Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

Using the Grid Method when Painting

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Painting People and Places in Oils: Capturing Everyday lifeAdebanji Alade has written a new book that details his unique drawing and painting methods. It also builds on his argument about the importance of solid sketching foundations. The book teaches the reader how to paint urban spaces, crowds, interiors, seascapes and green spaces. This is an excerpt of the book about using the grid method to paint.



Using the Grid Method when Painting

How to Get an Image on the Surface

I bring my love of sketching into every aspect of my painting – in fact, I don’t make any distinction between the two. Each stage of the work is important. It flows naturally from pencil to paint. With my reference in hand, I use coloured pencils first to get the shapes and proportions right, then switch to brush markers.



I don’t want to have to consider tone or line once I’m painting: that’s when I want to concentrate on colour. The underlying tonal drawing therefore needs to be just right – essentially, it’s a textureless painting. If you can get this stage right, painting will be enjoyable and the process will flow.



Add a Grid

If you’re working from a screen, there are many free apps or websites that will let you add a grid. If you’re working from a screen, there are lots of free apps or websites that will let you add a grid, such as:

Add Grid To Image


Grids are useful for displaying information.

A grid will help you break up the image into smaller pieces. ‘tiles’. The whole image will be easier to understand and approach if each tile is numbered. It’s important that the proportions of your surface match the photograph, or you’ll distort things.



Generally, a 3:4 ratio is what I prefer – though this is simply because the screen on the smartphone that I use is in that proportion. You can easily change the grid to fit any proportion, as long as your reference and surface are both the same. Most smartphones will allow you to crop your images quickly and easily into various common ratios. Mine, for instance, offers square (1 to 1), 9:16 and 4:5, 5 to 7, 3:4, 3:5 or 2:3 ratios.


This closeup shows that even after the painting is finished, you can still see the grid of squares beneath it.


Triangular Tiles

You can break the image up into triangular shapes using diagonal, vertical, and horizontal lines instead of a simple grid. This style of gridding was introduced to me in a sculpture course at Yaba College of Technology. We used it to create relief sculptures from pictures using clay as a base. The process is easy:

1Draw a line starting at one corner and going to the opposite corner.

2Next, draw a line vertically and horizontally to cut through the diagonals.

3Repeat this process on the four sections until you have enough grids that will help you accurately portray the image from the picture onto the surface you are painting.

4 Number the horizontal and vertical lines on both the reference and the surface, and you’re ready to go.


An example of a picture that has been broken down into triangular tile, which further divides up the squares to make it easier to work.



I’m sometimes asked if the alcohol-based brush markers will bleed through the oil on top. It’s possible they can, if you work with thin layers, but I love rich, thick, luscious impasto-style painting, so I’ve never found it to happen.


An ideal sketch, made with pencils and pens, is like a complete painting in its own right – all the shapes and values firmly in place. From this solid starting point, the oils can build on top, and you’ll find the process rewarding, relaxing and enjoyable.



Q & A with Adebanji Alade

Clare: This is the third book you’ve written. Can you tell us how your experience was writing it and how it differed from the first time around?

Adebanji, I’ve written my first book before. That’s what has changed. Although I loved the first book, it was written with a lot of timidity. But in this one I was bold and courageous, ready to share my skills with the world and I’m really proud of it. It represents everything I believe and stand for.


Clare: It has been described as an ode to cities and London in particular. What do you like about painting in a city? What are some of the challenges you face, and does your book offer any advice on how to overcome them?

Adebanji: I love painting London, it’s where I was born and it’s a very well known city. I love the old landmarks and places that haven’t changed in hundreds of year. I love looking back at old paintings and comparing it to what I do today. When it comes to challenges, there aren’t any major challenges because all the paintings in the book of London are painted from pictures. But if there’s a challenge I would say it’s getting a good drawing at the start. That’s the power of sketching. If the sketch is good then there’s a chance that the painting will be good. In the book I explain how I ensure that I have a solid sketch before I begin any painting. Before I paint the surface with oil paint, the sketch has to be solid and inviting.



Clare, what was the most challenging chapter you wrote in Painting People and Places and why?

Adebanji says: The most difficult chapter was how I paint crowded scene. One thing is sure, I can paint crowded scenes but I wasn’t sure how I would go about teaching it. How I would demonstrate that. But I followed my heart and painted the project as I would normally paint it in the book, but I had my Editor nearby to explain in more detail what I was doing verbally.


Clare: To whom do you think this book would be most useful?

Adebanji says that this book is best for the intermediate beginner and not for the complete novice to oil painting. It’s for anyone who can draw, can paint but wants to take their craft to the next level.



Clare, do you have any upcoming exhibitions? What are your plans for 2024?

Adebanji: I’ll be exhibiting with the Society of Graphic Artists in March at the Mall Galleries. That’s the nearest one I can think of. This year I’ll be doing more art documentaries with the One Show and I’ll be adding more members to my online sketching school called ‘The Addictive Sketchers Movement’. I’ll be painting more plein air this year than usual because I want to spend more time outdoors.



Photo credits: Search Press

ISBN: 9781800920323



Continue Reading

Underpaintings in Oil and Acrylic

Adebanji Alade – the Addictive sketcher

Stretching Watercolour Paper

Acrylic Painting and Microplastics in the Environment


Shop ‘Painting People and Places’ on


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