Acrylic Painting Tutorials Using A Black Canvas

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!

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 opaque paints (I’ll explain below) against a solid black surface. 

Galaxy Falls On Black Canvas

Here’s a list of canvas painting tutorials that use a black canvas. For more tips, scroll down further:

List Of Black Canvas Paintings

If you click around my website, you may notice that I use a blank black canvas often. I have decided to compile a list of all of them below.


Below are 5 tips for painting 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”, 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 solid white surface (as you can see a lot of black is still showing through on the pumpkin). This 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. 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? You can do either or.

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. 

You can buy canvases that already have black gesso on them!

If you don’t have a black canvas you can always use black gesso over an already white gesso canvas. 

You can buy black gesso and prime your canvas black.

You can also just use black acrylic paint to prime your canvas black. I recommend finding a matte acrylic paint or even use the Apple Barrel Black paint which dries in a matte sheen. 

You can buy a black “matte” acrylic paint and use that to paint your canvas black.

You can use an economical black paint that will dry in a matte sheen to paint your canvas black.

Tip #5 Use White Transfer Paper

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.

Draw the main features of your painting with white chalk on a black canvas.



In Summary

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! 

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