Want to avoid panda-monium in your drawing and sketching? Consider some of these tips I’m about to throw at ya!
These are tips that I either learned from instructors–or just realized on my own–and they can be used for realistic drawing or simply sketching your subject accurately.
For reference, I used this photo from Wildscreen Arkive (the panda pun makes sense now, right??).
1. The ol’ pencil proportion trick!
If you haven’t done this yourself, I’m sure you’ve seen artists do the thing where they hold up their paintbrush or pencil to the subject and then use it to measure on their painting/drawing surface. Well, it really works!
Here’s part of my panda I’ve sketched out.
I’m drawing his nose first, so I measure from about the middle of his left eye patch to the edge of his nose.
Then I line that up to the drawing and either make a mental or physical note of where my line needs to go:
There’s the nose!
It’s also important to consider placement and gauge it in regards to other elements.
If you’ll notice, the edge of his nose and the corner of his eye patch line up perfectly.
So that’s something I transferred to my paper, and helped me get an accurate depiction!
2. Try drawing the negative space!
If you ever find yourself hung up on the shape of your subject, try drawing everything around it instead!
So I’ve got the basic outlines of my panda, but what if I was struggling with the shape of his head?
One of the best things you can do is just block out the panda–mentally or literally.
That’s it. Panda’s gone. Now draw JUST the background.
Or you could go back to those early days of drawing where everything was initially broken down into simple shapes:
Just ovals and rectangles, my friends! It’s just a bunch of ovals and rectangles. Nothing hard there!
It becomes a lot easier to focus on the shapes instead of the subject when you take association (like what you THINK a panda looks like) out of the equation…which brings me to my next tip:
3. Flip that drawing upside down!
Now this is probably one of the oldest tips in the book, but I think people tend to forget about how helpful it really CAN be because we don’t want to admit that we need to turn something upside down in order to draw it accurately.
The fact of the matter is that our brain is constantly trying to make shortcuts for us when it comes to thinking, so when we see a photo of something we’ve seen countless times–like a panda–your brain is telling your eyes, “No, no. I got this” and making your hand draw what isn’t actually there.
So, again, if you’re struggling on getting fine details, or even larger shapes, wrong, just try tricking your brain!
The panda’s eyes were a very important detail for me because the eyes are the windows to the soul, after all. So I wanted to make sure I drew what the panda looked like, and not what I thought it looked like.
It’s surprisingly easy to execute this method because your brain WANTS to problem-solve, and presenting your subject this way is kind of like a giant jigsaw puzzle for your brain.
And badda-bing! I got the eyes perfectly!
4. Use value finders!
With my rough sketch mostly done, it was time to start adding values.
By far the easiest way to identify values is to use a Cheap Joe’s Value and Composition Finder!
Looks crazy, right? But this little baby will save your drawings AND paintings.
The harsh, unnatural red cancels out all of your colors and helps to focus on JUST the lights and darks in your work.
As you can see, the value of my background is around 60% and 70%.
So I did my best to sketch and blend my background to match that…
and got pretty close!
This tool is invaluable, especially when working with grayscales, but it can also help you mix the right lights and darks when adding color to your piece!
And last but not least…the tip that absolutely changed my life when I heard it…
5. There are NO hard black lines in nature.
Seems like it would be common sense, right? But it’s really not! I cannot count the number of drawings I ruined because they had hard black outlines on ALL of the shapes!
Even things that you think do have an outline, it’s definitely not jet-black or an even thickness. Look closer! You’ll see what I mean!
By putting that line around my panda, I’ve turned it into an illustration–which is fine, if that’s what you’re going for, but it’s NOT realistic.
Erasing that line, and even my preliminary sketch line, is the best way to make your values work seamlessly with each other.
Now doesn’t that look better?
Utilize these tips and you’ll be on your way to better (and more efficient) drawing and sketching!