If you’re the artistic type looking for a few ideas to turn your creativity into cash, I’d like to show you a method for creating low cost high quality template based art using PhotoShop.
An inkjet printer is required for printing off the homemade templates. You need to be able to use something like PhotoShop too. There is potential to make good money on this as a part time hobby. If you have patience and a steady hand, read on.
You do not need much capital investment although you should really buy some good quality box canvases from a reputable supplier. Decent brushes and a few primary colours of good quality acrylic paint is needed.
Pop Art Derivative
If we look to Andy Warhol and his New York “Factory”, where art became commercialised on a large scale, it reminds us how cheaply made art can sell well.
Hand Painted But Computer Generated
The difference here is that the hand painted unique style is the selling point but uses Photoshop to create the outlines. It’s less sterile than a mass produced print. The canvas element means it can be priced to a greater or perceived value.
Each painting takes me around 5 hours. The Marilyn Monroe canvas took much longer. You will get faster over time.
Sell! Sell! Sell!
Whichever images prove most popular can be recreated over and over. Although it’s a low priced method of production, time and care must be given to each painting.
Remember – price to value, always. In the right settings you could fetch a decent price. If you had a licence to sell outside a music venue, you might be able to take advantage of the fact the music fans are excited having just seen their favourite band or artist.
If you have a couple of nice paintings of their musical idol you’re more likely to get a good price.
Decide what sized canvas to work on. Too big and you might have difficulty selling a finished piece. Too small and you won’t be able to charge as much.
My standard working canvas dimensions are 20 x 16″ (500 x 400mm) and sell for at least £50. In the right circumstances I could easily get £100 – I am searching for that time and place.
Find Photos Online
The first steps to making your own “film noir” style art is to find high resolution imagery of a popular person from music, life, culture etc, and go about manipulating the picture using PhotoShop.
You can an image of a musician or band off the internet for free. Just make sure it is as large as possible.
There is no copyright issue here since you’ll be reproducing an original likeness, not ripping off the photo.
The image you choose will be simplified and printed out as a template using computer graphics software. Then, soft pencil (something like a 6B) will be scribbled tactically on the backside of the paper, created a ready to use carbon copy principle.
Use PhotoShop Filters to Simplfy Photo
The reason I decided to produce art in a basic/reductive style is because PhotoShop has some fantastic filters capable of simplifying the photo into a less detailed representation.
This will form the basis of printable templates and the simpler outlines will be traced out on to the canvas.
It is also easier to fill in the sections will the black paint.
You want just the right amount of detail. Too much detail will be difficult to paint. Not enough detail will make the end result look lazy.
Divide in Quarters
Let us assume you want to make an A2 (594 x 420 mm) sized canvas. The large A2 image is going to be divided into four A4 (210 x 297mm) quarters and printed out on a standard laser/inkjet.
Add Thin Border, Print Each Quarter
You now want to add a bit of border to each quarter section. This is so that once printed, you can see where the edges are and trim them.
Printer Ink Settings
Before printing, consider turning up the brightness of your black ink on your printer settings. There is no need to print very dark black. Do not print on the best settings. It is wasteful.
Print & Trim
Print all four sections and use a knife and cutting mat to slice off the excess. Then they can be joined together using a few pieces of tape.
Scribble Soft Pencil onto Back of Template Sections
Use a window, TV or PC monitor as a lightbox. Strategically scribble soft pencil onto all lines and contours. Frequently sharpen the pencil.
I never go higher than HB pencils because the carbon is too hard. It’s important for the pencil to transfer easily onto the canvas when you trace the outline of the final image.
Ensure you cover every outline of the image with pencil. You must not miss any important details when tracing out the final image. This sometimes still happens to me and I have to embellish the missing piece. Take your time and take care.
You will eventually be using a ball point pen or hard pencil to retrace the lines on the front side of the template. This will impress the carbon on the surface of the canvas.
Join each image
I use sticky tape on both sides of the image for extra security. The last thing we want is for the image to fall apart. As you can see I have prepared more than one of the same image.
A ballpoint biro pen can also draw over the top of sellotape when you trace the outline. This tracing technique is very effective.
You can create lots of templates.
Never cover the entire reverse side of the image in carbon. It rubs off on the clean canvas and makes a mess. Your soft pencils last longer too.
Check and/or Prime Canvas
Ensure the canvas sites flush against the wall. If there are large gaps between the canvas or it comes away from the wall, do not use it.
Do not waste your time with low quality crap canvases that “rock” or are not square.
Mark bad canvases “defective”. Thankfully it is rare to get defective products and much of it depends on how much you pay for them. Never confuse “cheap” with “good”. I managed to get a refund on some bad canvases I ordered online.
Fasten image to the canvas
We’re almost there!
This is where you fasten your paper template image to the canvas.
Masking tape does the job, but make sure it is high tack. Don’t use sellotape for this.
Use your thumbnail to really press down the tape into the grain of the canvas. You don’t want the paper template accidentally coming off or pealing away.
Trace Contours Biro or Hard Pencil
Use a ballpoint pen to trace the lines of the image.
If you want to check that the carbon copy is working, lift up the corners of the paper and check.
It’s possible to use the same templates repeatedly too.
Use red, blue and back biro in that order. Why? Because red is the lightest colour and black is the darkest.
You can go over the same lines three times rather than the first and last time with the black pen. Get it? 🙂
Remove Template, Touch Up Pencil Lines
This outline of David Bowie is a little faint in places, so I went over the lines once more by hand and just embellished parts where the shapes were not clear.
Multiple Layer Colour Template Techniques
If painting more than one colour, you will have to keep removing the image, paint a layer in, allow to dry and then add the next layer.
Usually you would start with the lighter colours and build it up.
It is the same principle as a four colour screen printing process.
Of course, you can use whatever colours you want.
Registration marks are the key for using any type of overlaying effect. You will be able to remove and reposition the image multiple times and continue tracing the outlines onto the canvas.
Carefully Paint Canvas
Fill in the canvas carefully with the acrylic paint. Do NOT dilute the paint with water in an attempt to save money.
I tried that and it came out looking bad. Use a nice large brush for filling in larger areas. try to avoid brush strokes.
If you make a mistake and paint over an area you shouldn’t have, you can allow it to try and then try and rescue the damage using tipex.
Work in Stages
I often work on an image section for a while, then put it to one side to dry while working on another section of the same painting. The last thing you want to do is smudge wet paint or put your elbow in a wet area!
You need to have patience with this technique. One false move and the entire product is ruined. Believe me, it still happens to me now and it is very frustrating.
Allow to Dry Completely
Keep the painting somewhere flat like a table. Leave for at least 12 hours to go totally bone dry.
Use Pencil Eraser to remove Pencil Lines
Use a soft eraser and a gentle circular motion to remove any visible pencil carbon.
If you used a soft pencil (anything in the B range) it will be easier. Sometimes it is not necessary to remove lines because the paint completely covers it.
Blow away the “rubber crumbs” (lol) and use a dry clean brush to clean up – like an archeologist with dinosaur bones.
If you painted the canvas with a primer coat of paint, be extra careful. You do not want to rub away or smudge the paint.
In the example to left, you can clearly see the grain of the canvas meaning there is little risk of smudging or smearing the base coat. Still, be gentle and take your time.
The Finished Piece
It took a while but we got there! It is a lot of work to make these paintings, but how much longer would it take if you produced them free hand?
That’s what your customers will believe you did.
Package and Protect
I recommend keeping these canvases in clear plastic bags or wrappers. Dust tends to collect over time. I have a load of art still stored in a spare room ready for Christmas.
For protection you can buy bubble wrap and plastic bags online for a bit of additional packaging. I got one hundred meters of bubble wrap on eBay for £10. It’s only a little thing but it makes all the difference. You cannot expect your customers to handle a canvas with their hands. If the canvas gets knocked or damaged it would be a shame for them.
Create a Brand
The other thing to do is create a website, business cards, marketing materials etc.
Record Time Spent
To help you calculate what you should be charging as a minimum for your art, record how long it takes to produce each canvas.
- Use good solid canvases
- Invest in good quality paint
- Use Facebook for research on what music your friends like
- Create what you anticipate will be popular
- Get a website and Facebook page running
- Consider offering referral fees – you want people working for you so you can minimise advertising
- Consider giving away the odd painting as a birthday or Christmas gift – it might be a good marketing tactic
- Keep a time sheet so you know how long each painting takes. Work out an hourly wage and add some profit on top to find a good price
- You are selling memories, experiences, people’s self image and tastes
- Be careful how you store canvases. Keep out of direct sunlight
- Try to buy your canvases from specialist suppliers