was created in the 1950s by Salvador Dali and Joan Miro.

Pop-surrealism has been around for a long time and has been experiencing a recent surge in popularity.

#2. Are psychedelics legal?

Psychedelics are legal, but there are some limitations. For example, if you are under the age of 18 or you use them for illegal purposes like selling drugs, they can be illegal.


There are many interesting things you can learn about Psychedelic Art. Psychedelic art continues to be popular today thanks to its fascinating psychedelic patterns, colors, designs, and subject matter.

While Psychedelic Art was a precursor to Pop Art, it continues to remain relevant in modern art history since many modern artists borrow elements from this influential arts movement.

Leave a Comment