The Making of a Custom Dog Portrait

Because a lot of my work features dogs, I’ve been asked for a long time now if I do custom dog portraits followed by “how much would it cost.” I knew I could do the portraits but I never had a good answer to the cost question, and I wasn’t comfortable offering something I didn’t test first. But I’d had it as a goal for a long time, and finally after a few months of testing am able to officially offer it. This is exciting because I totally understand the appeal of a custom portrait of your dog. Throughout the lifespan of my old dog Miguel (RIP) I commissioned friends and artists to make artistic representations of him, and these are belongings that continue to be very special to me.

During the testing process I asked a few of my dog-having friends for photos of their canine companions to use as samples. To make the process easy I wanted to offer the portraits in a consistent style so people would have an idea of what they would be getting. I always liked the style of the Stay Gold print of Miguel, and decided to go forward with that.

Doing the tests was a lot of work but it gave me a good idea of what I was in for time-wise and process-wise. I had something to base pricing on. And I got a good idea of what kinds of photos people would send me — an initial worry was getting photos I couldn’t work with. I did some research and saw that not many people were offering a screen print as the final product in a custom portrait. There are lots of reasons for that (labor and cost), but I’m in a good position to efficiently make and print screens. Plus nothing beats the shine and sparkle of metallic gold ink, and as a printmaker it’s hard for me to get excited about digital printing.

For now I’m offering 8 x 10 prints, but I’m also interested in offering runs of notecards in the future. And someday, yes, I’d like to be more pet-inclusive (cats), but I’d like to practice drawing cats first. I rarely draw them and I don’t want to offer something I’m not comfortable and confident drawing. Soon I’ll do some test runs of my friend’s cats and cat portraits will be an option, too. And after that: birds, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, and so on.

And lucky me, I have woodworkers as studiomates and am able to offer the prints framed. So if you’re ordering a portrait as a gift, this makes it easy and complete.

Step by step, here’s what goes into making a custom dog portrait:

1. Send me photos of your dog!

Dog photos!

Dog photos!


2. I make a few drawings on paper of your dog, using my trusty felt tip pen.

I make the drawings by hand with a felt tip pen on paper

I make the drawings by hand with a felt tip pen on paper


3. I scan the drawing into my computer, which will be the black layer in the screen print. I clean it up, and add the gold layer. I have a small Wacom tablet that really helps with doing work like this.

Working on the layers in Photoshop

Working on the layers in Photoshop


4. Using the digital file I created in step 3, I print transparencies (one for each color) and burn the screens.

Transparencies, used for burning screens

Transparencies, used for burning screens

A custom dog portrait screen + my dog Bernadette, who likes to photo-bomb

A custom dog portrait screen + my dog Bernadette, who likes to photo-bomb


5. I set up the screens at my studio at POST and print! The gold layer gets printed first, then the black layer on top of that. I trim the print down to 8 x 10.

Printing the gold layer first

Printing the gold layer first


And voila, screen printed custom dog portraits! Order yours online or in-person at POST!

Portraits are available framed and unframed; frames by Mutual Adoration

Portraits are available framed and unframed; frames by Mutual Adoration