Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How to rip off the old masters

Last week's headboard tutorial generated another question: What is that art hanging above your bed? Thanks for noticing...  I made it! I love classic renaissance, pre-Raphaelite, and art Nouveau paintings, but many of them don't match the rest of my decor. So I created my own paint-by-number templates, using Bottlicelli's Birth of Venus as inspiration, and updated Botticelli's classic works.

Are you asking, "How did she do that?" No worries! I'll tell you.
  Photoshop and acrylic paint are your friends.
It's seriously not that hard. You can do it while watching Twin Peaks.

Photoshop & printer (free 30 day downloads are available!)
acrylic paint and brushes
pre-stretched canvas from the craft store (optional)
transfer paper and pencil (optional)
picture frame (optional)
Sharpie marker (optional)

1. Use Google to find a nice, LARGE image of your inspiration piece, and load it into Photoshop. Respect artists, and please don't do this with works that are under copyright. Sandro Botticelli has been dead for 501 years, so I'm pretty sure this doesn't bother him much.

2. Choose Filter at the top of the screen, then scroll down and choose Artistic. Then use the Cutout tool to make a simplified version of your inspiration piece. Use the sliders to adjust the number of levels and the edge of simplicity until you like what you see. Take your time--this is what your finished painting will look like! Try to match the level of detail to your skill level. A super-detailed image is harder to paint. Once you have an image you like, print it and set it aside. It might look a bit like this:

3. Now you need to make a map of your image that shows where different colors meet. Click Filter at the top of the page, go down to Stylize, and choose Find edges. Whoa, that looks different! Then click Enhance at the top of the page, and choose Covert to Black and White. The resulting image will look a bit like this. This is your paint by number template.

4. Do you want your painting to be bigger than 8.5 by 11? If so, take it to Kinko's and have your template enlarged. This should only cost a few dollars, and it's a huge time-saver. If you plan to frame your painting or paint on canvas, consider the size of your picture frame or canvas now.

5. Go home and turn on Twin Peaks. :D

6. Do you want to paint your image directly onto paper? Then you're ready to begin! If you're going to paint on canvas, use transfer paper to trace the enlarged image you had printed in step 4 onto your canvas.

7. Paint! Use the image you made in step 2 as a guide, and use acrylic paint to fill in all the empty bits on your color map. I like to fill in large areas first. Take your time and have fun. This should be relaxing.

8. If you want to add black outlines to your painting, as I did in the larger landscape, use a Sharpie. I think this gives it a more Pop Art look. For some reason, it also reminds me of Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

9. Frame it, hang it, and admire it!

10. If you're using a Photoshop free 30 day trial, remember to make lots more templates so you can continue to paint long after your trial has expired. These make nice gifts, and paintings on paper are easy to mail. I just sent a copy of an Alphonse Mucha painting to my sister in Hong Kong. Erin, let me know when you get that!

enjoy. and go make something beautiful.
<3 jen


  1. You are so talented!!! That is amazing, I'm not an artist at all and I've never even been able to color within the lines :)


  2. so awesome, love this!



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