Have you wondered how to paint a Blackbird using acrylics?  How do you see the feather details when feathers are black? How many mixtures do you have to make?  Do you use black and white paint?

Believe it or not, it’s one of the easier subjects to learn how to paint.

When I was learning how to paint a Blackbird using oils, boy was I ever frustrated.  But to paint a Blackbird using acrylics was so much easier to master.  By blocking in the darks first and then just using lighter values over many layers, things started to click.

How to Paint a Blackbird in Acrylics - colour mixing

In this lesson, you will learn a condensed version because I’m also going to show you how to create a bright, fiery background to act as a strong contrast.   You can watch a video lesson for the background that inspired this specific painting.  The video is part of the Book of Background series and it’s number 49:  Glitter Art and Paint Drips to Chase the Sunset

Something to keep in mind…in the video lesson, you will see that I free styled the sketch of the bird.  If you are not comfortable doing this, you may want to work with a photo to create a line drawing.  The Line-Less Grid System makes this so easy create a line drawing and to train your eyes at the same time.   In the supply list, you’ll find links to where you can get free photos of blackbirds to use to create your painting.

How to paint a blackbird in acrylics - side view

You can see that there aren’t itty bitty details in the bird.  Just a series of strokes that up close don’t look like anything, but when you stand back and see the whole painting, voila!  it looks like a Blackbird.

The one thing to remember when you want to paint a Blackbird is “nothing is pure black”…there are hints of highlight and colour and you can choose what those hints of colour are.  You can paint a Blackbird using hints of red, green or even orange for the highlights.  Values (lightness and darkness of a colour) is critical.  So you don’t want to start too light so you start with the darks, then a bit lighter, next layer is a bit lighter, etc. etc.  You’ll have layers of values creating depth in your painting.

After watching the lesson below, you can learn how to paint a Blackbird on a black surface.

How to Paint a
Black Bird in Acrylics

In the video lesson, I used an existing palette of colours from a Colour Theory lesson I was teaching in The Studio.  I used all the reds, blues and white and then knocked down the intensity using Burnt Umber.  So when I paint a Blackbird, I’ll normally create a Chromatic Black using Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna.  This will create a more transparent black.  By using Burnt Umber it becomes more opaque and with using reds and blues, the Chromatic black shifts towards purple.

You can use black and white if you’d like, but I’m pretty sure your painting will turn out boring and flat unless you are going to add layers of oil colour glazes later, then you’re ok.  Experiment with mixing your own black using any of the following:

  • Ultramarine Blue + Burnt Sienna
  • Ultramarine Blue + Burnt Umber
  • Ultramarine Blue + Raw Umber
  • Phthalo Blue + Burnt Sienna
  • Phthalo Blue + Burnt Umber
  • Phthalo Blue + Raw Umber
  • Alizarin Crimson + Phthalo Green
  • Quinacridone Violet + Phthalo Green
  • Quinacridone Red + Phthalo Green
  • actually, any red + Phthalo Green

To the mixes, pull a bit out with a brush and add a touch of white so you can see the true underlying colour.  Make a swatch in your art journal, recording what you did.  With repeated use, the colour mixes will be committed to memory and you’ll need to refer to the art journal swatches less and less.

Ready to Paint a Blackbird?

How to paint a blackbird in acrylics - full view

What did you think?

Have you ever painting a very dark or black subject such as a night scene, dog, cat or Wildlife?  Do you have a favourite technique for doing this?  please share in the comments below.