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!
Colors to Use
Using Craft Paints?
If you’re using craft paints, consider substituting them with these Apple Barrel Paint color suggestions:
- Purple Iris
- Bright Yellow
- Bright Magenta
Directions At A Glance
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.