My story goes like this: first I made photoreal pencil drawings, then I started to learn to paint as well. What I noticed when I’m able to work from a photo that has the right quality, the final drawing will be much better. Means a photo for custom art should be the best you can have.
So I know by now what makes a photo the “right quality” but I guess my customers may have questions about it. I’d like to give some hints what are the attributions of these photos and how we can choose them. Good to know these things when we’re considering to have a custom art.

Why High Quality is Important

A pencil drawing portrait from photo

A good example for why the quality of the photo is necessary – a portrait from photo

In the case of certain work of arts, the right amount of details is customary. If some details are hidden by the bad quality of the photo, the final artwork won’t reach the quality the customer was looking for.

This is true for portraits, where details are equal to being recognizable. If there are not enough details, the person of the portrait won’t be recognizable. Think of that this way: maybe we are able to examine our friend’s features for real and up close, the commissioned artist will lay only on the given photography.
This is the reason why a photo for custom art should be of the best quality.

Reasonable, for a landscape and other stuff a photo of high quality won’t be that significant. Still, it’s good to have a photo that bigger in size than a thumbnail picture.

Which Size is too Small?

I noticed that usually, pictures around 1000px wide/high are huge enough for a portrait (one or two persons).
Photos from Instagram have small quality, therefore details that are required for an amazing pencil art are hidden. So I wouldn’t recommend using Instagram when we are looking for a nice photo reference but as a guidance photo reference may serve the artist well.

Example for bad and good quality pohotos

What about Quality?

Nowadays we always have our cell phone on us, therefore making photos no longer a problem. We don’t have to carry heavy cameras anymore, and we can capture any special moment, there are no technical difficulties.
But it’s should be considered that a mobile phone can’t make that high-quality images when lightings are less than usual. The less the light the worse the quality of the photo – it will be noisy and even blurry if we are unable to hold the cell still during the photo taking.

So it results in a blurred photo that won’t be clear enough to be drawn or painted, the artist will be unable to see details.

Then How to Find a Good Photo?

If we want to surprise someone with a custom-made art, sure we don’t want to ask this particular person about giving good reference photos. So this can give a hard time. Especially when they don’t even post images on Facebook and we can’t pick a photo for custom art.
But nothing is lost.

Just ask a family member/spouse/friend if they have any photo. Sure, you should warn them not to spoil the surprise. 🙂
I’m sure there are good-quality photos of anyone in the possession of someone close to them, so let’s check that!

Whatever the Matter, Ask the Artist!

Of course, having no good photos at all could occur. That case asking the artist may a good idea, they may able to work from that photo anyway. A professional artist can work from a smaller, blurred photo but that takes more attention by them, therefore, it costs more.
In this case worth to send more photos than one, so the artist has better chance to figure out the features of the person.


I’d suggest to never delete any photo that you think it’s important or means something more to you. Just keep them as they are. You can never know when you’ll need the best quality photo you can have.