Hay Painting Sketch – With Help from Photoshop

| July 24, 2010
grid oil painting photoshop

Grid applied in Photoshop to facilitate sketching

In this post, I thought I would make an effort to show my process for setting up a painting. This is by no means the only way – just my way. I first start by generating the image I want to use as a photo reference. Working in Photoshop, I then size the image to the exact size of my canvas. From the image above, you can see I am planning on making this painting 10 inches high by 20 inches wide. The reason I take the time to size the image to the exact size of my canvas is so I can draw the same grid, in one inch increments, on my canvas to serve as the means for transferring the scale and perspective from the photo reference to the canvas. This image is a little complicated with the diminishing hay piles and I want to try and get things just right from the beginning.

grid for oil painting photoshop

Grid overlay shown while sketching

Above is a view of my entire screen with the grid shown. In Photoshop I simply drag a guide from the ruler and place it where I like. I put mine at every inch along the horizontal and vertical dimensions. When I get to painting, all I have to do is hit COMMAND and H on my keyboard and the grid will disappear. If I get lost while painting, I can always hit the key combo again and show the grid to get my orientation back. I have the benefit of a 30″ Apple Cinema Display as my monitor making it perfect for showing the whole image as I work on the painting.

sketching before oil painting

Final sketch with gridlines erased

Just above is the completed sketch. I first used a T-square to draw the one inch grid on the canvas and then I drew the key elements of the painting on the canvas using the grid overlay in Photoshop as my reference. This took about an hour to complete. I lose track and miss something from time to time, causing me to erase and correct bad drawing. I just use a kneaded eraser to erase my bad lines as well as the grid itself when I am finished. Once complete, I spray the canvas with Krylon Workable Fixatif to lock the sketch in place. Once dry, I toned the canvas with a warm yellow. Next, I will start underpainting key values.

toned canvas for oil painting

Canvas toned with thinned Cad Yellow and Yellow Ochre

I hope to make progress on this tomorrow. I probably will not finish since it is a bigger painting than usual. My goal is to just get things blocked in and come back to it next weekend. I am back to California Monday for a quick trip, which will force me to let this simmer a few days. Maybe that will help with the outcome! Please come back to see!

Category: Fine Art and Painting

Comments (7)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. nancy says:

    Hi Lee, Thanks for this info! Looks like an apple? I have apple, no photoshop. I would like to try this.

  2. Lee says:

    Ni Nancy! Yep it is an Apple. You may look into Photoshop Elements. Way less expensive and should suit your needs just fine. Here is a free trial link. Good luck!


  3. AutumnLeaves says:

    Lee, what is the purpose for the “toning” of the canvas, if I may ask? (I’m trying to learn, so an honest question!) It doesn’t appear to be laying in values, so I am curious as to what this layer of painting does for the end result? Thanks!

  4. Pam Holnback says:

    This is so interesting. I’ve never tried anything so technical.

  5. Lee says:

    Hi Sherry. Thanks for asking your question! One of the reasons I tone the canvas is to give me the freedom to not have to cover every square inch of canvas while I am painting. If the white canvas were to show though it would seem unnatural. If the yellow peeks through it will look like sunlight.

    It also helps create a general color harmony for the piece. I see the toning as the light and If I am able to let some of it show through while painting, it will help the piece sparkle a bit. Nothing will be as bright as the white canvas reflecting though the yellow toning. We can use this to our advantage to create more depth in the painting.

    Hope that makes sense!

  6. AutumnLeaves says:

    Thank you, Lee. That makes sense to me (eureka!). Now, might I ask if you laid this in in oils? If so, how did you get them so transparent?

  7. Lee says:

    Hi Sherry. This is done in oils and all I do to make them transparent is add some odorless mineral spirits to the paint. You can also wipe areas away with a paper towel after that to make it even more transparent. It dries fast and makes it easy to build up successive layers of paint.