Creating a painting from an old photo is a great way to preserve and honor a treasured photograph. Here are some tips that will make painting from photo simpler for you:
Examine the photo you have chosen to paint. Make sure that the photo is not cluttered with objects. You can always cut out objects you don’t want in the painting, but you don’t want to have to cut out too many objects and completely strip the background. The photograph should also have a good contrast of light and dark images.
Choose the medium of the painting based on the nature of the picture. If you want to bring out vivid colors choose oil paint. Paint with watercolors if the picture requires more light. If the picture requires more simplicity you can even make it into a pencil sketch.
Making a proportional grid will help you paint the photo to scale without distorting the image. Print an extra copy of the picture. Measure the picture’s dimensions and use those dimensions to make your painting on the same scale. For example, if the picture is 4”X6”, cut the paper or canvas to 24”X36”. Draw a grid of 1” squares on the copy of the picture and make a grid of 6” squares on the paper or canvas. Draw the grid lightly so it doesn’t show up in the painting.
Start painting the photograph one square at a time. Be mindful of objects that you choose not to transfer into the painting. Start with the light colors first. When using watercolors, apply a thin wash first and add the details after (its harder to cover mistakes in watercolor because of its transparency). Try painting the picture upside down to get a fresh perspective if you are having trouble transferring the images to paint. After you are finished, leave the picture alone for a couple days and come back to it. You might notice some mistakes with your fresh eyes that you didn’t see before.