• Kirsty Partridge

Do’s and Don’ts for Realistic Drawing

I’m going to go through common beginner mistakes that I see people make and then give some tips on how to prevent these mistakes and make your drawings look more realistic. This is not the only way to draw realistically but will help those of you who want to improve. To show you guys the do’s and don’ts, I am going draw a ring. Also, you can get the real-time tutorial for the ring drawing here.


The first thing I would like to talk about is sketching. Don’t use a pencil that is too dark, else it is really hard to erase any mistakes. To demonstrate I’ve used a 3B pencil, whereas I like to use a HB mechanical pencil normally.




Don’t rush your sketch; sketch nice and lightly whilst spending time getting all of the proportions right and including the main details.


Moving onto the shading, don’t use messy pencil strokes and don’t have gaps between your pencil strokes as well. If you do, it makes it very hard to blend out. Instead, do try to create even shading by overlapping pencil strokes and keeping your pressure light. I like to use the side of my pencil and build up layers lightly.


Don’t shade everywhere because this will result in you losing all of the details that you drew in your sketch. Do build up shading in layers and be careful where you apply shading; make sure you preserve highlights!




Tip: With realistic drawings, I find it useful to block in the darkest areas first and leave highlighted areas white. Then you can move onto the blending stage.


Don’t blend with your fingers because this doesn’t guarantee even blending and you can usually see some of your fingerprints. I would use a tissue, brush or a blending stump, but don’t go back and forth with this, try to blend out in a sweeping motion to avoid stop/start points. These blending tools are great for adding value to mid-tone areas from the darkest areas.


Don’t have sudden changes in value from light to dark. What you want is a soft transition between the two for realism. Also, a common beginner mistake is to outline their drawings but don’t do this! In real life most things do not have harsh outlines. To avoid outlines and harsh value changes you can again use a blending tool to help smooth everything out. Outlining your drawing will give it a more flat, cartoon style.


Contrast is probably the most important thing when it comes to making your drawing look realistic. Don’t be scared to get those dark values, shadows, and highlights in! This range will really make your drawing pop, rather than sticking to mid-tones. Look at your reference for guidance on where all the darkest and brightest areas should be.


Do focus on pulling up highlights. I like to do this last, so I don’t accidentally blend darker shading over the top. This really helps with contrast and realism. I use a stick eraser to pull up any highlights and add texture to my drawing.





Extra tip: if you’re drawing in graphite or charcoal but your reference is in color, use a photo editing program to convert your reference to black and white. It’s so much easier to judge values and contrast this way!

If you would like more guidance on how to improve your drawing, then have a look at my online courses.


To see these do’s and don’ts in action, then watch the video below:

Materials used:

Generals Charcoal Pencils: http://geni.us/CharcoalDrawingSet

Arches Hot Pressed Paper: http://geni.us/Archeshotpressed

Faber Castell 900 Graphite: http://geni.us/FaberCastell9000

Daler Rowney Sable Filbert brush: http://geni.us/sablefilbert

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

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

Tombow Mono Eraser: http://geni.us/TombowMonoEraser

Disclaimer; some links are affiliated.

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