Three Emergency Background Ideas For Drawings And Paintings (With Examples)

2014 Artwork Emergency Backgrounds sketch

If you’re the kind of artist who, like me, hardly does any planning before drawing or painting something, then you might have run into this problem before.

I am, of course, talking about drawing an absolutely amazing foreground and then suddenly realising that you have no clue whatsoever about what to put in the background. This can be one of the most annoying problems that any artist can face.

But, if you’re faced with this problem, there are at least three tried-and-tested emergency background ideas that you can use. I’ll also include some examples from my own work too:

1) Abstract backgrounds:

"Aura Bloom" By C. A. Brown

“Aura Bloom” By C. A. Brown

I’m much more of a figurative artist than an abstract artist. To be honest, I still don’t quite “understand” abstract art completely. Still, I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve used an abstract background of some kind or other when I couldn’t think of a better idea for a background.

Abstract backgrounds are extremely simple to draw or paint. You can either just draw a few brightly-coloured shapes against a dark background, draw a pattern of some kind or even just start doodling until something interesting appears.

Since the focus of your picture will be the foreground that you’ve already drawn, your abstract background doesn’t have to be especially complicated or wildly inventive. As long as the colours in it don’t clash too much with the foreground, then it’ll probably fit in fairly well with your picture.

2) Solid colour:

"They Call It Sorcery" By C. A. Brown

“They Call It Sorcery” By C. A. Brown

If you can’t even think of a good idea for an abstract pattern for your background, then don’t be afraid to just use a solid colour background. Personally, I tend to go with darker backgrounds but you can obviously use brightly-coloured ones too.

The advantage of a solid colour background is that, as opposed to just leaving the background blank, it gives the impression that you’ve put some work and creative thought into the background.

Again, just make sure that your background doesn’t clash with your foreground. And, if in doubt, remember that dark backgrounds go with pretty much anything.

3) Recycle:

"Crystal Cavern" By C. A. Brown

“Crystal Cavern” By C. A. Brown

"Glowing Crystals" By C. A. Brown

“Glowing Crystals” By C. A. Brown

This is probably the best way to add a background to your picture when you can’t think of one – just borrow a background from one of your other pictures. It’s usually a good idea to change at least a few parts of it or even to just stick to the general theme of your original background. If it gets you inspired enough to draw a background, then go with it.

In fact, if you do this often enough, then these “borrowed” backgrounds will probably eventually end up becoming part of your art style and your artistic vision too. Seriously, I’ve lost count of the number of tropical beaches, cyberpunk cityscapes, sunsets and old cities I’ve drawn and painted over the past couple of years.

If you use the same background for literally every one of your pictures, then people might start to get bored – so, if you have to recycle more than once, then be sure to “borrow” from a variety of your old pictures.


Sorry for another short article, but I hope that it was useful πŸ™‚

3 comments on “Three Emergency Background Ideas For Drawings And Paintings (With Examples)

  1. marthakeimstlouis says:

    thanks. I often use the colors in the painting to tie the whole thing together

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