Negative Painting – An Exercise to Help Make it Positive

by 16 comments

Negative Painting

Negative painting is where you define the shape of the object by painting the space (negative space) around it. I painted the painting using the negative painting technique.


Negative painting white cone flowers by Krista Hasson


Below, I have included an exercise that you can do to help you get the hang of negative painting. Let me know how you make out.

Negative Painting Exercise


I painted this exercise in watercolor but you can do it in any medium you have. I listed the colors I used below but again use what you have.

  • Hansa Yellow (light cool yellow)
  • New Gamboge yellow (medium warm yellow)
  • Cobalt blue (medium cool blue)
  • Quinacridone red (medium cool red)

For this exercise I used a 6×6” square and made my smaller squares 2×2”, but you can make it any size you want.


I have a free pdf version of this article so if you would like to save this exercise and do it at your own leisure fill in the form below. Scroll down to continue reading the article and exercise 🙂

Start this exercise by wetting your paper and paint it wet in wet with your light yellow (Hansa) paint. Let it dry completely (use a hairdryer to speed things up if you want).

Once this is dry draw 3 smaller squares (not touching) on your paper. Paint around these squares negatively with your medium yellow (Gamboge). Let it dry completely.

Draw on more squares (not too many, leave room for more) letting the first ones overlap. 

Paint the negative spaces with quinacridone red, leaving the yellow squares. Dry completely before moving on.

Draw a few more squares on the quinacridone red layer and paint the negative areas with a layer of cobalt blue. Dry completely.

Then draw in your last few squares on the cobalt layer. Mix a nice purple with quinacridone red and cobalt to apply to the last few negative spaces left. You have created colored squares without painting squares.

This technique works great for background layers of leaves or trees and many others.  Paintings can have both negative and positive painting in them. This technique can really add interesting areas and backgrounds in your paintings. Try it out, the possibilities are endless.

Thank you for sharing your time with me!




PS:  Don’t forget to leave your comments below and sharing is always appreciated!



Read more articles on painting  HERE

Enrich your life with art!

Hey there! I'm Krista,
an artist, educator, solopreneur, wife, mother and animal lover. Most of all I am passionate about helping others enrich their lives with art.