We all have photos of a special someone or pictures that capture a significant moment in our life. Often times, these photos sit stored in our phones in digital albums or shelved in real photo albums. Whether we want to reminisce, remember, or celebrate, we find ourselves looking back on these photos to relive a special memory. For instance, when my grandfather passed away, my mother often browsed through old pictures to remember her father’s legacy, which provided a sense of consolation during her grief.


For centuries, people have commissioned artists for portrait paintings. Commissioning an artist simply means hiring an artist to create a painting of someone, usually by providing an artist the photo to turn into a painting or, although less common, physically showing up in-person to be drawn.


Why have people been doing this for so long? In short, custom portrait paintings create a unique & meaningful way to honor, celebrate, or recognize a person that was special to your life. Even with the advent of photography and technology, millions of people around the world choose the classic art – no pun intended – of getting someone eternalized through a portrait painting. So if you have a photo of someone, an artist somewhere will happily create a portrait painting of them for you.


According to our data, these are the most popular requests of getting someone into a portrait painting:

  • Turning a photo of someone that passed away into a painting
  • Turning a wedding or engagement proposal photo into a painting
  • Turning a picture of a pet or animal that passed away into a painting
  • Turning a family photo, such as one including a new baby or child, into a painting
  • Turning a home “portrait” into a drawing


Custom Oil Painting from Photo


If you are looking to turn a photo of someone into a painting, there are 4 ways you can get your photo turned into real paintings.

#1 - Independent artists on online platforms

Before someone can turn your photo into a painting, you first need to find a trusted & professional artist who is available to fulfill your portrait painting request. Fortunately, there are plenty of talented artists throughout several platforms who specialize in portrait paintings among different styles & mediums.


For instance, many artists on MadeMay specialize in realistic & handmade portrait paintings with traditional art forms such as oil, acrylic, and watercolor. All you need to do is upload your photo, describe how you want it drawn, and the painting process will begin and soon arrive directly to your doorstep. Additionally, you can find artists on Etsy or Fiverr who will turn your beloved photo into a piece of artwork.


Be sure to review your artist’s portfolio so you can see their previous works of art. Do they specialize in portrait paintings? What style of portraits have they done in the past? What mediums, or material, are they using to turn my photo into a painting? Are they available to meet your certain deadline? Since each painting is handmade from scratch, you want to carefully evaluate the artist before you commission them.


#2 - Local commission with a sit-in

If you prefer an intimate and local experience, there are likely artists in your area who do portrait sit-ins. That is, creating a drawing or painting of someone who stands, sits, or poses inside the artists’ studio. And yes, you have probably seen artists who do portrait paintings on the street for interested pedestrians!


Sit-ins typically work by contacting the artist directly and asking for availability. If they’re open to new clients, you can arrange an appointment for a sit-in, which may take sessions or days. 


If you have a photo of the subject (person to be painted), local artists will accept that as well and use your reference photo to create the painting. Although this is a more time-consuming method, it’s effective if you prefer the person-to-person encounter.


#3 - Social media via hashtags

Most artists use social media as a way to share & highlight their artwork and commissions they have done for past portrait painting clients. As a result, this presents you a good opportunity to find portrait artists on social media. We recommend Instagram hashtags since Instagram is image-based and is what you’ll need to make a good judgment & decision in choosing your artist to turn your photo into a soon-to-be masterpiece.


Here are some hashtags you can search for to pinpoint the right artists:

  • #CommissionsOpen
  • #CommissionArt
  • #CommissionArtist
  • #PortraitArtist
  • #CustomPainting
  • #CustomArt
  • #ArtistsOfInstagram
  • #PortraitPainting
  • #PortraitDrawing

You can also use hashtags to search for specific mediums, such as #oilpainting or #acrylicpainting; by location, such as #LosAngelesArtist; or by type such as #PetPortraits. 

#4 - Using an app to turn photo into painting


Finally, you also have the option to use the power of technology and AI to instantly turn your photos into paintings. Although it’s automatically generated through a computer using filters and not created by any real artist, there are several filter styles that give the impression of traditional art forms. 


The most popular app is AIPortraits, which automatically converts your picture into a painting with the style of your choosing. Since it returns a digital file back to you, you are required to print it out on your own if you wish to have a physical, handheld copy of it. Although this is the most cost-efficient method, it does take some extra time & effort on your end to get it properly printed, stretched, and framed.


Note: If you go with this method, the app company actually owns intellectual property rights to the painting from your photo, so do not choose this option if you want to be the true owner of your artwork.


Getting It Right

No matter which of the four options you go with, we know you have a sentimental & meaningful purpose in turning your picture into a painting, so if you need someone to talk to, you are always welcome to ask us questions.