We're an online artist community sharing ways to create and sell art. Try one of our easy websites for artists or just browse around and enjoy!

How to Create a “Stained Glass” Painting with Black Gesso & Watercolors

As a watercolorist, I’ve been painting since the mid ’80’s. New techniques come and go but here’s one I’ve been perfecting for a while. I call it “black outline art” and use it to create a kind of stained glass appearance in watercolor paintings.

I actually stumbled on this technique a few years ago and am not really sure of it’s origins. . . I’m sure other artists have used similar techniques with different tools.

Here’s the process:

1. Sketch your composition

Whatever your subject matter, start with a basic pencil sketch on stretched watercolor paper (I use Arches 140lb). For this demonstration, I drew out a flower, filled with hundreds of different colorful sections.

2. Outline your drawing with black gesso

I use a small squeeze bottle with a tiny nib for this part. Working from the top down, I “draw” the outline holding the bottle like a pen. I work one section at a time, being very careful not to smear the black gesso (if you do that, you might as well toss out all your hard work, so be patient). Let each section dry completely before continuing the next.


And why black gesso, you ask?

Well, I tried using acrylic paint but the lines were too shiny, and it stuck to the glass if framed. When I discovered black gesso at a watercolor workshop, I realized it was perfect for this because it’s slightly thick like acrylic, yet it dries flat or dull.

3. After it dries, add color

When all the line work is dry, start painting with your watercolors, light to dark. You can either paint individual lined sections or let the paint “flow” over areas—or both.


Originally, I started off with individual but later went to the “flow” technique for a different look. Work cooler colors back and warmer colors forward.

4. Finish with a background of your choice

In some cases, a completely black gesso background is awesome. . . it really makes the subject “pop!” But, in this instance, I chose a spring-like theme.

IMG 1828

You can see more “stained glass” style painting on outoftheblueart.blogspot.com, where I’m currently finishing up a 30-day painting challenge.

Happy painting!

Special thanks to Barbara Tibbets for sharing this article! To learn more about Barbara or her work, please visit her website.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

Nowadays, nearly everyone carries a lot of stuff, all the time. Which means we're always finding new ways to carry that stuff. . . and the bigger the solution, the better.

Well, not always. Not for artists, anyway.

Sometimes you have to pack light especially if you're on a budget,on the road, or traveling abroad. Maybe you’re not going to be doing much art as you. . . read more

More related articles
If you're looking for something else. . .
Love the Easel?

Subscribe to our totally free weekly newsletter for artists. Sign up today!

Art Contests
More art contests. . .
Other Stuff
EE Writers
Cassie Rief Niki Hilsabeck Lisa Orgler Carrie Lewis Aletta de Wal Phawnda Moore

If you'd like to write for EmptyEasel, let us know!

We love publishing reader-submitted art tutorials, stories, and even reviews.Submit yours here!
© 2006-2018 EmptyEasel.com About Contact Sitemap Privacy Policy Terms of Use Advertise