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Painting the Northern Lights


This was inspired by Hallmark’s Movies and Mysteries film, The Northern Lights of Christmas.

I have always been fascinated by the Northern Lights, and seeing the pictures people take while they are experiencing this gorgeous phenomenon is incredible! It doesn’t look real…it looks like a painting!  And speaking of painting, I thought I would combine both the love created in the movie and my passion of painting by showing you at home how to create a painting of the Northern Lights on the word “LOVE”.

What Creates the Northern Lights? 

The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Variations in color are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red/pink aurora.

Northern Lights stem from when large numbers of electrically charged particles (electrons) at high speed stream in towards the Earth along its magnetic field and collide with the highest air particles. The air then lights up rather like what happens in a fluorescent light tube.

Legends of the Lights

‘Aurora borealis’, is simply the scientific term of “Northern Lights”. Before we had science to explain this amazing phenomenon, there was much folklore and mythology about this event, ranging from their gods watching over them, to the strength we can find within ourselves.

Here is how to get started with this DIY.

You Will Need: 

  • Acrylic paint in the following colors: Black, white, pink, blue, yellow
  • Paint brushes: Fan brush, large artist brush, small artist brush and a small angle brush
  • Canvas (I will be demonstrating on canvas, but the hero will be on paper mache letters)
  • Paper mache letters in the word of your choice – I will be using “LOVE”
  • Painter’s tape
  • Cheap toothbrush
  • Paper plate (to act like the palette)
  • Water (to thin paint and wash brushes)
  • Paper towel
  • Square (or ruler)


  1. Take a bit of all of your colors and use the paper plate as an easel.Put all colors on the plate, not touching one another.
  2. You can use painter’s tape to create a line at the bottom so assure that your colors stay straight. We will be painting horizontal lines only at this point.  This will be the part for your trees, so leave as much room as you would like at the bottom (this will be determined by the size of your canvas).
  3. Start at the bottom with white. Paint white across the bottom about an inch thick. Use water so that the acrylic paint isn’t too thick.
  4. Add pink or magenta as the next layer up.
  5. Add blue as the next layer.
  6. Add black as the next layer which should take you to the top.
  7. Take your toothbrush, wet it and put it in the white paint.
  8. Using your finger, flick the brushes to create little white spots (this will become your stars). It doesn’t have to be perfect – remember some stars are brighter and larger than others, so this step can be completely up to personal preference.
  9. Take a small artist brush and draw a squiggly line vertically (kind of) up your sky in the color you want your Northern Lights. They are typcically a pale yellowish green or blue/red which creates a purple/pink aurora.  Draw two or three of these. Mix up the colors in the sky so they aren’t all the same streaks of light.
  • Take your small angled brush and dab it into the same color as the line and start painting small lines that go upward about an inch. Repeat this all the way down the line, flipping back and forth over your line (this will make a heck of a lot more sense when you see me do it, so don’t be scared)!
  • Continue this with the other colors of the light lines.
  • At the bottom of the canvas, it’s time to start painting our scenery which will simply be dark silhouettes.Taking your fan brush and black paint, create little pine trees by using the fan part of the brush for branches.
  • Continue this until you have many trees. Remember to keep them small since the Northern Lights should be our main focus and lights up the entire night sky!


  1. Since you won’t be using a ton of paint for this, you can get one of those small packages of paint in little tubes. This assures you have every color you need without a large outlay of money.
  2. I listed the colors needed, but you can use any color in that general range.
  3. You can also buy a paint brush pack that will have many different shapes that you will need to create this. Again – a less-expensive option that will do the trick!
  4. Continually add water to your paints – this will make the colors blend and move more with each other as you go up the canvas.
  5. This same procedure will work on whatever canvas you have…real canvas, paper mache letters like you see here, watercolor paper, etc.
  6. To find out how to paint items like this, there is a great website called stepbysteppainting.netthat gives you detailed tutorials.

Do you have a fun & festive Christmas DIY? Share with us on Instagram and Twitter @paigehemmis 

If you missed the episode check it out by heading over to Home & Family!



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