Creative Ideas to Transform Photos Into Paintings

Throughout art history, most paintings have been produced from live scenarios. The creative process usually involves artists documenting the scenes in front of them on canvas using paint, be it landscapes inspired by nature or portraits with posing subjects. The artist’s pride being the ability to replicate the material with art, the accuracy of real-life scenes on canvas was a reputation booster.

However, in the nineteenth century, artists began to implement photography as a critical element of their craft; they copied photographs, birthing Photorealism. Simply put, Photorealism is the process of painting from photographs. Although considered an unfair and amateurish method of creating art by artists who employ more traditional means, painting from photographs remains a relevant trend in today’s world.

As the trend continues to thrive, artists discover several new ways to ensure the finished art is aesthetically more potent than the original photo. This article will examine some creative methods to transform photographs into spectacular art.

Evolution of Photorealism

Photorealism evolved from Pop Art between the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. The Movement’s main idea is to use photographs as references to create paintings.

It developed as a protest against the reigning Abstract Expressionism achieved by spontaneity without prior planning or preparation instead of the former’s intricate pre-planning process for earning accurate replicas.

However, Photorealism’s heavy reliance on photographs was intensely criticized when it became popular, even though similar devices had also been used to aid artists with their craft since the fifteenth century.

Advantages of Painting from Photos

Perhaps the most prominent merit of photos-to-paintings art is the ability of photographs to capture busy scenes with moving objects. However, it would be almost impossible and frustrating for any artist to attempt to depict crowded spaces such as marketplaces and sporting events with the amount of etiquette needed.

Another benefit to consider is how easy it is to take a picture compared to setting us an easel. Certain scenes inspire an artist to create; however, there are times when those scenes are in spaces that make it a bit difficult or outright impossible to use painting tools. With such instances, taking pictures to paint later would be better than altogether forfeiting the opportunity to paint.

Regarding making custom portraits from photos, reference pictures provided by the client beat the traditional arrangement of having the subject/model sit or pose for hours while the artist works. This advantage is particularly appreciated when the portrait subjects are kids or pets, notorious for being restless.

In addition, the artist is allowed to take enough time with the artwork instead of rushing through hours in one sitting or paid appointments with models. There is hardly any pressure to make a hasty finish in this instance.

Artistic License

Poetic license is the freedom a writer has to change details and ignore conventional methods, mainly if the work produced is better due to the modifications. Likewise, an artist has artistic license to create impressive pieces by experimenting with design.

The artist can truly transform a simple picture into a masterpiece by subtly or drastically deviating from what the photo is offering. Subtle deviations make barely noticeable additions or subtractions from the reference photo while retaining the key features in the painting. On the other hand, drastic alterations merely use the photo as a base for the painting, and the finished work looks different from the original photo.

An artistic license also gives the painting a touch of originality from the artist instead of just copying the image in the photograph. By leaving a distinctive mark separate from the picture taken, the final work becomes more than just an imitation of media.

Creative liberty is essential to artistic license, particularly in enhancing reference photos. The artist must be able to go beyond what is seen in the picture to borrow and incorporate elements obtained from either their imagination or other sources. This creative process may include several ingenious methods.

Creative Ideas

Why stop at just one reference picture? Multiple photos can be combined to create an extraordinary painting. As long as the artist’s craftsmanship can flawlessly merge the different features, the finished work depicts their harmony like a beautifully rendered orchestra rather than Frankenstein’s monster.

Why combine only reference photos when you can add a famous painting or two to the mix? In this situation, if the client admires certain paintings, then elements from those paintings may be incorporated into the work, particularly for custom portraits. An excellent example of this is how several individuals have imposed their faces on Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The Mona Lisa is a particular favorite for fans who desire custom portraits of themselves rendered as famous paintings.

In addition to incorporating new features, others may be removed. Some unwanted features may be cut off and therefore not make it to the painting. These features may either be replaced or completely done away with. An excellent example of this would be thinning out crowds in particular settings; the guests in a wedding portrait may either be reduced or completely removed to highlight just the couple.

Lastly, a tip that is particularly beneficial to artists is to create custom reference photos. The average artist is highly imaginative, and several ideas flood the mind. When it is challenging to execute a brilliant idea, custom-made reference photos relieve the stress of struggling to paint from imagination or combing the internet for related pictures.


Two elements play significant roles when it comes to executing projects with artistic liberty–the skill and creativity of the artist. A third element is introduced in cases where the artist is commissioned to do a custom portrait, which is the client’s preference. When all these elements are present and in agreement, painting from photographs produces stunning art.

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