Dog Portrait from Photo

Apr 27, 2020

When commissioning a dog portrait from a photo, how do you choose THE photo? That is one of the frequently asked questions I get. The answer is shared below with Erby’s photos when we created her pet portrait etching!


Let’s walk through the creation of Erby’s custom dog portrait, starting with mom emailing 4 of her favorite snapshots from her phone, me choosing the best image and finally, Erby’s finished dog portrait sitting right next to Erby (and mom’s reaction when she opened it!).

Dog Portrait From Photo in Double Mat

Every year, I create three complimentary dog portraits for Dogs on Deployment (a non-profit who helps military pet owners find a loving foster home for their pet while they deploy). Each custom dog portrait etching is for the top 3 dogs winners of their mascot competition. Military pet moms and dads submit their photos and crazy amazing stories of how their pet has helped them through life.

Erby and her mom had just that: a crazy, amazing story. I’ll share that in a minute, but first, here are the images that were emailed to me.

Dog Photos of a cute Akbash dog submitted for dog portrait art creation


I went through each image emailed to me and decided on the top right picture above.

Here’s why:

  1. Erby’s face was clear and in focus without any crazy filters applied to the snapshot.
  2. The background behind her was a different color than her fur so Erby can stand out from her background.
  3. Her fur is visible without any areas that have blown out highlights (bright sunny spot not showing fur). Granted, if the blown out highlight is small, I can photoshop it to fix it.

By the way, I do always photoshop and fine tune each image before I print it to a transparency (clear acetate film) used to etch the image. Some photos need more work than others (ex. distracting elements taken out of the background, eye boogers to clean up, etc.). It’s important to get the image just right before printing it to the transparency. Here is Erby’s transparency print.

Dog Portrait Photo Refined for Transparency Print for artwork creation


You can see pictures of the 5 steps of the pet art etching process, but the next action was to etch Erby’s fine-tuned image on a transparency to the metal plate with sunlight. Next, I mixed the inks and applied them to the plate, then excess ink was wiped off and the plate was placed carefully on my Grammy’s printing press.

Dog Portrait Etched Metal Plate of cute Akbash dog

The wet Italian cotton paper was blotted dry and laid carefully on top of the inked plate, then cranked through the printing press pushing the ink off the plate into the damp paper. The result was a magical vintage-looking, letterpress-feel impression of cute Erby!

Close up showing dog portrait art in detail with pet artist signature

I can’t leave without sharing Erby’s story! Erby’s mom deployed to Iraq. While living and working with the Coalition she met a tiny dirty, clumsy puppy living on a Peshmerga camp. She loved all people and used to run to greet the convoys every morning often tripping on the way. With a lot of help from the Coalition and Puppy Rescue Mission, her mom was able to bring Erby of Iraq to the U.S. and Erby became part of her family and her best friend. Erby was an Akbash who loved life and made everyone she met smile and laugh.”


Unfortunately, Erby passed before ever expected (during a routine dental procedure) but mom wanted to make sure to never, ever forget her Erby of Iraq. I’m writing and sharing this with you to make sure she isn’t forgotten and that her legacy continues on through art. Thank you Erby’s mom for sharing her with us and for your service! Here was Erby last year after receiving her art.

Matted Dog Portrait next to dog

(Posted to Instagram: “The etching is absolutely amazing! …The photo was taken shortly before she and I were reunited after my Iraq deployment…She had been in the U.S. for a few days! We love this. What a lovely gift of a lovely memory!”)

Just these past few weeks, I’ve created another etching for Erby’s mom, as she has submitted her new buddy, Ike, for the current mascot competition. You can see Ike’s dog portrait etching.

I’m so excited to donate 10% of all pet portrait etching orders to Dogs on Deployment through Mother’s Day, May 10th! Thank you to those of you who have commissioned an etching and will be helping Dogs on Deployment!

You now know how commissioning your own dog portrait from a photo begins – simply email me a few photos and I’ll choose the best for your pet portrait etching! Let’s see those cute faces!


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