By Nicole Tinkham
Have you ever found yourself admiring a photo and then realizing that it’s actually a painting? It’s crazy, right? Trust us, we’ve been there too. Although there is no quick answer on how these artists achieve the photorealistic look, we do have some pointers that can help you get started. Disclaimer: Photorealistic painting takes loads of time, practice and patience to get it right! Read on for what to expect when first starting out and 13 tips to become a photorealistic painting rock star.
What to expect
It takes time. A photorealistic painting won’t be done in just a few hours. It takes DAYS. There’s so much detail and precision that goes into it. Don’t begin with a mindset of quick and simple. Get your head in the game and prepare for the journey.
You will work in layers. MANY layers! You’ll start with the larger basic shapes and get more and more into the detail work as you add on layers. We’ll dive into this a little later but it’s important to understand the process before you begin.
You’ll have to step up your perspective game. Even a minor slip up in your perspective can totally throw off your painting. Accurate perspective is a MUST for a photorealistic painting! Keep practicing and adjusting until you get it just right.
You’ll learn to look at shadows differently. They are no longer shadows that you add on last. Look at them as shapes in various dark colors.
You’ll have to actually paint what you see. It’s so easy for us to fill in the blanks when we know in our minds what the object looks like. But sometimes that vision in our mind isn’t accurate. For photorealistic painting, you must really examine the object and paint exactly what you see. You’re totally relying on your eyes for this one.
13 Quick tips
1. Before you begin, plan out the composition of your painting. More on that here.
2. Practice first! Play around with different brushes and colors to make sure you get it as accurate as you can.
3. Use a projector to create an outline for your painting.
4. Or you can use a grid to get an accurate drawing. To do this you can draw a light grid over your reference photo and another grid over your canvas.
5. Add a layer of gesso over the canvas before laying down any paint to eliminate the streak of graphite from your drawing.
6. Your shadows should vary in dark colors but not be totally black.
7. Don’t wait until the very end to paint in the shadows. Paint them as you go with everything else.
8. Keep checking the perspective as you work to make sure everything looks accurate.
9. Block in main color first before going into the fine details.
10. Work in layers, mostly glazes (thinned paint).
11. Work on a flat surface so your glazes don’t run!
12. When it comes to reflections or shadows, paint what you actually see, not what your mind believes is there. This can be tricky but you’ll pick it up with practice.
13. Quality supplies are a must! Invest in a really good set of brushes in various sizes.
The best piece of advice we can give on photorealistic painting is to just get started. Now that you know what to expect and some tips to help you succeed, you’re ready to begin. We know that this can be an overwhelming project but you’ll never get better if you don’t choose to start. Remember that it takes time. Don’t give up after one day of giving it a go. Keep on practicing and you will become a photorealistic painting rock star!
Tell us, have you ever done a photorealistic painting? What was your experience with it? What one piece of advice would you give a newbie? Let us know in the comments!