Custom Pet Portraits! Best Way to Get One?

There is a new trend in the air, have you heard of it? This latest pet related trend is to do with custom pet portraits. A lot of people love their pets more than many people they know and want to immortalize their furry fellow in print. It used to be simple, just take a photo of your beloved pet and print it out. Stick it in a photo frame and you are good to go! Things are getting more complex now! You can get custom pet portraits in the form of watercolor paintings, pencil drawings, tattoos or even a custom pet sculpture (yes, you heard me right!!).

Have you ever wanted to get a portrait of your dog or cat? Here’s our guide to the best way to get one! Be warned, this is a long post, so you can use our table of contents to jump straight to the content you want if you are in a hurry 🙂

Why are Pet Portraits so Popular?

You may be wondering what the fuss is around these custom pet portraits. Most people want to have a lifetime memory of their pet (past or present), and a high-quality portrait hanging on your wall is perfect for this. Your favorite kitty or pooch will be a fixture in your house long after their lifetime.

Pet portraits are also often thought of as the perfect gift for any ‘pet people’ out there as well.

Best Place to Get a Pet Portrait? [Old VS New Method]

The old school method for getting a custom pet portrait would be to take that beloved cat or dog (or whatever) to a local artist to come up with this custom work for you.

Thanks to the wonder of the internet, a new method has become popular. These days you can just send a high-quality photo of your pet to an artist on the internet to do the same thing.

What are the Advantages of the New Method?


Taking your pooch to your local portrait artist sounds great and all, but the difference in cost from an online artist is massive.

Think about it, how many artists are there around you that do custom pet portraits? Probably a handful at most. This means the competition is low and they can often charge more.

Then think about the online artist who is literally competing with thousands of other online artists to get your pet portrait bucks. This massive level of competition leads to much lower prices.

It’s not only competition, it’s location too. If you live in New York and ask an artist based in your area to do the work, you are going to be paying much more than that online artist who lives in the backwaters of Vermont 🙂

Granted, it may not feel as personal to go the online route, but if you find a good artist and give them a high-quality image of your pooch, you will get pretty similar results in my opinion.


When you choose the online method, you will literally have hundreds of artists to choose from (maybe even thousands), compared to the handful of pet portrait artists in your local area. This means you can find the exact type of artist you are interested in.


Would you rather spend hours waiting for your pet at an artist’s studio (or driving miles to get there) or simply send off a photo of that pet to an online artist? I know what I would prefer! Time is money, as the old saying goes 🙂

How to Find a Good Pet Portrait Artist?

Local Method

If you decide to find a pet portrait artist near you, it might be harder in some ways to find out which artists are good or bad.

Hopefully, you may have some pet loving friends that have also had pet portraits done locally, as word of mouth is one of the best ways to find out the quality of an artist.

Failing that, you can do a Google search and read the reviews that people have left of the different artists in your area. When you know the artists name (or business name), you could do a more detailed search to find more reviews.

See below my attempt at Googling pet portrait artists in New York….

This initial search led me to Davis McDavis, as he was well reviewed on Google. But searching his name further, I can read more reviews on Facebook and see all of his social media accounts etc. This will give you a great idea about the quality of this artist and examples of the work he does.

Online Method

I love the online method as it is much easier to find a wide range of quality artists. I would recommend doing a search on Etsy, a massive online portal that matches creative artists with customers.

Doing this will give you literally hundreds of artists to choose from in seconds. And Etsy is a popular and trustworthy site, so don’t worry about getting scammed!

I got over 188000 results from the simple search below.

Then simply click the icon on the right (next to the heart icon) and choose the option to sort by customer reviews. This will then make sure the best reviewed artists are first on the page.

You can also use Etsy’s advanced filters to make sure you are only looking at the artists with the product you want. Want free shipping….tick the box….. want to see only those artists running discounts? Tick the box. Simple, right?

The final step is to read some real user reviews about the different offerings. With so much choice, I would never go for an artist with less than 100 reviews, with as close to a 5 star rating as possible 🙂

What to Watch out for with Pet Portraits?

Now that you know all about finding pet portrait artists that don’t suck, now you need to understand exactly what you are ordering….

Type of Art Offered

These days there are many ways to get pet portraits done. Make sure you know what type you want and that the artist you select is offering that exact type.


Watercolor pet portraits are one of the most popular, and if you use my methods above, you should be able to find a good watercolor artist quickly. Just make sure that the artist is actually physically painting a real watercolor painting 🙂 Read the advert carefully!

For those living under a rock, watercolor painting is an art form in which opaque paints are applied directly to a layer of watercolor paper or cloth, allowing pigments and the paper to absorb the paint. Water-based media (watercolor paint) can be thinned with a solution of water and translucent solvents, such as alcohol, that acts as a solvent for the pigment. Alternatively, watercolor paint can be applied to a binder, such as gum arabic, which is then fixed to permanent support.

Oil Painting

Oil paintings can really bring your pet to life, as the way the oil is applied can give an almost 3D look to the artwork. Just be aware that this type of painting is one of the more expensive portrait types you can choose.

Artists offering this are harder to find on Etsy, so I would use the advanced filters explained above to search them out.

Oil painting is an art form that involves the use of oil paints applied to a support such as canvas, wood, paper, or another surface. Commonly, the paint is mixed with other materials, such as gum arabic in addition to water. The additional materials and preparation of various pigments for the paint mix determines the final characteristics of the oil paint.

Pencil Drawing

Alongside watercolor portraits, pencil is a popular and relatively cheap choice for your pet portrait. You can either go for old school graphite (black and white) or colored pencil artworks. There are a good amount of highly rated pencil portrait artists on Etsy, so you should be able to find a good one without much trouble!

What is pencil drawing? Ha ha, I am sure I don’t need to go down THAT path 🙂


When done well, pastel portraits can be striking and unique. The vibrant colors can really make them a centrepiece of any room! The problem is, you might find it hard to find a high-quality pastel artist. They are available online, but the selection is less than with other art formats. You might need to resort to finding a local artist for this one 🙂

And if you see someone offering pastel portraits for cheap, don’t do it as there must be a catch! Expect to pay a bit more for a good pastel pet portrait.

Pastel drawing is a style of art that is created with pastel pencils. The technique was invented by the French painter, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, in the mid-18th century. Pastel drawing has been practiced in many different forms by many different artists around the world. Although it started as a purely decorative art, pastel drawing is now considered to be a classic form of fine art, and attracts many art lovers.


Charcoal portrait art comes across as similar to graphite pencil drawings, but they are not as fine in nature. As with pastel art, it can be harder to find a good charcoal based artist. Being able to come up with a great-looking charcoal based pet portrait is far from easy:)

Charcoal drawing is an ancient art technique that has been around for at least three thousand years. It’s one of the oldest forms of drawing, and is still widely practiced today. Charcoal drawing can be applied to almost anything, but its main purpose is to provide a sketch of an object from life. It can also be used for decorative purposes.

Computer Generated Art

With all of the techniques explained above, be aware that all of them can be imitated by a computer. This can be as simple as software that can apply a painting style filter instantly to a picture or as complex as a computer-based artist hand drawing everything out.

Just be aware that it exists and don’t accidentally order a piece of computer generated art instead of a genuinely hand painted one.

If you find a good artist, these can actually look pretty damn good, and can be cheaper than the other options above.


How about a custom pet sculpture? Yes, they do exist and you can even order them on the internet. Just be aware that a custom pet sculpture is considerably harder and more expensive to make than any other artwork type here. So, if you want to go down this route, do your research thoroughly to make sure the artist you choose is a good one.

As we all know from famous examples, a badly done sculpture can be one of the creepiest things on earth. You don’t want your pet sculpture to turn out like this too 🙂

Would I recommend ordering a custom pet sculpture on Etsy? Personally, I would say no! For this type of complex artwork I would recommend you find a well-known sculpture artist (hopefully) near where you live.


More and more people are getting pet portraits made as tattoos. Being a permanent piece of artwork on your body, you can imagine how important it is to get this one right!

Of course, you can’t get tattooed online, you will need to use the Google search methods explained above to source a local tattoo artist you can use. Usually, this artist will sketch up your tattoo as part of the process for free, but if you don’t like what is offered you could get the design made online and ask the tattoo artist to follow it. The danger here would be that the artist might not be able to follow someone else’s art style as well as their own 🙂

In Person?

A massive consideration is whether you will need to get your pet to a studio to have their portrait done in person or not. Believe it or not, a lot of your local portrait artists might also have the option to do an art piece based on pet photos.

Art Delivery Method

Make sure you fully understand the delivery method of the pet portrait you are ordering. The traditional way is to get the physical art sent to you. If this is the case, check whether it is an original piece of art or a printout of art on paper. If a frame is provided, check the size offered and the different frame options.

If you see the words ‘digital artwork’ this means that you will be receiving a (hopefully) high-resolution image file of your artwork for you to print out yourself. In this case, make sure this artwork is exactly as promised and not an electronically software generated piece of junk 🙂

How to Get the Most out of your Pet Portrait?

As well as carefully choosing your artist and type of art ordered (as explained above) there are a few other things you can do to make sure you get the best portrait possible.

If your pet portrait is being done in person, make sure that you have had your pet recently groomed and looking awesome.

If you are going for the online or picture based approach, make sure to read the instructions carefully that the artist gives in terms of the type and quality of photo needed. Often, Etsy artists include this in their product details, but if you don’t see this information, make sure to request it from the artist first. See an example below from an artist on Etsy.

How Much Should You Pay for a Custom Pet Portrait?

This is somewhat hard to answer, as the price will vary a lot dependent on:

  • Location of artist (an Eastern European artist will probably charge less than a New Yorker!)
  • Type of Art Required- some art styles are harder to create and will cost more
  • Size of art required
  • Standard of artist- the best artists will always charge more

In general terms, you will find the price cheaper online than going to a local artist, just due to the massive competition they face these days.

Is There a Cheaper Way to Make a Custom Pet Portrait?

If you found out that custom pet portraits are too expensive for you but are still interested in getting one, there are other options.

Make a Custom Painting of Your Pet from a Photo

There are ways to give your pets picture that hand drawn or hand painted look using free apps. For example, the good people over at PhotoFunia allow you to do this online for free on their website. Below you can see the before and after of a dog image I processed here :

Another way to do this is to download a free mobile app that does the same thing. Expert Photography have an excellent article detailing six best apps to turn photos into paintings.

Get the Picture Printed

Then it’s just a matter of getting your digitally created masterpiece printed and send to you. I would personally recommend Shutterfly for this.

Good Luck Finding Your Pet’s Perfect Portrait!!

I hope my 101 crash course in pet portrait selection has helped you on your journey to finding the perfect portrait for your beloved pet. When you are admiring it hanging on the wall on your house, think of me 🙂