• Kirsty Partridge

5 Tips for Drawing Realistically

Here are five tips for how you can improve your realism and make your drawings that much better. Whilst I discuss this drawing advice for beginners, I’ll also be drawing a realistic spoon. You can follow along to a real-time, in-depth video tutorial here.


Tip 1: focus on understanding your fundamentals before attempting large projects, like a full portrait or anything like that. I really recommend doing a series of studies of smaller objects, such as this spoon, to help you understand the values and how to create a 3-D effect. Practice shadows, highlights, and even separate facial features beforehand so you’re prepared when you tackle your first full portrait.


Tip 2: try to critique your own work. Practice does make perfect but if you’re practicing the same mistakes over and over, how will you improve? See what you want to improve after each study and work on that in the next one (research online for help here). This way you’ll keep evolving.



Tip 3: take your time. Sounds simple enough, but a big reason I see for people drawing unrealistically is that they rushed the piece. You need enough time for soft shading, building up layers and getting the correct contrast. Furthermore, the background is just as important as the main subject so don’t rush that either – you will be able to tell if you do!


Tip 4: use a reference photo. When doing realism, it’s going to be virtually impossible to imagine where all of the shadows are going to fall, where all of the details are and where all of the highlights are. As these are all important, using a reference just makes it easier on yourself. There are lots of great websites where you can get royalty-free reference photos so make the most of them.


Tip 5: make sure that your initial sketch is accurate before you add all of your shading. Quite often, people get halfway through the shading process and realize that their proportions are slightly off. At that point, it is too late to try and change your sketch because you’ve already done lots of layers on the paper, so you would be forced to start again. To get an accurate sketch you could use a light box, a drawing grid or even practice your freehand.


If you would like to take your drawing skills up a notch, head over to my online art courses.


To see these tips in action (and the spoon), watch the video below:

Materials used:

Derwent Graphite Pencils: http://geni.us/DerwentGraphicPencils

Clear Art Drawing Pencils 2H, HB, 4B and 6B: http://geni.us/ClearArtPencils

Daler Rowney Heavyweight Smooth: http://geni.us/dalerdrawingpad

Kneaded Eraser: http://geni.us/KneadedEraser

Blending stumps: http://geni.us/Tortillion

Derwent Superpoint Sharpener: http://geni.us/DerwentSharpener

Disclaimer; some links are affiliated.

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