How to render mechanical details

Hello there,

I follow Anthony on instagram and have found my way here in my thirst for knowledge!

I am looking for resources on trompe l’oeil painting, and specifically, the technical process of replicating highly detailed patterns on visually complex items such as currency, postage stamps, musical notation, and etc. As these are mechanically made items, I struggle to understand how it is possible to render them with perfect accuracy without the aid of a mechanical device.

Browsing through articles on this site it looks like Anthony transfers a cartoon drawing onto the surface of the panel, which is derived from a photograph (I think?). But it looks like the drawing only captures the general contours of the composition, and not the nitty gritty details. This leads me to believe that very fine details, such as the engraved patterning around the edges of the bills in the below work, are being painted from sight - which seems impossible!

Or consider this work by Tony Curanaj, which has a repeating wallpaper pattern in the background:

Even diverging from the pattern slightly betrays the artist’s hand. So how is it being done? I cannot for the life of me figure it out. Good old practice and skill is undoubtedly a key element, but there has to be a specific technique as well.

I’d be greatly appreciative if anyone has any insight into the actual process, as I cannot for the life of me find any information in libraries or online.


I can’t comment too much on the trompe l’oeil approach as it’s way out of my remit and I’m nowhere near that proficient (or patient) but I know there’s no magic bullet or trick to it. It simply does take hours of meticulous attention to detail and good technique. There are some tiny brushes and even magnifying glasses used now and again for super detailed stuff. A careful underdrawing isn’t going to hurt either.

The Language of Drawing and Language of Painting programmes Anthony has put together give an excellent foundation for reaching this level of control and accuracy - there is a lot of work in it to get there. But if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right!?

Tony Curanaj has a tutorial available too, where he’ll walk you through producing a still life to a high level of resolution too so you can see his process and some of the techniques you can use to get certain effects/textures to look correct. Might give you some ideas.

Hope this gives you something to go on, and no doubt @AWaichulis will drop a knowledge bomb or two if he’s not still busy painting up some leather glove so real that you can actually put your hand in it. :open_mouth:


Here’s a step by step painting walkthrough by Anthony which you might well find enlightening too:-


Greetings Rhys!

Welcome to our community of practicing artists. The challenge to find good resources for high-resolution painting processes can be almost as challenging as creating such works. We do have a good number of issues related to such endeavors throughout this site and there are many more resources on the way.

It is true that my cartoons are somewhat general. Early on in my career I had a tendency to try and plot out every “relevant” detail—but that practice ultimately felt extremely limiting as my process evolved. I enjoy the process of an organic,direct painting/drawing approach that combines descriptions of volume and surface texture simultaneously. It is true that I am doing what I do via sight but I do not see “more accurately” than anyone else—in fact no painter or draftsperson will ever learn to see more accurately. What can happen is that certain types of practice in the realm of observational representationalism CAN lead to the establishment and reinforcement of specific visuomotor responses to specific types of visual information that are conducive to representational efforts. These associations can be strengthened in a number of ways—including something as simple as reserving measurements for mark evaluation instead of mark establishment. That’s really it. There’s no tricks or hidden secrets of past or contemporary masters that only a select few can know. There is really only practice that improves performance.

Now it is true that I have adaptive processes that can be heavily influenced by subject (like the currency graphics you mention) and I am happy to share any of my processes with you. I love talking shop and the more specific you can get—the more help I can be. Just start tossing out the questions. I’ll answer each and every one to the best of my ability.

Again—welcome aboard!