How to draw realistically

Something I always envied certain artists for is their ability to create extremely realistic drawings. After years of trying it myself I...

Something I always envied certain artists for is their ability to create extremely realistic drawings. After years of trying it myself I've learned about ways to improve my drawing skills. When I was in Madrid the paintings of Richard Estes really fascinated me. Because he paid so much attention to details the paintings looked like a photos. Here are some of his paintings:

 Inspired by that I want to show you some tips I've figured out to draw realistically.

Details are everything

First of all, draw exactly what you see. And I know what you're thinking haha. But there's way more behind it than you think!

If you draw an eye, for example, think of every single part of it (no matter how tiny). When you look exactly at pictures of eyes you can see the reflection of the lashes on the eyeball, the structure of the iris, maybe tiny veins and a lot more. If you don't draw the details it won't look real because a real eye has so much parts it's made out of.
I practiced this by copying photos of eyes. By that I got the idea of the proportions and eye parts I had to involve in my drawings. After that I practiced without photos as guideline (especially during boring classes). Here are some of the first eyes I drew (the iris was drawn way to big):

Lines and shapes

After knowing to pay attention to details it is still difficult to draw them. Here you have to see the part of what you want to draw in shapes and lines instead of the big picture.
In art class we once got homework to copy a line drawing. But we had to turn the drawing upside down and copy it that way.
The task was really helping to see the lines and shapes instead of trying to draw a whole hand for example (without seeing the details).

How we had to draw it (left: mine, right: original)
The result (left: the original, right: mine)
Whilst drawing you didn't know what you were drawing so you had to pay more attention to the shape of the individual line.


To get the 3D shape the right shadowing is the most important part. If you're copying a picture it is easier because like I've already mentioned: you just draw what you see.
If you draw without a guideline picture it is good to know where the light comes from and where the elevations of the thing you're drawing are.
To avoid strokes I usually take a tissue, tear off a small part, scrunch it together and with tweezers I smudge the lines.

A drawing made of (almost) only shadows
Here you can see how important shadowing is 

These "techniques" understandably won't work for everyone. This is just the way I draw. And of course you'll have to practice much and it'll take some time until reaching a certain level. But it's definitely worth the effort! 

If you were patient enough to read until the end thank you so much! Let me know if these tips have helped you :)

Love, Soph

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  1. ahh you're so talented!! i can barely manage more than a stick figure but your drawings (and photography, by the way) is amazing. that first drawing looks an awful lot like cara delevingne!!
    thinking since 98

    1. Omg I'm glad you could recognize that I've drawn Cara haha! And thank you so much, this comment made my day :)

  2. Hey Sophie,
    You're absolutely right these pictures of that famous artist seems like a photograph. First I only looked ad the pictures and thought what great photo and than reading it was painted impress me. Nevertheless I have to admit that your pictures especially these eyes are so fantastic too. May not as good as the artist but I whish I could draw like this. You'll have me as new follower, I love the way of your writing.
    Live, Lea

    1. Hi Lea, thank you! I am really trying my best with my writing because I'm not from a country where you speak English (just like you haha). I've looked at your blog and I quite like it :)


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