Painting From Photographs

by Artist Jackie Stacharowski

©2008 - 2015

Painting from photographs is a challenge. Although initially it seems that the composition and colors are there for you to copy, it takes additional work to produce a pleasant and painterly work of art. Remember:

You are creating a painting based on a photograph - not painting a photograph!


Photographs capture every element within a scene.  A painting should incorporate only the elements that convey the feeling behind the image.  You need to eliminate some elements, modify others and/or move some around.  Decide why you want to paint that image and the feeling you want to convey.  Then decide on your center of interest, the mood of the painting as well as the color scheme and then modify the composition as you place the elements onto the canvas.


Nature gives us unlimited colors, the human eye can see about half of those.  Color photography can only reproduce a fraction of what we can perceive.  You need to modify the colors in the painting.  Use warm hues for closer objects and cooler hues for distant objects and shadows.  Also, in nature, objects are seldom seen as a single color, you need to add reflected colors on objects, add complements into the shadowed side and intensify the colors in the closest areas. 

You can also modify the color of an element to better portray the image you are trying to create - a red flower can become yellow, a white vase - blue, a brick building - stucco, a gray sky - blue.  Just remember to modify the reflected light near the changed object.


A photograph flattens the picture plane.  Objects appear closer then they are.  The color of distant objects needs to be less intense then the colors used for the nearer objects.  Add gray, blue or the complement to a color to have it appear further away. 

You also need to adjust the colors for aerial or atmospheric perspective when painting from a photo - exaggerate the distance, especially in landscapes.

Photos also flatten objects, especially round ones.  You need to exaggerate the shadows and highlights of objects to portray the realistic shape.

Keep these thoughts in mind as you paint from a photograph

and you will truly create a work of art.

Work hard and enjoy the process.  Have fun! 

Look Twice, Think Twice, Paint Once.

All work is copyrighted and subject to Federal Copyright Laws.

All rights are retained by Jackie Stacharowski unless otherwise negotiated.

The viewer of this information understands and agrees that these concepts

are the property of Jackie Stacharowski and may not be copied without the written agreement of the artist.

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