Hand painted pet portraits: how we do it?

UPDATED March 2023.

Creating and painting those custom pet portrait seems to be a very fulfilling and intriguing job! As the owner of two doggies (1.5yo Wire fox terrier and 11yo Jack Russel mix) and also being around dogs and cats all my life -  I understand very well what is the love to your best friend.

They are loyal, they are cute, they are funny - they are your best friend!

We received a huge amount of wonderful pictures of your pets in our last competition (to win a t-shirt). It was super difficult to choose one. They were all just too cute! But in the end we did it.

So now I want to share the process in detail of how we make those portraits. 

So first - the picture. For the best results we need a good start. And we can do that by using a good quality photo. It does not matter what's in the background or if they looking straight to the camera or it's their profile. As long as we can clearly see all of their features - we're good to go.

two catsdog facejack russel face

Next step is tracing the main features or digitalising the image. It is not an automated trick - we had to do it bit by bit for the best result. In other words we create the outlines of the image. Sometime we use Illustrator, sometimes we do it by a hand.

Then another part: creating a colour map (as we call it). All shades and colours take place on the previously made outline image. Once again - not an automated service. All the digital paint brush are done by human. Sometimes it's easier, sometimes more tricky. But it is different every single time as there are no two pets alike! And even though it takes a long time - it makes the visual for our customer. 

custom dog mockup portraitdog mockup portraitchicken portrait

Check out our speed art video how we do a digital mock up.

speed art dog video from ARTsy clothing on Vimeo.

Now it's time to confirm the result with you - the customer. Is the image looks about right? Are the colours correct? Any adjustments needed? The computer mock up usually looks a bit different than a final (hand painted) image on a t-shirt.

And then the magic happens! Our favourite step is when we can finally transfer the outline image (black lines) on the t-shirt and start painting. So we use a heat press and bring out our brushes and paints. Depending on the image we trying to achieve we use between 2 and 10 different shades. We mix paints, we make them more transparent using water. It reminds a bit a watercolour painting. After we do the painting bit, once again we send a picture to the customer. Any final adjustments are made (if any) and the drawing is heat pressed again. 

brown dog painted portrait

kitties cats drawing


cat t shirt

The t-shirt is packed and shipped to the customer then and we are left with a happy memory.

To prolong the life of the tee you wash it cold on a gentle cycle (or hand wash) reversed inside out. NO fabric softener as it will eat the paint away! Do not iron directly on the image. We use strong fabric paints and if cared correctly the garment will lasts a long time.

The end result is very rewarding. For us and for the customer of course!

competition winner cats t shirt

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