How to make Unique Digital Paintings from Grand Masters

In this detailed tutorial, I discuss a new approach to creating unique digital paintings from an old grand master painting. In this example, I take the work of Monet and apply the block method of creating the reference painting and then using our own skills to create a new twist to the painting.

The block method of painting has been demonstrated with a number of tutorials that you can find within the app and also the videos on the Paintology YouTube channel. Here are a few examples of this work.

Make creative and unique drawings using the Block method of Painting with Paintology
Block method of Drawing

The Trace method of Painting with Paintology

The idea of using blocking method came about from the techniques used in tracing original photos or images with the Paintology app. By using the color picker of the app, we can obtain an exact color match of the underlying image and transfer this to our own drawing canvas. However, drawing or attempting to copy the underlying image can be done in various ways, the task is not as easy as one thinks. Artist often use the underlying image to create the framework or outline of the image and is this for the freehand coloring and drawing. Typically most artists will work with an original image in this manner or simply use it as a reference to make a drawing with their tablet or canvas. Many artists create a reference drawing with pencil in plein air painting.

Now that we have digital methods of drawing and painting, the functionality of tracing can be extended to make more than just outline drawings. The Paintology drawing app allows artists to use a ‘trace’ bar that you slide between the underlying image and your canvas. I have used this technique of drawing to improve my drawing skills significantly and much more rapidly than traditional drawing and painting method will allow. Forget about other people who tell you that you should not trace. This method of drawing allowed the past grandmasters to gain valuable experience in their appreciation of proportions, color theory, form, texture etc. and was instrumental to their later paintings and drawings.

You will see from some of my drawing collection, I can now routinely create photo realistic drawings without the aid of trace. This would not have been possible (this fast) with the practice gained from doing traced drawing.

Here is a an example of a photo realistic drawing with the Paintology drawing app:

Photorealistic drawing created with the Paintology app on a Huawei 10 inch tablet.

An example of a drawing where I continue to use the trace method can be found below. It is ideal for beginners and intermediates who want to develop the skills in freehand drawing with the app.

Draw a bowl of cherries (photo realistic) with the Paintology app.

The block method of drawing came about from working with various modes of drawing with the Paintology app. The app is ideal for beginners and advanced artist and there are over 400 fun tutorials making drawing fun and easy.

The block method removes the requirement of doing necessary learnt strokes which are the requirements of most paintings and drawings. As a result anyone with minimal experience of art can make original and unique drawings and paintings.

The Block method of Painting with Paintology

Although a detailed description can be provided to outline the block method of drawing, it is best for a user to look at a video that shows this working process. In essence, the artist zooms into the underlying image that they want to draw over and selects ‘blocks’ of color that they color over. They repeat this process until they complete the drawing. Depending on how how close to the original photo that you want your drawing to appear, you will pick smaller segments for your block. The idea is that ‘each segment’ will have one unique color and by using the color picker, you can cover the whole drawing using these miniature blocks.

One of the first drawings made this way was the famous John Constable painting ‘The Hay Wain’. Here is the complete video of this drawing and the approach I took.

The Hay Wain painting by John Constable reproduced on the Paintology app using the Block method technique.

The above link is to the Quora post of the process and you can read other people’s comments on this particular drawing.

Having had success with this painting, I decided to tackle more drawing and paintings using this technique. I discovered interesting traits with regards to doing block coloring with various photos. Not all photos are easy to replicate using the block method and some can be complex and requires a different approach. You will find more info. on the first linked post shown above that describes the block method of making unique paintings.

I will provide a recent ‘block’ coloring approach that I tried using on a Claude Monet painting that I found online. His artwork is called ‘Poppy Fields near Argenteuil’ (1875).

Here is the original (Fig. A):

Fig. A – Monet original Poppy Fields painting

Here is an enhanced version of the Claude Monet painting:

Fig. B – Enhanced painting of the Monet’s original where colors are super enhanced.

I picked the latter painting for the reference to this block coloring painting as I had a preference for the bold colors of the enhanced picture. I guess it’s a personal choice for many people.

I will create a video of this painting and will post here soon. In the meantime, you can see the stages of this painting. You don’t have to follow the exact approach that I take to do this drawing, you can and should develop your own. However, in the beginning it is always good to follow someone who is more experienced and better with the techniques.

Poppy Fields near Argenteuil (Claude Monet – 1875) – Stages of Drawing with Paintology

If you are familiar with the simple steps of drawing with Paintology, you will know that the app comes with many tutorials with many having videos. You can go directly to this drawing where the above painting of Monet is already preloaded to your drawing canvas in trace mode. You can also search for the tutorial ID #9700 which will load the tutorial automatically.

1 – Load Tutorial (#9700)

Once you go to the tutorial, you will see the Monet image loaded in trace mode. You will be able to see this from the trace bar on the left hand side that you can use to move from the underlying image to your own drawing.

Fig. 1a Monet painting loaded into Paintology showing the full 100% view

If you move the trace bar to the 50% setting, you will be able to see the underlying image and your own drawing canvas. At this point in time, you will not see any of your drawings as you have not done any yet. This setting is important and is used throughout the drawing and we will explain it’s usage in the next section.

Fig. 1b Monet tutorial at 50% trace bar setting

2 – Trace mode at 50%

The trace bar setting at just above the mid-point (Fig 2a) allows you to make several selections for your drawing. Using the color picker shown allows you to select the underlying color of the original picture and thus make your drawings using the brush of your choice.

Fig. 2a Drawing at the 50% trace mode setting

You can see your complete drawing by moving the trace bar all the way to the bottom as shown in Fig. 2b

Fig. 2b Trace bar at 0% setting to reveal your whole drawing.

The block coloring method involves zooming into the picture (pinch zoom) and then selecting a region to color that approximates one color. You can select another adjacent region with a different color and build up your drawing as shown in Fig. 2b. One point to remember is that depending on what part of the trace bar setting you are in, the color picker will work with respect to the underlying image or your drawing. In the lower 50% of the trace bar, you can expect that the color picker will work with your drawing. With a setting above 50%, you will be able to select colors of the underlying trace image. This enables you to transfer the colors to your drawing but at the same time access the colors that you have used in your drawing which becomes useful towards the end of the drawing which I will explain.

3 – Stages of the Drawing

I can divide the drawing into stages that I adopted as I continued to make this drawing. The first insight was quite an eye opener since I realized at the beginning that the painting was not easily decipherable into blocks. What I mean is that the underlying picture of the Poppy Fields was fairly complex and if you zoom in and look at it closely, you will see that the elements were fairly complex. This is unlike the Constable ‘Hay Wain’ painting where I was able to distinguish the elements of the painting. The reason for this was due to Monet technique in making this painting which involved layers of paints that sit on top until he is satisfied with the outcome. This makes the collection of layered colors complex and naturally difficult to break down into elements. Blocking is similar to painting like paint by numbers kits that you can get from hobby stores.

Fig. 3a Initial drawing of the Poppy fields with Paintology block method

As I was drawing the trees using the zoom feature, I was able to replicate a good amount of the original picture as can be seen in Fig. 3a. You could continue to work this way, however, as mentioned previously, the original image was not easy to separate into block elements so I used another technique which I call the Scribble method of drawing. This allowed me not to rely on any particular shape but the essence of colors that make up the composition.

Drawing the underlying complex image in segments can be a tiring experience so I decided to make it easier for myself, by going over the whole painting with bigger blocked elements using a larger brush. These bigger blocks can be seen on the drawing in Fig. 3a. My idea was to go over this area again by setting the trace bar at 50% and selecting a smaller brush size to go over the smaller elements.

Fig. 3b Block coloring of the nearby field compared to the original.

I tackled the poppy field on the lower left of the drawing by going over it again to match the original. This time, I used a slightly smaller brush size and picked the contrasting colors shown. I didn’t spend too much time on this since I needed to complete the whole drawing and therefore left some color details as you can see. However, the original intention was to to use the Poppy Fields painting only as reference to a twist to the final painting. You will see some of these changes towards the end of this painting.

4 – Coloring the small gaps

Fig. 4a Closing the ‘white’ gaps left after block coloring

Since the original background color was white, you will find that small gaps will appear as shown in Fig. 4a and you will need to go over it again. This is why it can be important to have a background color that matches most of the background of the original image to reduce the amount of effort required to go over it. Alternatively and probably a good approach is to go over your blank canvas and fill the appropriate ‘background’ color in the big regions. For example, a ‘green’ for the two tall trees, a bluish color for the clouds and another tone for the fields. It is always a good idea to use the colors that appear mostly in the original. For this drawing, I did not use this kind of approach but will give it a try next time, so please watch this space.

5 – Coloring the Clouds

The clouds can be quite tricky to draw and I don’t usually use the block method of coloring as this would take a long time. I do the larger blocked colors at first as shown in Fig. 5a. and then use a line brush set to lower opacity settings to mimic the softness of the edges.

Fig. 5a Block coloring of the clouds

I have tried a number of methods for creating the clouds and on this occasion I decided to use the line brush set at a low opacity (density) setting. Fig. 5b shows the clouds after going through with the line brush set below a 50% density settings for the brush.

Fig. 5b Cloud creation with the line brush set to various density settings

The best way to appreciate how the clouds are created is to watch the video of the whole drawing.

6 – Creative tweaks to the original painting

Now comes the fun part and an area of art that will extend your own creativity. As you become more familiar with the drawing techniques that you develop by practicing with the Paintology app, you can apply this understanding to your own creativity.

It is always good to practice drawing by looking at the other paintings and photos but your creativity will come from extending the skills learnt into unique art creations.

Fig. 6a shows the ‘tweaks’ I worked on the final creation to create an artwork that is different to the original. The two final paintings are shown side by side (Fig. 6b), so you can see the changes.

Fig. 6a The digital creation after the block coloring and tweaks
Fig. 6b Side by side comparison of the two paintings, left is original and the right drawn with Paintology

Depth & Perspective:

If you have painted or drawn landscapes, you will know the importance of creating depth and perspective which are dependent on the values of the tones used. I tried to make use of the his by graying out the far distance view and sharpening the foreground with distinct shrubbery. The original painting by Monet shows a flatter land that includes the poppy fields in the foreground. In my digital drawing, I have sectioned of the flatland by the two distinct borders in the mid section and the foreground is essentially a rough terrain. You will also note that I attempted at creating a stream that wraps around the trees and as a result make the trees appear to be far but also larger than the original. I did not include the human figure in the original Monet painting since it was not important to me. I also made use of the shade brush tool using the black and white colors to add highlights including the visible tree trunks. In the far distant horizon, I wanted to add more details than what Monet did with his paintings and make it more distinct by the harsher tones used. Monet’s original painting was the use of subtle and muted colors as can be seen in Fig. A shown earlier.

Naturally, you can use your own imagination and make ‘tweaks’ to the reference drawing and come out with something original. It is an excellent and fun way to expand your skills and tap into your creativity!

If you want to do this tutorial, please open up tutorial ID #9700 on the Paintology app. You can also view the tutorial posted on the Paintology website from the link below.

Create the famous Monet’s famous painting in this Paintology tutorial (#9700)

To continue working on this drawing and making tweaks in similar fashion to what I did above, you can visit the tutorial (#9701) on your app. Link to the tutorial also below.

Finish this famous Monet painting and your own creativity!

The block coloring is a great way to get into digital painting. If you have never done it before, you will be surprised at how quickly you can become adept in drawing on your tablet or phone. In this painting of the Claude Monet, Poppy Fields near Argenteuil’ (1875), we used the block method of creating the final drawing. We then take this drawing and extend it to include minor ‘tweaks’ that allows you to experiment with your own creation.


For more fun and learning tutorials like this, please download the Paintology app available from the Google play store.

Download the free Paintology app from the Google play store.

water mark for Paintology on Google play store

Happy Painting & Drawing!

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