Ways To Find The Right Reference Image To Paint: For Beginners

The most important thing before you start painting is to know exactly what is it that you want to paint. You definitely need inspiration, no matter how good a painter you be! Such inspirations trigger one to come up with masterclass artwork. It is not a matter of concern if the painting is an abstract one or realistic one. All good paintings are a result of a good idea, a good image or a good feeling that strikes you. You have to know how to shape this ignition and come up with a creative work of art.

Very often this inspiration or ignition is a good reference image. Now the main question is to know how to find a good reference image that can be an inspiration for your next canvas painting, without a trouble of copyright infringement? In this article we share with you ways of getting the right reference image to paint, for beginners.

1. Never Use Copyrighted Pictures For Your Painting

For all our queries, the first thing that strikes our mind is Google and the same goes for a reference image. When we go through the numerous options for getting a good reference image for our painting, we often don’t realise that some pictures are copyrighted. If you are planning to use your painting that has drawn inspiration from a copyrighted image in a competition or show the first thing you will be asked is for proof of permission of use of photo. Such situations where you are asked for permission, should drop you a signal that you should ideally not be using a copyrighted picture for your painting. 

2. Try Using Your Own Pictures

Using your own pictures is the safest bet. You can take a number of shots until you finally settle on one for your reference image. When you paint from a reference image, it is usually the pictures that you take yourself that are ideally the best for your purpose of painting. No one can understand the details of a picture better than the person who has clicked it themselves. Taking a picture yourself means you have experienced the moment and you have felt it. This will add meaning to your painting. 

3. Photo License In Public Domain

If you want to use a picture that you have taken online, it is safe to use a photo that carries a public domain license. An example of that is something like the following: “I grant any and everyone who wish to use my work for any purpose the right of usage without any conditions, unless conditions required by law.”

4. Do Your Research

If you are unsure about the photo license of a certain picture that you liked, then we suggest that you do your fair amount of research before using it as your reference image. You would definitely not want to be sued after you have made a beautiful painting from photo that has been copyrighted. 


The first thing to remember is the assurance that your reference image is royalty-free. 

In case you gave received an image from a friend, ask them to give you in writing that they have allowed you to use the picture for your painting purpose. 

When a photo is licensed, make sure that it allows you to use it for commercial purpose so that you find no problem when selling it. 

Happy Painting Spree!