The Grid Method for Artists

Grid to help paint Amy Winehouse portraitThe first thing I’d like to say it that if you have a fair bit of drawing and painting experience, then there is a lot to be said for not using The Grid Method, and instead continuing to exercise and train your eye to create an accurate drawing unaided. However, if you are just beginning or feel you’d like a helping hand, then The Grid Method can be a great way of making the drawing stage easier. It also will help with beginning to train your eye to see things more clearly, and keep the focus of the class on oil painting, rather than drawing.

So with that said, what exactly is The Grid Method? Well in a nutshell it involves drawing a grid over your reference photo, and then drawing a grid of equal ratio on your canvas. Then it’s simply a matter of carefully looking to see where the lines and contours of your reference photo intersect the squares of the photo grid, and then endeavouring to draw these on your canvas grid in the corresponding squares. If this concept still feels a bit fuzzy after reading this, then no harm to pop over onto YouTube and search Grid Method for artists, or drawing or painting, and watch a few minutes of the videos that come up.

As for the practical steps, there are two ways I’d recommend you go about preparing your photo with a grid. The first would be to use a digital image on your tablet or phone, and then download an app to help overlay a grid on your image. There are lots out but I recently found one called “Artgrid by Jackson's" that is pretty easy and intuitive to use. Another I've used is "Copy It” which has some nice features but isn't the most user friendly to begin with. After you get the grid onto your image you can either export the image and print it, or work directly from your tablet. Please don’t try work from a phone though, as it’s too small. There are lots of other apps for gridding up as well, so feel free to find one that works for you. If you are more used to a desktop computer though, you could look at using photoshop or some of photo editing software to overlay a grid.

The next option is to print out your photo and then tape this down to some cardboard slightly larger than the photo. And then overlay a transparent acetate plastic sheet down over the photo and again secure this with tape so it can’t move. Then you can simply draw the grid on the plastic sheet with a marker, which can later be removed when the drawing stage of the painting process is complete.

Before you do either of these however, it’s worth mentioning the importance of matching up the ratio or your photo reference with the ratio of your canvas. This can get a little complicated, but to avoid this I’ve provided a recommended list of photo sizes matched to canvases sizes which should make things easy for you.

If you follow these recommended sizes then it’s as simple as marking off one inch intervals on the plastic sheet over your photo, and two inch intervals on your canvas. And then joining the lines up with a marker for the plastic sheet and preferably a light coloured pencil for the canvas, and you’re ready to go.