6 Easy Steps to Layout Your Painting On the Canvas

Squirt by Anita Hummel

If you know how to layout your painting onto the canvas it can make your painting easier. It will also help you to get your proportions on your painting correct.

We have six very easy steps to properly layout our painting on the canvas. We first lay out our painting on Procreate. Once we have it laid out on Procreate then we will print it out. We like to print it out in the size of our actual canvas so that we can use the print to trace onto the canvas. Once we have traced it on the canvas and checked and fill in the lines we need then we are ready to start painting.

We believe that anyone can paint, especially if you can first start with a canvas that is all laid out with correct proportions. This will make it much easier throughout your entire painting process.

Here are our six easy steps to help you layout your painting correctly:

Step 1 – Layout Your Painting On Procreate

Whenever it is possible I will layout my oil painting first on Procreate. I do this especially when I am painting something like a dog or cat and I need to make sure the proportions are as correct as possible.

Procreate allows me to work off the canvas before I actually start to paint anything. One of the great things about this is that it allows you to have an idea of what the painting could be like before you start to actually paint.

To find out more about this you can read our blog on Procreate to Layout your Oil Paintings, What You Need to Know by clicking here. We show you why we like to use Procreate to layout our oil paintings. We really feel Procreate is a great tool to use to layout your paintings before you put anything on canvas.

You can also watch our video below on the steps we use to layout our paintings on Procreate.

The great thing about using Procreate is that it can give you an idea of what your painting may look like before you even start to paint it. I find this helps to save me time during the painting process as I already have an idea and plan in mind as to how my painting can look.

But even with that, many times when I am painting I may feel that I need to paint something different. So I use my layout as a guide but will still change colors and other things as I am actually painting. This is all part of the creative process.

Step 2 – Print Out the Photo

If you are going to paint something that will require that you need to get the proportions very close to the photo then I will always print out the Procreate photo in the size that I want for my painting. If my canvas is for example 20″ x 20″ then I will print my photo 20″ x 20″ for the actual photo but may have a paper size that is larger as 25″ x 25″.

I will many times print my Procreate printing out in color or I will print it in black and white and have a smaller print in a color print that I can paint from. I always paint with a color print in front of me as a reference.

Today with technology there are so many ways you can use technology to help you with your painting. Certainly, one way is to get a very good printed copy that you can use as your model for your painting.

Step 3 – Use The Print to Layout the Painting

Once I have printed my Procreate print in either a large black and white print or a color print, then I will use this as the basis for my oil panting lines and sketches. I will use it help me to get it down on the canvas.

There are two ways that I will do this:

  • Trace on to tracing paper – Sometimes I will trace and outline the Procreate print onto tracing paper. This will give me the shape and lines that I need to get some very good proportions.
  • Use the Procreate Print – You can use the Procreate print to trace directly onto the canvas. Lately, I have been using this step so as to not have to use the extra step of tracing paper. If I find the print needs it then I will use the tracing paper to outline what I am painting.

Step 4 – Trace and Outline On the Canvas

Now that I have the print all set up, the next thing I will do is place the print and layout on to the canvas. I find by doing this way I do not need to spend a lot of time trying to guess the proportions of the painting and I can get it as accurate as possible.

Here is how I will do these steps:

  • Use either my tracing paper or print in the exact size for my canvas. I will then put charcoal all over the back of it.
  • I will tape the tracing paper or print on to my canvas using masking tape. The reason I do this is when you are tracing on to the canvas you do not want it to move. I also use masking tape as it will not damage the print or the canvas.
  • Then you can start to trace or outline the areas you want. I will try to outline as much as I can as I find then I can get the best start on my painting. I will even mark or try to outline areas that may need to have shading or color changes. This way when I start to paint I do not need to guess so much and I have a rough guide. To sometimes trace in a colored pencil as red so that you can see exactly where you have put the lines. I never use a red pencil on the actual canvas.
  • Once I have completed this then I will carefully take the print or tracing paper off the canvas and make sure I have put in all the lines that I need to into the canvas.

Step 5 – Fill In the Lines

Once I have taken the paper or the tracing paper off the canvas, I will then check the lines on the canvas. If you did not use enough of the charcoal on the back of the tracing paper or print you may have missed areas of the design. This is why with the tracing paper method you can more easily go back to try to line it up and fill back in the lines. When using just the print, that is much more difficult.

I will then get out my pencil and start to pencil in the lines that I just put on with the charcoal. If the charcoal is good enough and I can use it for a guide I may just leave on the charcoal as my guide.

But one of the main things I will do at this step is I will then also use the pencil to fill in any lines or areas that may have been missed. My goal is for me to come out of these steps with enough guides on the canvas that I can use to paint from in the size, shape, and proportion that I want.

Step 6 – Start Painting

Now that your painting is laid out, set up and you have a penciled layout you are ready to start to paint. Your outline should be able to help you get pretty close to the correct proportions.

We believe that anyone can learn to paint. And that one of the most important steps you can do to ensure your painting turns out is to lay it out correctly before you even begin to paint. These steps that you take before you start painting, will make all the difference for your finished painting.

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Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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