Moonlit Owl Acrylic Painting Tutorial
Last fall, I created a cute owl template and held a few painting lessons on my Facebook page, teaching multiple ways to paint it, and today I want to share one. The bright Halloween colors of this moonlit owl are perfect for the season!
Inside my private painting membership, Chrisite’s Inner Tribe, I have a Success Path to help new members recognize where they are in their painting journeys. This moonlit owl tutorial is an example of what to work on in the second tier, Budding Artist.
This tutorial goes beyond the basics of brush strokes and discusses color theory, paint color values, and adding depth and dimension with shadows and highlights.
Trace the Owl Template
To begin, download the owl template and trace it onto your painting surface. I have an entire blog HERE if you need any tips or want to change the size of the template. After tracing the owl onto your painting surface, sketch on a simple tree limp the owl is sitting on and tree trunk up the side of the page.
Before starting the background, outline all the lines with a sharpie. This way, you won’t lose them once you start painting.
Paint the Background and Moon
I wanted this painting to have a slight Halloween theme. I love a vibrant purple night sky with a big glowing moon for Halloween!
To paint this style of background, begin by loading up a large bush with white and a bit of purple and start creating a circle where your moon will be using large motions. I am not worried that I made a lavender color on my page, and will go back over it once it is dry to paint the actual moon. I just want to start getting paint onto the surface and get some coverage with the proper paint movement.
Make big circles with your whole arm. Don’t just use your wrist, or the shape will turn into an oval.
Continue growing your circle all the way out to the edge of the page. It’s ok if you cover the owl some, we will be able to go back over him later.
As your circle grows, however, you will want to skip large portions of your owl. Just make sure you are sticking with the same rounded shape and motion and overlapping the owl’s edges just a little bit for a smooth finish.
As you move further away from the center of your circle, add more and more dark purple paint. Once you reach the tree limb near the bottom, add a touch of black paint to tone your color even darker.
This is just the first coat of paint. Don’t add the second layer until it is dry.
You can learn more about blending colors in your background HERE. I have lots of info on blending backgrounds with a horizontal stroke. The circular motion we are using today gives you a completely different outcome using simial techniques.
Clean out your bush and go back to your lighter area with white paint. Start with small circles in the center and grow outward. As your brush runs out of paint, it will feather the color out like dry brushing when you work your way into the purple.
Keep blending and adding paint as you work your way out, creating that second layer of paint.
Ultimately I decided to add a touch of yellow in the moon to warm it up a bit. Just make sure your purple paint is completely dry first, or you will mix a muddy brown color on your canvas!
I like to move around my canvas as I paint to allow for dry time. So, I moved to the next step, painting the tree, before adding these final layers to the moon.
As you fade the moon’s glow out into the purple, you want it to have a feathered look. Just touch the canvas here and there, lifting your brush off the canvas, for that wispy texture.
Finally, add some white to the center of your moon to make it look like it’s glowing.
Paint the Tree
This tree is fun to shade because of all that moonlight!
Start by loading a round brush with plenty of brown paint to paint the tree trunk and branch for the owl to sit on.
I began with a #10 round brush to cover and fill the thickest parts of my tree and then swapped to a #2 to get the thinner branch points of the limb.
You don’t want the lines to be perfectly straight. Trees are organically textured and a little wavy.
Keep in mind the location of your light source when adding shades and highlights to your painting.
To shade the tree and limb, all of the areas on the backside will get a dark mix of brown and black. Then for the highlights, you can mix either white or yellow into your brown, and with a light hand, touch all the highpoints. To learn more, check out my blog about creating shadows and highlights with acrylic paint.
How to paint the Moonlit Owl
I want this owl to pop off that purple background so I chose orange and pink with lime green accents to make a statement! But, like always, I want you to choose your favorite colors.
Paint the Hat and Pupils
Begin painting the moonlit owl by filling in the black pupils and hat. Then, if you painted over parts of your owl when painting the background, now is the time to go over those areas with a bit of white paint, so we get true colors in the owl. Let this white paint dry completely before painting the owl with color.
Paint the Owls Body
Start by painting a base color of orange all over the owl’s body first. Don’t worry about getting perfect coverage with that first coat.
Next, mix some hot pink into a bit of orange paint and make his belly a little pinker.
Now I have mixes of orange, pink, yellow, and white paint on my plate. Use any blend of these colors you like to add dimension to your moonlit owl.
I started by adding a little white to my orange for a bit of tone variance all over. Then I mixed in a little yellow just on the tops of the wings where the moon would touch his shoulders.
Just play with your colors! As long as you are working from the warm side of the color wheel, you can make any firey color to layer in. I used hot pink blends to add shadows where the light wouldn’t touch and yellow blends for the highlights near the moonlight.
Finish the eyes by filling in the whites and adding a touch of teal around the outer band. I always flip my brush over and use the handle dipped in white paint to add a tiny spot of white in the pupils.
Now, fill in the hatband and scarf lime green and use yellow and teal blends for highlights and shadows. You can choose any texture to add to the textiles! How cute would polka dots be?
Paint in the little beak hot pink. A little black open mouth and yellow on the tip of his nose make his beak look 3D!
Use a super fine detail brush to add a few highlights to the hat. Don’t forget to paint the little claws.
Then, as my final touch, I outlined the painted moonlit owl with a tiny bit of black paint. You could use a paint pen for this step too!
Watch the Full Moonlit Owl Painting Video Painting Tutorial
Adding all the layers of custom paint color blends are the details that take a basic painting to the next level. It just takes a little more time and a lot of playing around 🙂 You can always change your mind, let it dry and paint over it!
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