Turning Small Images into Large-Scale Art

Painting Man Dog - © Briana Blair

Blow up images without a print shop

Have you ever wanted to turn a small sketch or photo into a large piece of art? You can do it yourself, and it’s a good skill for an artist to have.

I came up with this trick when I was a teen. (Not to say no one had done it before, but no one taught me how to do it.) I used to make small sketches and sometimes I wanted to turn them into large paintings, but I could never recreate them in scale. I found that I could scale them up just using a ruler and a simple technique.

First, you’ll need your original sketch or photo, a ruler (or yard stick) and your large canvas or paper. On the original, draw a graph with evenly spaced horizontal and vertical lines. Measure carefully; you may even want to use a right-angle straight edge to get perfectly square graph boxes. If you don’t want to draw on your original image you can lay a piece of tracing paper or clear projector paper on top and draw on that instead.

Next, duplicate you grid with the exact same number of squares on your large surface. If your surface is three times larger than the original, make boxes three times as big, etc. For example, if you made one inch squares on the original and your surface is four times larger, make four inch squares on the larger surface. Once you get the idea of how this technique works, you can play with scale even more. For really small images you may need to learn to convert a grid that’s in centimeters instead of inches to get proper sizing on your larger surface.

Once you have your grids, begin recreating your image one square at a time on the larger surface. By going one square at a time you can almost exactly recreate the original image. You can use this method to scale up to nearly any size.

It’s a good idea to practice this a bit before trying really large scale. Try going 50-100% larger at first. Once you’re good at it you can go larger. Once I got the hang of it, I could graph a 4×6” photo into a 2×4’ painting in a day or two.

This method is very useful if you often draw small sketches, or want to turn your photography into paintings. It can also help you compile multiple images into a single larger image, in scale. This is a very good skill for an artist to have, and it can save money, since you won’t have to pay a printer to blow up your images.


2 thoughts on “Turning Small Images into Large-Scale Art

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    1. Thanks. I thought it was brilliant when I came up with it, but I think at 14 you think everything you come up with is brilliant. [smiles] The photo at the top of the post is actually one that I made from a 3×5 photo of my uncle. The finished piece was 16×24 I think.


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