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Graphic Arts Posterizing an Image Painted Value Illustration

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Use painted values to recreate the image. The composition should be composed entirely of painted values. It should contain no drawn contour lines.

It should NOT HAVE ANY BLENDING. LOOK AT THE EXAMPLES ABOVE! You may use the white background sparingly. Remember to strive for unity and visual interest.

The final image should measure 8×10” and should be cleanly mounted on a sheet of Bristol board—with a margin of at least one inch. You may create an imaginary background–in other words, if your background is distracting or bad, just remove it!

The composition should be complex and interesting.

Timetable: 10-20 hours.


Look through books or magazines to find a clear, bold photograph of a head or face. Look for a wide range of values and clear visual drama. Black and White advertising images work well. Crop the image for visual interest so it fits an 8×10” ratio which is 4:5. Check with me to see if the photo you want to use will work. Some photographs won’t work, will bring you hardship, and make you sad.

Below is an example where the original photo has been altered in Photoshop. This is An Example Of Your Starting Point.

Tactics for this Assignment–Pro Tips

It is fine if you want to use your own photo. But it has to be well lit with a wide range of value scales. If you choose a photo that does not have these qualities you will be sad about the results.

Tip: Work background to foreground when painting.

A quick way to generate the value scale on an image is to use Photoshop or Gimp. Here is a link on this topicLinks to an external site. that shows what this looks like in Photoshop and tells you how to do it.

This process in the graphic arts is called posterize. Posterize defined: print or display (a photograph or other image) using only a small number of different tones. When posterizing in Photoshop I find 4-6 tones works well.

Here is a video of how to Posterize in Photoshop TRT 7:20–OiRDkQLinks to an external site.

You can also edit photos with a free product called PicsArtLinks to an external site..

Here is an example showing the original image and two posterized images with different levels. When posterizing in Photoshop I find 4-6 tones works well. You can see from the examples below any settings in Photoshop depend on the photo. If you can play around with a couple settings and save them into files that would be best. Once you’ve got your file you can print it out and go on to the next series of steps–the grid.

Print out your posterized image. Your image should be 8×10″. You need it for the next step!

The Grid

This section talks about how artists use the grid system to enlarge or reduce things. Have you ever wondered how artists who paint large murals on buildings get that art up there? They make a grid on their design (original image) and then make a grid with the same number of squares on the building. From there they put the outlines of what they want to paint on the building using the grid. They take each square of the grid separately and copy what is in that square.

Let’s look at this in detail.

In a nutshell, the grid method involves drawing a grid over your reference photo, and then drawing a grid of equal ratio on your paper. Then you draw the image on your paper, focusing on one square at a time, until the entire image has been transferred. Once you’re finished, you simply erase or paint over the grid lines, and start working on your painting, which will be now be in perfect proportion! Yay.

To use the grid method, you need to have a ruler, a paper copy of your reference image, and a pencil to draw lines on the image. You also need a piece of Bristol that you will grid and later paint upon.

To draw the grid lines on your reference image and Bristol board, I would recommend using a mechanical pencil, so that you can get a thin, precise line. Be sure to draw the grid very lightly.

The important thing to remember when drawing the grids is that they must have a 1:1 ratio. This is very important – otherwise your drawing will be distorted! Basically, a 1:1 ratio means that you will have the exact same number of lines on your canvas as you will on your reference photo, and that in both cases, the lines must be equally spaced apart – perfect squares.

Let’s say you want to paint the following image.

This reference photo is 5″ x 7″. As luck would have it, you want to make a 5″ x 7″ painting from this photo. So drawing the grid will be pretty straightforward. But if you want to make a large painting, you could also make a painting that is 10″ x 14″ or 15″ x 21″ or 20″ x 28″. Why those sizes and not other sizes? Because those sizes are the same ratio as the 5″ x 7″ reference photo. 5×7″ is the same ratio as 10×14″.

Keep in mind your final painting is going to be 8×10″ so the ratio is 4:5. The main thing is to have the same number of squares on the reference photo and on your Bristol board.

Draw a grid over your reference photo like this. This example has one inch squares so there are 7 squares across and 5 down. The number of squares is less important than having the same number and ratio of squares on both your reference photo and your Bristol board.

Now draw a grid on your Bristol board like this.

It can be handy to number the squares on the Bristol board if you feel confused.

And on your reference photo.

So now your task is to transfer what you see in the reference photo, block by block, onto your canvas or paper. When I use the grid method, I always start at the top left corner, and work my way across and down. Since Square A1 is blank in the reference photo, we’ll move on to A2. Draw in A2 exactly as you see it:

So you see that as you are transferring the image, you are only paying attention to one block at a time. Don’t worry about the other blocks – just focus on that one block. Try as much as you can to copy exactly what you see in that little square in the photo to the corresponding square on your paper or canvas. Focus on getting the placement of each line just right! Here we go:

And then the next square:

I think you get the idea now. Basically you continue on in this manner, until all the squares are done and the image is completely transferred. By focusing on one square at a time, you end up drawing what you actually see, and not what you think you see or even what you think you ought to see. Once finished, you now have a pretty accurate rendition of your reference photo, ready for painting !

In the end your drawing on the Bristol board would look something like this. The artist has drawn lines on the form to show where changes in value occur.

Now make a note on the Bristol board to indicate the tones you want to use. Just like paint by numbers!

Pro Tip:

Once you are ready to paint–work from the background to the foreground.

The final image should measure 8×10” and should be cleanly mounted on a sheet of Bristol board—with a margin of at least one inch. You may create an imaginary background–in other words, if your background is distracting or bad, just remove it!

The final result looks like this:

Follow all of the instructions in this module.

Choose your image.

Edit your image and adjust it in an image editor.

Print out your image. Your image should be 8×10″.

Put a grid on your image. Make the same grid on your Bristol board.

Transfer the image using the grid technique.

Paint it like “paint by numbers” using tones of black and white acrylic paint.

The final image should measure 8×10” and should be cleanly mounted on a sheet of Bristol board—with a margin of at least one inch.

Turn in two pictures. One of your final painting and one of your image with the grid.

Your composition should be neat and clean. If it is a big mess you will receive a low grade. If you rushed or didn’t think hard you will receive a low grade. Follow what you see in the instructions, use the assigned materials, use your brain, and build skills. You will use these skills in the future! Take a good picture, get the file name correct–and if you have a mess–start over! Do the assignment until it looks amazing.

Finally, for the discussion board you must include a reflective statement about the project. For example, what was the nature of your learning process? Give an example of problem solving, revelation, how the concept helped the process, experience of making, time taken, working environment, let us know what you experienced.


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