Techniques for Photorealistic Drawing

by Nora Zavalczki
Photorealistic paintings often are mistaken for photos.

Photorealistic paintings often are mistaken for photos.

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Photorealism bloomed and faded within a brief period during the 1960s and early 1970s. Artists such as Malcolm Morley, Chuck Close, Ralph Goings, Richard Estes and Audrey Flack in the United States and Gerhard Richer and Franz Gertsch in Europe were among the leading practitioners of the movement. However, even modern artists adopt this style, which involves mastering techniques more than using creativity. Approach this style by learning about its techniques and experiment with drawing before you start painting.

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The Grid Method

The grid method helps you inject greater detail into your drawing. Draw a grid on the picture you want to reproduce and trace the same grid on your paper using a fine-point technical pencil. If the picture is not as large as the drawing paper, scale the grid so that it is twice or three times the size of the grid on the picture. Each square on the image should be between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch. Make a rough sketch on the paper, using the grid as a guideline. Analyze each square in part and add details to your drawing, until the grid looks exactly as the one in the photograph.

Photo Projector

Use a photo projector, also known as an art projector, instead of a grid. Place the image to be reproduced in the opening of the machine; the image will be projected onto the wall. Adjust the drawing paper on the wall until the image falls exactly on the paper. Reduce or enlarge the size of the image to create an outline for the drawing, following the exact lines of the initial photo.

Transfer Paper

You can use transfer or graphite paper to make a photorealistic drawing. Enlarge the picture if you want to create a larger drawing. The image should have the exact size of the drawing. Tape the transfer paper to the canvas, with the rough side facing the canvas. Place the image on the transfer paper and trace the contours of all the objects or people in the image.

Supplies Needed

A photorealistic drawing requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. Having the correct supplies facilitates the work and allows you to obtain the desired effects. Use a wide range of pencils or graphite sticks when creating a drawing. The different types of pencils, ranging from 6B to 6H, allow you to create variations and details in the drawing. B pencils are softer, while H pencils are harder. You should be able to render a full range of values from white to black with a full range of grays. Employ shading stumps and tortilians, which are pieces of paper that help you smear the graphite on the paper to obtain various effects and textures. Select a good eraser to correct mistakes or obtain grays. When the drawing is finished, use fixative to protect the drawing and ensure the graphite stays in place.

Photo Credits

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