Starry sky painting, step by step

This is my most recent painting, another in my night sky series.   I just got a new video camera for my time-lapse paintings, and I’ll be posting the full video from this one soon.  Here’s the finished painting:


Passage, 24″x 30″, acrylic on canvas, copyright © 2014 Kathryn Beals

This is a memory of camping in northern Alberta, Canada, one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived.  Here’s my step-by-step process below in video stills:

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I started with my large filbert brush and quickly painted on layers of blue and white in a circular pattern.  This is a mix of Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo blue and Anthraquinone blue, mixed with Titanium white and Carbon black.  I didn’t worry too much about the shape and blending at this point, I just worked to quickly get the canvas covered in color.

ultramarine_bluepthalo_blue_gsanthraquinone_blue    titanium_whitecarbon_black

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 12.51.59 PM

When I had the overall shape and color I wanted, I let it dry for a few minutes and then started to add the stars.  To make the sky look deeper, I used a mix of pale blues and whites for the stars, and varied the sizes of the dots.  To make rounder dots, I dipped the handle of my brush in the paint instead of the bristles.  For some of the brighter stars, I first made a pale blue dot, and put a white dot in the middle.  Here are some closeups so you can see what I mean:




Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 12.53.04 PM

Once I had the stars in there, I let it dry for a few minutes and then added the hill in the foreground.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 12.54.11 PM

I put in some trees on the edges and added a tent on the hill.  To give the tent a glow, I first painted it in white and then added transparent oranges over top, leaving the middle white.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 12.54.31 PM

Once the tent was in, I experimented with the coloring of the sky immediately around it, to add focus and balance.  I also added some more stars and more contrast to the sky with layers of Dioxazine purple, Quinacridone magenta and Zinc white.  These colors are very transparent but have high pigment strength, so I used them sparingly in thin layers.

dioxazine_purple quinacridone_magenta zinc_white

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 12.48.58 PM

Now I want to go camping! You can buy this painting in my Etsy shop as a digital print or canvas print. The original piece is also for sale on my main landscape site.

5 thoughts on “Starry sky painting, step by step

  1. Thank you for this tutorial! My son is a sophomore in college and just LOVES space.. I am going to attempt a similar painting for him for Christmas. Love the colors.. be blessed! :)

    Liked by 1 person

      • I will send a photo to you as soon as I complete it. I tried today to get started with the colors you mentioned, and for some reason they just didn’t flow in harmony like I expected. The phthalo is just way too strong and doesn’t match up to the anthraquinone blue… so I must be doing something wrong. I am thinking I’m adding too much white right away, and making a blue gray that is kind of washed out. Anyway, will keep practicing… and looking forward to your next installment for beginners… common mistakes beginner’s make. I have a feeling I need that lesson!! Have a wonderful evening!


      • You’re right, Phthalo blue is extremely strong. I’m still using the same tube I bought eight years ago because I use very little at a time. Just keep experimenting with your color mixes. Ultramarine blue might be a good base color to try as well, as it’s not quite as tricky to work with. Good luck!


      • I think you’re right about trying Ultramarine instead. It could be that I was using a different kind of black (Mars Black) as I don’t have a tube of carbon black. Sometimes painting can get so complicated! :) I love your style though.. reminds me a little of Georgia O’Keeffe and her abstracts! God bless!


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