Introduction: How to Become a Better Artist

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This general, step-by-step tutorial will provide a comprehensive guide to better your skill as an artist.

I learned these techniques from my own trial-and-error experiences and from other tutorials I have assimilated from during my time as an aspiring artist.

Step 1: Start With Sketches

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Begin with the basics. Nobody is able to pick up a pencil, as a beginner, and sketch out an epic, detailed battle scene or alien spaceship fleet.

I recommend starting with no color. Paper and pencil. The basics. If you are planning on progressing into a color artist (whether that be watercolor, oil, acrylic, or digital), I suggest you build a firm foundation with pencil sketches.

Step 2: Get Some Good Pencils

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Pick out a wide selection of drawing pencils. You want the full range of b's and h's. The brand that I recommend is Kimberly. Also, get a couple no-wood and a paper blender.

80% of the time, I actually just use a yellow, no. 2. But, you also want a little variety with softness and hardness as you progress.

Step 3: Selecting Paper

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Don't be overly picky choosing your paper. Just don't get anything super rough or overly smooth. I've found that 80 lb, 200 series, Strathmore Drawing Paper works excellently.

Step 4: Observe, Observe, Observe

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Keep your eyes wide open. Try to see things through an artist's filter. This means, pay attention to the seemingly unimportant instead of focusing on the big picture. Use narrow vision. Observe the way light bounces off a certain substance, or how a muscle in the forearm bulges with the wrist tilts inward. Build a visual library. This will infinitely increase realism in your sketches.

Sometimes, when I am in a busy area, I like to look around and pick out little scenes that look like they could be in a drawing. I visualize how I would sketch them and then I remember.

Also, it is good to bring a small, cheap sketchbook around and do rough sketches of subjects that might be harder to remember.

For instance, lets say you are planning on drawing a furry, mythical, fantasy creature. Go out and look at dogs, lizards, and humming birds. Sketch this information and then use it in your creation process.

Step 5: Watch Films

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Watch movies and pick up information.

Observe the composition of scenes.

Observe the expressions, attitudes, positions, and features of characters.

Observe costumes.

Step 6: Look at Silhouettes

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Google some silhouettes and examine them. Examine the edges of objects. The curves and the textures.

Print some of your favorites off and keep them for later.

Step 7: Examine Other Peoples' Art

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Go to and look closely at other's sketches. Again, print off some of your favorites.

Step 8: Keep Observing

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Explore the different styles and techniques of people online. Try them out. Combine them.

Step 9: Practice Body Form

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Print off some random photos of full-body shots of people. Or get a wooden mannequin. Draw rough, essential sketches of different positions. Do at least fifty of these. Create the body out of basic circular shapes. No shading or detail work.

Step 10: Light and Value

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Look around you. Watch how the light moves.

Youtube a couple videos on light and value in art.

Step 11: Do Some Thumbnails

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Thumbnails are a great way to work on the composition of a scene. Do them about 2 inches by 1. Keep them small and tight. Again, don't stress over detail. This is just to get the general layout down, not to create a complete masterpiece.

A good way to practice thumbnails is to get several shots from your favorite movies and duplicate them in thumbnail form.

Do as many of these you can before you go insane.

Step 12: Rough Sketch

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Using a softer pencil, take your thumbnails and enlarge them to fit the whole page. Start focusing a little more on light and value and a little detail, but don't go too far.

I usually use a no-wood pencil and rough-in the dark areas (rub with the flat of the lead).

Step 13: Smooth It Out

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Duplicate some of your pictures, paying more attention to detail and keeping it more neat and clean. Use a blender to smooth out your shading and add texture.

Step 14: Get Creative

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Don't be afraid to get creative. There is an ocean of resources at your fingertips. The possibilities are endless.

Step 15: Keep Practicing

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Devote time each day to practicing.

Whether you are sketching still life or using a image off the internet, practice makes perfect. If nothing else, practice stabilizes your artist's hand and gets you more in touch with the motions of drawing.

Step 16: Use References

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Don't try to draw solely from your imagination and memory. Use references. If you are drawing a dragon, print out pictures of chickens and elephant skin and iguanas. If you are drawing a forest scene, go sit in the woods for an hour and just look around.

Don't just print out a photo of a man and copy it. Use features from several different photos and create your own man. Use the nose from one picture and the mouth from another, use the wrinkles from an old man and the face shape of a 30 year-old.

Step 17: Just Keep Going

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Remember to aim high. Don't think that just because you are a beginner or intermediate you can't show skill. Do your very best and you WILL be satisfied.

And have fun!


IAMBADATART (author)2017-01-19

I am sorry, but this was not helpful. In fact, it made me WORSE!!

Madcat___ (author)2016-12-08

thank you

MauriceM22 (author)2016-08-23

This looks good!#####

BhaskerR (author)2015-09-01

The detailed guide to drawing is helpful.
I have a query, how to draw cartoons?
In this age of computers, many prefer using systems.
Is there software that be used for drawing, sketching or cartoons that will make it easy and time saving?
A. S. Bhasker Raj

MauriceM22 (author)BhaskerR2016-05-30

Wow that's look great!!

MauriceM22 (author)BhaskerR2016-05-30

Wow that's look great!

AngieW114 (author)BhaskerR2015-09-05

You can also use GIMP. It's a free software and it's extremely similar to photoshop. It's also easy to find free tutorials for it on the net .

You'll also find tutorials to create animated cartoons, gifs, or short videos (you might need to get familiar with the software before you do those things).

Whatever Photoshop has, Gimp will usually have it as well but without cost.

I also used to have CorelDRAW. I loved it, it came as a demo with my Wacom tablet.

And, last but not least, you should consider using a tablet (like Wacom that I wrote about above) you can practice there numerous of times in combination with actual drawing on paper. That way you won't be throwing away paper and use expensive material to sketch. Once you get the hang of it you'll be more confident to draw the real thing.

Wacom tablet: (no need to get the expensive ones, just get the cheapest one)

In my opinion, regardless material and all, you need to familiarise yourself with perspective and try not to be too hard on yourself. The number one thing that usually stops me is being too scared to make a mistake. It's hard to shake off that habit, mistakes in drawing can be fixed and used as well.

Good luck!

TanmayaM1 (author)BhaskerR2015-09-01

You may use Adobe illustrator (expensive) or use Krita (its awesome, free and opensource).

If you have a touch screen tab or laptop; drawing, sketching is quite easy.

There is another one called Inkscape (free, opensource)

A small tut on Inkscape

Good luck.

BhaskerR (author)TanmayaM12015-09-02

Thanks for the excellent alternatves , will try and send my feedback.
A. S. Bhasker Raj

thomaspres (author)BhaskerR2015-09-02

I would recommend using photoshop. Take a photo, distort using a tool in PS until it looks cartoonish, then create a layer above the photo layer, lower the opacity of the photo layer, and draw on the layer above it, copying it.

If you don't know how to use photoshop and this is confusing, simply look up tutorials on youtube.

daniellong2 (author)BhaskerR2015-09-02

Paint Tool SAI is used by a lot of artists. I recomend you to buy a drawing tablet too, because it makes drawing easier (don't confuse this with an Ipad or something, I'm referring to a computer tablet like this one I heard that Intuos tablets from wacom are really good, but IDK, because I don't draw very often and I'm not going to buy a tablet for using it one time in my whole life xD

D3D3_B14NK5 (author)daniellong22015-09-02

does PaintTool work on laptops or just computers? Lots of people from Tumblr use it, and I wanted to try it out :)

mxsailor made it! (author)2015-09-01

I'd also suggest finding a tutor. He/she can give you guidance and help correct problems before they become habits. Also introduce you to different media- oils, watercolor, etc. My latest is an oil painting.

MauriceM22 (author)mxsailor2016-05-30

Twitter and my draw are awesome man!

david.eaton (author)mxsailor2015-09-01

Very nice.

MauriceM22 (author)david.eaton2016-05-30

Yeah very good idea

Firstdalek (author)mxsailor2015-11-01

wow, that's amazing. I looked at it before I read your comment and thought it was a picture like from a camera. that's awesome.

MauriceM22 (author)Firstdalek2016-05-30

Yeah! I'm love you guys draw so much! :-) :-) :-) :-)

pegasister4life (author)mxsailor2015-12-08

That is so true. It's easier to have a mentor/tutor to help you draw. :3

I love you draw to! :-) :-)

Hegpetz (author)2015-09-09

Great advice contained in some of these steps! :) Thank you for sharing

MauriceM22 (author)Hegpetz2016-05-30

Hahaha that's awesome man!

thomaspres (author)2015-09-07

Hey guys! If you like these instructions, please vote for me on the First Time Author Contest! Thank you! Just click the orange button at the top right of the page.

peacengell (author)2015-09-05

Nice tutorials thanks for your time. And yes it was helpful.

Daneel (author)2015-09-04

For step 7, Alphonse Mucha and John Dyer Baizley, if you like fantastical themes with intensely realistic details. They've revealed an immense level expression in art to me. Great Instructable!

FrankenPaper (author)2015-09-04

Please make more instructables!

thomaspres (author)2015-09-03

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to my advice in this comment thread :)

Helmerchant (author)2015-09-03

This guide made me want to draw! I've been wanting to jump right into painting but I've realized that I need to learn how to sketch out my ideas first. Very helpful.

thundrepance (author)2015-09-01

wow; THANK-YOU .... i so appreciate when skilled people {like you} share your expertise with unskilled folks [like me], who do not feel particularly talented. you've given us some great tools with which to achieve more than we have on our own! now, i'm off to buy paper .... :^D

p.s: voted for you ;^)

pfred2 (author)thundrepance2015-09-02

Get a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Mind and work through the exercises in it. After about the 4th one I think it is you should have a radically altered perception of yourself, and art in general. It is quite earth shattering.

Wallclimber55 (author)2015-08-30

the only problem with me is , LACK OF CREATIVITY and IDEAS

pfred2 (author)Wallclimber552015-08-30

Forget about creativity, and ideas. You have more of that than you realize. What you lack is confidence. You are afraid that what you make may be rejected by yourself, and others. Face that fear! When you want to draw grab some paper, and an instrument of some sort, and draw! If it really is horrible you can always crumple it up, and throw it away. But there is only one way to truly find out.

I think it was Van Gogh that advanced the idea that painters paint. He was not inspired every day, but he went out and painted anyways. The rest is as they say history. The reason Van Gogh's method worked has to do with the very nature of art itself. Like many things in life the more you produce art the better you get at it. Michelangelo did not start his career on his back painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel either, he worked his way up to it.

Wallclimber55 (author)pfred22015-09-01

Thanks for motivating me

pfred2 (author)Wallclimber552015-09-02

Motivation is the key. The greatest artists were all driven as if possessed with the need to create. Find that and you are blessed. The important thing is expressing your passion. That is what real art is. I was watching a movie about Renoir I believe it was and one of his students said, but I paint like a child. He replied, I have been trying to do that my entire life.

trevormac (author)pfred22015-09-02

I recall facing a large white sheet of paper on my first day at Melbourne's drawing school with mixed feelings,chiefly abject fear.. A passing teacher seized the pencil from my flaccid grip and scored a single line down the centre of the paper. "It's quite important in art to begin," he murmured,and vanished.

pfred2 (author)trevormac2015-09-02

That is absolutely correct. In fact what your teacher murmured is about the only absolute that I can think of when it comes to art. Past that there are no rules.

Passing You (author)pfred22015-09-01

pfred gives great advice. You just have to dive in. A sandwich is only eaten one bite at a time.

As an artist, for me it is the proccess that is the most fun. The end product is the icing on the cake.

TeaB (author)Wallclimber552015-09-01

YESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!! me too!

thomaspres (author)Wallclimber552015-08-30

It's not that you lack creativity, you might just need to get inspiration from something. Believe me, writers block is for artists too!

thomaspres (author)2015-09-02

Hey guys! If you like these instructions, please vote for me on the First Time Author Contest! Thank you!

trevormac (author)2015-09-02

"Even a journey of one thousand li must start with a single step." Rather sententious Chinese proverb but true for all that. How long's a li?

mimipiwi (author)2015-08-29

I love doctor who

TeaB (author)mimipiwi2015-09-01

me too!

JudithK (author)2015-09-01

we create every day. we see, hear, touch from a different point of view. even when copying something we rarely reproduce an exact copy. pick up a pencil and draw. very few of the 'great' ones were 'great' from a young age. Mother Moses for eg. was in her 50's before she sold her first painting. Draw that chair beside you. take a dozen photographs from diffrent angles of it. SEE how its diffrent in each one. sketch, sketch, sketch. the next thing you know you're drawing the whole room and from there the world awaits.

weedonald (author)2015-09-01

Here are a few other suggestions:

1. Use that eraser prolifically.....until you like what you see.

2. Learn the mechanics of being an artist thoroughly; perspective, composition, colours, freehand sketching, copying, etc.

3.If it isn't working out, stop and come back to your piece when you've forgotten about your frustrations.

4. Start very small, with the basic structures; circles,squares,rectangles, triangles,hexagons, octagons, etc.

5. Sketch on ordinary paper and then copy that sketch on onion will give you a better perspective on your original drawing and you can change the sketch without erasing the original.

6.Learn to sketch using the magic is a variable grid with vertical and horizontal lines that can be any size you want and is superimposed over a photo or drawing you want to copy and allows you to sketch small areas eventually making up the entire image....very effective for detailing as well.

7. Don't ever say you lack creativity or talent, say rather that you WILL develop your creativity AND talent, one drawing at a time. You should NEVER judge yourself and as we say in education, other people's opinions about you are none of your business.

BetsyFartBlossom (author)2015-09-01

Also, know when to stop! By adding more detail than necessary, you can ruin a picture. Know when enough is enough. Also, take things apart, visually. If you see a rose and want to draw it, take it apart with your eyes and see how every leaf and petal connects to the next thing. If you don't, you overwhelm yourself and stop before you get started. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say, and everything you paint, draw or make, is beautiful to someone. Have confidence in yourself and your talents. My theory is this: If you can't do something right, enjoy doing it wrong.:) Thanks for the tips, they are really helpful.

drupopuppis (author)2015-09-01

Great stuff

Jhiga11 (author)2015-09-01

Great ideas!
What I love to do is take a favorite piece of art and lay my canvas beside it. Then I attempt to extend the scene onto my canvas using the style, colors and mood of the original artist. I've produced some shockingly good pieces that way!

Passing You (author)2015-09-01

I would add copy to your advice. Take art work you like and copy it. You will learn alot. This how many artist start going back to the studios of the old masters who would have students that would make copies of the master work and work up to painting on the masters work.

Good advice you gave.

Kestrelio (author)2015-09-01

Yeah this is all very solid advice. Like most things, perfecting your art is a fusion of study and practice. Constantly look at reality, and the art stylings of others. Then apply. You'll learn over time why what you're doing is terrible. You'll continually hone in on details that you previously hadn't realized were wrong.

The bottom line for an aspiring artist should be - you're not taking a photograph. You're not trying to render an object to perfection. You're trying to capture the essence of your subject. This is where developing your own art style is crucial. I see lots of people who are technically proficient (much more than me) but their art is bland and lifeless; they've failed to capture the soul.

But before you do that, you do need to learn the basics, understand anatomy, light/shadow, perspective, etc. The best advice I'd ever heard on sketching: you must learn the rules before breaking them.

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