Okay, so here is my background knowledge on this super, no brainer method. Or in other words, this section should be titled "things you may not know about me". I have a degree in art and design from Cal Poly. Before that, I studied at Cuesta, Chico State, and the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Before that, I took every art class offered in high school and then did two years of independent study. Before that... well, my dad used to hand me paints and paper to keep me busy in my high chair. So there you go. I do actually know how to do this by hand, and I can draw from life and all that, but this is what I use to achieve a quicker, more accurate basic outline. If at any time during this post, you get all, "ya, but mine won't look like that", stop yourself and say: "self! I didn't study art for twenty years straight, now did I? I am probably trained in something that makes money!" and leave it at that. Yours will still look super awesome and will be all about you- your style, your thing, your mo-jo. It'll be great.
And ahem, if you did study art for twenty years straight... you so don't need to be reading this right now. Please.
Okay, so what you will need is a $25 projector, a really basic one, like this:
I regularly combine multiple photos, and when I do that, I make sure to do the photo in the foreground first, so that when I do the background, I know to stop that line when I run into my foreground drawing, and I don't have to do any erasing or trying to figure out later which is which. Here are some examples of what I am left with:
For this piece, I actually received three photos. One of each of the dogs, and one of this place with the stacked rocks. So I did this outline in three separate 'drag-the-projector-and-chair-around, re-focus, and make-sure-its-straight' sessions. Perhaps one or two 'un-tape, move and re-tape the paper' sessions. Be sure to use painter's tape if you care about your walls. But there you have it.
Note: In situations like this one, if you are going to aim for realism (and not just graphic shapes and outlines, which I will talk about later) be sure to pay close attention to where the shadows are pointing. The drawing won't look right to the eye if shadows are going all different directions, or if your subjects are noticably different sizes from their surroundings.
I suggest, if you are going to do a simple line drawing (which is so easy with the projector) that you make the major subject's outlines thicker/darker around the outside, and the backgrounds and inner shadow outlines softer and lighter. Try it and I think you'll get my drift. You can kind of see that in the drawing above. I don't focus on that so much when I know I am going to put paint over it.
Here is another:
I was super nervous about this job because I didn't know the people and had never seen them in person. It wasn't the first time I had done that, and it probably won't be the last, but it always puts me a little bit on the edge of my seat while I'm working. You won't have this issue, as you will probably be creating art of your friends and family for your own walls and theirs!
One more example of this paint-by-number look:
This one is done from a friend's wedding photo. I did the background paint first and then laid down the foreground outline and the background outline...I don't know why I forget to do that sometimes.
So, this is how they all turned out in the end:
Here's a fun one: you can blow up a profile photograph and trace the outline, for a look that is similar to an old Victorian silhouette portrait. Instead of making it black, use it as a template and cut that shape out of fabric, or patterned craft paper, and frame it. Or adhere it onto a background of colored cardstock. Here's an example that I did up in Photoshop:
|digital paper by designer mItsybelle. See more products here.|
I will leave you with a little progression of one of my portraits from start to finish:
|One with glare, and one without. Can't wait for that awesome camera.|