An art projector is a handy tool for artists of all skill levels. Photorealist painters traditionally used a projector to enlarge and transfer the image from their small photo onto a large canvas. In addition to projectors, there are also 2 other methods you can use: the grid method and transfer paper.
How do you decide which of these 3 methods is easiest for you? Read through these pages to compare and contrast the different methods and processes, starting with the almighty projector. Buying a projector can be a costly experience (depending on the type you want and whether you buy it new or used), so read through this page to help figure out which type of projector is best for your needs and your budget.
This is Page 8 of a 15-page guide explaining how
to paint photorealistically, but it can also be handy for anyone wanting to learn about the different types of art projectors.
If you want to learn how to paint photorealism in acrylics, click below to see the Table of Contents: How to Paint Photorealism: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Paint Your Own Photorealistic Paintings
The Artograph LED300 Digital Art Projector is a new digital art projector that is receiving rave reviews from artists. If I were to buy an art projector now, this is the one I would get for several reasons:
The only real downside I can see to the Artograph LED300 is the price - currently around $650. However, for serious artists and professionals (especially muralists or photorealists who want to create large-scale paintings), the LED300 may be well worth the money, given its quality, convenience and portability.
If you plan to do a large scale painting, you could also look into using an opaque projector, which will enlarge your image so that you can trace the outline.
You will need a small paper copy of your photograph, between 5 sq inches and 7 sq inches, depending on the size of your art projector's opening. Place the image in the opening, turn on the machine and turn off the lights in the room. Make sure you have enough space to be able to pull the machine far back if you need to make a really big version. The projected image will appear on the wall, so you'll need to position your canvas securely on the wall, and arrange the projector so that the enlarged image fits correctly within the size of the canvas. This might take some fiddling to get it just right. Double-check that the canvas is perfectly straight and flat against the wall, and that the projector rests perfectly flat upon its surface - otherwise the picture will turn out slightly distorted. You can see the illustration below for an idea of how it all works.
You'll need to make sure that the art projector stays in place the entire time as you are drawing the image. Keep the dogs, cats and tiny children out of the room. The slightest nudge of the projector will knock the projection out of alignment, and it may or may not be easy to realign the projection with your previous tracings. You don't want to take any chances! For the same reason, make sure you have enough time to trace the whole thing in one go.
The pros to using an opaque projector is that it is an easy way to enlarge to a really big scale - anything over at least 18" x 24". If you plan to work on a scale that is 16" x 20" or smaller, I would suggest using one of the other methods of transferring the image (grid method or transfer paper). Also, all you need is a print-out of the image, and not a slide or transparency.
The cons to using an opaque projector are (1) the expense and (2) the need for a dark room. Let's look at these 2 points further:
Artograph makes an excellent range of opaque projectors specifically with artists in mind. The Artograph MC250 Professional Opaque Projector is their top-of-the-line offering for opaque projectors. Gagne Projectors are more budget-friendly, built with the beginning artist or casual crafter in mind.
The original Photorealists of the late 1960s and 70s commonly used slide projectors to enlarge their images. They would have slides made of their photographs, insert the slide into a slide projector and trace the enlarged image onto their canvas. The process is basically the same as using an opaque projector, only you will need to have a slide made of your photo. In the US, Slides.com is a convenient and inexpensive way to get slides made from digital files.
You will also need a slide projector. You can acquire either new or used slide projectors from Ebay or Amazon. The used ones often sell at a deep discount to the original price. Although I haven't used a slide projector myself for the purpose of tracing the enlarged image, I imagine that a crisp, clear slide inside a good slide projector should make a really accurate enlargement that would be easier to trace than the projection you would get from of a middle-range opaque projector.
Important Tip When Using Slide Projectors:
"When using a slide projector you have to be careful of lamp life. I once did a large drawing only to have the lamp burn out right before I was done. Trust me you can never line up the image again."
- Emile Dillon, photorealist artist
Another type of projector you can use is an LCD or DLP projector that you can connect directly to your laptop. These projectors cost several hundred to several thousand dollars, so again, it's only worth investing in one if you know it'll be getting a lot of use. The added benefits of an LPD projector or DLP projector is that they can also be used to play videos or give presentations, so there is more potential for them to be used for entertainment or work purposes than a slide projector or opaque projector. However, if you have access to an LCD or DLP projector via school or work, perhaps you could use one of their machines for free. Doesn't hurt to ask!
When I was a student in school, all the teachers used overhead projectors to project their lessons onto the wall, and the images were always quite crisp and clear. This makes them an excellent candidate for enlarging reference photos!
To use an overhead projector, you will need a transparency of your reference photo. These days you can get inkjet transparencies that go through your home printer, so you can quickly and easily print them off yourself. The downside is that overhead projectors do cost a few hundred smackeroos, and there's a good chance that you may not get much use out of them, other than to enlarge your photos. This is fine if you'll be enlarging all the time, but mostly you'll be spending your time painting! I would suggest only investing in one if you would use it also for school or work purposes. On that note, if you have one at your school or work, why not ask to borrow it?
Discover more handy studio art supplies.
This is Page 8 of a 15-page guide explaining how to paint photorealistically. Return to the beginning of How to Paint Photorealism: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Paint Your Own Photorealistic Paintings.
Read a current and historical overview of Photorealist painting techniques and methods. It is beneficial to familarize yourself with this information before you embark on your own journey to create photorealistic paintings.
Familiarize yourself with the Photorealist art movement by reading my overview of Photorealism.