How to Become a Better Artist

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Introduction: How to Become a Better Artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 8: Keep Observing

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

Step 9: Practice Body Form

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

Look around you. Watch how the light moves.

Youtube a couple videos on light and value in art.

Step 11: Do Some Thumbnails

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

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

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

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

Step 15: Keep Practicing

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

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

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!

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49 Discussions

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

This looks good!#####

Thomaspres,
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
Bangalore

8 replies

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 . http://www.gimp.org/

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. http://www.coreldraw.com/us/product/graphic-desig...

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: http://www.wacom.com/en-us (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,
Thanks for the excellent alternatves , will try and send my feedback.
A. S. Bhasker Raj
Bangalore

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.

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 http://guideimg.alibaba.com/images/shop/102/01/26/1/genius-mousepen-m506a-graphics-tablet_2485171.jpg) 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

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

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

1 reply

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.

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

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!

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

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.