Cactus on Black Canvas Painting Tutorial

cactus on black canvas diy tutorial

This blog is the Part 2 of 4 Tutorials for the January Craft in Style Subscription Box. You can find the additional 3 tutorials for January, previous box tutorials, more about this box, and other Craft in Style Boxes here.


Love cactus? So do I! Then you must make this Cactus on a Black Canvas Painting. It’s beginner friendly and it’s perfect for dark hallways, as a night light or just for fun. Because after you paint the cactus, you can add fairy lights to the back to brighten it up.

sketch a cactus before you paint it

Supplies to Make a Cactus on Black Canvas Painting

January 2023 Craft in Style Subscription Box
2 x 8 inch Square Black Canvas
An Array of Acrylic Paint (I used White, Magenta, Crimson, Lemon Yellow, Viridian, Pool Blue, and Black)
Painter’s Palette
Optional: Box Cutter
Fairy Lights

That’s all! What makes this painting truly special is that it’s beginner friendly, black canvas is such a gorgeous material to work with and the fairy lights add a cool touch. It truly makes a unique painting.

close up of a sketch to make a cactus painting

Make a Sketch Before You Start

With any flowers or cactus, I like to start by making a sketch. That’s because the first time you sketch your bulbous cactus shapes, it may not look quite right. Practice makes perfect and we want this cactus to feel plump and full.

Your shapes should be a series of ovals stacked in unusual positions. The ovals get smaller as you work upwards.

The flowers are simple in shape – just add layers of thin daisy-like petals. Work from the center outwards.

Use this video to learn how to sketch your cactus more in depth.

sketch the cactus on the black canvas

Then Sketch Your Cactus on Your Black Canvas

Once you are happy with your sketch on paper, try it again on the black canvas. Be sure to make your cactus nice and full on the canvas. Don’t make it too small.

start by painting the base of the cactus

Start with Your Green Base

Use your biggest brushes to make your bottom layers. And as you continue to add more layers of finer detail, trend your brush size smaller.

As you add green, you may notice that some colors are more opaque and others are more translucent. You can add more opaque colors, like white, to your more translucent colors.

continue to fill in the green cactus

Blend Green, White and a Touch of Blue

As you paint the sections of the cactus, dip your brush in green but also add a dab of white, a dab of black, or a dab of blue – or any mix of those.

That way you can make your cactus have a variety of colors in each section, and it won’t be one flat color. It will help to give the cactus body and girth.

close up of painting the green cactus

Paint Your Cactus Section by Section

Paint each cactus in individual sections. That will help the shape remain readable. Then use green, white and blue with a touch of extra white to make it a little lighter than the interior of the cactus.

Make a wispy, think and incomplete fine line around every section of cactus.

paint the spikes on the cactus

Now Begin to Layer Pink Flowers

Use a small brush to make paint all your tiny petals. Use the same color across all the petals and use a loopy sweeping motion for each flower. You could use yellow but I chose pink.

Then use a slightly darker shade of pink to created a little detail of scallop shapes around the outside.

cactus spikes acrylic painting tutorial

Give the Cactus Some Dimension

In the same color that you used to make outline your cactus sections, you can create the look of dimension in each section by making a curved line near one edge of the section. This line represents a point where the light hits the cactus and reflects off of it.

So think of their being one light source and make each section of your cactus have that same light source. If you don’t like this way this turns out, remember it’s always paint, so you can start fresh and try again! Just repaint the layer below your mistake and try again.

add spikes along both sides of the cactus

Add Cactus Spikes in White

Use wisps of white, white and blue or white and pink to make cactus spikes. Your spikes should point upwards and be angled outward.

Flick and lift your brush quickly to get a shape that’s wider at the base of the spike and tapers thinner near the top.

acrylic painting cactus on black canvas tutorial

Hints of Pink Along the Cactus

If you add pink to the body of the cactus, like I did, you may notice that it gives the cactus some movement and really livens up the canvas. Just be sure not too add too much. Just a few brushstrokes will do the trick.

And viola! Your Cactus on Black Canvas Painting is finished! If you want to see how to add the fairy lights to the back, see an in depth look at that process here.

But here’s a short version: use a box cutter to make small holes anywhere you want the lights to shine through. Then add the lights to the back of the painting. Push the lights through the holes you cut so part of the light is revealed on the front.

finished cactus on black canvas painting tutorial

Ready to make this for yourself? We can’t wait to see what you make! Show us in the comments or tag us on social!

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