Introduction: Draw Dog From Photograph - Part 1

About: Current Motto: "I reject your reality and substitute my own." (I kinda stole that one from Mythbusters) Well, I could sit here and type out everything about myself, but then this would be huge (and a lot m…

This Instructable is to show you guys an example of how you can take any dog picture on the internet and turn it into an, at least somewhat, realistic drawing of a dog. Keep in mind I'm just demonstrating one technique out of a billion so the steps of this Instructable are not meant to be rigid guidelines that you have to follow perfectly. Depending on your personal drawing style you may find it easier to used different methods. Till' you figure out what works best for you, enjoy the Instructable!!!

Step 1: Step 1: Choosing a Photograph

This is one of the most important decisions your going to have to make, so don't rush through it. You'll probably going to find more than one draw-worthy photo so I would go ahead and create a new document on your computer to store all of them.

Now there's nothing neccasarily wrong with just typing the breed of dog you want to draw into google images and clicking on the first picture you see, but that usually doesn't work well. Your going to want to pick something that YOU can draw. Just cause' it would look good as a drawing doesn't mean it's within your skill level. Try to find a drawing with an interesting composition, good contrast, detailed enough to print, and uncluttered.

Below you can see the drawing I chose to use for this instructable. I chose to draw a Siberian Husy for several reasons. First off, you can see that the husky puppy doesn't have short fur but it's fur insn't overwhelmingly long, keep in mind when your choosing your photo that the longer fur is the harder it may be to draw. You can also see it's fur has a LOT of contrast. Since the husky is basically black and white it's very easy to see right off the bat how your going to shade it. This particular photo also has a very good composition, the dog has it's ears upright, a friendly expression, and it's tongue hanging out and eyes gives it a strong personality. You can see all four paws though it's sitting down, you can also see part of it's tail. Also, you can see there's not a whole lot going on in the photograph, that will make it easier for you to isolate the figure and focus on drawing the dog withought having to be distracted by other elements of the photo.

So, go ahead and choose the photo for your drawing. Remember, choose wisely!!! The last thing you want is to start a drawing and get bored with it halfway through, or get fustrated cause' it's to difficult. Once you pick a photograph, print out a GRAYSCALE image of it. Don't print it out really big and compenscate by making it blurry or anything like that.

Step 2: Step 2: Gathering the Materials

Can't you make a perfectly good looking drawing using an eye shadow pencil on a large post-it note? Yes, of course you can make it look like a drawing. But, unfortuanetly, withought the proper materials you can only make a drawing look realistic to a point. To do it right, your going to have to live through the most boring (and possibly expensive) part of this instructable, gathering the materials. It sounds easy, but there's a lot more drawing tools you will need or want while your working than you think. So here's a list and explanation (most of them are self-explanatory) of some of the materials you'll need. Not all of them will I personally be using for my drawing but you may want them or need them depending on what photograph your working from.

#1: Pencils: The famous #2 office pencil. Kids in school draw on the back of homework all the time with that pencil in hand. People write novels with it. Everybody uses it. You can make a good looking drawing only using that type of pencil, but to make a realistic drawing, you'll need more. Technically, their are exactly 20 different pencil types. But beleive me you will probably never end up using all 20 in a single drawing, to do so would be absolutely ridiculous. Whether you'll use all of them or not here's a list of all the pencils from hardest (lightest) to softest (darkest): 9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B. Now, all your really going to need for this drawing is 4 or 5 pencils spanning the range of shades. I mainly use these pencils in order from hardest (lightest) to softest (darkest): 6H, 4H, HB, 2B, 4B, 6B. If you wanna buy all 20 that's fine, I did, but again I rarely use any other pencils then those six I just mentioned. 

#2: Erasers: For a long time, I thought every pencil in the world had an eraser on one end. When I finally started to get real drawing materials (about 3 years ago) I was shocked to see that almost every single drawing pencil just had a rounded end-no eraser. At first I thought it was a curse since I didn't have an erasers except the little pink peg erasers stuck on the end of all my #2 pencils. Because of this, you'll have to by erasers seperate. There are to different types of erasers you'll need to buy: Vinyl, and Kneaded. "Soft vinyl erasers have a plastic-like texture and erase more cleanly than standard pink erasers. They are somewhat softer and non-abrasive, making them less likely to damage canvas or paper. They are prone to cause smearing when erasing large areas or dark marks, so are more frequently used for erasing light marks and precision erasing. Engineers favor this type of eraser for work on technical drawings due to their gentleness on paper. Vinyl erasers are commonly white." (Excert taken from Here's some information on Kneaded erasers: "It is usually made of a grey or white pliable material that resembles putty or chewing gum. It functions by "absorbing" and "picking up" graphite and charcoal particles. It does not wear away and leave behind eraser residue; thus, it lasts much longer than other erasers. Kneaded erasers can be shaped with the fingers and used for precision erasing, to create highlights, or for detailing work. It is commonly used to remove light charcoal and light graphite marks in subtractive drawing techniques." (Excert taken from Since I do not own a Kneaded eraser at the moment the only one I will be using is a Vinyl eraser.

#3: Facial Tissue: Alright, you guys are all probably seeing what material number three is thinking that I'm crazy. That's why I'm including explanations. Though at first it seems like a kind of odd thing to mention as a drawing tool, but once you start using it, you'll realize how helpfull it is. Facial tissues are wonderfull for lightening areas and blending your shading. It's gives a much cleaner and smoother, and even, look then using your finger. Thus, always keep a box with you on your drawing desk.

#4: Ruler: Though drawing freehand is excellent, for a photo-realistic drawing you must use a ruler at one point. You can use them to draw grid squares on your photograph and paper to transfer the image if your using the grid method. You can also use them to make sure you have accurate porportions. Though they may be used for a lot for things like that, after the outline is finished you shouldn't need it.

#5: Lamp: Personally, I perfer the natural daylight streaming in through my window for drawing. But on cloudy days and during the night a lamp is absolutely nessacary for drawing. So even if you don't use it often, have a lamp on your desk just in case.

#6: Brush: Here's another material where your probably all thinking "Does this guy know the difference between drawing and painting?" Actually, a brush is extremely useful for graphite drawings. Use it to brush off the any graphite or peices of eraser that are 'sitting' on the papers surface. Using a brush will eliminate the desire to just use your hand (the oils in your hands can damage paper surface, causing yellow splotches to appear over time). Even more important, it will eliminate the desire to blow off the eraser shavings, if you accidently spit doing that the pictures done for. You only need one, and any brush will work.

#7: Loose Paper: One thing your going to want to keep your hand from getting dirty and touching the picture which can damage the surface, is a spare peice of paper. It doesn't have to be an expensive sheet of drawing paper. Any plain white paper will work, just keep it underneath your drawing hand at all times.

#8: Pencil Sharpener: Unless your using mechanical pencils, your going to need a pencil sharpener. Personally, I rarely use an electric sharpener. I much perfer a handheld sharpener. If you can, buy one with a case attached so that you don't deposit pencil shavings everywhere, if not just sharpen your pencil over the wastebasket you should have at your drawing desk.

#9: Compass: Use this to draw perfect circles. Not nessacary, but it's nice to have.

#10: Sketchpad/Paper: Your finally to the last supply you'll need!!! I could give an ultra-long explanation on this one. But, in reality, you could take a hundred proffesional artists and they'd all perfer a different drawing paper/sketchpad. Since it's largely up to personal preferences I can't help you much with this decision. Personally, (as you can see in the image) I perfer the Strathmore Drawing Pad, 400 series. It\'s  9X12 paper, medium surface, 80 lb, and heavy weight. It has 24 sheets per pad. But when shopping for a sketchpad, choose wisely!!! Don't choose any paper that's super-rough, that makes it harder to draw detail.

Step 3: Step 3: Setting Up Your Drawing Area

Ok, so you've picked a photograph, and gathered a ton of drawing materials. You might be thinking by now that it would be time to start, right? Wrong. Before you even consider starting your drawing you have to make sure you set up your drawing area. First off, you need to decide one thing. Would you rather work at an angle or on a flat surface? Personally, I prefer using a flat surface as opposed to one set at an angle. But you really gotta think about this, this is an important decision cause' which one you decide is going to affect everything else about your drawing area. If you've chosen a flat surface then you can continue reading, if you chose an angled drawing surface than I don't know enough about that to give you any information. In that case, just set it up to the best of your judgement and move to the next step.

Alright, well if your fortunate you'll have a desk to devote to drawing. I have three 'desks', one is a school desk (I homeschool), the second is more of a work-bench that down in the furnace room, and my third is one I have up in my room. For a while, I just carried all my drawing 'gear' in a large ziploc bag, that was, until I stopped writing my stories on paper and switched to typing them on the computer. Once I did that, I had an entire desk to devote to drawing. As you can see, below I have a handful of photos of my drawing desk all set up and ready to begin drawing my Siberian Husky photo.

First off, you should have your pencils, eraser, sharpener, brush, and spare paper, all on the side of your sketchpad that your drawing hand will be. As you can see in the picture, my pencils, eraser, brush, and sharpener, are all on the left side of my sketchpad (I'm left-handed). On the right hand side of your sketchpad (if your left-handed) you should put the photo your working from. As you can see in the pictures, the photo is not tilted towards me, doing so makes it harder since every line you see you have to rotate a little unless you wanna draw your picture at a slant on your pad. You can also see that I have some drawing books and the rest of my pencils located up against the back of my desk. I also have a box of facial tissues right their and a lamp shining down on the paper and photograph.

As you can also see, there is another one of my drawings located all the way to the right of my desk. As you can see, the drawing is done on normal white paper and it was all done in HB pencil. You might wonder why that thing is there. It's there because before you start drawing, it's a good idea to doodle a little bit to get your hand used to the motions of drawing. That's why I usually work on two drawings at a time: a nice one done on my sketchpad, and one I don't give a darn about done on a spare peice of paper. Thus, before I start working on my 'real' drawing, I work a little on the one I don't care about. (You may notice the drawing is already finished, that's because I took these photos after I already completed my husky drawing, thus, the spare drawings done too. If you look closely you can see it's also been taped together after I stupidly mistook it for a peice of scrap paper cause' I had set it face down and had torn it in half to throw it in the trash can)

Take your time setting up your drawing area, once you start drawing you kinda get in a zone and you don't want to have to get up every couple of minutes to find something you forgot.

Step 4: Step 4: Creating the Outline

Now it's finally time to start drawing!!! The first thing your going to have to take care of is the outline. It's pretty much what it sounds like, it doesn't involve any shading, textures, fur, or details. What the outline helps you do is show where everything is going to be, get the porportions straight, and set up an interesting composition.

Now, if you recall, back in the first step of choosing the photograph I said "Also, you can see there's not a whole lot going on in the photograph, that will make it easier for you to isolate the figure and focus on drawing the dog without having to be distracted by other elements of the photo." The reason I was concerned about "isolating the figure" because I had already decided that I was going to draw the dog without the background. This is an important decision. You must decide before you start your outline whether you going to draw a portrait of just the dog with no background, include the background, and if you include the background, whether or not you want to change it.If you decide to keep or change the background then when you draw the outline of the dog also draw a basic outline for the background. If not, then just focus on drawing the outline of the dog.

Below, you can see my outline of the dog compared to a grayscale image of the photo I chose to work from (sorry the scan didn't come out real well). As you can see I not only outlined the dog I also outlined where on the dog is the black fur, which will be extremely helpful once I start rendering the fur. I used a 4H pencil to do my outline, but the HB pencil also works nicely for outlines. Keep in mind, the outline is not a "first draft". The proportions have to be as accurate as they will be on the actual drawing. So, take your time making your outline. Personally, I chose to start with the head, then the shoulders, front legs and paws, body, back legs and paws, tail. You can make your outline in any way you want as long as it comes out accurate.

As I mentioned before, the outline is not a first draft and the porportions have to be as accurate as they will be on the actual drawings. Thus, don't be afraid to try the outline several times, erasing and reerasing until it looks exactly the way you want it. Don't worry about trying to make it look like it has fur. Since the 'edge' of the fur is going to ever so slightly overlap the lines of the outline don't bother making the edges of the outline look 'rough'. If your going to use a ruler, now's the time to do so.

Step 5: Step 5: Conclusion to Part One

Sorry I had to brake-up this Instructable into two parts. It was getting difficult to find time to work on this Instructable (mostly cause' I have to work on a drawing to complete it). So, I decided to go ahead and publish the first half so people could be working on it why I complete the second half.

Draw Dog From Photograph - Part 2, Coming Soon!!!