Where to Find Free Photos Online - Part 1

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Sunday, March 6, 2016
As an artist, or even a blogger, it's really important to keep within the law of Copyright Infringement when using photos. The way I see it, you wouldn't want somebody stealing your own work would you? When that's something you've experienced personally, it sure changes your mind about saving a photo from Google images, let me tell you.

Saying that, there are quite a few sites out there that support us struggling artists by offering reference photos for free (yes, for free!) and contrary to popular belief, these images are HIGH QUALITY! Yay! That means; photos you'll actually be proud to use!

Here are some of my favorite sources and some beautiful pictures I think could inspire some amazing artwork...

By the way, feel free to download any of these images by clicking each photo.


This might just be my most favorite site for finding images to use for art reference photos, a blog or website. This site has a ton of free, high quality images available with no attribution required. It's always a nice idea to make a little donation though (or 'buy the photographer a cup of coffee' as they request).

To download the highest resolution for each image, you'll need to create an account but that literally takes two seconds if you sign up via Facebook or Twitter.

Here are a few examples from Pixabay... See how vibrant and gorgeous they are?!

Free Photo Cat Profile

2. Unsplash.com
Next up is another of my firm favorites; Unsplash.com.
The quality of these photographs is UNSURPASSED and while they don't have much of a search feature (not that I can't find anyway), the standard of quality in these photographs is absolutely amazing. Clearly they have quite a selection process.

Unsplash upload 10 free images for you to use every day, however, it's pick of the draw in what you'll find really. There aren't a vast array of categories or options to choose from, however they're perfect for grabbing and saving for later.
By the way, no account needed and no attribution or permission needed at all to use these images. Unsplash also happily boasts that you're welcome to use these lovely images for whatever purpose you see fit - which is awfully nice of them :)

Here are a few examples from Unsplash...

camera phone high quality image free unsplash

mossy tree trunk unsplash free photo

3. Morguefile.com
I know. The name is strange...

Anyway, like Pixabay, MorgueFile has an enormous amount of photos on offer and every category you can possibly think of.

They have a great search feature and also make it easy to view their 'most popular' and 'newest' photos.

While the quality of most of these photos is excellent, depending on what you're looking for, sometimes you may have to sift through a few of the ugly in order to grab to a really good one. Generally, the popular choices like animals, plants and flowers have a HUGE, high quality library.

Also, no attribution is usually required (but it's clearly stated before you hit download anyway) and no sign up is required either.

Here are a few examples from Morguefile...
bald eagle free photo morguefile

free photo pink mum flowers morguefile

4. Deviantart.com

If youre an artist and haven't yet discovered Deviant Art, you're in for a treat. This site is much more than a photo reference library. That is just a small part of what it has to offer.

Users of this site can create a 'profile' where you can display your art, work in progress, tutorials and stock photos for others to share, save and see. Each category can also be broken down into every art medium from colored pencil to digital painting. You can even showcase your art for sale.

I like to browse through Deviant Art quite a bit. There is always something new to be learnt from other experienced, creative people and lots of fresh inspiration.

Onto the photos though... The variety is vast. You could literally spend hours and hours sifting through thousands of images to find exactly the right hand position you need (seriously). To help you, click here for a link to take you straight to the stock photos.

Generally, you won't find fancy photos like on Unsplash. Deviant Art is geared towards artists specifically so this isn't the best option for bloggers but for anatomy and stock photo references of animals, the human body, flowers, and backgrounds to draw from... Ahh, the list is simply endless.

Some members who offer stock photos make a huge effort to create a library of images with costumes and themes, such as mermaids or cosplay.

Attribution is usually always required, although each member has their own rules you should pay attention to as they can vary. Some just require you to share the work you've created with them. Others appreciate a donation to help them dedicate more time to shooting pictures and buying props for different looks.

One of my favorite people who I recommend you check out is FaeStock below. She's the photographer, the model in her photos and an artist! The effort she puts into putting her photography together is amazing!

Here's one of my favorites...

So, what do you think?! The quality that's out there for free use is outstanding, isn't it when you know where to look.

In conclusion, when partaking in these sites, why not think about paying the gesture forward..? Consider taking your own reference photos to contribute towards the art community online. I'll be making another blog post soon with some of my own to share with you!

As a side note, I encourage you to have a think about contributing images of your own towards your fellow art community as you'll be helping out other like minded peeps. In doing so, we're making the web a much more accessible and creative place!

Let me know if these links have helped you out in the comments below.

How to Make a Watercolor Color Chart

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Today, I'm going to show you how to create your own watercolor color chart.

Even though I find painting in watercolor not one of the easiest mediums to work with, I still like to dabble. Perhaps it's the free movements and relaxed fluid washes of color I can't master. Firstly, I don't think it's possible for me to be that laid back and secondly, my heart truly lies in capturing fine detail with colored pencil. Anyway, like I said, I like to occasionally give it a go.

Whereas colored pencil blends with other colors more subtly on the paper, paint does have the huge advantage of being mixed and blended into a huge array of bold, strong hues to whispery pastels. That, I like a lot!

I have a set of Reeves watercolor tubes and some Koi watercolor pans. They're not top of the range, I know, but for experimenting with small projects, they do fine for a modest set.

Back to colors... Whenever I buy a new set of supplies, I like to create a reference color chart. I do this because often the shade of the actual pencil shaft or the paint tube are way off compared to what's actually inside. It also gives me a feel for how that color behaves.
  • Is it translucent?
  • Is it dull?
  • Is it too bright and unnatural?
  • Is it going to be one of my popular go to's?
I feel like getting to grips with each color also makes me familiar with my entire palette, ready for when I get to work. It's like making friends! Ha! ☺️

For watercolor though, I decided to record a little more detail to show the results of each color when it was mixed with another. Here I came up with my pretty color chart.

Ooooh! I just love the colors!

I can't tell you how helpful it has been in trying to get a more, natural, more accurate color match.

Here's how you can make your own...
1. Sort out all of your watercolors - I organized mine in the roygbiv rainbow style and when satisfied, listed each name in a horizontal row and a vertical row. Like this...

2. Using watercolor paper you always work on (to endure consistent results), draw a column down the left side of the page (about 1.5" wide) and one the same width, going horizontally across the page at the top. Allow enough length in your 'columns' to allow you to write the name of each color paint.
3. Next, from there, draw out a grid with horizontal and vertical lines. Each square of mine is about 1/2x1/2". If you run out of paper (mine was from a 9x12 pad, cut another piece and tape it on the back so the lines match up.
4. Then take each color (watered down) and paint inside each center square going downwards, from top left corner of the paper to the bottom right, like so...

5. Now comes the color mixing part. My first shade on the vertical column here in the example below is Magenta. Going across and up is Crimson, therefore you need to mix the tiniest amount (a 50:50 blend) of the two. Paint it above the square of pure crimson and also underneath the square of pure magenta.

6. Then, in the vertical column, going downwards, focus on the next color (here it's Rose Madder) and line that up with the next one horizontally (Magenta). Repeat the process for all squares - remembering to always aim for a 50:50 paint and water mix.

A Few Notes:
  • Now, this project is very time consuming but I did mine a little at a time over several days. Just play your favorite show on Netflix. Before long you'll been done, having completed all squares and ending up with a gorgeous looking color chart.
  • I was amazed at the beautiful shades of teal and turquoise (some of my favorites) that I could achieve. As I love to draw and paint botanicals, I was also impress with the range of natural looking leafy greens - the reddish green of ... and ... Is perfect for Rose stems and leaves.
  • To keep the paper clean, it's a good idea to have your chart laminated at your nearby copy shop - I plan to do this but haven't got around to it just yet. 
So there you go. I know, it's a long process but the results are so nice and incredibly helpful for referring to when color mixing in the future.

Has this helped you create your own watercolor chart?
What mixes did you come up with that surprised you?
Let me know in the comments below.

Blending Colored Pencils with Odorless Mineral Spirits

| On
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Blending colored pencils, I find, is key in creating the best, most vibrant artwork that has softness, yet still richness and depth.

I like to blend my colored pencils by using a couple of different methods depending on the particular look I like to achieve. One of my favorites and one I've been using today is with Odorless Mineral Sprits (for abbreviation purposes, we'll refer to it as OMS).

This is a good choice for backgrounds and large areas is to break down the waxy consistency of colored pencils (if you're using a wax based pencil like Prismacolor). It also distributes the pigment so it can flow nicely into the adjacent colors and create a soft, smooth look, similar to an oil, acrylic or even airbrushed painting.

Here is a self portrait I'm currently working on. I have a while to go so this is still very much a work in progress.

I wanted the background to have a bokeh, blurry style. To do this, I mapped out my shapes at the beginning, including where I was going to position my main subject and made light circle outlines with a colored pencil. I used a circle template (as you blend they'll become less uniform) however, you can also draw freehand. This background looks more natural if you overlap some circles and make varying sizes.

I also think its a nice idea to incorporate some of the colors used in your main subject, into the background too. As well as greens and brown, I've also used pink and cream.

Here is how some of the circles looked before and after blending...

You can see that the color is much more saturated and quite a bit darker in the second picture. There's also a nice soft 'hazy' look, which is what I'm going for here.

Here are my few tips on putting the Odorless Mineral Spirits to use.


1) Build up the majority of layers of color first.

Then, you'll have something to work with. A paper with 'tooth' should indicate clearly whether you have created many layers yet because there will be tiny 'gaps' in color. You can also often see a sheen too which indicates you're on the way to having a wax build up. Sometimes, this will also mean you're unable to layer anymore. Blending with OMS is great for that purpose because the odorless mineral spirits will not only create a more matte look, it will also take the wax away, allowing for more layers of color to be placed on top afterwards.

Related to this... If you have a heavily textured paper, you may find it a lot of work to build up those layers in the first place. To help this, make sure you try to have a sharp point on the pencil (although its actually less crucial for filling in the background), point the pencil down and into the paper vertically to fill in the 'holes', like this...

Round circular swirls create a bokeh style background

3) When using OMS, apply just a little to your brush and apply it very lightly.

Then when you have it moving the pigment around, begin to apply more pressure to 'scrub' - always making sure the paper doesn't tear.

4) The paper that you use matters quite a bit.

A lightweight paper wont be able to stand being wet - you may even make a hole in it. Here I'm working on Canson Mi-Teintes Board in Sand. which is sturdy paper with lots of texture that accepts lots of layers of color, plus its and pre mounted, making it even stronger. Using OMS will also ensure that your paper is less likely to be damaged when blending, compared to having to press hard and burnish with a white pencil or colorless blender instead.

5) The type of Odorless Mineral Spirits I like to use are 'Klean Strip Green'.

This is a creamy formula which is helpful in avoiding spillage. Other brands are available and similar types of products too. I've heard of using baby oil, paint thinner such as Bestine and alcohol to name a few. I personally haven't liked the results with other methods but you should try them out to find out your own personal preference. The Klean Strip has no odor at all, is cheap, lasts a very long time and very easy to work with.

6) I use an old, synthetic round paint brush to blend my mineral spirits.

 I find that this achieved the softest look possible compared with blending stumps or cotton buds.

Using a brush to blend odorless mineral spirits with colored pencil - I told you my paint brush was old! :)

7) Color Residue.

Speaking of which, the paintbrush will also hold onto some of the color as I've shown in the above, and in the picture below. This is residue from the colored pencils on the paper. Its important to not contaminate the colors with another lighter shade you may work on next so always wipe your brush periodically to keep it clean.

Color residue picked up from the paper

8) A little of the OMS will go a long way.

You can store what you need in a jar with a lid and then decant more when necessary (beware again of contaminating the colors though). I use a small plastic dish with just the tiniest amount I'm going to use. I can then wash out the dish when I'm done and wipe excess on the sides with the brush while I'm working.


9) Use in conjunction with other blenders.

You can use this product on both oil and wax based pencils and also in conjunction with a colorless blender pencils like this one from Prismacolor.

So, those are my tips! How do you blend colored pencils? I'd love to see photos of your work, including before and after pictures if you happen to use mineral spirits as your method too.

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