How to Create Realistic Art

Feb 14, 2023
drawing and painting an acorn is a perfect example of how to create a realistic artwork

If you’re a beginner or an intermediate artist and your goal is to make your artworks look more realistic, you’re in the right place. In this article, I will give you 5 actionable steps that will help you to improve your skills and start moving towards getting more realistic results. Let’s dive in!


  1. Start with simple subjects. I see a lot of beginners who get discouraged in very early stages because of the wrong choice of subjects. It’s great that you want to paint a sailing boat swimming in a stormy ocean. You can totally do it if you follow a step-by-step tutorial that will show you exactly what to do. But if you’re a beginner, it would be very difficult to paint something so complex without guidance. Why not leaving the more ambitious subjects for later and try something easier? Just the boat without the waves or something even easier, like a seashell. You can always choose more difficult and exciting subjects in the future but if your drawing skills don’t improve by painting simpler subjects it will be very difficult for you to move forward. 
  2. Practice drawing. Even if you want to paint realistically, mastering the drawing first is crucial. You will not be able to paint something realistically if you don’t know how to draw it.  Draw from real subjects. Start with something simple, like an apple. Put it in front of the view and try to draw it. Try to be accurate with proportions. In the beginning, you can even measure your subject with a ruler to make it easier for you to get it right. 
  3. Look at the subjects differently. Beginners often make the mistake of taking the subjects they see for granted. We all know what an apple looks like, right? If you don’t take time to observe the subject in front of you, you will reproduce the model of the “apple” you have in your head. The result will probably be a simplified version of an apple that has little to do with the real apple in front of you. Try to look at this apple differently. Study, observe, and think of your subject as a set of geometric shapes. Don’t focus on unnecessary details in the beginning. In the drawing, we always go from basic to detailed so try to get the main shapes and proportions before thinking about the details. 
  4. Master the light and shadow. Do your research on this topic and make it understand how light and shadow behave on different subjects. Then put the information you learned to practice. If you want to draw a subject from life, it will be much easier and much more efficient if you practice drawing it with a light shining from one direction, best if it's front-left or front-right. It will make the light and shadow contrast more prominent and easier to notice. It will help you reproduce these values correctly and obtain a more realistic result. 
  5. Make copies of realistic work by old masters. Print a picture with the artwork you want to copy,  trace it into your paper using tracing paper, and try to copy it as accurately as you can. Try to imagine why the artist decided to make the strokes in this direction or make an area darker than the other one. Try to read the artist’s thoughts through his work. I promise you will discover many interesting things this way. If you want to post your work online, don’t forget to specify that it is a copy and mention the original artist. I suggest not copying the work of living artists, or if you really want to do it, do it privately. Don’t post it anywhere, even with the mention of the artist, unless you contacted him/her and they gave you explicit consent to do so. 
  6. You can use the tracing method not only to copy artworks but also pictures. Try to do an exercise: draw something from life, let’s say, a fruit or a vegetable. After that, take a picture of your subject in the exact same position that you drew it and print this picture out. Make sure that the subject’s size on your printed picture is similar to the size of your drawing. Then, transfer the picture to another sheet of paper. Compare the transferred image with your original drawing and compare them, identify what parts were captured accurately and which ones can be improved. Remember, you need to train your eye and your hand. Starting to see as an artist and reproducing what you see accurately is a difficult task, and it will come to you only through practice! So embrace your journey and keep going:)


Let us know in the comments if there are other ways that helped you to improve your skills and create more realistic artworks!



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