How to Paint a Night Scene

Updated July 20, 2017

A night scene is not just black paint and the moon. Many colours and techniques make a night scene come alive and truly look like the night sky. Vincent Van Gogh's famous "Starry Night," for example, conveys a rush of feeling in blues, greens, and yellows as well as black. Whether you decide to paint a night sky, a city scene or a scary night, the mood you are trying to convey depends on your colours and techniques.

Lightly sketch your scene on the canvas with a pencil. Use photos or other night scene paintings for inspiration and reference as you work.

Paint the background first. This allows you to keep the dark colours from ruining your foreground subjects. Try combining blues, blacks, dark greys and purples. Although the background is a dark colour it is not the same shade throughout. Observe some night scene paintings and you will notice that depending on the lights in the scene, the sky is illuminated differently. For example, in a painting of a night cityscape the street lights will produce a lighter, almost purple-orange tone on the horizon of the scene. If the scene includes the stars or the moon, the darkness of the sky is lighter around the moon and the stars.

Incorporate the proper shading to the objects in the scene. If you have a moon in your scene, for example, objects need to be lighter where the moonlight hits them and darker where there should be shadows.

Lightly tap white paint onto the sky to paint the stars. You can also use light blue paint or yellow, according to the effect you want to achieve.

Outline the buildings with yellow paint in the direction where the light in your painting is coming from. In many night scene paintings, buildings usually have a yellow hue to them.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic paint set
  • Assorted paintbrushes
  • Canvas
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About the Author

Lilyanna Fragoso's writing career started 2004, where she worked for radio and television. Her work has been published in "Telemundo Chicago" and "Telemundo Las Vegas." She also collaborated on an article for "The Chicago Tribune." She's an on-air talent for Univision Radio, Las Vegas where she produces entertainment news. Fragoso received her Bachelor of Arts in journalism in 2009 from Columbia College, Chicago.