How to Paint a Dark Background

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    • 1). Pour a small puddle of water, about 2 inches in diameter, onto a palette. Dab your paintbrush in the water, then dab it in the dark colors of your choosing. Mix dark colors in any fashion you like by swishing a paint-laden brush around in the puddle of water. Continue to use your brush to transfer paint and stir it into the water until your puddle adopts the color you would like it to.

    • 2). Sketch the subject of your piece on your canvas with an erasable pencil. Also sketch any peripheral figures that you do not want to be painted over by the background color.

    • 3). Decide which direction the light will be shining in your painting. If the light is coming from the upper left-hand corner, then begin painting in that corner and apply your dark paint as lightly as possible. You can ensure that your paint is applied lightly by wiping some of it off your brush and onto your palette. A dryer paintbrush will apply less paint.

    • 4). Use a gently criss-crossing motion to work your way from one corner of the painting to the other, filling all your background space with color as you go. As you move further away from your painting's light source, begin using a more saturated brush. You may start by only wiping your brush once instead of twice, then by going over an area more thoroughly and finally by ceasing to wipe your brush at all and applying paint heavily. Unless your picture is a daytime outdoor scene, you may want to mix black paint with your background paint before you paint the darkest portion of your painting. This will give the impression of shade or shadow.

    • 5). Paint your subject. This can be done with any method that you as the artist prefer. When you are finished, you may want to darken the background directly surrounding the subject to emphasis the subject further.

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