How to Add Reference Picture in Krita: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide

A Fun and Friendly Way to Enhance Your Artistic Journey

Are you an aspiring artist looking to take your artwork to the next level? Adding reference pictures in Krita can greatly help you improve your skills, bring your ideas to life, and unleash your creativity. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, this comprehensive guide will walk you through each step of incorporating reference images into your Krita projects. Let’s embark on this artistic journey together!


In today’s digital age, artists have an amazing array of tools and software at their disposal to unleash their creativity. Krita, a powerful open-source painting program, is a favorite among many artists for its versatility and user-friendly interface. One of the key features that sets Krita apart is the ability to add reference pictures, which can serve as a guide and inspiration for your artwork.

But how exactly can you add reference pictures effectively in Krita? In this comprehensive guide, we will dive deep into the step-by-step process of incorporating reference images into your Krita canvas. We’ll also cover some useful tips, techniques, and best practices to make the most out of this feature. By the end of this guide, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to confidently use reference pictures in your artistic endeavors.

Why Use Reference Pictures in Krita?

Curious about the benefits of adding reference pictures in Krita? Let’s explore why this feature is a game-changer for artists:

“Using reference pictures can significantly enhance your artwork by providing a visual guide and allowing you to capture realistic details and proportions.” – ArtStation

Reference pictures offer a multitude of advantages, including:

Improved Accuracy and Realism

Reference pictures act as a visual guide, helping you achieve more accurate proportions, perspectives, and details in your artwork. They ensure that your drawings closely resemble the subject you’re depicting, resulting in realistic and captivating pieces.

Enhanced Creativity and Inspiration

Reference pictures can spark your creativity and inspire new ideas. They provide a starting point and reference for experimenting with different styles, color schemes, and compositions. By incorporating reference pictures into your artwork, you can push the boundaries of your imagination and create unique and compelling pieces.

Expanded Knowledge and Learning Opportunities

Studying and referencing real-life objects, people, or scenes can significantly enhance your understanding of anatomy, lighting, textures, and other artistic elements. Reference pictures serve as valuable learning resources that enable you to continuously grow and refine your artistic skills.

Efficient Workflow and Time Savings

Having reference pictures readily available in Krita streamlines your workflow and saves you precious time. Instead of constantly searching for external references, you can conveniently integrate them into your canvas, allowing for smoother and more focused artistic creation.

Now that we’ve established the importance of reference pictures in Krita, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of how to add them effectively.

Step-by-Step Tutorial: How to Add Reference Pictures in Krita

Step 1: Open Krita and Create a New Document

To begin incorporating reference pictures into your Krita project, follow these steps:

  1. Launch Krita by double-clicking the desktop icon or searching for it in your applications. Wait for the program to fully load.
  2. Once Krita is open, click on “File” in the top menu and select “New.” This action will prompt the creation of a new document where you can start incorporating your reference pictures.
  3. In the “Create a New Image” dialog box, enter the desired dimensions and resolution for your canvas. Choosing the appropriate size and resolution depends on the specific project or artwork you’re working on. Consider the final output size and any printing requirements you may have.
  4. Click “OK” to create the new document, and you’ll be greeted with a blank canvas, ready to be filled with your artistic creations.

Congratulations! You’ve now set up a new document in Krita and are ready to proceed with adding reference pictures.

Step 2: Importing Reference Pictures

Import Reference PictureSource: None

Once you have your blank canvas set up, it’s time to bring in your reference pictures. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Locate the reference picture file you wish to import on your computer. Ensure that you have the necessary permissions and rights to use the image for your artwork.
  2. In Krita, click on “File” in the top menu and select “Import.” This action will open a dialog box for you to select and import your reference picture.
  3. Navigate to the location of your reference picture in the file explorer and select it. After making your selection, click on the “Open” button.
  4. Krita will automatically import the reference picture and place it on a new layer above your canvas. The imported picture will appear as a rectangular thumbnail on your canvas, ready to be adjusted and utilized for your artwork.

Great job! You have successfully imported your reference picture into Krita. Let’s move on to the next step to adjust and optimize its placement.

Step 3: Adjusting Reference Picture

After importing your reference picture, it’s essential to make any necessary adjustments to ensure it works seamlessly with your artwork. Follow these steps to fine-tune the placement and appearance of your reference picture:

  1. Select the reference picture layer by clicking on it in the Layers panel. The Layers panel is typically located on the right side of the Krita interface.
  2. Resize and reposition the reference picture using the transformation handles or the “Move” tool. To scale the picture proportionally, hold the Shift key while dragging the corner handles.
  3. Change the opacity of the reference picture layer to make it more or less visible as needed. The opacity slider is located within the Layers panel. Experiment with different values to find the right balance between the reference picture and your artwork.
  4. Additionally, you can rotate or flip the reference picture if necessary. Access these options from the “Layer” menu or by right-clicking on the reference picture layer in the Layers panel.

Take your time to align the reference picture precisely with your canvas, and adjust it to suit your artistic vision. Remember that the reference picture should act as a guide, providing inspiration and aiding in accurate representation.

Step 4: Working with Multiple Reference Pictures

Oftentimes, artists need to work with multiple reference pictures simultaneously to capture different elements, compositions, or perspectives. Krita offers excellent support for managing and utilizing multiple reference pictures effectively. Follow these steps to incorporate multiple references into your artwork:

  1. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to import and adjust additional reference pictures. Each imported picture will appear as a separate layer in the Layers panel.
  2. To organize your reference pictures, it’s recommended to create separate layers for each one. This approach helps maintain clarity and allows you to manipulate each reference independently.
  3. Utilize the layer opacity and blending modes to achieve the desired effect and interaction between your different reference pictures. Experiment with different blending modes such as “Multiply,” “Overlay,” or “Screen” to see how they affect the overall composition.
  4. Additionally, you can group related reference picture layers by selecting them (hold the Ctrl key while clicking) and right-clicking to access the grouping options. Grouping layers keeps your workspace organized and makes it easier to manage complex reference setups.

By utilizing multiple reference pictures, you can create complex and dynamic compositions, incorporating different elements into your artwork. This feature is particularly useful for still life, character design, or architectural drawings where multiple references provide a more comprehensive visual guide.

Step 5: Locking Reference Picture Layers

Lock Reference Picture LayerSource: None

To ensure the integrity of your reference pictures and prevent accidental modifications, it’s advantageous to lock their respective layers. Locking layers in Krita prevents unintentional changes while you focus on your artistic process. Follow these steps to lock your reference picture layers:

  1. Select the reference picture layer(s) you want to lock by clicking on them in the Layers panel. To select multiple layers, hold the Ctrl key while clicking.
  2. Navigate to the “Layer” menu or right-click on the selected layer(s) in the Layers panel.
  3. Click on the lock icon beside the layer name to toggle the lock state. A locked layer will have a small lock icon visible.
  4. Locked layers protect your reference pictures from accidental modifications, ensuring that the placement, position, and opacity remain as intended while you work on your artwork.

By locking the reference picture layers, you can focus solely on your artistic process and creative exploration, without worrying about unintentional changes or disruptions.

Step 6: Drawing and Painting with Reference Pictures

Now that your reference pictures are perfectly integrated into Krita, it’s time to unleash your creativity and use them as a guide to develop your artwork. As you draw, paint, or digitally manipulate your artistic elements, reference pictures will provide valuable visual cues and references. Follow these steps to effectively incorporate reference pictures into your creative process:

  1. Create a new layer above the reference picture layer(s) to start working on your artwork. The new layer ensures that any alterations or additions you make are separate from the reference pictures, allowing for easy modifications or removals later on.
  2. Activate your preferred drawing or painting tool from the toolbar. Krita offers a wide range of brushes and tools suitable for various styles and techniques. Experiment with different brush settings, textures, and opacity to achieve the desired effect.
  3. Begin applying your artistic skills to the canvas using the reference pictures as a guide. Observe the proportions, shapes, and details present in the reference pictures and replicate them in your artwork. Pay attention to aspects such as lighting, perspective, and texture to add depth and realism to your creation.
  4. Feel free to deviate from the reference pictures as you explore your own artistic interpretation. While references are essential for accuracy, they can also serve as a springboard for creative experimentation and personal expression.
  5. Continuously refer back to the reference pictures throughout your artistic process. Compare your artwork to the references regularly, making adjustments as needed to stay true to the intended vision.
  6. As you gain confidence and experience, you might find that you need fewer reference pictures or rely on them in different ways. Remember that working with references is a skill that improves with practice, observation, and understanding.

Let your imagination run wild as you combine your artistic skills with the inspiration provided by the reference pictures. Explore different techniques, experiment with color palettes, and immerse yourself in the creative process.

Step 7: Saving and Exporting Your Artwork

Save And Export ArtworkSource: None

Once you have completed your artwork, it’s crucial to save and export it properly to preserve your hard work and make it accessible to others. Follow these steps to save and export your artwork in Krita:

  1. Click on “File” in the top menu and select “Save” to save your Krita project in its native format (KRA). Saving your project in Krita format allows you to maintain all the layers, settings, and details for future editing.
  2. Choose a location on your computer where you want to save the Krita project file. Give it a descriptive name reflecting your artwork to easily identify it later.
  3. To export your artwork in a shareable format, click on “File” and select “Export.” This action opens the export dialog box.
  4. In the export dialog box, choose the desired file format from the options provided. Common choices include PNG, JPEG, or TIFF. Select the format that best suits your needs and the intended use of your artwork.
  5. Specify the destination folder where you want to save the exported image file. Click on the “Browse” button and navigate to the desired location on your computer.
  6. Consider adjusting any additional export settings, such as resolution, compression, or color profile. These settings are typically available in the export dialog box, depending on the chosen file format.
  7. Double-check that everything is set as you desire, and click the “OK” or “Export” button to finalize the export process.

Congratulations! You have successfully added reference pictures in Krita and created your masterpiece. Saving your artwork ensures that you can revisit and modify it in the future, while exporting it allows you to share your creativity with the world.

The Complete Guide: How to Add Reference Picture in Krita

Step Description
Step 1 Create a new document in Krita by clicking “File” → “New.”
Step 2 Import reference pictures by clicking “File” → “Import.”
Step 3 Adjust the reference picture by resizing, repositioning, and changing opacity.
Step 4 Manage multiple reference pictures by creating separate layers and adjusting blending modes.
Step 5 Lock reference picture layers to prevent accidental modifications.
Step 6 Create a new layer above the reference picture layer and start drawing or painting.
Step 7 Save your artwork in Krita format and export it in a shareable format.

How to Add Reference Picture in Krita – FAQ

Q1: Can I add multiple reference pictures in Krita?

A1: Absolutely! Krita allows you to import and manage multiple reference pictures simultaneously. By following the steps outlined in the tutorial, you can easily incorporate multiple references into your artwork and switch between them seamlessly.

Q2: Can I use reference pictures from the internet in Krita?

A2: Yes, you can import reference pictures from the internet into Krita. However, it’s essential to ensure that you have the necessary permissions and rights to use those images for your artwork. Always respect copyrights and intellectual property.

Q3: Can I adjust the transparency of the reference picture in Krita?

A3: Yes, Krita provides the option to adjust the opacity or transparency of the reference picture layer. This feature allows you to make the reference picture more or less visible as needed. By altering the opacity, you can strike a balance between using the reference as a guide and focusing on your own creative interpretation.

Q4: How do I ensure the reference picture stays in proportion with my canvas?

A4: Achieving proper proportions is crucial for accurate and realistic artwork. In Krita, you can easily maintain the proportionality of your reference picture to match your canvas. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the reference picture layer by clicking on it in the Layers panel.
  2. Use the transformation handles located around the edges of the reference picture to resize it. To maintain proper proportions, hold the Shift key while dragging the corner handles.
  3. Alternatively, you can use the “Move” tool to reposition the reference picture without altering its size. This tool allows you to drag the reference picture to the desired position within the canvas.

By resizing or repositioning the reference picture using these techniques, you can ensure that it remains in proportion with your canvas and serves as an accurate guide for your artwork.

Q5: Can I use reference pictures in combination with other media in Krita?

A5: Absolutely! Krita offers a wide range of artistic tools and media for you to explore and experiment with. You can easily combine reference pictures with brushes, textures, filters, and other features to achieve unique and captivating artistic results.

You can, for example:

  • Use a textured brush to emulate the texture of a reference object, such as fur or wood grain.
  • Experiment with different brush blending modes to blend your brush strokes with the colors and details of the reference picture.
  • Apply artistic filters or effects to your artwork while referencing the original image for guidance.

Remember, incorporating reference pictures is not limited to copying them verbatim. Instead, use them as a foundation to develop your own artistic style and vision.

Q6: Is it possible to customize the arrangement of the reference pictures?

A6: Yes, Krita offers flexible options to customize the arrangement of your reference pictures, allowing you to create an organized and efficient workspace. Here are some tips:

  1. Create separate layers for each reference picture so that you can easily manipulate and manage them individually.
  2. Use the “Move” tool to reposition the reference picture layers within your canvas. This tool enables you to precisely align the reference pictures to your liking.
  3. If you want to create a more complex composition with your reference pictures, consider using layer groups. Layer groups allow you to organize and group related reference pictures together, making it easier to manage and visualize your workspace.
  4. Experiment with different layer blending modes to achieve interesting interactions between your reference pictures. For example, try using the “Multiply” blending mode to blend the colors of multiple reference pictures together.

By customizing the arrangement of your reference pictures, you can create a streamlined workflow and optimize your workspace for maximum efficiency and creativity.

Q7: Can I lock the reference picture layers to prevent accidental changes?

A7: Yes, it’s highly recommended to lock the reference picture layers in Krita to prevent unintentional modifications. By locking the layers, you can focus on your artwork without the risk of inadvertently moving, resizing, or altering the reference pictures.

To lock a reference picture layer:

  1. Select the reference picture layer by clicking on it in the Layers panel.
  2. In the Layers panel, locate the lock icon beside the layer name.
  3. Click on the lock icon to toggle the lock state of the layer. A locked layer will display a small lock icon, indicating that it is protected from changes.

By locking the reference picture layers, you can confidently work on your artwork, knowing that your reference pictures are securely in place.

Final Thoughts: Unleash Your Creativity with Reference Pictures in Krita

Adding reference pictures in Krita is a fantastic way to enhance your artistic journey and elevate your artwork to new heights. By utilizing reference pictures effectively, you can improve accuracy, boost creativity, expand your knowledge, and achieve remarkable results.

Remember, incorporating reference pictures is not about imitation but about utilizing them as sources of inspiration and guidance. Allow the reference pictures to spark your imagination, experiment with different techniques, and develop your unique artistic style.

Embrace the process of continuous learning and growth, building upon the foundations provided by reference pictures. With each artwork, you’ll discover new possibilities, refine your skills, and create captivating pieces that truly reflect your artistic vision.

So, dive into the world of reference pictures in Krita, explore different subjects and styles, and let your creativity soar. With Krita as your trusted artistic companion, the possibilities are limitless. Enjoy your artistic journey and the beautiful masterpieces you’ll create!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. The author and website do not endorse any unauthorized use of copyrighted materials. Always ensure you have the necessary permissions and rights to use reference pictures in your artwork.

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