Tips For Using A Black Canvas
If you’ve never painted on a black pre-primed canvas surface before, it may seem a little out of your comfort zone.
I get a lot of questions from beginner painters regarding this concept.
Do I buy a black canvas? How do I make my colors show up bright?
Painting on a black canvas is actually very easy and can yield some super stunning paintings!
You don’t have to paint very many details in the background. Often times this makes black canvas paintings simpler and less time consuming.
Also, when you paint on a black surface, you can easily create some stellar contrast!
That means your painting “pops” and looks “eye catching” simply because you used, bright colored opaque paints (I’ll explain below) against a solid black surface.
6 tips for painting eye catching paintings on a black canvas:
Tip #1 Use Opaque Paints
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.
One way to find out whether a paint shows up “opaque”or “translucent” is to test it out yourself! Simply make little strokes of paint on your black canvas to see how it shows up.
Another way you can learn about the opacity of a color is looking at the tube of paint.
There might be a symbol on the paint bottle that will tell you whether the color is translucent or not.
The Liquitex brand uses these square symbols and here is what they mean:
Tip #2 Paint A Layer of Titanium White First
If you want to use a color that is labeled as “translucent” (or you’re just not sure if it is opaque or see-through), you can try painting a layer of white on the black surface first.
I did this with my Pumpkin Harvest Moon Painting.
You don’t necessarily need to paint a 100% thick and solid white surface (as you can see a lot of black is still showing through on the pumpkin).
Allowing some black to still show through helps create some depth and texture with the painting.
You can see with the final results of this painting that those black lines that I left alone make it look like the pumpkin is bumpy.
Also the brightest part of the painting (the moon) shows up bright because the first layer was painted solid titanium white.
Tip #3 Double Load Your Brush With Titanium White
Titanium white is a 100% opaque color. If you don’t want to experiment with whether a color will look opaque or transluscent, I recommend simply “double loading” your brush in titanium white.
That means add both white and the color to the brush and paint on your surface.
You’ll get a bright opaque color that looks almost pastel-like because the white will blend with your color. I did this with my Black Canvas Cactus Painting.
However, if you don’t want the color to look “pastel like” then I recommend painting the area white first and then applying the color after the white dries.
Tip #4 You Can Use An Already Painted Black Canvas Or Paint A Canvas Black Yourself!
This is one of the most common questions I get from beginners regarding black canvas paintings.
Do I buy a canvas that is already black or do I paint a white canvas black? Both ways work the same!
They sell canvases that are already primed with black. Typically the manufacturer will use a black gesso instead of a white gesso to “prime” these canvases.
I think they may be a few dollars more than the white canvases but you’ll skip having to paint your canvas black.
If you don’t have a black canvas you can always paint one black using black gesso or matte black acrylic paint.
You can find a black acrylic paint that is specifically labeled “matte”. Or, my favorite method is to use the Apple Barrel Black because it dries in the matte sheen and flows very nicely to cover an entire canvas.
Why the matte sheen? The matte will allow your colors to pop a bit more especially if you use acrylic paints that have a semi-gloss sheen.
Tip #5 Use White Transfer Paper Or Chalk
If you’re working with a design that may require a traceable but you are using a black canvas, the gray graphite paper may not show up.
They make a white graphite paper that will allow you to transfer a traceable right onto the black surface.
You can also use chalk to draw the layout on your painting. Chalk will erase with wet water or if you paint over it.
Tip #6 Use Paint Pens
Water based and oil based paint pens usually show up nicely against a black surface.
I love the POSCA paint pens! You can get these on Amazon in a variety of different colors.
They are very opaque and will show up bright on the canvas. I did the circles of my bubble painting with white paint pens.
Painting on a black canvas is so much fun!
It always yields stunning results because you can play around with the acrylics to make them show up opaque and bright against the dark background!
I encourage you to try a black canvas painting if you’ve never done one before!