Black Canvas Painting | 5 Easy Tips to Get You Started

5 tips for Black canvas


Traditionally, canvases are off-white, which helps the painter use all different colors to unleash their expression and creativity. But now many painters are switching to black canvas painting as the basis of their artistic pursuits.

Many beginners are using a black canvas since it offers a new perspective to begin making art. And if you are one of those beginners, you might be looking forward to painting on a shiny black canvas.

If you are new to the black canvas painting concept or if you’ve been a long-time white canvas user, then you might be feeling like it’s out of your comfort zone. But that doesn’t have to be the story. Painting on a black canvas can be simple, straightforward, and a new basis of expression.

Black canvas allows the painter to skip background details, which makes it simpler and less time-consuming. As a matter of fact, when you paint on black canvas, creating a stellar contrast can be simple.

Black canvas painting is becoming popular, and many artists are now adopting the new dark setting to unleash their potential. And if you are looking forward to trying your hand at black canvas painting, here are five tips to get you started!

Black Canvas Painting Tips 

  1. Use Acrylic, Opaque Paints
  2. Paint a white layer first
  3. Painting a white canvas black
  4. Use chalk or white graphite paper for tracing
  5. Use paint pens

1. Use Acrylic, Opaque Paints 

Two of the most commonly used paints for black canvas painting are acrylic and oil paint. We would recommend using acrylic paints. They are the all-time favorites and easy to source in any color. Acrylic paints are also easy to work with, and they dry quickly.

The next thing you want to consider in acrylic paints is the opacity level, or how transparent the paint is. Opacity levels closer to zero mean that there will be no transparency and the color remains strong on the canvas.

And that’s important as opaque acrylic paints will show up excellent, bright, and solid against a dark background. Whereas transparent or translucent colors will be see-through and will barely show up against the black background.

To find out the opacity level of your acrylic paints, stroke them on your black canvas and see how they show up. If you can see through the paints, their opacity levels aren’t up to the mark. Another way to check the opacity level is by looking at the tube of paint. There will be a symbol that will help you to identify the opacity level.

opaque paint

2. Not Sure About Opacity of Paints? Paint a White Layer First

If you aren’t sure about the opacity level of the paints you are using, try painting a white layer on the black surface first. It will give you an idea of how your color will look with the black background and how its opacity will affect the bigger picture.

Allowing some black to leak through your paint might assist you in creating more depth and texture with the painting. Although it can also backfire and ruin what you are imagining, painting a white or colored layer will give you an idea of how things will turn out.

Experimenting is the key before you choose your preferred options. And painting a white or colored layer will help you to find out how well the black background will handle its opacity.

So before you start painting, get an idea of how your paints will work with the black canvas.

3. Pre-primed Black Canvas and Painting a Canvas Black Are Equally Great 

Many beginners who are just starting to experiment in the world of black canvas painting are often confused about one thing. They think that pre-primed black canvases are somehow different than the ones artists paint themselves. Well, both are the same. You can buy a pre-primed black canvas online or from your nearest store, or paint your white canvas black.

Typically, manufacturers that sell black canvases use a black gesso instead of a white one to prime them. But if you don’t feel like buying an extra black canvas, you can turn your white canvas into a black one by simply using black gesso or matte black acrylic paint. Black acrylic paint that is specially labeled “matte” goes well with a white canvas and turns it into a new-looking black canvas.

black paint

4. Use Chalk or White Graphite Paper for Tracing 

Working on a design that might require some tracing? Well, your good old gray graphite paper will not show up on the black canvas. You’ll need to buy white graphite paper or use chalk to draw your painting’s layout.

White graphite paper will allow you to transfer a traceable design on your black canvas easily. Moreover, if you are looking to just draw out the layout or sketch some boundaries right onto the canvas, chalk will help you accomplish the job efficiently. You can erase chalk with a bit of water or simply paint over it.

Chalk and white graphite paper can come in handy when you are tracing or sketching a layout on a black canvas. These tools will allow you to experiment more freely and bring your imagination to life!


5. Using Paint Pens 

Bright and opaque colors look great on black backgrounds. And water or oil-based paint pens do exactly the same job. As a beginner, they will help you make most of the black background and express bright and robust ideas.

Since water or oil-based paint pens are opaque, you’ll be able to set up a nice contrast in your paintings using them and the black canvas. Moreover, when you have access to paint pens, you don’t have to get in the mess of picking paints, brushes, and other materials. All you need are just a couple of paint pens to put your imagination on the shiny black canvas.

Painting on a black canvas isn’t hard; it’s simple, straightforward, and fun! Black canvas painting helps you to discover the power of opacity and contrast. If you are still painting on a white canvas, do yourself a favor and buy a black canvas or paint your canvas black to start the journey of black canvas painting.

Check out our post on recommended acrylic paint pens for more information.

Pen markers

Recommended Black Canvases 

After these five tips, you should be ready to give it a go.  Check out our recommended canvases to get started!


* Please note this post contains affiliate links.  I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I’ll totally blow on my next trip to Chick-Fila!  I’ll take a number one on wheat with extra pickles please.

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