How to… mark up a canvas

You will need:

  • A print out of your photograph
  • A canvas with similar dimensions
  • A ruler
  • A calculator
  • A sharp pencil
  • Space to spread out!
  1. Choose your canvas:The size I use is typically 30x40cm, and I manage to buy them quite cheaply. Check to see if there are any deals on, but you should be able to get one of this size under £5. For me they are a perfect size as I can get in the right amount of detail to do a painting justice.

    I use these canvases which are very affordable.

  2. Measure your photograph: Ideally I try to print the photo at about 21x26cm, as it is simply 2/3 the size of the canvas, meaning no complicated calculations to scale it up. Every 2cm squared of photo results in 3cm squared of painting.
    A bit of fiddling around with a calculator (or in your head if you are good with numbers) will help with this stage.

    If possible, try to keep your scaling to a whole or .5 of a number.
    It’s all very well knowing that your canvas is 2.63x larger than your photo, but try marking it up with a regular ruler!

  3. Edit the photo if it is not a suitable size: If the photograph is not initially at a suitable size on one or both dimensions, which this one wasn’t, try cutting the photograph smaller or extending the background. I also chose to grid up a smaller area on the canvas, and scaled up to 30x39cm (instead of 30x40cm) choosing to extend the background by 1cm at the top.

    Important point: although it may sound obvious, make sure that you are scaling up both height and width by the same amount, ie 1.5x larger in both directions. Otherwise you will end up with a very squashed or stretched painting… Unless that is your intention of course.

    Here you can see that I have trimmed the photo at the top and bottom to make it easier to scale up.

  4. Grid up: Once you have worked out how much you need to scale up your photograph by, work out a suitable measurement to draw in your grid. I don’t like pencilling in smaller than 2cm squares on my photographs as I find you can lose the detail a bit. So for every 2cm square on your photo draw out a 3cm (or 4cm if scaling up by 2x) square on your canvas. This will result in exactly the same numbers of squares on canvas and photo.

    Here you can see how I have drawn a 3cm squared grid on my canvas and a 2cm squared grid on my photograph.

  5. Draw out the outlines using your grid: You can now use your grid as a reference for the exact point on the page various features will be. Start with the vague outlines, and make sure you are drawing into the corresponding box – I have made the mistake before and ended up rubbing out my whole drawing.
    For my picture, I pencilled in the tree trunk and the outline of the lemur first.

    Here you can see just a vague outline taking place, following my grid to get it accurate.

  6. Draw in some of the detail: At this stage it doesn’t matter if things aren’t perfect. As long as they are in the right place. I had to move the lemur’s hand from where I had originally put it, by smudging and drawing on top.

    Here you can see I have marked out all the main parts of the image – with less focus on the background at this point.

    Now the canvas is ready for the background to be painted in, which I will do on Sunday and write a post about.

    Hope you are all well and happy! I am this week 🙂

    Stay tuned!

5 thoughts on “How to… mark up a canvas

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