HomeOil Portraits And Digital Paintings: What Is The Difference?

Oil Portraits and Digital Paintings: What is the difference?

Posted on 10 August, 2023

Oil Portraits and Digital Paintings: What is the difference? 

Oil paintings and digital paintings are two popular art forms with their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. This blog post compares the two art forms in detail, exploring their different techniques, costs, and durability, so you can decide which one is right for you.


Portraiture has always been a popular subject for artists, art lovers, and patrons. Although there are different types of portrait paintings they can be created in two ways today: traditionally by hand painting on canvas or digitally by using a computer. Both handmade portraits and digital paintings can produce beautiful works of art, but there are some definite differences between them. In this post, we’ll break down the difference between these two mediums.

Is Oil Painting and Digital Painting the same?

Oil painting and digital painting are not the same. The oil painting creation process is different from the digital painting. The time required to make them. The look and feel of the finished paintings.  And making an oil portrait painting costs more than a digital painting.

Beware of Digital Copies Passed Off as Original Paintings

Hand painted portraits are being mimicked as printed copies by some digital artists due to advancements in digital printing. They go so far as to artificially add canvas texture and brush stroke effects digitally. Often marketed as handmade paintings online these digital prints are sold with deceptive descriptions. Be skeptical of language like the "digital oil painting" and make sure extensive digital manipulation is not being misrepresented as hand painting.

mis-selling by digital artist, misleading ads by digital artist, digital paintings,  Deceptive & Misleading Ads by Digital Artist (Image Credits: Search Engine)

When investing in a heirloom-quality painted portrait, you want to ensure you are getting a 100% handmade original piece of art. At Paintphotographs, we make only 100% handmade portrait paintings from photos.

The Portrait Painting Creation Process 

Hand-painted portraits involve applying real paint to a real canvas or surface using brushes and other traditional art tools. The painter blends colors physically on a palette and transfers them directly to the canvas. Mistakes are relatively permanent, though some techniques like glazing can help mitigate errors. The artist may make portrait paintings from photos or work from life but the painting is built up in physical brush strokes applied by hand.

Custom Handmade Wedding Couple Portrait PaintingA Custom Handmade Wedding Couple Portrait Painting (Image Credits: Paintphotographs.com)


Digital portraits are created using digital art software and tools on a computer. Programs like Procreate, Photoshop, and Corel Painter provide digital brushes, layers, blending modes, and other effects to mimic the experience of painting with physical materials. But instead of paint, the artist uses a stylus or mouse to apply pixels of color. One can also use various apps found on Google’s Android Play Store or Apple’s App Store. 

Digital paintings make the artistic process easier. It's simple to undo mistakes or make edits by erasing pixels or moving layers around. The artist can resize or duplicate the image with a few clicks. They also often work from a photo for reference, which can be overlaid as a guide.

Portrait Painting - Time Investment in making one 

Making handmade portrait paintings from photos is a slower process than making digital paintings. The artist doesn’t have to wait for the paint to dry between layers and can tweak, erase and duplicate easily. A skilled digital artist can create a detailed portrait in a few hours that would take days or weeks by hand. 

This means that a handmade portrait painting from a photo is a unique original piece of art. That cannot be exactly duplicated. The time spent on each handmade portrait painting is much greater. And varies from a few days to a few weeks. Sometimes months. Depending on the complexity of the work. At Paintphotographs the typical turnaround time is 17 days to 20 days. There is also an express service that delivers within 8 days to 12 days. To get the exact delivery timelines, it is best to connect with the team on Whatsapp

Digital works can easily be printed in different sizes and reproductions created. Each print looks identical to the original. 

Portrait Painting's Look & Feel

A handmade portrait painting from photo will show the actual brush strokes of the paint and texture on the canvas. The artist can blend and mix colors directly, capturing more emotion and passion through the application of paint. Even in photorealistic paintings, small imperfections add charm and beauty to the artwork. The colors and style are unique to the artist. An art expert can easily identify the works of artists by the style of the brush strokes alone. 

Digitally created portraits often have a polished, perfected look. The nature of working with pixels means edges can look ultra sharp, stray marks can be erased, and flaws eliminated. Colors tend to be very saturated and vivid. While brush stroke textures can be software simulated, they remain limited compared to real paint. The final portrait looks unemotional, machine-like, and photographic.  Unlike handmade paintings, digital paintings lack the charm and romanticism of handmade paintings. Handpainted paintings are beautiful because of their subtel imperfections. Thats what makes handmade portraits humane, soulful, and charming are missed from digital prints, that look mechanical and soulless.

Cost for Artist and the Client 

Hand-painted portraits require canvas/ gesso panel, a variety of paints, an easel stand, different types of brushes, and pallet knives. And other specialized equipment that all add up to the costs for the artists. More time and labor are also required, making the cost of labor greater too. For art patrons, and clients they are paying for a unique physical original painting rather than a reproduction, and that is reflected in the much higher price.

Digital paintings are cheap both for the artist to make and for the buyer to buy. Since no physical materials are required, the artist’s costs are very low. They don’t have to buy canvases, brushes, and paints to start working. All that is needed is a computer or an iPad or tablet, styluses, and software. Printing and distribution are also simpler digitally, keeping costs down as well.

Watch out for Misleading Digital Portrait Painting Listings Online

When buying portraits online, be vigilant about digital copies being sold as originals. Some digital artists run misleading ads on platforms like Google, Etsy, and Amazon. Deceptively marketing digitally printed portraits as hand-painted. However, reading the full product description and examining the price are telling signs.

mis-selling by digital artist, misleading ads by digital artist, digital vs traditional paintings Deceptive and Mis-selling Ad Copies by digital Artists (Image Credits: E-commerce Site)

Notice: In the upper half nowhere it is mentioned it is digital artwork. Only in the lower half below fold, in the fine print, it is misleadingly labeled as Digital Oil Painting when it should have been clearly labeled as digital artwork in the upper half. 

Digital portraits tend to be listed at very low prices compared to custom handmade oil portrait painting on canvas which reflects extensive time and material costs. “Digital oil painting” "Canvas prints," "Digi painting” “Oil painting photo frame” or "Painting effect," terms signal the portrait is not an actual handmade oil painting on canvas. Be skeptical of anything substantially lower priced than comparable hand-painted commissions.

Why is Oil Painting Better for Portraiture?

While both digital and hand-painted portraits certainly have their places in the art world today, hand-painted portraits capture an extra dimension of emotion and humanity that is hard to recreate digitally. The subtle textures, brush technique, and one-of-a-kind qualities of a painting on canvas hark back to the portrait painting traditions spanning centuries and carry with it the art heritage. The care and touch of the artist are immediately visible in each brushstroke in a way that digital pixels are not able to convey. Oil portrait paintings are also very durable when cared for properly. Remember some of the most famous portrait paintings like the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci, John Siger Sargent and Raja Ravi Varma are oil paintings.

Hand-painted oil portraits also make wonderful heirloom items that can be passed down for generations. Portraits are bought to life through an artist's skilled hands and don't require any special display equipment. Handmade portrait paintings stand out as impactful, meaningful and heartfelt gifts in our increasingly digitized lives and relationships. Portrait paintings are highly personalized, convey deep sentiments, and add a unique human touch to remembering our loved ones.


What makes oil paintings special?

Techniques of oil painting provide rich, flexible color with a broad tonal range and the ability to build up layers of paint. However, the process requires more time as each layer must dry thoroughly before applying the next. The oil medium excels at fusing tones and colors while also allowing for crisp lines and effects.

A hand-painted portrait painting is unique beyond the differences in process and result:



A Handmade Farewell Portrait Painting GiftA Handmade Farewell Portrait Painting Gift (Image Credits: Paintphotographs)


Personalized Experience 

A portrait painter or an online portrait painting service like Paintphotographs.com will typically consult with the subject of the portrait before beginning their work. This allows them to capture not just physical likeness but also personality quirks, subtle expressions, and the unique energy of the subject. That personalized connection comes through in the finished painting.

Custom Sizing 

Hand-painted portraits can be created at any size to suit your needs, from miniature to mural-sized. The canvas size is customized for the client. Digital portraits may be more limited in extreme sizing.

Romantic Aura 

Hand-painted portraits have an undeniable romance and gifting quality. An artist spent hours capturing your loved one's image by hand, creating strong emotions and connections. It's a highly sentimental and unique gift.

Environmentally Friendly 

Hand-painted portraits use no digital equipment, printing, or technology, making them the most environmentally friendly art. The only waste is leftover art supplies, which are often reused.

Texture Variety 

Oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, and other media provide endless textural possibilities for hand-painted portraits. Paint can be layered, scratched, smoothed, blotted, and more for one-of-a-kind effects.

Vibrant Color 

Real paint straight from the tube provides a pigment vibrancy that is difficult for digital colors to replicate. Hand-mixed custom hues bring a kind of richness and luxuriant feel that is almost impossible to replicate.

Artistic Style 

Every painter’s distinctive style comes through in brush technique, use of color, and handling of the medium. This makes each artwork unique.

Hand-painted portraits are a fantastic choice, when it comes to treasured memories, for those who appreciate the subtleties of the painted medium, have an evolved taste for art, and have a longer timeline and larger budget.  They outshine digital paintings by featuring the actual hand of the artist in each brushstroke. Visible texture from thick daubs of paint, stunning mixes of colors united physically on the canvas. When viewing a real-life canvas painting created through this age-old art form an authentic feeling of life emerges. 

Commissioning or purchasing a hand-painted portrait painting is worth it. The beautiful fine art will be treasured by you and your descendants for generations to come.

For Portraiture, Hand-Painted Reigns Supreme

Hand-painted portraits on canvas are unparalleled in their customization, emotional impact, eco-friendliness, heirloom potential, and uniqueness. They are exceptional for commemorating loved ones and making meaningful gifts or family keepsakes. Nothing compares to the beauty and significance of a hand-painted portrait rendered by a talented artist on canvas. 

If you wish to order a custom handmade oil portrait painting or an oil painting you can visit our order now page. Custom handmade oil portrait paintings make for memorable gifts like an engagement portrait or birthday portrait painting or a housewarming gift. And commemorative, like memorial portrait painting. Our talented artists can also create composite oil painting portraits from two or more reference photos and pics. Similarly, we can also create pet portrait paintings or create new portrait paintings from blurry old black-and-white photos. Our talented artists also create amazing Religious paintings, Krishna Paintings, and portraits of spiritual Gurus and Saints. And stunning handmade reproductions of Old masters and Contemporary art.   

To know the prices of our portrait paintings you can visit our pricing page. To see our work on portrait paintings you can visit our gallery pages. To connect with us ping us on our chat messenger on the website or ping us on Whatsapp or call us at 918291070650 or drop us an email at  support@paintphotographs.com

If you are an art aficionado and interested to write a guest post for us, connect with us on support@paintphotographs.com 

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