Extending a Photo With Personal Touch

*Guest post by Sherry Pollack.

This technique involves “extending” a photo onto the surrounding journal page by painting and/or drawing around it. I learned this process in an Artful Journaling class I take in Columbia, MD. When I expand a photo in this way, I feel like I am giving more life to a static printed image. I can give the photo my own personal touch, being as literal or as imaginative as I want in my artwork. When I’m finished, I feel a much stronger connection to the scene depicted in the photo, and to the memories it evokes.

Materials list:
One or two good color copies of a photo (landscapes are a good choice)
Watercolor paper, or art journal page that accepts wet media
Watercolors and brushes
Small zip-close plastic bag
Low tack artist tape/ drafting tape
Adhesive to attach photo to paper when finished (I have used double-sided tape)
Optional materials:
-Art sponge and/or stippling brush (e.g., Judikins Color Duster)
-Fast-drying pigment inkpad, such as Brilliance Dew Drop Ink
OR permanent archival inkpad ,such as Ranger Archival Ink


-Waterproof pen

personal touch

Step 1:
Before you start, think about how you want to extend the image on the photo so it covers much or all of the page. For this tutorial, I chose to use a fairly realistic approach by showing what landscape features might actually lie beyond the borders of the photo. You might choose a more whimsical style; for example, you might add fantasy elements to the scene. Decide what medium you will use, and were you want to place the photo on the paper. Here I have used watercolor with a bit of pen and ink, so I will describe the process using those materials. (Two examples of other media you can use for this technique are acrylic painting and collage.)

For your first step, use a pencil to lightly trace around the borders of the photo.

personal touch

 Step 2 :
Place one copy of the photo in a small zip-close bag, and seal the bag. This helps protect the photo from water and paint while you are working. Fold the excess portion of the bag to the back of the photo and tape in place with low-tack/drafting tape. (If this photo does get damaged during the process, and you have another copy of it, you can use the second photo to glue onto the page in Step 7.)

personal touch

Step 3:
Turn the photo to the front, line it up with the outline you have traced, and use the low-tack tape to temporarily adhere 3 sides of the photo (in its bag) to the paper.

personal touch

Step 4:
Begin applying watercolor to the paper surrounding the photo, starting with the side you have not taped down. As you paint, lift up this side of the photo slightly, so you can apply paint to the area just inside the traced line as well. This will give a more seamless look to your page. As you can see, I have applied a light blue wash outside and slightly inside of the top border of my pencil outline.

personal touch

 Step 5:
Continue your watercolor painting in this way, one side of the photo at a time. Add touches of pen and ink sketching if you wish. Remember that you are not necessarily aiming to replicate the exact look of the photo, but to give the overall impression that the photo has been extended by painting.

personal touch

 Step 6:
After all of the paint has dried, remove the photo from the page, and check that you have applied paint slightly inside all four sides of your pencil outline, as directed in Step 4.

personal touch

 Step 7:
Remove the photo from its plastic bag and place it on your page (not yet glued) to check the effect you have created.

At this point, I often find it helpful to stipple or sponge some pigment ink from a stamp pad onto some of the edges of the photo itself, extending into some of the painted areas. This can help the photo blend in with what you have painted. In my example below, I stippled light platinum metallic pigment ink in this way. Its color and sparkle enhances the pool’s bubbly, steamy look, and gives a more cohesive look to the piece. The easiest place to see this effect in my example is in the lower left corner of the original landscape photo (just to the right of the stippling brush).

personal touch

 Step 8:
When you are happy with the final effect, adhere the photo to the page. I’ve used double-stick tape here. You can still lightly apply a bit more paint or stippled ink to the page after you adhere the photo, if you find it necessary. You may also choose to add a title or some journaling, as I did below.

When you see photos of beautiful art journal pages in books and magazines, don’t get discouraged; keep experimenting until you find the techniques and styles that work for YOU.

Art Journal Kickstarter


Sherry London Pollack enthusiastically enjoys exploring new art techniques and sharing them with others. Over the past several years, she has avidly pursued such interests as art journaling; digital collage; mixed media collage; stamp carving; lettering; altered book art; beaded jewelry; and, most recently, Gelli Plate monoprinting. She teaches introductory Gelli printing workshops in Howard County, Maryland, where she lives. Much of her digital art incorporates her “hands-on” art, and is featured in her blog: www.alittlecoloreveryday.blogspot.com. She is also a contributor to Art Journal Kickstarter, published by North Light Books in January 2015.

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