How to make a print look like oil paint

Written by elizabeth chaplin
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How to make a print look like oil paint
Turn a simple family photo into a work of art. (family image by Andrey Rakhmatullin from

Shuffling through photographs or flipping through picture books is nice, but displaying your prints as works of art is even nicer. Imagine a simple family photograph converted to a 24-by-36-inch canvas, framed in a gorgeous fine art frame and displayed over the fireplace or in the den. Making a print look like an oil painting is possible with photo conversion technology offered by several different companies, including many photography studios. Make a few touch-ups on your own to make the piece look even more like an oil painting.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Clear acrylic varnish
  • Paintbrush
  • Glossy spray varnish

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  1. 1

    Visit a website that converts photographs to canvas such as or Upload the print following the directions on the website, choose a size and place your order. Many photography studios also give clients the option to convert photos taken in the studio to canvas. However, this is typically more expensive than uploading your prints online.

  2. 2

    Purchase a clear acrylic varnish with a medium to thick viscosity. Brands such as Liquitex® and CeramCoat® make clear acrylic varnishes found in most craft stores. Do not use an oil-based varnish, as this may damage the canvas print.

  3. 3

    Paint semi-thick strokes of varnish along the "strokes" of the canvas print to mimic real brushstrokes. When a photograph is converted to a canvas, it has the look of a real painting, but is flat and without actual brushstrokes. Applying the varnish gives the print the appearance of brushstrokes on a real oil painting. Do this over the entire print as though you were actually painting. The varnish will dry clear, so layer it as thick as desired. Let the print dry completely.

  4. 4

    Spray the entire canvas with a layer of glossy spray varnish. The glossiness will give the painting a rich, oil-painting quality. Let the print dry, then frame and hang.

Tips and warnings

  • Never use a frame with glass to frame a painting. This will ruin the finish.

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