Thursday, 16 March 2017

Acrylic Painting: help from a Scanner, Photoshop & Imagetrace Paper

I decided to paint my son and his fiancé a painting to mark their engagement. The design needed to be personal to them, and to appeal to their "alternative tastes". I chose to paint three playing cards, the Queen of Spades, Ace of Hearts and King of Diamonds on a large canvas. As I'm not the most confident artist or the most experienced painter, I utilised the help of a scanner, Photoshop and Imagetrace paper.

Tools and Paint
Preparing the Canvas

First of all I sketched the outline of the cards before painting the rest of the canvas in Hookers Green with a 1in flat wash brush. The playing cards were painted in a mix of Titanium White and a small amount of Cadmium Yellow and Mars Black.

The Queen, a Scanner and Imagetrace Paper

The scanned image of the complex playing card was clear enough to produce a reasonable print after enlarging it in Photoshop. The outline of the design was transferred onto the canvas with Imagetrace Paper.

Imagetrace is a wax-free tracing paper with a pure graphite coating on one side. By placing it graphite side down onto the canvas, I could lay my print on top and trace the outlines with a biro. The pressure from the biro caused an imprint of graphite to remain on the canvas.


When I finished transferring the design, I painted the outlines (which took hours!) using a liner brush. Liner, or rigger, brushes have longer length hairs designed to absorb some of the shake when painting fine lines. I used a small round brush with Crimson, Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow and Black acrylic paint to complete the remainder of the painting.

This was the stage at which I had intended for the final painting. However, the playing cards did not make the impact I had envisioned so I decided to work up the design by adding poker chips.

Developing the Design for the Painting

I didn't want to add a further element to the painting without first getting an idea of how it would finally look. For this reason I created a mock-up by taking a photograph of some playing cards with some plastic poker chips to help me decide on the layout.

I then designed a poker chip, comprising a logo of the engaged couples' initials and an iconic image in Photoshop. The great thing about Photoshop (or Illustrator) is that you can build up an image in layers and add drop shadows and bevelled edges - very helpful for replicating the behaviour of light when painting from fiction.

Adding new elements to the Painting

The poker chips were designed to scale for the painting, so after printing them at full size, I cut them out and drew around the edge with a pencil onto the canvas. I then painted over the Hookers Green with Titanium White (the only way to cover dark acrylic colours).


The next stage was to transfer the design of the poker chip using the extremely helpful Imagetrace. This was a little more tricky because I had to line them up correctly. I then painted in the detail with the acrylic paint before finally adding the shading and highlights.

The Finished Acrylic Painting

I'm delighted to say that my son and his fiancé like the painting very much!


by Allison Holland