How To Paint On A Black Canvas For Beginners (Create Astonishing Artworks!) (2024)

When you picture a painting canvas, you probably imagine a crisp, white canvas ready to be covered in all kinds of vibrant art and color.

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However, painting on a black canvas instead is a severely underappreciated alternative, and actually changes your artwork in ways you could never expect!

How To Paint On A Black Canvas For Beginners (Create Astonishing Artworks!) (1)

By painting on a solid black background, it changes the way that your artwork feels, bringing a whole new sense of scope and power to it.

When it comes to finding a black canvas, you can either find one at your nearest art store, or you can do it yourself by painting a white canvas solid black.

This takes a little more effort, and you need to ensure that your painting is even and flat, but it adds a bit more of a personal touch to the subsequent art that you’re going to make on it!

In our handy guide below, we’re going to explain how you can paint on a black canvas, as well as highlight the way it transforms the feel of your art.

Additionally, we’ll give you advice on what type of artwork looks best on a solid black canvas, as well as plenty of other useful tips. Read on – and transform your artwork!

Why Should You Paint On A Black Canvas?

White is pretty much the default color of canvas, and the one that you’ll find most artwork painted on.

However, as beautiful as the worlds have proved for centuries and centuries, it’s well worth doing some of your art on a black canvas instead.

You see, it’s much more than a difference in color, because it totally changes the feeling of the art.

How? Well, for a start it makes your art a lot more dramatic and powerful. If you picture a beautiful hillside scene painted on a white canvas, with the blue sky above and the sun shining, it would look quite serene.

However, if you paint that on a black canvas instead, the hillside now feels different. It feels larger, more impactful, more important, and more striking.

Both options are great, but the art on a black canvas will likely have viewers stopping a moment longer. After all, since so few paint on black canvases, the results are still totally fresh and surprising to audiences.

Additionally, the overwhelming black can be used for different tricks in your paintings. For example, you could use it to act as, or seamlessly blend into, your night sky.

On the other hand, the black canvas can act as a shadow, and you can gently fuzz the black so it looks like your artwork’s characters are slowly disappearing into the shadow.

What Types Of Art Work Best On A Black Canvas?

You might be wondering what types of artwork work best on a black canvas. Though all types of artwork will take on a totally different feeling thanks to the black background, we feel that the best suited types are portraits, flowers, and nightscapes.

On top of that, they’re also a brilliant for for unsettling or spooky paintings, where you’re trying to create an atmosphere of discomfort and mystery.

Whatever type of painting you usually do, hopefully at least one of them comes under the following categories. And if it doesn’t? Well, you can learn a new type of painting!


How To Paint On A Black Canvas For Beginners (Create Astonishing Artworks!) (2)

The reason that portraits work well on a black canvas is that they help to focus attention onto the subject of your painting! Subject is key for a portrait, because you’re bringing out the unique quirks and appearance of a person.

However, when a portrait has a white background, it’s easy to get distracted by it, and stray from the subject. Not so with a black canvas!

The absence of color forces eyes onto the portrait, which now also gains some power thanks to its surroundings.


There are plenty of gorgeous paintings of flowers on white canvas, and all their bright and vibrant colors really pop on them.

With that being said, a black canvas helps the colors pop that little bit more, because the contrast between color and black is so striking and different.

On top of that, the black can help you work shadows into your flowers for added depth.


As you can imagine, nightscapes are a perfect fit for painting on a black canvas, because the overwhelming black will already look like the night sky.

However, this can actually have an adverse effect and make your nightscape look flat, so it’s important to adjust that.

A great way to liven it up again is by adding deep, strong bits of blue to the black, because it’ll give it some incredibly subtle variation and texture.

Unsettling Paintings

Finally, a black canvas is great for setting the mood of an unsettling, spooky painting.

If you’re trying to create a piece that’s properly unnerving, a white canvas can dismantle the whole creepiness, so it’s a good idea to use a black one.

Darkness and shadows are always associated with creepiness, and there’ll be plenty of hidden threats in your paintings!

How Do You Paint On A Black Canvas With Dark Colors?

We mentioned with the last section’s part about nightscapes that you can add some shades of dark blue that will help to give the darkness some texture and depth, stopping the painting from feeling flat.

This may seem like an easy enough idea, but how do you actually add dark colors onto a black canvas? After all, dark on dark is going to be no simple combination.

However, don’t be discouraged! You don’t want to miss out on brilliant dark colors like brown or purple, and you don’t have to if you use the right methods.

Subtle Hints Of Darkness

If you only want to add subtle hints of other dark colors to your black canva, then you can do so easily. Simply build the layers of paint, adding more and more layers of your dark shade until it’s appropriately visible against the black.

Adding hints like this is a great idea, because it can add real subtlety and detail to your artwork. Rather than overwhelming it in dark colors that aren’t black, you can add only hints, which will stand out more to audiences because of their scarcity.

On top of that, they’ll almost act like optical illusions, with viewers unsure whether they’re actually seeing those shades – or whether it’s just the b;ack canvas playing tricks on them!

Making Darkness Pop

On the other hand, you might want to take the opposite approach and have your dark colors really popping on the black canvas, clear and noticeable. Thankfully, you can do this quite easily, by using a simple trick.

All you need to do is paint a layer or opaque (or partly opaque) paint on the required area, then paint your dark color on top of it.

The base layer of opaque paint will help bring out the dark color that’s covering it, making the color pop and really stand out against the black canvas.

Of course, you need to remember that the transparency of your darker color will affect how much the opaque color you’re using underneath makes it pop.

As a result, it’s a good idea to play around with your under-colors a bit, seeing what makes which over-colors pop best and then using them in your painting.

Another key thing to keep in mind is that each paint company has different ideas of opaqueness. As a result, one from one brand is likely not going to be the same level of opaqueness as another, even if they’ve been described as the same level.

Liquitex Basics is a popular company when it comes to paints, and they have a great range of opaque or semi-opaque colors for you to use that will help bring out dark colors on your black canvas.

Some of the best of these colors include Naples Yellow Hue, Titanium White, Red Oxide, and their Cobalt Blue Hue.

Thick Layers

How To Paint On A Black Canvas For Beginners (Create Astonishing Artworks!) (3)

Finally, you could also apply your dark color to the black canvas by doing it as a thick layer of paint. This will naturally make it more noticeable, but it comes with its own things to keep in mind.

For one, the thick layer will take longer to dry than other layers, so you need to factor that into your painting process.

Additionally, the thick layer may add a different texture to the relevant part of your painting. If you’re trying to get a consistent, different texture going for the whole painting, then a thick layer could throw your aesthetic off.

How Can You Use Black Paint On A Black Canvas?

We’ve just talked all about using dark colors on a black canvas, but what about using the darkest color of all: black? Is it possible to use black paint on a black canvas, or will it just prove invisible?

You’ll be glad to know that it’s possible! However, it takes a bit of effort, and you’ll need to add other features and details in your painting in order to bring the black paint out.

Use Contrasting Dark Colors

One way to make your black paint visible on a black canvas is by contrasting it with similar dark colors.

By doing this, the dark (but less dark than black) colors will help to highlight the black parts, accentuating them and allowing them to stand out much more than if the black was just surrounded by black.

If that were the case, it would be very hard to differentiate between any of the objects in the painting!

To use an example, imagine that you’re painting a city skyline at night, with the silhouettes of the skyscrapers and houses cast against the night sky.

Now, you might wonder how you’re going to do that, because the night sky should be black and the silhouettes should be black. Well, you substitute one for a different dark color!

For example, you paint the night sky in a dark blue instead, and then do the city skyline in black. The city then stands out against the night sky, which is still clearly night, and you’re got an atmospheric, clear picture.

Using Light

Another way to use black paint on black canvas is by adding a source of light to your painting.

Though you may not have thought of having a light source in your painting originally, it will allow you to add specific detail of light to the black paint, illuminating chosen parts of the painting and helping them stand out.

Imagine you’re painting a picture of a black panther on your black canvas. How is the animal going to stand out against the background? By adding a source of light!

Simply pick what direction the light would be coming from in the painting, then add details of illumination onto the black panther that match up with the direction.

Make sure to keep the direction consistent! A good way to do this is by adding some watercolor pencil where the further light would be on the panther, because then you’ll know anything in the space would have some form of light.

Using Different Shades Of Black

Finally, you can make your black paint stand out on black canvas by using different shades of black. This will not only help to make your black be clear against the black background, but it also adds texture and depth to the painting!

For example, imagine you’re continuing the painting of the black panther. You can help different parts of it stand out by using different shades of black.

For instance, one part of their fur may be lighter black, while another is darker. By the end, you’ll have a clearer and more authentic piece!

Final Thoughts

White canvases are great, but a black canvas can bring so much to a painting! They change the atmosphere and feel of your work, and various painting types work with them.

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Liz Miller

Hi, I’m Liz Miller and I am a professional seamstress, and have been improving my sewing and embroidery skills for over 15 years.

Now, I personalize, embroider, monogram, and mend items. I also run my own sewing classes for beginners and intermediate sewists.

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How To Paint On A Black Canvas For Beginners (Create Astonishing Artworks!) (2024)


What looks good on a black canvas? ›

Colors also interact interestingly on a black canvas. Colors like Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue will stand out if mixed with a little Titanium white. They create beautiful mixed colors that would shine much, much more than on a typical white canvas.

What paint works on black canvas? ›

You can choose any colors that you'd like, I would just recommend that they be opaque. Anything with shine, metallics, or even color shifting paint would look AMAZING on a black canvas.

Will acrylic paint show up on black canvas? ›

Acrylic paint colors will vary in their level of opacity. Some will show up nice, bright and solid against a dark background. Others will be very “see through” and will barely show up against the black.

Why do artists use black canvas? ›

Contrast and Vibrancy: A black canvas is a compelling choice to make your colours burst forth. Against the dark backdrop, bright hues become more intense, creating a visually striking and dynamic composition. Atmosphere and Mood: Harness the emotive potential of a black canvas.

Can you put white acrylic paint over black? ›

Yes, you can work dark to light with acrylics in the same manner as you can with oils. Sometimes you may have to apply the paint a bit thicker but my preferred method is to use glazing techniques . I apply titanium white , let it dry and glaze the lighter colour over the top.

What pencil to use on black canvas? ›

I suggest using a white pencil. The contrast against the black canvas will help you to see the outline better.

What is black gesso? ›

​"Black gesso is a type of primer or base coat used in painting. It is a water-based acrylic paint that contains pigment and a binder, typically made from a combination of acrylic polymer, calcium carbonate, and water. It can be used to uncoat and prepare canvas and surfaces for both for Acrylic and Oils Paints.

How to paint a canvas for beginners? ›

Our Top 10 Tips for Painting on Canvas
  1. Angle Your Canvas To Paint Comfortably. ...
  2. Take Advantage of Canvas Wedges. ...
  3. Sketch Your Image or Underpaint. ...
  4. Lay Out Your Supplies Before You Get Started. ...
  5. Use Paintbrushes With Firm, Tough Bristles. ...
  6. Start With a Toned Canvas To Add a Unique Quality. ...
  7. Get Creative With Solvents and Mediums.
Aug 19, 2021

What to paint on a black background? ›

White or silver looks great, it really pops out against the dark background and shows up well. Other metallic colours may work on the black paper, but white or silver are definitely the best colours to use. What is the best art medium to paint/draw bright colours on a black background?

Are black canvases good? ›

Black canvases are a great tool for experimenting with different colored grounds, backgrounds, and contouring styles. Paint really pops against a black canvas, and the dark ground inspires different approaches to highlights and shadows.

Why do artists avoid using black? ›

Some artists don't like it because it's too heavy and dominant. Colours are seen when we view particular wavelengths of light, whereas black is an absence of light. It's fundamentally different than other colours in the palette.

What does gessoing a canvas do? ›

Gesso can be used to protect and enhance surfaces such as canvas, paper, wood and board -making them less absorbent and smoother. If you plan to use oil or acrylic paints on any absorbent surface, you should apply gesso before doing so.

Which color works best on canvas? ›

Two of the most commonly used paints for canvas art are oil and acrylic paint. Acrylic comes in as an all-time favourite with its favourable qualities; it's easy to work with and dries quickly. Oil paint is another winner with its thick, gluey consistency it is the perfect paint recipe paired beautifully with canvas.

Which colours are best on canvas? ›

Oil paint – This robust material is perfect for canvas painting, as it's heaviness will thrive on a stronger surface. Acrylic paint – A popular option for canvas painting, acrylics are the ideal choice. Gouache – With qualities of both acrylic and oil pain, gouache can be used on canvas.

How do you cover black on canvas? ›

There's only one technique if you want to cover the black, and that's to add two coatings of wall primer or gesso for canvas or board. You have to block the paint to do anything over it.

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