How to

African Elephant Sunset Painting

Learn the step-by-step process of painting a stunning African Elephant Sunset using acrylics on an 11 x 14 canvas. In this tutorial, you’ll create a beautiful purple and orange glowing sunset as a backdrop for the majestic elephant silhouettes. Accompanying the tutorial is a printable that you can download and use to transfer the elephant designs onto your canvas. So let’s dive in and unleash your creativity!

Required Materials

Colors to Use

Using Craft Paints?

If you’re using craft paints, consider substituting them with these Apple Barrel Paint color suggestions:

  • Black
  • White
  • Purple Iris
  • Bright Yellow
  • Bright Magenta

Directions At A Glance


Video Tutorial

Step By Step Instructions

1. Paint The Sunset Sky

Begin by using a 3/4″ Flat Wash Brush loaded with Dioxazine Purple. Paint the top three inches of your canvas in a series of curved strokes, covering the full width of the canvas.

Pro Tip: To ensure accuracy, draw a horizon line approximately 2.5″ from the bottom of the canvas to mark the sky’s extent.

Paint the sky with Dioxazine Purple

Next, load the tip of your brush with Titanium White and blend it underneath the Dioxazine Purple to create a lighter shade of purple. Work your way down the canvas, blending the dark purple into the lighter shade while keeping the top of the sky dark.

Blend Titanium White into the purple

Wipe off your brush, but do not rinse it. Load the tip of the brush with Quinacridone Magenta and blend it with the lighter purple to create a transition to a magenta-colored sky. Paint this magenta shade until it reaches almost halfway down the canvas.

Blend Quinacridone Magenta into the sky

Rinse and dry your brush. Mix Yellow with Quinacridone Magenta to create an orange shade. The ratio should be approximately 3 parts Yellow to 1 part Magenta. Blend the orange into the magenta, creating a smooth transition.

Blend Yellow into the sky

Wipe off your brush and load it with Yellow. Blend the bright Yellow into the sky below the orange, creating a vibrant effect. Paint this bright Yellow up to the horizon line, which is positioned approximately 2.5 inches from the bottom of the canvas.

Note: The brightest part of the sky is along the horizon line. Paint this area to be flat instead of curved.

Paint bright Yellow along the horizon line

2. Splatter The Stars

To add a magical touch, use a toothbrush or any brush that allows you to flick tiny droplets of paint. Dilute the White paint slightly with water to achieve a smooth consistency. Splatter the White paint all over the sky area, simulating a starry night.

Splatter stars across the sky

3. Paint The Sun

Mix White and Yellow on your palette to create a very light Yellow color. Paint a circle below the horizon line, making sure it dips slightly below it. The diameter of the sun should be approximately 3 inches.

Next, add more Cadmium Yellow Medium (without White) to the middle of the sun and blend it outward, creating a lighter outer edge.

Paint the sun with light Yellow

4. Paint The Gray Mountain/ Hilly Area

On your palette, mix a medium shade of Gray by combining 4 parts White with 1 part Black. Gradually add Black to White until you achieve the desired gray hue. Use a #8 round brush to paint the hilly area along the horizon line.

Paint the gray mountain

This area should be approximately five fingers from the bottom of the canvas. Paint a wavy line across the canvas, cutting the sun in half. Fill in the area below the line solidly with the gray paint. The middle part of the gray mountain under the sun should dip lower.

Fill in the gray mountain

5. Paint The Black Land

Using Mars Black, paint a downward area of black approximately an inch below the gray mountain. Leave a gap below this black area for the water. Note that the black land area may overlap with the gray mountain area to allow space for the water.

Paint the black land

6. Paint The Water

Double load your 3/4″ flat wash brush with Titanium White and Quinacridone Magenta. Paint the water area so that the White and Pink blend together, creating a beautiful blend. Add touches of Orange and Yellow to the water area to reflect the colors of the sunset.

Paint the water

Paint Yellow lines in the water, just below the sun, to enhance the reflective effect.

7. Draw/ Transfer The Elephant Silhouette Outlines

To assist with creating accurate silhouettes, you can use the provided traceable. Simply print it on an 8.5″ x 11″ printer paper and cut out the elephant shapes. Position them on the land accordingly.

Position the elephant outlines

8. Paint The Silhouettes

Using a #8 round brush, paint the elephant silhouettes with Mars Black. It may be helpful to slightly water down the black paint for smoother flow. If your round brush does not have a fine tip, consider switching to a smaller detail brush.

Paint the elephant silhouettes

9. Paint The Trees

Using the #8 round brush, paint the Acacia trees. Start at the bottom, where the trunk is, and make the trunk wider at first, then gradually narrow it as it goes upwards.

Paint the acacia trees

Branch out your tree into two or three main branches. Then paint smaller sub-branches branching out from the main ones. Dab the tip of your round brush to create the canopy of the tree, making it wide and thin. Acacia trees have multiple branches that are twisty and curvy.

Paint the acacia tree branches and leaves

Repeat this process to paint a smaller tree on the right side of the baby elephant.

10. Paint The Grass

Using the tip of your round brush, paint very thin grass lines along the silhouette of the elephants. Angle the grass lines in different directions to add a natural look. Dilute the Black paint slightly with water to create thin lines.

Paint thin grass lines

11. Paint The Birds

Using the tip of your brush, paint very thin birds in the sky to add movement and life to the scene.

Paint birds in the sky

12. Paint The Reflections In Water

Using your round brush, paint very thin horizontal lines beneath the trees and elephants, representing reflections in the water. Paint these lines loosely to create a realistic effect.

Paint reflections in the water

13. Highlight The Silhouettes

Use the tip of your round brush and Titanium White to add highlights to the elephant silhouettes. Loosely outline some of the inner edges to create contrast and depth.

Add highlights to the silhouettes

Add highlights to some edges of the trees as well to give them dimension.

14. Paint White Reflection Lines In Water

Loosely paint horizontal lines in the water area using White paint. These lines represent the reflection of the light on the water’s surface.

Paint reflection lines on the water

15. Optional: Paint The Clouds

If you want to add clouds to your painting, use a small flat brush or a round brush. Start by painting darker cloud forms using a mixture of Dioxazine Purple and a touch of Quinacridone Magenta. Use small circular strokes to shape the clouds.

Paint clouds with darker shades

Gradually blend in a lighter version of the purple by mixing in some White. Continue painting small rounded strokes, blending the lighter purple upwards. Keep the top parts of the clouds darker and the bottom parts lighter. Use a small amount of White or a very light purple on the bottom edges of the clouds for added brightness.

Blend in lighter purple and add highlights to the clouds

That’s it! You’ve successfully created a beautiful African Elephant Sunset painting. Feel free to share your artwork and enjoy the experience of immersing yourself in the creative process.

Share Your Art Here

Alexia Young

Hello and welcome to the world of Alexia. I am a passionate and dedicated artist who loves to create beautiful, mesmerizing art for everyone's walls. I believe in the importance of encouraging people to express their creativity and be happy.

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