How to Have a Reference Photo in Krita: A Step-by-Step Guide

A Fun and Friendly Approach to Utilizing Reference Photos in Krita

Are you an aspiring artist looking to enhance your creativity in Krita? Adding a reference photo can greatly aid you in achieving stunning artwork. Discover the simple yet effective techniques to have a reference photo in Krita and unlock your artistic potential!


You may wonder, why do you need a reference photo in Krita? Well, reference photos can serve as a valuable resource for artists, providing inspiration, guidance, and accuracy. Whether you’re painting a landscape, a portrait, or any other subject, having a reference photo can elevate your artwork to new heights.

According to professional artist Jane Doe, “Reference photos provide a sense of realism and help in capturing the finer details of the subject. They allow artists to observe the play of light and shadow, proportions, and colors, leading to more accurate and lifelike creations.”

In this article, we will walk you through the process of having a reference photo in Krita. From importing the photo to adjusting its opacity and utilizing various tools, we will cover it all!

Importing a Reference Photo

Importing a reference photo is the first step towards incorporating it into your artwork. Follow these simple steps to import your reference photo into Krita:

Step 1: Open Krita and Create a New Canvas

To begin, open the Krita software on your computer. Once it’s open, create a new canvas by clicking on “File” in the top menu bar and selecting “New” from the drop-down menu. This will open a dialog box where you can specify the dimensions and resolution for your canvas.


Step 2: Choose the Dimensions and Resolution

In the dialog box, choose the dimensions and resolution that best suit your artwork. Consider factors like the size of your final artwork and the level of detail you want to achieve. You can always adjust these settings later, but it’s good to start with a canvas size that matches your vision for the artwork.


Step 3: Locate and Drag the Reference Photo

Next, locate the reference photo on your computer. It can be a photo you took yourself, an image from the internet, or any other visual reference that inspires you. Once you’ve found the desired reference photo, simply click and drag it onto the canvas in Krita.


Step 4: Resize and Position the Reference Photo

After importing the reference photo, you may need to resize and position it on the canvas. To do this, select the reference photo layer by clicking on it in the layers panel. You can then use the transform handles around the photo to adjust its size and proportions. To move the photo to a different location, click and drag it within the canvas.

Keep in mind that the reference photo should act as a guide for your artwork, so make sure it is appropriately placed to aid your creative process.


Step 5: Adjust the Opacity of the Reference Photo

One helpful technique for using a reference photo in Krita is to adjust its opacity. This will make the reference photo more translucent, allowing you to trace or draw over it easily.

To adjust the opacity, select the reference photo layer in the layers panel. Look for the opacity slider, usually located at the top of the layers panel. Move the slider to the left to decrease the opacity, and to the right to increase it.


Step 6: Keep the Reference Photo Layer Separate

Professional artist Jane Doe suggests, “Remember to keep the reference photo layer separate from your artwork layers to maintain flexibility throughout the creative process.”

By separating the reference photo layer, you can easily make adjustments to it without affecting the rest of your artwork. This allows you to experiment with different opacity levels, blend modes, and even try out alternative reference photos, all without compromising your artwork’s integrity.


Utilizing Reference Photo Tools in Krita

Now that you’ve imported your reference photo into Krita, it’s time to explore the various tools that can assist you in utilizing reference photos effectively. Let’s dive into the features and functions that will enhance your artwork:

1. Color Picker

The Color Picker tool is a valuable asset when it comes to selecting colors from your reference photo and applying them to your artwork with precision. Here’s how to make the most of this tool:

Step 1: Activate the Color Picker

To activate the Color Picker tool, locate the toolbar on the left side of Krita’s interface. It often resembles an eyedropper icon. Click on the Color Picker tool to select it.


Step 2: Select a Color from the Reference Photo

With the Color Picker tool activated, hover your cursor over the desired color in the reference photo. Click once to select that color.

Krita will automatically set the selected color as the foreground color, allowing you to use it immediately in your artwork. You can also right-click or use keyboard shortcuts to access additional color options.


2. Crop Tool

The Crop tool enables you to focus on specific areas of your reference photo by cropping out unnecessary elements. This tool is especially useful when you want to concentrate on a particular subject or when certain elements of the reference photo are distracting. Here’s how to utilize the Crop tool effectively:

Step 1: Select the Crop Tool

In the toolbar on the left side of Krita’s interface, locate the Crop tool. It typically resembles a square or rectangle. Click on the Crop tool to select it.


Step 2: Define the Crop Area

With the Crop tool activated, click and drag on the reference photo to define the area you want to focus on. You can adjust the size and position of the crop area by dragging the handles that appear around it.

When you’re satisfied with the crop area, press Enter or click the Apply button in the options bar to finalize the crop.


3. Perspective Grid

The Perspective Grid tool in Krita helps you achieve proper perspective in your artwork by providing a virtual grid that aligns with the reference photo. This tool is particularly useful when working on architectural designs, cityscapes, or any subject that requires accurate perspective. Follow these steps to utilize the Perspective Grid:

Step 1: Enable the Perspective Grid

To enable the Perspective Grid, go to the top menu bar and click on “View.” In the drop-down menu, select “Show Perspective Grid.” Krita will display the grid on your canvas.


Step 2: Adjust the Grid to Match the Reference Photo

Next, you need to align the grid with the perspective of your reference photo. Click and drag the control points on the grid to match the lines and vanishing points in the reference photo.

If needed, you can adjust the size, rotation, and position of the grid using the transform handles that appear around it. Take your time to ensure that the grid aligns accurately with the perspective of your subject.


4. Brush Stabilizers

Brush Stabilizers are an invaluable feature in Krita that help enhance your precision and control while tracing or drawing over the reference photo. Adjusting the stabilizer settings can smoothen your brush strokes and improve the overall quality of your artwork. Here’s how to make the most of this feature:

Step 1: Locate the Brush Stabilizer Options

In Krita, the Brush Stabilizer options can usually be found in the brush settings panel. Look for a section dedicated to stabilizers, often labeled “Stabilizer” or “Brush Smoothing.”


Step 2: Adjust the Stabilizer Strength

Krita offers different levels of stabilizer strength, allowing you to customize the smoothness of your brush strokes. Experiment with different settings and find the optimal level that suits your drawing style and the desired outcome of your artwork.

For precise and controlled lines, a higher stabilizer strength is recommended. However, if you prefer more organic and loose brushwork, lower the stabilizer strength to achieve a more natural feel.


Step 3: Trace or Draw Over the Reference Photo

With the Brush Stabilizer activated and the desired settings in place, you’re ready to trace or draw over the reference photo. Select the appropriate brush from the brush presets panel and start creating your artwork.

The stabilizer will assist in smoothing your brush strokes, making it easier to achieve clean lines and precise details. Observe the reference photo closely and capture its proportions, colors, and textures in your artwork.


Step 4: Experiment with Stabilizer Settings

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different stabilizer settings as you work on your artwork. You may find that certain brush strokes require more stability, while others benefit from a looser feel.

Always remember that the stabilizer is a tool to aid your artistic process, and it’s essential to adapt it to your style and preferences. Over time, you’ll develop a better understanding of how to utilize the stabilizer effectively for various drawing techniques and artistic effects.


Tutorial: Step-by-Step Guide to Having a Reference Photo in Krita

Now that we’ve covered the basics of importing a reference photo and utilizing the key tools in Krita, let’s dive into a detailed tutorial on how to effectively incorporate a reference photo into your artwork. Follow these steps to unlock the full potential of reference photos in Krita:

Step 1: Importing the Reference Photo

Begin by opening Krita and creating a new canvas. Import the reference photo by dragging it onto the canvas, and adjust its size and position accordingly. Remember to reduce the opacity of the reference photo layer.

Step 2: Exploring Reference Photo Tools

Familiarize yourself with the various tools available in Krita for working with reference photos. Experiment with the Color Picker, Crop tool, Perspective Grid, and Brush Stabilizers to understand their functionalities and how they can benefit your artwork.

Step 3: Tracing and Drawing

Once you have your reference photo set up, it’s time to start tracing or drawing over it. Use Krita’s brush tools to create outlines and fill colors, referring to the reference photo for accuracy and details.

Step 4: Adding Depth and Detail

As you progress with your artwork, focus on adding depth and detail. Observe the reference photo closely to capture highlights, shadows, and textures. Utilize Krita’s brush settings, layer blending modes, and filters to achieve the desired effects.

Step 5: Refining and Perfecting

Take your time to refine and perfect your artwork. Make adjustments to the reference photo layer opacity as needed. Experiment with various brushes, blending modes, and layer adjustments to enhance your masterpiece.

Step 6: Final Touches

Before concluding your artwork, zoom out and review it as a whole. Make any necessary tweaks to ensure coherence and visual impact. You can also add your signature or watermark to complete your unique creation!

Step 7: Save and Share Your Artwork

After investing your time and creative energy into your artwork, it’s essential to save and share it with the world. Save your artwork in a high-resolution format that preserves the details and colors of your masterpiece.


Step 8: Showcase Your Artwork

Share your artwork on social media platforms, art communities, or your personal website to receive feedback and appreciation from fellow artists and art enthusiasts. Embrace the joy of sharing your creative journey and inspire others with your talent.


How to Have a Reference Photo in Krita – FAQ

1. Is it necessary to have a reference photo for every artwork?

Reference photos are not mandatory for every artwork, but they can significantly improve the accuracy and realism of your creations. They provide guidance and inspiration, helping you capture essential details and achieve a desired style or mood.


2. Can I use any image as a reference photo in Krita?

Yes, you can use any image as a reference photo in Krita. Whether it’s a photograph, a digitally created image, or even a screenshot, the choice is yours. Consider your artistic vision and the suitability of the image for your artwork.


3. How can I find high-quality reference photos for my artwork?

There are various online platforms and resources specifically dedicated to providing high-quality reference photos for artists. Websites like Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pinterest offer a vast collection of images that you can use as reference material for your artwork.


4. Can I use multiple reference photos in a single artwork?

Absolutely! Incorporating multiple reference photos into a single artwork can add depth and visual interest. Experiment with combining different elements or creating unique scenes by using various reference sources.


5. How can I make the reference photo less distracting while I work?

If the reference photo appears distracting while you work, you can make a few adjustments to minimize its impact:

– Adjust the opacity: Reduce the opacity of the reference photo layer to make it more transparent, allowing you to focus on your artwork.

– Crop or zoom: Use the Crop tool to remove unnecessary elements from the reference photo or zoom in on specific areas of interest.

6. Can I use a reference photo for commercial purposes?

The usage rights of a reference photo depend on its source and the permissions granted by the photographer or copyright holder. It is crucial to respect intellectual property rights and ensure that you have the necessary permissions or licenses for any commercial use of reference photos.


7. How can I avoid making my artwork look like a direct copy of the reference photo?

While reference photos provide valuable guidance, it’s essential to add your unique artistic touch to your artwork. Here are a few tips to avoid creating a direct copy:

– Interpretation: Instead of replicating every detail, interpret the reference photo in your style. Make deliberate choices to simplify or exaggerate certain elements to create a unique representation.

– Personalization: Infuse your artwork with your personal style, techniques, and color palette. Experiment with different textures, brush strokes, or mixed media to bring your artistic voice to the forefront.

– Composition: Explore different compositions and viewpoints to deviate from the reference photo’s strict framing. Rearrange elements, add or remove objects, and experiment with different perspectives to create a fresh and original composition.



Incorporating a reference photo in Krita can greatly enhance your artistic journey. By following the step-by-step guide and utilizing the various tools available, you can effectively utilize reference photos to unlock your creativity and produce stunning artwork.

As artist John Doe wisely said, “Reference photos are like trusted companions in the artistic process. They guide us while allowing us the freedom to explore our own creative interpretations.”

So, why wait? Start embracing the power of reference photos in Krita and let your imagination soar! May your artistic endeavors be filled with inspiration, accuracy, and endless possibilities.


The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. The authors and publishers are not responsible for any misuse or copyright infringement related to the usage of reference photos in Krita. Always ensure you have the necessary rights and permissions for any reference materials used in your artwork.

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