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Making Art

Making an Impasto Photograph

One of my favorite things to study on a painting is the detail of the brushstrokes. I'm fascinated by how a painter layers the details onto an image, the variance in the strokes and thickness of the paint. When I saw this technique for adding an impasto texture to a printed photograph, I knew I had to try it just to see how it looked. This DIY project is featured in the book 101 Mixed Media Techniques: Master the Fundamental Concepts of Mixed Media Art.

I started by printing high resolution images with an inkjet printer on regular paper. The project also suggests printing on canvas as an option, but I decided to keep it simple.

making impasto photo

Tools You'll Need:

Step One:

Select a photograph well suited for a clear, textured finish that will accentuate the dimensionality of the image. Print your image on inkjet paper or canvas and coat with a water-resistant, clear finish.

Excerpted from 101 Mixed Media Techniques

I did this first coating mid-afternoon. It was dry and ready for the second step later that evening.

Step Two:

Once the protective coat has thoroughly dried, apply a liberal layer of clear, thick acrylic gel medium. Select several different paintbrushes and brush the clear medium on your print, creating textured brushstrokes as if your photograph were a painting.

Excerpted from 101 Mixed Media Techniques

impasto photo hawaii 2

I don't think there is a wrong way to do this technique. Since both layers are clear, it's a very forgiving process. The more detail you put into your brushstrokes, the more character you'll add to the image.

impasto photo hawaii

I love how the clouds look with the impasto finish. The shadows seem accented and have more dimension to them.

impasto photo palms

All photos by Angela Corpus

The sunset palm image was a bit trickier to work with. The dark shadows left no contrast for the brushstrokes to accentuate, so I definitely recommend picking an image that already has vivid textures to highlight. The brush I used was also just a little too big to accurately capture the small strokes that would truly be required to paint those palm fronds in detail. 

This is a great technique to play with and experiment. I think I'll try printing an image on a more textured paper to see how that changes the look. And who knows, maybe I'll even try a photo of something other than the beach!

What ideas do you have for the impasto photograph technique?

impasto photo

Excerpted from 101 Mixed Media Techniques

Angela Corpus

Angela is Marketing Manager for the Quarto Publishing Group USA. A Chicago gal at heart, she recently relocated to southern California and can usually be found exploring the beaches, feeding her newfound inner artist, and chasing sunsets with her camera. A collector of stories old and new, she's an avid postcard sender, and origami cranes always seem to tag along on her travels. Follow her adventures on Twitter: @angelacorpus

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