How to oil paint over a photo

How to oil paint over a photo {Heather's Handmade Life}

I was working on a few handmade gifts leading up to Christmas when I realized the hardest part of oil painting isn’t the painting itself — it’s getting the scale right.

I was painting a portrait of my mom’s cat and struggled mightily to get the position of the eyes just right. No matter how carefully I thought I’d transferred the details from the photograph to the canvas, using a pencil, the cat’s face just felt … wrong.

I grudgingly finished the painting and decided it was OK, but I kept thinking there had to be a better way. Some kind of method for getting the basic shapes from a photograph perfectly transferred to a canvas so I could get the scale right.

Well … what if I painted directly over a photograph? I decided to give it a try.

I wasn’t sure if oil paint would adhere to glossy photo paper, so I went online and ordered a few photos to be printed on white 100 pound cardstock. I decided to start with one of my sister’s wedding photos — taken by the extremely talented Evan McMaster, a Halifax wedding photographer — since she’d just gotten married over Labour Day weekend.

How to oil paint over a photo {Heather's Handmade Life}
One of the MANY gorgeous photos from my sister’s Labour Day wedding (shot by Evan McMaster)

I tacked the photo to a piece of cardboard on my easel and nervously decided to start with the background. These are the oil paints I have, by the way! (Affiliate link)

I mixed blue, green, yellow and white to make the different shades of the trees of the Public Gardens.

How to oil paint over a photo {Heather's Handmade Life}
Four colours to start! Blue, green, yellow, and white.

I just moved around the picture filling in areas that matched up with the colour on my brush.

How to oil paint over a photo {Heather's Handmade Life}
My beautiful sissy (unpainted) against a painted background

‘Hey! It’s like paint-by-number,’ I realized. Instead of looking around a canvas for tiny number fours or eights, I was scanning for a particular shade of green that needed to be filled in.

How to oil paint over a photo {Heather's Handmade Life}
The finished oil painting!

Ready for more details on the technique? Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home …

How to oil paint over a photo {Heather's Handmade Life}
All framed and ready to give my sister + brother-in-law!

Want to remember this technique for a future project? Be sure to pin it!

How to oil paint over a photo {Heather's Handmade Life}
Pin this project for later!

So what do you think?

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