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5 Tips for Better Drawings

June 24, 2009

Read on for five easy ways to improve your drawings! Can’t get enough? Here’s 5 More Tips for Better Drawings.

 1. Refer, Refer, Refer

A reference is essential for accurate, realistic drawings, whether it’s a photo or from life. This is especially true for those who are just beginning to draw, and when it comes to reference material, quality is key! Your drawing will only be as good as your reference. If you’re working from life, pick a time of day that provides a good light source, or set up your own. Photos can be trickier: try to find photos that are clear and provide a lot of detail. Again, lighting is very important. Avoid photos that have been taken with flash, as this lighting is very unnatural and makes for harsh shadows and highlights. If you can, take your own photos for reference. If you can’t, consider mixing and matching references to get what you need.

2. Look and Learn

Once you have your reference material, look at it! Knowing how to see is as important as knowing how to draw. Look at the relationships between shapes and objects, see the wrinkles around eyes and the patterns in irises, notice the shapes of individual species of trees. These kinds of details are sometimes overlooked when we are caught up in the challenge of drawing the bigger picture, but it’s these kinds of details that will make the big picture.

3. Sketch, Don’t Press

A common mistake made by beginner artists is expecting their first line to be the right one. They press down with their pencil and draw one continuous, deliberate line. Then, when they find they’ve made a mistake, there is a lot of erasing to be done. It’s much easier to sketch the lines of your drawing. Try drawing¬†very lightly with short pencil strokes overlapping eachother. Each line is a correction of the line drawn before; as you see things going in the wrong direction, fix it. When you’re finished, you can easily erase the extra lines.

4. Crank the Contrast

I can’t stress this enough! You will see your drawings greatly improve if you punch up the contrast and provide a range of values. I’ve seen portraits that were beautifully drawn and beautifully shaded, but so light that I could barely distinguish the drawing from the page! In fact, that is the way I used to draw, until I got some advice from another artist. Don’t be afraid of dark, deep shadows! This is what creates a sense of depth and three dimensionality.

5. Take a Step Back

This is important to do while you are working on a drawing. Sometimes, we can get so focused on the area we are working on that we forget the rest of the piece. Take a moment to step back and look at your drawing and make sure that it’s actually working as a whole. An element of a drawing can look perfect in isolation, and it’s not until you’re finished that you realize it’s not quite right in the context of the rest of the drawing. By making a point of looking at your work in progress, you can fix things as you go, instead of being faced with the prospect of re-vamping your entire drawing.


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