Oil Painting From Photo Subjects

Creating an oil painting from photo subjects can be quite daunting. You want the results to look as close to the original as possible. But you soon find out that what started out so beautifully has completely fallen apart.

The obvious solution is to search the internet for answers on what went wrong. The first thing you will notice is that there are hundreds of companies and individuals that want to create the painting for you.

Along with hundreds more that want to sell you a computer program. There are all types of computer programs that can instantly turn any photograph into what appears to be an oil painting.

But, what's the fun in having a computer generated replica or hiring someone to paint for you? The real fun and satisfaction comes from creating the oil painting from photo yourself.

Let's get you started in the right direction.

Learn how to create an oil painting from photo subjects

Enlarge the Original Photo

Photos are generally quite small, so if you have a computer close by, that will help you a great deal. With the computer you can enlarge the photo for up-close viewing.

Of course, a high resolution digital photo is the easiest to work with because you can enlarge it as much as you like without distorting the image.  

If you are extremely artistic you can draw the image on to your canvas free hand. Remember not to include too many details as they will be lost when you apply the paint.

For those us that couldn't draw a circle if our lives depended on it, there are other methods of transferring the image on to the canvas.

Carbon Paper

First, you need to have the photo on your computer. Enlarge the image to fit your canvas and print it out. The image will span over several sheets of paper since the canvas you are working with will be much larger than the size of your printer paper.

Print in black and white. You will be tracing the image onto the canvas with the carbon paper, so there is no need for a color image, plus the black and white will help you with shadows and contrast.

Securely tape the the carbon paper to the canvas, and then piece together the sheets of paper and tape them securely over the carbon paper.

Again, no need to get into too much detail. All you need is a general outline of the image.

The Projector Method

Just as it sounds, you simply project the image on to the canvas and trace the main objects to create the basis for your oil painting from photo.

This is probably the easiest method, because you don't have to worry about the paper slipping and you can easily make the image any size you like, without messing around with an imaging program.

And you don't have to print out the photo.

The Grid Method

This is the most intensive and tedious method, but very effective. Grid the photo and your canvas. You don't want your canvas covered with a pencil drawn grid, so use string instead.

Simply create a grid pattern out of string and place it over your canvas. Recreating a one inch square free hand is much easier than trying to draw the entire image at once.

Let the Fun Begin!

Once you have your image on your canvas, you are ready to get down to the fun stuff. But first, a few things to be aware of:

  1. Make 100 percent certain you have permission to use the photo. We may be in a world of easy internet access to anything and everything, but that doesn't mean you can take someone's photo and use it as your own. Copyright infringement can cause all sorts of legal problems. Before you download a picture, read all of the fine print as to how it can be used. It's always better to use your own photos.
  2. Cameras can often skew the color. Be prepared to make a few adjustments.
  3. A 2D picture will not have the depth of an oil painting. You will have to create the depth with your paint. Zooming in on the image might help you create all the subtle hues and shadows not easily detected by just looking at the pic.
  4. Even though you are creating a realistic painting of the photo, don't forget to use a bit of artistic freedom. If adding an extra petal to a rose, or changing the position of a leaf will create a better balance, go for it.

Creating and oil painting from photo subjects is a fun and easy way to get your creative juices flowing, and practice your painting talents.

Watch My Video Series

See these tips come to life with my series of videos on oil painting from photo subjects.

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