You want to create lifelike drawings that capture the world’s beauty around you. Maybe you want to be able to draw portraits that look like your friends and family, or perhaps you want to capture landscapes and cityscapes in stunning detail. Whatever your reasons may be, learning how to draw realistically is a skill that can be honed with time and practice.
There are a few basic steps that you need to follow to learn how to draw realistically:
1. Start by learning about the principles of realism. What makes a drawing realistic? What are the key features that you need to focus on? Study the work of professional, realistic artists and try to emulate their techniques.
2. Set realistic goals for yourself. Don’t try to imitate the work of the masters overnight – it takes years of practice to draw like that! Start by aiming to produce slightly better drawings than your last ones. As you progress, your skills will improve, achieving greater realism in your artwork.
3. Figure out a plan of action. How are you going to learn the techniques that you need? What resources can you use to help you? Experiment with different methods and find what works best for you.
4. Practice, practice, practice! The only way to get better at drawing realistically is to keep practicing.
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By the end of this post, you will know these realistic drawing tips …
- Importance of a reference image
- Best drawing supplies
- How to protect your drawing surface
- How to sketch accurate proportions
- How to create smooth values with graphite
Realistic drawings start with observing the subject you are drawing. Developing observational skills and learning the fundamentals of art is a skill that can be learned with practice.
Fundamentals of art:
- Value – is the lightness or darkness of a color.
- Form – is three-dimensional and has length, width, and depth.
- Proportion – refers to the relative size of parts of a whole.
- Perspective – represents three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface. Perspective creates an illusion of depth and space.
- Composition – is the arrangement and placement of visual elements in a work of art.
- Color (Graphite drawing uses the greyscale)
What is a Realistic Drawing
Realism uses accurate details to create an illusion of three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface. In other words, realism is about making things look real. This means accurately portraying the shapes, colors, and textures of the objects you are drawing when it comes to drawings.
To produce realistic drawings, you need to have a good understanding of how light works. You also need to be able to accurately depict the shapes and proportions of objects and their textures.
What are the Steps for Learning How to Draw Realistically?
1. Understand what realism is and what it takes to produce realistic drawings. Realism is the art of depicting objects or scenes in a way that looks lifelike. This involves accurately portraying the characteristics of an object or scene, including its size, shape, color, texture, and lighting. To draw realistically, you need to have a good understanding of how light and shadow work and an understanding of the principles of perspective.
2. Set some realistic goals for yourself. You can’t expect to draw realistically overnight – it takes time and practice to develop the skills needed. Start by setting achievable goals for yourself, such as drawing a realistic portrait within six months.
3. Figure out a plan on how to achieve your goals. Once you have set your goals, you need to develop a plan to achieve them. This may involve drawing classes or tutorials, practicing regularly, and experimenting with different techniques.
Realistic Drawing Tips
Studying the fundamentals of art is only one piece of the puzzle.
You will have to practice drawing smooth value changes and proportions to create the illusion of form and perspective.
The realistic drawing tips below will help you enhance your drawing skills more quickly.
Always remember that practice makes perfect.
Schedule drawing time every week.
The more you draw, the better you will be at drawing what you see.
High-Quality Reference Image
Your drawing will only be as good as your reference image.
It is impossible to draw a detailed drawing if the reference image is grainy or has terrible lighting.
A few years back, I was commissioned to draw dog portraits.
There was a time when I was so busy that I had a two-year wait.
I faced the problem that people were emailing me unusable reference images.
Even though I explained that I needed a high-quality image, I received low-resolution images with terrible lighting.
I can understand that a person who is not an artist doesn’t understand the importance of a high-quality image for a realistic drawing.
In their mind, they see their loved ones. As long as the image is not blurry, they think it is high-quality.
After a few years, I had to stop taking commissioned work because I was spending too much time trying to crop images and ask clients for different photos.
I have recently started taking commissioned work again, but I will only work with one client at a time. This makes the process a little easier to deal with.
While not taking commissions, I found a site that reasonably sells wildlife reference images to artists.
The quality of the images is breathtaking, and you will have the right to the image after you purchase them.
The site is Wildlife Reference Photos For Artists.
If you are looking for beautiful wildlife reference images, I highly recommend Wildlife Reference Photos For Artists.
Once you have your reference image, you will want to take some time to crop it.
I use Photoshop to design my compositions.
An easy way to design a composition is to follow the rules of thirds.
Here is a great video that explains the rule of thirds.
Once I have the composition correct, I will print the image several times.
Because I draw using the grid method, I print two images in color.
Then I changed the image to black and white and printed out several prints with lighter and darker balances.
The different images allow me to see where the darkest darks and the lightest lights are.
Know Your Drawing Tools
I have been drawing for over 40 years, and I have experimented with a large variety of drawing supplies in search of the best professional drawing tools.
All drawing supplies have pros and cons, and you will want to discover what works best for you.
The good news is that drawing supplies do not cost much money, so it will be easier to try different drawing tools.
Have you heard of Blicks art supplies?
I discovered Blicks about ten years ago.
Blicks is an art supply store that also sells supplies online.
Blicks have the best prices and shipping costs (they offer free shipping if you purchase over a certain amount), and I have never been disappointed with the quality of products I bought from them.
Below is a list of all the drawing supplies I use every day:
I purchase all of my art supplies from Blicks.com. They have great prices, free shipping if you spend a certain amount, and they ship items quickly.
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Smooth
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Velum
Shading Pencils Set
- General’s Factis Magic Black Eraser
- Tombow Mono Zero Refillable Eraser
- Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber Erasers
- Alvin Dry Cleaning Pad
After discovering your favorite drawing tools, you will want to use them.
Even when you are practicing or just sketching, use the drawing tools you will use for your Drawings. This is one of the best realistic drawing tips I can give you.
It is so important to know what your drawing tools will do.
Protect Your Drawing Surface
Graphite is a delicate medium to work with.
- Be messy
- Be transferred to different areas of your drawing surface from your hand or protective paper.
- It becomes impossible to make soft value changes if the drawing surface becomes soiled.
- Create a shine
- Smudge easily
It is important to protect your drawing surface from beginning to end.
Tips to protect your drawing surface:
- Buy your drawing paper online. If a person touches the drawing paper you purchased in a local art store, the paper will be ruined. You will not be able to create smooth values on the soiled paper.
- Handle your paper by the edges where you will not be drawing.
- Wash your hands before drawing.
- Place a piece of paper between your hand and the drawing surface to prevent your hand from smudging the drawing and transferring oils from your hand to the drawing surface.
- Move the protective paper by lifting it and placing it where you want it.
- Keep your drawing in a safe place between drawing sessions. I can not tell you how many drawings I have ruined because my cat jumps on my drawing table when I am not around.
- Keep drinks and food away from your drawing table.
- Protect your finished drawing with a fixative. Related Post – How To Preserve Pencil Drawings
Make Sure Your Proportions Are Accurate.
A realistic start with a strong foundation, and that foundation is accurate proportions.
It does not matter how many hours you spend on shading your subject. If the proportions are off, the drawing will look off.
You could draw the most beautiful fur of a dog, but if the eyes are not placed in the right spot, the drawing will be ruined.
Lightly sketch your subject with a 2H pencil.
Do not press too hard with the pencil, and do not make the sketch too dark. You will want to be able to make adjustments as you go along.
I use the grid method for all of my drawings.
Work From Dark To Light
Always work from dark to light and layer the graphite slowly.
The realistic drawings that you admire take many hours to create.
Do not rush the process.
Smooth values are created by adding multiple layers of graphite to the drawing surface.
Every grade of a pencil will produce different values.
A 2H pencil will produce a lighter ling than an HB pencil. An HB pencil will create a lighter line than a 2B pencil.
H Pencils are harder leads and create lighter lines.
B pencils are softer leads and will create darker lines.
Starting with a harder lead is essential because you want to condition the drawing surface.
A softer lead will not reach the valleys of the tooth of the paper and will leave little white dots. The white dots will ruin the drawing and look more like a sketch.
Start with a hard lead like a 4H or 2H pencil and work from dark to light.
Lightly add layers, work from the darkest area and toward the lightest area.
Observe where the darkest areas are from your reference image.
I cover how to create smooth values in the video above.
I hope you enjoyed these realistic drawing tips.
The most important thing to remember when you are drawing realistic drawings are:
- Use a high-quality reference image
- Use high-quality drawing tools
- Protect your drawing at all times
- Make sure the proportions are accurate
- Work from dark to light
- Layer the graphite slowly