Let’s Talk About Filters


Anybody with a smartphone has some experience with filters. Instagram has a bevy of different options to change the color tone or contrast of your picture with the touch of a button. There are some phone and computer applications out there that can convert your picture to a painting in seconds! I’m not going to review any of them but there are definitely some good ones on the market.

When people see my digital paintings I occasionally get comments such as, “Oh, I could do that with a filter!” So I decided to do an experiment and compare two filters – one free and readily available, one higher end that’s used frequently in the artist community – with my own digital painting.

The image to the right is the one that I received to paint. This is Angel who recently passed away; her owners wanted a portrait of her. The painting took approximately three hours to complete and was printed on fine art paper and framed. Zero filters were used in the completion of the image – every stroke is done by hand using a tablet and stylus.

There is a time and place for filters and I’ve done some great work with them in the past. But rest assured that every piece of art you receive from me is absolutely unique and cannot be replicated by any filter. Take a look at the examples below. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding!


I don’t know who “they” are but I figured I should consult the Wictionary about that odd little proverb…

This proverb dates back at least to the 14th century as “Jt is ywrite that euery thing Hymself sheweth in the tastyng”, and William Camden stated it in 1605 in Remaines of a Greater Worke, Concerning Britaine as “All the proofe of a pudding, is in the eating”, per Rogers’ Dictionary of Cliche and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

A 1682 translation of Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux Le Lutrin (written between 1672 and 1674) renders it “The proof of th’ pudding’s seen i’ the eating.”

The shorter form “the proof is in the pudding”, which dates back to the 1920s and came into common use in the United States in the 1950s, is becoming increasingly common.

You can only say something is a success after it has been tried out or used.
I know you didn’t think it was a very good product, but just look at the fantastic sales figures. That’s the proof of the pudding.

One of the first differences you’ll notice is the background. Unless a specific background is requested for a portrait, I’ll remove any visual distractions and place the dog on a studio-like neutral background. Then I use my editing skills as a professional photographer to bring out contrast and texture in the fur and remove collars and/or leashes. The eyes are key so I spend a lot of time hand-painting detail back into the eyes and adding catchlights. None of this is included in any painting app.

Image painted with the free “one button click” filter.

Image painted with the higher end filter.

Image painted digitally by hand.

The completed painting.