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How to Paint a Galaxy on Canvas With Acrylics (Step-by-Step)

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Learn how to paint a galaxy and trees using acrylic paints in this easy step-by-step tutorial. If you are a beginner, don’t worry, because this is a perfect painting for any skill level.

There are a few different ways of painting a galaxy, but with this method we will be using a sponge. 

This galaxy night sky painting also has some stars, a small moon and trees. In the first part of the tutorial we will go over each step to paint the galaxy, then I will show you how to add the moon and trees. 

I hope that this helps you learn how to paint your own galaxy painting!

galaxy painting and paint

How to Paint a Galaxy

There are actually a few different ways of painting a galaxy, but I think that the sponge method is the easiest for beginners. I also love how it looks, so today we will be using a sponge to create our night sky. 

Supplies for Your Galaxy Painting

Before you get started, you will want to make sure that you have all your supplies for your galaxy painting. I am going to list and explain all the things that I used to paint this galaxy below. 

blank canvas and painting supplies

Acrylic Paint Colors

The brand that I used for this galaxy painting was the Liquitex brand. I purchased these mini colors in a box set at my local Michaels store. You can also find this set on Amazon. 

These paints are very small (.74 fl oz) and I almost used a few of the entire tubes for this small painting. If you are painting on a larger canvas, you might want to buy the full size paints.

Michaels had some of the Liquitex brand colors that I used in store in the larger sizes, but some colors are only sold online. I will link to each of these colors below. 

You can use any brand of acrylic paint that you would like. You don’t have to have this specific brand or colors. You can just find colors that are close or even mix your own to get the same results. 

5 tubes of paint

Paint Brushes

The paint brushes that I used for this Galaxy painting were just a set from Michaels (here is a link to the same set on Amazon).

Any brushes that you find similar to these sizes will work. They don’t have to be exactly the same as the ones I used. 

  • ¾” or larger flat brush
  • #4 Flat shader
  • #2 Round

Artist Sponges

To paint the galaxy using the sponge technique you will need a few artist sponges like the one pictured below. Here is a link to a set on Amazon similar to the ones I used. 

I would recommend having at least two on hand. If you don’t have an artist sponge, you could just use a regular clean kitchen sponge.

a painting sponge

Tips for Sponge Painting Your Galaxy 

When you are painting your galaxy using the sponge method in the following steps, keep these tips in mind. 

Remember That Less is More

When adding paint to your sponge, make sure that you don’t add too much. You only need to gently dab the sponge in the paint. Don’t press it down in the paint too hard, or too much paint will get onto the sponge. 

Dab Your Sponge Only

Using this sponge painting method, you want to only apply the paint in a dabbing motion. Don’t rub, twist, or try and use the sponge in the same motion you would as a paint brush. 

Dabbing the paint can seem like it is a bit time consuming, but taking your time and using only dabbing motions will help your galaxy look blending and perfect. 

Apply Same Colors to the Same Side of Sponge

When you are using your sponge to apply different colors, make sure you keep applying the same colors to the same spot on the sponge. So that the colors don’t mix together too much. (unless you are blending or mixing two colors)

How to Paint a Galaxy Instructions 

In the first few steps we will be painting our galaxy and in the final steps we will add our moon and trees. 

1. Paint Your Canvas Black

To start painting your galaxy, you will first paint the entire canvas black. I used the ¾” flat brush for painting my canvas and the Mars Black shade of paint.

Any shade of black or larger flat brush will work for this step. 

canvas painted black

When you are painting your canvas make sure that you also paint the edges.

side of black canvas

Next, you will want to wait about an hour to let your black paint dry before moving onto the next step.

*You can speed up the drying process by using a hairdryer.

2. Start Sponge Painting the Purple and Blue 

Use the sponge to paint the dioxazine purple and phthalocyanine blue. 

Put two blobs of each color on a paper plate next to each other, and then dip the sponge in each paint color, so that they are right next to each other but not overlapping. 

purple and blue paint on sponge

Start at the top of the black canvas and begin dabing the paint onto the canvas with the purple paint at the top. 

sponging purple and blue paint onto canvas

When you are loading your sponge, don’t add too much paint. With this technique, less is more.

black canvas with purple and blue at top

Continue adding the purple and blue paint to your sponge and dabbing it onto your canvas until you are about halfway down. 

3. Sponge Paint Titanium White 

Next, you will lighten up the bottom portion of your canvas by sponging titanium white paint.

Make sure that when you apply the titanium white onto your sponge you place it over or next to where the blue paint was on the sponge. (not the side of the sponge with purple)

You want the white to have a bit of blue in it so that it ends up being a lighter blue and not such a bright white. 

Start dabbing the white paint onto the canvas from the bottom and continue adding more white paint and working your way up the canvas until you reach the middle.

The blue and white will blend together as you are dabbing the paint.

sponging white onto bottom of canvas

A galaxy or milky way sky always has a light source shining through it, so by adding thes lighter colors from the bottom and up toward the right corner it will appear as our light source is coming into the sky from the bottom left side of the painting. 

You can see how the blue and white blend together and create a nice light blue color in the photo below. If you don’t have enough blue mixed in with your white, just add a little bit to your sponge and blend it in.

canvas with lighter blue painted from bottom

4. Sponge the Light Blue Permanent 

Next, you will want to sponge some of the Light Blue Permanent paint onto the middle of the canvas to brighten it up. 

Just add some in the center and then blend it out until you like how light it looks. Keep adding more if you would like it to be even lighter.

sponging light blue onto canvas

5. Blending the Colors with The Sponge

Next you will want to use the sponge to start blending the colors together to make the galaxy flow together. I also added some purple and blue to different parts around the canvas to make everything flow together. 

using the sponge to blend colors on canvas

To blend the colors, just dab the side of the sponge without paint (or use your other sponge) onto the canvas and the colors will start mixing together nicely. 

If you have too much paint on your canvas, you can also take the extra clean sponge and dab it all over the canvas and it will remove some of the excess paint and even out our canvas.

a night sky on canvas

6. Sponge the Ultramarine Blue 

Now that you have a dark galaxy sky, you will want to add some contrast with some lighter colors to make the sky look brighter and lighten up the canvas so that the black trees will stand out against the galaxy. 

I started by adding in some of the Ultramarine Blue right under the lighter blue near the middle and toward the bottom of the canvas. 

canvas night sky with ultramarine blue added

7. Add Lighter Purple and More Light Blue Permanent Paint

Next, you will want to mix together Titanium White and Dioxazine Purple until you have a lighter purple shade like the photo below. 

lighter purple paint on plate

Use your imagination to add this lighter purple mixture along with the Lighter Blue Permanent Paint to brighten the canvas.

Don’t worry about blending just yet, just dab these colors onto your canvas using your sponge where you want the sky to appear brighter. 

I made sure that I added quite a bit of the light blue color across the sky near the middle of my canvas, because the trees will stand out nicely against this light color. 

canvas with more light blue and purple added

8. Blend Your Galaxy Sky Together 

Now that you have all the light colors added onto your night sky, you will finish your galaxy by blending it all together. 

To blend your colors just use your sponge and focus on dabing where the colors meet until they blend nicely. 

If you added too much light to your galaxy, and want to darken parts of it up, just use the leftover darker purple and blue colors from your plate or paint pallet to darken up the sky in certain spots. 

Continue using the sponge (and paint as needed) until your galaxy is blended together.

Adding the lighter and darker colors, and then repeatedly blending them is going to give your galaxy more dimension and make it look realistic. 

galaxy canvas after adding all the colors

9. Use Toothbrush to Add Stars

Next you will want to add some white paint onto your toothbrush. Then hold it about 6 inches above your canvas with the paint side facing down and use your finger to flick the toothbrush bristles so that stars splash onto your galaxy. 

white paint on a toothbrush

Keep moving your toothbrush around and doing this all over the canvas until you are happy with the look of the stars. 

galaxy painting with white stars

In my painting above you can see that some of my splatter stars came out looking more like shooting stars. 

I personally liked this look, but if you prefer your stars to appear more round rather than lines of shooting stars, then you will just want to thin down the white paint with a bit of water (or add water to your toothbrush) before splatering your stars. 

10. Paint Your Own Stars (Optional)

Use the #2 round brush to dip in some white paint and then just gently dab onto parts of your canvas where you would like to add some stars. 

You don’t have to do this, but painting on some of your own stars gives you a bit more control over the size and placement of the stars in your galaxy.

I added a few to the middle of my galaxy painting. 

painting more white stars onto canvas

11. Paint The Moon 

Before painting your moon, you will want to make sure that your galaxy is dry. After most of the paint is dry, you can use the #4 flat shader brush to paint your moon with the titanium white in the upper right of your canvas. 

When painting your moon the key is to try and get it as perfectly round as possible.

So start by just making a small round circle and focus one the outer edges. Once your circle is round, you can fill the moon in with white paint in a circular motion. 

galaxy painting with white moon

12. Paint The First Tree 

The last step in our galaxy painting is to paint on the trees to the bottoms of the canvas. Since the trees can be the hardest to get right on this painting, you might want to practice on a sheet of paper or a piece of cardboard first. 

I have a mixed media pad that I like to use for practicing certain techniques before painting them onto my canvas.

To paint the trees you will want to wash out and dry your #4 Flat shader and then apply some mars black paint to the tip of the brush.

After applying the paint onto the brush, gently dab the excess paint off the brush onto your paper plate. 

paint brush and mars black paint

Getting rid of the excess paint will make it easier for you to draw the straight lines for the trees with your paint brush. 

To draw the first tree, turn the tip of your flat brush so that you will be using the thin side of the brush (not the flat thick part) to paint the lines. 

Then draw your first tree to the left of your canvas by painting a thin straight line from the middle of the canvas to the bottom. After painting the line, go back in and add some branches like shown in the photo below. 

galaxy painting with first tree outline

Now you will use this same brush but turn it toward the thicker (flat part) of the brush to fill in the tree branches. 

For this you will want to have more black paint on your brush and just paint downward strokes in the shape of branches from the trunk of the tree out toward the end of the branch.

Start by adding the smallest branches to the top and as you go down the tree the branches will get longer, so that the trees appear thicker at the bottom.

Don’t fill in all of the branches, you will want to have some spaces between some of the branches so that the trees have some dimension (with the sky shining through), and are not just all black. 

When I was painting these trees I tried to imagine how alpine trees look. Like the Silver Tip Trees that have spaces between some of the branches. 

tree on canvas after branches were painted

13. Paint the Rest of the Trees

Now that you have painted the first tree, you can get an idea of the size and where you want the rest of the trees to be placed. 

Using the same technique, paint a tree in the middle of the canvas and another one toward the right side of the canvas. 

Just make sure that you make the trees different heights. You want some of your trees to be shorter and some taller. 

galaxy painting with three black trees

To finish up the painting no, you will paint your second row of trees. Since the larger trees are the closest to us, the ones farther away will need to be smaller to give the perspective that they are farther from us. 

Add a smaller tree to the left of and between the larger trees on your canvas, using the same technique. 

galaxy painting with six black trees

After your trees have all been painted, you want to extend some of the branches toward the bottom of the trees so that it gives them the look that they are all touching. 

Just keep adding black branches until you like how they look. Be careful not to add too much black, because you don’t want them to all blend together too much. 

close up of black trees on galaxy painting

You are done! Congratulations on learning how to paint a galaxy. I hope that you are happy with how your painting turned out.

Painting a galaxy is a great beginner painting, and now that you know how to paint a night sky, you can keep perfecting your technique and trying out different color combinations.