Insanely lifelike Morgan Freeman portrait painted entirely on an iPad

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Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

Artist Kyle Lambert created an incredibly photorealistic portrait of actor Morgan Freeman using nothing but the Procreate app on an iPad Air.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

A talented artist can get a lot of mileage out of the various art apps available for the iPad, but we ain't never seen anything like this. Digital artist Kyle Lambert has created a portrait of actor Morgan Freeman that's so lifelike we wouldn't have believed he'd painted it at all — never mind on an iPad.

Luckily, he shot a timelapse of the process so we can see exactly how it was done. About 200 hours and 285,000 brushstrokes have been condensed down to just three minutes so that you can see, stroke by stroke, how the picture was put together.

"I recently discovered that it was possible to create incredibly high-resolution (4K) paintings using only my iPad, and I wanted to see just how far I could push digital artwork and paint a true photorealistic portrait," Lambert said by way of explanation. "I started with a blank white screen and began capturing Morgan Freeman's likeness, quickly painting the broad strokes with my finger. I then reduced the brush size to a few pixels, pinched to zoom and carefully painted in the fine detail."

The portrait is based on a real photograph taken by Scott Gries — Lambert didn't create the picture from memory — but even so, it's an impressive piece of work.

For his platform, he used the app Procreate, released earlier this year and recipient of an Apple Design Award. The app has a built-in 1080p video capture feature that allows artists to record every stroke in real time and export the finished video file.

"One of the big reasons I decided to do this painting was to inspire other budding artists to embrace digital art," Lambert said. "A friend of mine who is a school teacher explained to me recently that whenever he plays one of my painting videos in class, his students become noticeably more engaged and excited about creating art. The idea that more people are engaging in art because of something that I have created is amazing to me."

The painting, in fact, looks so close to the original source photo that many have doubted its authenticity — so much so that Procreate co-founder James Cuda felt moved to verify it. "This portrait of Morgan Freeman is so realistic, so well crafted, many believe it's a fake. This is testimony to the quality of Kyle's ability. His work is so realistic it's practically indistinguishable from the reference photograph by Scott Gries," he said in a statement. "The controversy prompted us to check the source file for ourselves, and after analysis, we were able to verify that what we are seeing is the real deal."

If you want to try the app out for yourself, it's available on iTunes for AU$6.49.

Update: Edited 5 December 2013 at 11:18am to add statement by James Cuda.

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DarrellB posted a comment   

No way dude, For real, no way!!!


JoshM3 posted a comment   

I wonder if Morgan Freeman himself has seen it?


kissmyass69 posted a comment   

If he could do this on a crappy iPad, give this guy a surface pro with the digitizer pen and he will be invincible.


BrianA2 posted a comment   

So he took 200 hours to essentially copy and paste? Shouldn't art be more expressionistic than that? To me, this seems like an elaborate way of saying "See this video? Look what I can do!"


AlvaroG posted a reply   

Oh so I'm guessing renaissance isn't art according to you, because oh well they just copied people that already existed. Oh Leonardo, Rafael, Michelangelo, you copy cat **** how dare they to come up with realistic pictures and sculptures.

You sir are the biggest idiot of the day and I hope you never procreate.


JonathanJ posted a reply   

Discuss this guys opinion with him. By calling him an idiot you've totally removed all possibility of both of you learning the other persons viewpoint. Some see this as less "art" and more "craft" Others disagree. Your response was extremely emotionally charged wouldn't you say?


JayC2 posted a reply   

AlvaroG, your comment has barely any relevance to this discussion. I think taking 200 hours to create a near duplicate of a photo makes BrainA2's point reasonable, if perhaps a bit blunt. Have you seen the photo? I've yet to do a pixel diff between any of the last video frames and the source image, but just by eyeballing alone it was hard to tell the differences between the two.


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

He wasn't trying to make an original piece of art; he was trying to see what the iPad could do. You might not think he spent his time well, but for some artists, copying is a useful exercise in colour and anatomy.

To each their own, I guess!

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