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How I create: Pet Portrait Oil Painting

Updated: Mar 13

Hitting on main points, I'll explain how a pet portrait oil painting by Blu artwork designs truly comes together in a two to four week period.

Everyone loves their pets! & everyone loves to think that their pet is the cutest, sweetest, and best in the world!

Painting a pet portrait can be a rewarding and heartfelt experience for both the artist and the pet owner. Capturing the essence and personality of a beloved pet on canvas requires careful attention to detail and technique. In this post, we'll walk through several steps I take to create a beautiful oil painting of a pet.

A custom pet portrait is a timeless and heartfelt way to celebrate the special bond you share with your animal companion. It serves as a beautiful and lasting tribute to the joy, love, and companionship they bring into your life. Each painting is crafted with care and attention to detail, ensuring that it not only captures the physical likeness of your pet but also reflects their individual quirks and spirit.

So why not immortalize them with a one of a kind Oil Painting from Bluartwork designs!?

When people order a commissioned oil painting, they often don't know what is truly happening behind the scenes from start to finish.

This is an educational blog post discussing the ideas and steps that I personally follow as a fine artist to create a lifelike rendition of your furry friend. I'm going to list some main points below that discuss the full painting process, but here are a few key ideas that are very important to me through this process.

A Personalized Touch: Your pet is one of a kind, and so should be their portrait. I work closely with you to understand your pet's unique characteristics, ensuring that the final painting is a true reflection of their personality.

High-Quality Materials: I use professional-grade materials to create vibrant and enduring artworks. The canvas is carefully selected to showcase the colors and details of your pet's fur or feathers.

Communication with the client: Throughout the process, I maintain open communication to ensure your satisfaction. Regular updates and opportunities for feedback guarantee that the final portrait meets your expectations.

#1 - Selecting a Reference Photo

The first step in painting a pet portrait is choosing a high-quality reference photo. The photo should be clear, well-lit, and showcase the pet's unique features and personality. Take your time to select the perfect image that you'll use as a guide throughout the painting process.

#2 - PRIME the canvas!

I can't just jump in with some paint the moment you send me an image. Even though I wish I could!

Priming the chosen size canvas is a necessary step in ensuring the quality of your painting for the long future. Without a quality coat of primer on your canvas, your oil painting won't last over the years.

A quality coat of gesso on the canvas is a very important step when it comes to applying paint. It actually allows the paint to grab onto the surface and stay on top, instead of being absorbed by the canvas, leaving it dull and dry looking. Also, without a primer on your canvas, it would take twice the amount of time, and paint to apply even coats.

The initial primer typically takes 24hrs to dry on the canvas before painting begins, and even then, it may have imperfections upon drying that need to be tended to or sanded before the painting can really begin. The primer and painting surface must be smooth or else thin coats of paint will have uneven textures of gesso showing through. Some artists even paint on wet gesso. It's all up to your style of painting.

Who would have thought just getting the canvas ready for paint could be a two day process?!?

#3 - Now it's time to SKETCH.

Next I begin sketching my painting out. I do use a grid over the canvas, and image. That is a personal choice. I choose to use a grid in order to transfer the image as quickly, and accurately as possible. Some artist even work with projectors for transferring an image.

In this stage I am usually just creating an outline of your pet. The basic shape of the pet, and outline for my background to be placed around.

Often at this time no real big decisions are made on the painting. I really just want to map out my dark shadows, bright highlights, and shape of my figure. I will also add background elements or background color. It's a rough sketch.

Right now, all the worry about is an animal shape, and their proportion to the background.

I have sent images of paintings in this stage to clients before to agree with a color, background, or proportion of the animal to the canvas, only hear back comments discussing the animals features. I am more than happy to discuss the animals features, but just not at this stage of the painting. The animals feature are not rendered at this stage.


This is the part of the painting process that I love the most! Mixing colors for my painting.

Oil paintings are created by layering and blending different layers of paint. This is where you choose which colors will show depth, shadow, and highlights. I study the reference photo carefully and create a palette of colors that match the pet's fur, eyes, and other features. I use a variety of brushes to achieve different textures and effects in your painting.

This is where I make decisions of what specific tones are seen throughout the image.

This is where your individual artistic eye comes into play, seeing colors and how they relate to one another..

I choose to have a limited color palette that I will be using throughout the painting.

Usually I am choosing around 5-10 basic colors, and constantly mixing them together to create different shades and hues that correspond with one another in the image. I will use these few chosen colors to define all the areas in the reference image.

This is an important part of decision making for your painting. Color matching and mixing can set a distinct tone for your painting. Just like artist can set themselves apart for their brushstrokes, some can do it with their color palette.


This is when I'm truly making bigger decisions that will either speed up the painting process, or slow it down. I'm blocking in the base colors of the pet's fur, using broad brushstrokes to establish the overall shape and form. Work from dark to light, gradually building up layers of color to create depth and dimension in the painting. I pay attention to light and shadow to capture the pet's three-dimensional form.

You really need to color match correctly, and use the correct base coats to work upon or your image will suffer in later stages. You will find yourself re-painting more than you want.

I like to start adding my colored background first, even if it's not the final color!

It's like a base coat for the entire image!

Now, I Look at the reference image hard! This is where being an individual really comes into play!

This is where the big decisions are starting to be made. All of the grid lines will be covered as you apply your blocks of color, so you better make sure they seem fit.

The image will look very rough at this stage, but it is truly setting the stage for your future success. Without the proper placement of these base colors, true shapes can be lost and you will find yourself re-painting more often than you wish.

With proper placement of base coat colors, true shadows, and highlights can take shape easily in your next steps.

#6 - Paint the details and textures

Along the way it is very important to walk away sometimes, let it dry, see it in different lighting, take a picture of it...

I can begin adding Details and Texture once the base colors are dry. I begin adding details and texture to the painting using smaller brushes and finer strokes to capture the subtle nuances of the pet's fur, whiskers, and facial features.

I have to take my time with this step, as attention to detail is what brings your painting to life. Some things can become hard to see when you look at them for too long.

As an artist, I am interpreting the image the way I see it, and expressing it in the way I paint brushstrokes. In life everyone sees things a little bit differently.

#7 - Perfect all your TEXTURES & DETAILS!

This is where I make any necessary adjustments. Refine the details, adjust the colors, and make any final touches to ensure that the painting accurately captures the essence of the pet. I add any final touches to enhance the overall composition. Sign my name, and wait for it to dry.

Working in a manner of dry brush techniques, wet on wet techniques, my limited color palette, and even what styled brushes I use is what makes the painting original to me as an artist.

I have so much joy in seeing works of art come together through adding small highlights to eyes. Placing tiny flecks of hair on a dogs ear. & working in those dark shadows to really bring the paintings contrast to life.

I enjoy painting in a photorealistic style, but I am not doing a hyperrealism portrait here.(That would take much more time, energy, and would cost much more money)

It is up to my interpretation as an artist to create a worthwhile painting within a three week span. As an Artist, I am producing quality work worthy of being a painting hung on your wall.

This is always an important step to me. Overworking an artwork is real.

#8 VARNISH the Final Painting!

Once it finally feels finished, and I have reassured myself it is exactly what I and the client envisioned.

I apply a gloss or matte varnish to a fully dry painting. It is very important to dry and varnish the painting properly so it may last a lifetime.

A coat of non-yellowing gloss varnish is what I typically apply. It is very important for retaining the beautiful color in your painting over the years, prevents chipping of paint, and protects the paint from any light surface damage that may occur in the future.

#9 Package, & SHIP!

Packaging a painting is an important part of the artwork arriving unharmed.

I take pride in everything I do, and part of that is shipping your product carefully and thoughtfully. I bubble wrap your painting and add support inside the package to prevent bumping around.

Upon the shipping day, I do require full payment for your product. I can not ship a product, until the payment is received.

Thank you so much for reading if you have made it to this sentence! Now that you know the full painting process...feel free to order your pet painting today!

26 views2 comments


I enjoyed reading this Gabs! Awesome explanation for customers who do not understand the process.

Replying to

Thanks Nicole!!! I appreciate you taking the time to read it yourself! You're the best!😊

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