How To Paint From A Photograph

Have you ever had one of those days that nothing would just work for you?! Well, this was one of those days. I was planning a FB live all morning where I show you how to paint from a photograph. My plan was to take my picture of a tulip and with the help of an app, print an outline of it on a larger scale so that I could really highlight its beauty.

Guess again Christie, your printer isn’t having it today!? LOL

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How to Paint from a Photograph The Social Easel Online Paint Studio with ipad flatlay

So, because I couldn’t print anything we have to improvise! I am going to show you how I traced my photograph directly on my IPad! I used ProCreate Sofware, but with this technique, you can pull an image from a picture on your device or a printed copy and recreate the photograph with paint.

First, take your tracing paper and place it over your photo of choice. Outline all the details of your photograph. I am not too worried about these lines being exact. It’s more about giving you the basic lines and shapes to work with.

Now that you have your outline on your tracing paper, use carbon paper to transfer your sketch to your painting surface, I am using my favorite mixed media pad. Just take a piece of carbon paper and put it underneath the tracing paper and then go back over the lines with your pencil, transferring the image onto your surface.

Before painting, I like to go over these graphite lines with a sharpie so I don’t smudge and lose them when I am painting.

Now that you have your outline that you didn’t have to freehand, it’s time to paint! Always keep your photograph nearby as a reference.

In the example, I am painting a beautiful tulip from my garden. Start by painting the background. I am painting a deep, textured background that isn’t an exact match to the photograph so that the Tulip pops. I like to go around the edges of the outline with paint first and then go in and add the brush stroke texture.

How to Paint from a Photograph The Social Easel

For my flower, I am going to use an angled paintbrush first so that I can use its edge to get right up to the background paint. You really have to trust the process with this painting! There will be lots of colors and layering to achieve the look.

How to Paint from a Photograph The Social Easel

I start with a base coat of pink but blend in some red paint as I go to start shadowing, following my photograph for reference, and to make each petal individual from the next. 

How to Paint from a Photograph The Social Easel

Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time! We are painting with acrylic paints which means that if you make a mistake you can just let it dry and then paint right over it. You will also go back in later to make those adjustments to your shadows and highlights. 

How to Paint from a Photograph The Social Easel Online Paint Studio

Painting on my mixed media pad lets my paint dry faster than on a canvas so I can make those adjustments and layers pretty soon after applying paint originally. If you are using a canvas it will take a little longer for the paint to dry between layers.

How to Paint from a Photograph The Social Easel

I add purples and a touch of black to create the deep center. When the paint is still wet I even blend a tiny bit of that center into the tulip petals.

How to Paint from a Photograph The Social Easel

Bounce around and play with the shadows as you see in your photograph to add that depth. I added white and peach paint on top of the red and pink as my highlights.

After I had all of my tones in the right places set, I went over with more paint to add that brush stroke texture I like so much.

How to Paint from a Photograph The Social Easel

Watch the video below so you can see how to paint from a photograph. I like bold paintings with lots of brush stoke texture. You will see how I make the shadows and highlights mimic my reference photograph.

How to Make a Painting From A Photograph

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Even though I wanted to print this photo much larger and ended up  tracing it right off of my iPad, I really enjoyed this painting and love its vibrancy! I hope this inspires you to go back through some of your favorite photos and try to paint them.

 Stay Creative!