Watercolor Moon Painting on Black Paper

(Watercolor Full Moon on black watercolor paper with white gouache paint by Niamh at Watercolor Minis)

Materials List:

  • black watercolor paper (Stonehenge paper 140lbs)
  • white gouache/watercolor paint (I used Staedler Chinese White Watercolor paint)
  • Watercolor paints to tint the white paint (purple, yellow, brown, blue)
  • white watercolor pencil
  • Painter's Tape
  • Square Paint Brush and Round Tip Brush

Sketch the Moon

Start by taping your sheet of black watercolor paper down to a hard flat surface, that won't warp if wet. I use a cheap plank of birch wood from my local art store (no more than $5) and tape my paper to this. These planks are portable and can lay flat along a table easily. Tape your paper using painter's tape or washi tape. This Stonehenge black watercolor paper rips fairly easily, especially after painting on it. So, I would recommend removing lots of the glue before adhering it to your paper.

 Tape down your watercolor paper with painters' tape to a flat surface.

(Draw a circle outline of the moon using a white watercolor pencil, or regular pencil.)


(Tape down your paper with tape. Make sure it's not too sticky since watercolor paper often rips when you take it off. Remove some glue with your hand/shirt before applying)

Using a white watercolor pencil and any circular cup lip or container, trace around the edge to draw your moon in the center of your black watercolor paper. As you paint the moon, try to keep the paint within this circle as best as you can. However, if you do end up straying outside the line, it is fairly easy to clean up the edges toward the end of the painting, so don't worry!

draw a white circle for the moon using a white watercolor pencil

Mix Watercolor Paint with White Gouache

Using some white gouache mixed with burnt sienna (brown) watercolor paint and water, paint your moon's first layer. The consistency will resemble chocolate milk.

First paint strokes of milky brown white gouache for the moon

(first paint strokes using white gouache mixed with burnt sienna watercolor paints)

You can begin to add depth to the moon, suggesting where craters might be by adding in some darker paint in regions. Let this first layer dry.

The Second Gouache Layer

Your second layer should have more white paint, since this paper requires that we paint dark to light rather than light to dark (typical watercolor technique on white paper). If you don't let the paper completely dry from earlier, it will create some neat bleeding effects that could suggest craters.

thicker white gouache mixture applied to the moon for highlight regions

Adding more white gouache to the second layer of painting)

Purple Glow in Background

Using any purple watercolor paint (I used quinacridone purple), add a small amount of white gouache paint and clean up the full moon's edges. This will create a glow around the moon. Apply quick flicking upward brush strokes around following the shape of the moon around the edges of the painting. This will look like moonlight on the dark background. To avoid a harsh edge, apply purple watercolor paint with little/no white gouache up to the tape edges. It will dry with a slight hint of purple, and no matte black will show.

purple space background glow mixture

(Purple watercolor paint with a slight bit of white gouache can be used to clean up the edges of your full moon)

Painting A Starry Sky

This last step is optional! Using the tip of your round watercolor brush and a thick mixture of white gouache, apply some tiny dots of stars around the moon. You can also sign your name with this mixture. Finally, once it is all dry, remove your painters' tape and pull gently away from the center of your painting.

final starry moon painting

(Add tiny paint dots with the tip of your paint brush, in small clusters and wide apart)

for more fun watercolor step-by-step projects, be sure to check out our other blog posts!

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