How to Make a Black Background on a Canvas Painting

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Things You'll Need

  • Primed canvas

  • Pencil

  • Black gesso

  • Large paintbrush

  • Fine sandpaper

  • Black oil or acrylic paint, depending on what medium you are using

  • Medium paintbrush

Black paint can replace white gesso when priming a canvas.

Snow white canvas traditionally has been used when beginning a painting, with colors layered on top. However, if you want to try a new method, using the opposite color for your background can add depth to your painting. Black backgrounds are easy to create on a blank canvas, in just a few simple steps.


Step 1

Draw an outline of the area where you desire a black background, if you don't want it to cover the entire canvas.

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Step 2

If you want the entire canvas black, paint one layer of black gesso over the canvas, with strokes running parallel from one end to the other. Allow it to dry completely, and then sand it slightly.


Step 3

Blow off any excess dust from the sanded canvas. Paint it once more using the gesso, running the brush strokes perpendicular this time and allowing it to dry again. Sand it once more, and remove any dust. The canvas now is ready for painting on your black background.

Step 4

If only partially covering the canvas with a black background, apply a layer of black within your outline using the same medium to be used for the rest of the painting. Paint in even brushstrokes that cross-hatch each other to create a smooth texture, if desired.


To create a rich black yourself rather than out of a tube, combine equal amounts of two complementary colors such as blue and orange.


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