10 tips on how to improve the technique of drawing in Photoshop

What will you create

Creating illustrations on a tablet is like preparing for a big competition. You can win only if you manage to defeat your strongest opponent – yourself. To win, you need a great desire, patience and a good strategy.

Daily drawing = Success?

If you draw a stick man for ten weeks in a row, do you think you will have the skills necessary to draw hyper-realistic portraits?

No Unfortunately.

According to my experience, the most common mistake among artists is that if you paint every day, the technique will automatically improve, and this is incredibly far from the truth. It doesn’t matter whether you paint on a tablet or paint every day — the truth is that drawing one thing over and over again will limit your skills.

The only way to understand how to grow in a creative sense is to challenge yourself. Artists, too, sometimes experience the effect of a plateau, so if you do not see an improvement in your skills, then perhaps this means that you are satisfied with the situation. Change something, and learn to train like a creative athlete.

Train like an athlete

We all know that the perfect press does not appear overnight, like gold medals. But if you want to see an incredible transformation in your work, you will need to train like an athlete. As for athletes, they do not grow professionally, doing the exercises the same way and expecting different results.

To see what I mean in practice, I will describe the process of creating a drawing that you see above. Below you will find ten simple ways to improve your drawing technique.

1. Write down your strengths and weaknesses.

Open a new document or just take a clean sheet and divide it into two parts. Write “Strengths” on one side and “Weaknesses” on the other. Write down your creative pros and cons to better understand what level you are at the moment. If you have problems filling out this list, ask your close friend.

Let’s look at my list. Although it’s easy to inspire me, the realization of my ideas often becomes a problem. Sometimes I can work on one drawing for several weeks, and at first I didn’t understand at all why. However, in the next steps I will deal with the reasons and understand where my other problems with drawing come from.

2. Define your old habits

What habits do not allow you to succeed in the creative field? There is no better way to understand this than to look at your old works. Place a pair of your old drawings alongside. If we are not trying to actively improve our skills, we can eventually acquire certain habits.

Here are a couple of things that I noticed while looking at my old works:

  • Basically, I draw portraits in one perspective (full face).
  • If you increase my drawings by 100%, they look sloppy.
  • Sometimes I paint in too dark colors.
  • My sketches are not finished.

The first step to improving your abilities is to deal with your weaknesses, and in this step you will realize your bad habits by simply placing them in front of you. Keep a collage of your old works as a reminder of how far you have come and things you would like to improve.

3. Achieve your creative goals.

Now that you know what you need to work on, it will be easier to achieve your goals in creativity. Moscow was not built right away – you should not try to achieve everything at once. As for me, first of all I want to improve the quality of the lines in the outline, my sense of light and learn to change the poses of my characters.

You can spy on my goals above. I want to concentrate on improving the quality of the outline, posture and lighting scheme.

In this case, I will cope with these tasks in a new drawing. In this work, I will try to remember my habits and slowly get rid of them.

4. Learn the strategy from the video

Screenshots, animated pictures and videos are just three ways that artists resort to in order to show the step by step process of creating their drawings. We live in a time when professional artists literally share their secrets, so benefit from this well of knowledge that lies right in front of you. Of course, sometimes you can get lost in the wonders of such videos, so I advise you to pay attention to the special strategies that artists use to create their works.

Instead of just admiring all these videos, skip the process through yourself and think about what you see. Today, artists use a variety of Photoshop tools, in addition to brushes. Try to choose one new work method that you would like to incorporate into your process. Since my primary task is to improve the sketches, it will be very useful for me to watch the video about creating neat sketches.

For my own bookmarks, I added a video by artist Aaron Blaise (Aaron Blaise). It not only contains good advice on the similarities and sketches, but also motivates me to create new works.

5. Develop ideas effectively

If you do not think over your idea before implementing it, you will end up with a bunch of unfinished drawings.

Believe me, my desktop proves it!

One of the best ways to effectively develop your ideas is to create diagrams or a list of words that include all the characteristics of a future creation.

Charts or lists? What method of developing ideas do you prefer?

Here I want to draw a tattoo, like in life, that would take all the attention from the character, so I decided to create a diagram in order to develop this idea well. In the center of the diagram is the main idea, from which several other sections “grow”, in which I will describe the details in more detail. And since I have already created similar drawings before, I want to choose a composition that would not fall out of a number of my other works.

6. Skit with composition using photo manipulations.

If creating compositions is not your strongest ability, I can offer you one trick. Collect all the necessary sample images and simply create from them the image you need in Photoshop. To create my own image, I used stock images, which I cut and combined, which will help me to fully realize my idea.

Use this new photo manipulation as a guide for your composition. This greatly simplifies the process, since you do not need to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the lighting, postures, or other details that you would like to add.

7. Improve the quality of linear drawings and sketches.

Since the photo manipulation we created has practically done all the work for us, the sketch should be easy. Instead of panicking over the composition, you can devote time to improving the quality of the draft.

To arrive at a final linear pattern, you will make several attempts before you get something beautiful and neat. Yes, it means that you have to draw or draw the same thing over and over again.

Start with a rough sketch to get the details of your layout.

Then lower the opacity of this layer and create a new one (Control-Shift-N) above it for a more accurate version. The key to creating neat lines (judging by what I saw earlier in the video tutorials) is soft and deliberate brush strokes. Whenever a line appears to be out of place or does not fit into the sketch, draw it again until it is perfect.

Here is the final result of my linear pattern. This is perhaps the most accurate sketch I’ve ever created!

8. Work on speed

There are several ways to improve the speed of job creation. One of them is to draw several thumbnails from your original sketch and practice on creating lighting and color schemes.

The practice itself not only develops muscle memory, but also allows you to test the sketch before you begin drawing. I know, maybe it looks like an extra job, but in fact, if you have a clear plan, the work time will be significantly reduced.

Sometimes it is very frustrating if the drawing does not go out the way you imagined. Overcome these unpleasant and unproductive emotions, be above them and enjoy the improvement of your work.

9. Examine fine details.

Even if you are working in fast mode, it is a good idea to distract yourself from your drawing once in a while. If it has parts that you haven’t been able to draw before, do a little research on the light, colors, or textures of these parts.

Here, from left to right, I studied the texture and shading of the skin, hair and hair of animals

As I said earlier, my goal in this particular drawing is to improve the overall quality. This means that I want my brush strokes to be smooth and the textures realistic. Therefore, in some of my research, I focus on the skin, hair and texture of wool. I experiment with Photoshop brush sets to create the image I need. As soon as you understand these textures in your studies, start working on them in your drawing.

10. Create your drawing formula.

If you have finished drawing – it does not mean at all that training ends here. Every time you see improvements in your work, you should grasp the opportunity to understand what you have done differently to get such a result.

Turn this process into a formula. Remember, you are still a creative athlete, and therefore you need to train your mind through frequent training. For myself, I broke the formula into three parts:

  • What do I need before starting work (self-confidence, diagrams and photo manipulations)
  • What do I need to do in the drawing process (line drawing, thumbnails and research)
  • What do I need to complete the work (final touches and adjustments)

As soon as you get comfortable with your new formula, I assure you, you will begin to create drawings, as nothing to do.

Remember, I said that sometimes it takes weeks to finish the job? Well, this drawing took me only two days! Two days! One day I devoted to the development of ideas, photo manipulation and linear sketch, and the second – working with color.

And here is the final result of my huge improvements in terms of quality and speed.


Despite the name of the lesson, these steps will still seem “difficult” to someone. But the complexity of the work is a subjective question. And, frankly, unproductive thoughts just waste time. Perhaps a drawing that you find difficult for another person will not be such. But in the end, we have something in common:

We want to improve our creativity.

Learn to trust yourself, but be honest in thinking about your strengths and weaknesses. Imagine yourself as a mad scientist who is experimenting with different methods to create the perfect drawing formula. Master this formula, and it will be reflected in your work.

I hope you enjoyed these tips for better drawings. Good luck in your creative adventures, and feel free to show your work and leave comments below!

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