How to draw in photoshop using your imagination

What will you create

This is how it all begins. You imagine the mighty dragon, its awesome head, its brilliant scales, its extraordinary wings, its long tail with spikes … it is so real that you can almost touch it!

You take a pencil or pen of a graphic tablet, you feel how creative energy fills you up to your fingertips and … everything looks wrong. It just doesn’t work. And you would understand everything, if you were just a poor artist, but no, you’re great at drawing realistic things while you have a sample, right? Your lines are neat, you can control the pencil, the proportions also come out correctly – but only when you have something to look at in reality.

Drawing in imagination looks more complex than simply recreating reality. After all you really create something – you revive something that no one has ever seen before! All these amazing creatures and fantastic stories in your head just waiting for you to free them. You want to observe how they are born on a piece of paper, to see how they become real, so that everyone admires them, as you yourself admire. Why is it so difficult? How to get the right connection between the picture in your head and the lines created by your hand?

How do you Draw?

This is a question that you need to answer first. Drawing is not as simple as you think – it consists of many different aspects (thus, different styles are created, despite the fact that there is only one reality). It follows that the method you use to draw from the image may be (and even, perhaps, it is) completely different from what you use to draw in imagination. If so, then it is not surprising that one of them is easy for you, and the second seems impossible, even though they both are “drawing.”

A similar effect can be achieved by various methods. For example, you can get a realistic image of a horse in the following ways:

  • take a picture of a real horse
  • make a realistic sculpture of a horse and take a picture of it in suitable lighting
  • use droplets of pigments to create a drawing of a horse
  • use light points to create an electronic drawing of a horse

All of these methods, if used correctly, will give you an identical realistic image of a horse. The same applies to your drawings – even if the drawing from the picture and the drawing according to the imagination are both drawn by the same lines, with the same hand and with the same thoughts – they are created in different ways. In other words, two different processes take place in your consciousness during creation and recreation.

Drawing from the picture: Copying

Take the source, try to draw, and see how you do it. How does this happen? What are you doing in fact, apart from “drawing”? Watch the process in your head, analyze it. What questions do you ask yourself about the source picture, and how do you answer them?

The most popular way to use an image source is to copy lines. To do this correctly, the artist needs to master the copying of proportions — you need to see the distances and copy them on a different scale. This is relatively easy to practice, and it gives quick results along with the impression that you are good at drawing.

However, this makes you a master only in copying lines and proportions. If you have a good memory, you can memorize the lines and draw the same object without a source later, but this still has nothing to do with the skills necessary to draw by imagination. I won’t talk about how many lines there are and how easily they are forgotten!

Source (1) is visually converted into lines (2), and then lines are copied (3)

It’s very easy to convey such an exact set of lines — over time, it literally falls apart in your memory, and you’ll have to fill in the gaps with guesses

Drawing by imagination: Vision

And now try to draw something according to your imagination. What questions arise? How do you answer them?

A typical drawing process according to the imagination is as follows: you see an image of something in your head, you can feel it, and you start drawing it. The idea in your head is a bit blurred – you don’t see it as clearly as the real image, but you have a strong feeling that if you only took a pencil, it would automatically fill all the gaps in your vision. But this does not happen, and you feel hopeless.

The idea in your head can not be converted into lines, as a typical picture-source

Therefore, drawing by imagination cannot be the same as drawing from a picture. You can not copy the lines and proportions of something that you do not see – only after you draw it, you will understand, whether it is what you wanted or not. But why? Why do you think so much that you see it in your head when in reality it is not so?

Imagination Images

Imagination – it is a feature of your consciousness that allows you to mix elements of reality in order to create its new version.

Creativity represents your skills in this case. The more creative you are, the more original things you can create from old and identical things.

Imagination makes it possible to create a new reality from pieces of reality

We are all creative people to some extent, but some of us are better in this sense than others. What is interesting is that most children are very creative, because they cannot understand the concept of the absurd. They simply create ideas without trying to judge them and rule out the craziest ones. As we grow up, we will learn more, and often our creativity suffers from this, because we are too afraid of failure and that we will be ridiculous.

Hint: if you want to practice your creativity, find a partner and ask each other questions that cannot be answered “I don’t know.” The more insane the questions and answers, the better!

Being creative is enough to create something in your imagination, but not enough to make it happen. You need know the elements of reality that you used to create this new vision, to portray it.

It does not matter that you want to draw a dragon, but dragons do not exist, because there is a dragon concept (for example, in Western culture: a large scaly reptile with wings), living creatures, claws, jaws of predatory animals, there is a design of legs necessary for effective movement. , the design of the wings, necessary for the flight and so on. This is a huge amount of information that you think you have – but is it?


We know that there are two types of memory – active and passive. Passive memory is read-only — you use it to learn something. For example, object 1 stored in passive memory with properties A, B, and C, so when you see an object with properties A, B, and C, you recognize it as object 1. It’s easy to store something in passive memory, and the information stored there remains there for a long time, but at the same time you don’t have direct access to it – you need to see the object with which it is connected in order to use it. Without an object, the information for you simply does not exist.

Passive memory collects all the information around you, and you don’t need to ask for it. She is very detailed, but does not have direct access. You can only get information from the outside, and then it’s just a matter of asking – do any of these objects contain A, B or C features in their memory?

Active memory is something more. It contains a copy of the information you once received and consciously decided to leave. When you try to remember something, in fact you sculpt a copy of this something. However, this sculpture melts over time, and you need to go back to it to fix it, making it harder each time. This is the mechanism of memorization and repetition.

Passive memory

Let’s take a closer look at the memorization process. Passive memory is completely subconscious – you look at the object (1), and then its features are stored in your memory (2). You do not even notice it! Thus, you “remember” the hairstyles and faces of your friends, without even thinking about it.

Passive memorization

Passive memory awakens a sense of something familiar in you when you see an object that has already been saved — this is because the subconscious checks whether it is in the database, in case it needs to be saved. Therefore, the child captures everything that he sees (his passive memory is almost empty), and the adult does not even notice these things. When we see something that we have never seen before, it attracts our attention so that the object is truly preserved in the passive memory. And then this object is no longer interesting.

Passive recognition

Passive memory, although it is “lazy,” is in fact very useful and fast. It makes you remember all the things around you without using consciousness. You just look at something, your eyes transmit information to your brain, and suddenly you know what you are looking at – you don’t even know that for a moment it wasn’t. You did not even suspect that you have a question – it has already been answered!

Can you retrieve the information recorded in the passive memory using the comparison mechanism? Yes, but only subconsciously. Think about your dreams – in some of them, especially in bright ones, you can see an incredible amount of detail, and they are, for the most part, truthful. The whole world of dreams is based on your passive memories, although they may be intermingled. Therefore, by the way, you can remember something if you have been talking about it for a long time. not Thought – your subconscious mind is trying to answer the question, even if consciously you have already decided to give up.

Active memory

Active memory is more complicated. It requires you to consciously remember something. It works every time you try to remember a name or number — when you decide something to remember.

Active memorization

This effort is worth it – active memory allows you to recreate something from your mind using the same “recipe” you created by remembering it.

Active recognition

Active memory, as the name tells us, requires your awareness, therefore, it is slower. You are aware of the presence and the question, and the answer (or lack thereof). You need to make an effort to pull information out of your mind.

Let’s imagine that your friend has a new haircut. Your passive memory says that something is wrong (something does not fit into the template). Now you need to remember how your friend looked before, using your active memory. If you have never asked this question before, it is likely that you don’t have a copy of this information in your head – only the template created by your subconscious mind is inaccessible to your consciousness. So, passive memory tells you that you know it, but at the same time, you cannot say what exactly you know.

I don’t know what I know

In fact, both types of memory – active and passive – are one and the same. They are distinguished by the process of memorization and recognition.

Let’s imagine that memories can be stored in a container of a living membrane. She has no holes, and if you need to put the memories inside, you will have to pierce her. If you do it unconsciously – everything turns out quite easily. However, you cannot consciously recall memories from an “unconscious” hole. The only thing that can use this channel is a small piece of information – “yes” or “no”, as the answer to the question “is X information stored inside?” This is our passive memory.

Writing down memories unknowingly is very simple – you don’t even need to think about it!

“What is X?”, You ask. “You know what it is,” responds passive memory. And you have no choice but to believe it!

If you want to keep some information consciously, it will take more time and effort. Each piece of it must make its own hole in the membrane, but if you can still do it, you can also call this information. This is our active memory.

You need to be aware of the memorization process in order to memorize information intentionally. If it is easy, then everything goes wrong!

Now you can get your information back in the same form that you wrote it down.

The problem is that every hole becomes clogged over time, complicating the process of getting information back. Due to the fact that “yes” or “no” are very small, they can make their way through the hole and after a long time after you have remembered something. Conscious holes are overgrown with the same speed, but they very quickly become too small for the memories that are stored inside, which makes it almost impossible to get these memories. The only way to keep the holes uncharted is to get memories before the hole gets too small. The more often you do this, the slower the hole grows!

The more time passes from the moment of memorization, the smaller the amount of recorded information can pass through the channel, until you receive nothing in response, except the feeling that this information is there

Of course, this is only one of the many options for simplifying the process that actually occurs in our head. Human memory is not fully understood, and, of course, it is actually more complicated than I explained it. However, the metaphor of passive and active memory is all we need to understand and solve imaginative drawing problems.

Imagination = a mixture of memories

Now we know why sometimes we are so sure that we know how something looks like, but absolutely cannot draw it. But there is something else.

It is unlikely that the creature you represent has a visual appearance. Our memories are very complex – for example, when I say “keys”, you can automatically imagine the shape of the key, but also feel the smell / taste of iron, hear the sound of ringing keys, feel the cold metal in your palm or the weight of several keys, depending on which of your senses is most developed.

Once again, take a good look at the creation in your head. Do you really see him? Or maybe you feel the weight of his body, the warmth of his breath, the sound of a tail gliding over rocks?

Maybe you feel something strange that we usually do not call feeling, the sensation of movement when the claws are spread and ready to cling to and tear, or even vibrate in the throat of a creature when it growls?

All this information makes you think that you have a complete image of the creature in your head, when in fact there is very little visual information — the only information needed to draw anything — in reality. How does this happen? When you feel the claws, you do not need to see them, as they are part of the image anyway. However, you can not draw a feeling!

How do you know that the image you see is complete and ready to translate into reality?

Test Your Imagination

There is one simple way. Consider that all parts of the image are part of the active memory, and then you will understand whether it is so or not. How? Just ask yourself about them, and answer with words, not sketches. The more detailed the information is, the more likely it is that you will succeed in drawing.

But there is one trap. Most likely, you can easily answer the following questions:

  • How many legs does he have?
  • How big are his eyes?
  • How long is its tail?
  • How long are his legs?
  • What color is it?
  • What is its texture?
  • Is it big or small?
  • Is it male or female?
  • Is it muscular or thin?
  • What are his paws – claws, hooves, paws?

The problem is that all these answers are still questions! What does “muscular” mean? What does “big” or “small” mean? What is the difference between “claws” and “paws”, between “males” and “females”? Moreover, what are “legs”, “tail”, “eyes” …? All these definitions are written in your passive memory, so you have the deceptive feeling that you know them, but this does not mean that you can access them actively, while drawing!

Which of them is the “paw” of which you speak? Hint: they are not the same!

Therefore, you are not left with a strong temptation to draw a being, instead of answering questions with words. You think: “I can’t describe it, but if I jot it down …” Your passive memory needs something to compare, so she asks you to provide something, and then she can answer your question: “You know, What is X? Show me something, and I will tell you, X is it or not. ” You happily start drawing claws, and you get the answer: “Nah, those are not claws.” It is not surprising that this spoils your mood!

You can use another trick to test your knowledge. If you think you know what a proper wing looks like, then you can describe a wing that not looks right. Most likely, in practice, you know nothing about the wings, and all that you possess is the elusive ghost of this structure in your head.

Sculpt your memory

Now we know what process underlies our problems. How can we overcome them? What can we do to easily draw from the imagination? Well, in fact, the answer is simple: we need to replace the passive memory with an active one. I will give you a little advice that will help you achieve this goal.

Concentrate on one material.

To start, do not complicate the learning process. Concentrate on one material, one technique. If you have problems with drawing in imagination, do not mix it with other problems, such as shading or blending. It is better to fight with one enemy, and not with the whole army!

Use a regular pencil, not even a graphic tablet – because even it can be a source of other problems. Also, if you are really good at shading, coloring and other such things, you may be tempted to use them to hide the one that is not developed. However, this does not help you develop it!

It is difficult to say what is wrong, because there are so many things with which something could be wrong!

This is related to another tip:

Find your inability

“I don’t know how to draw” is the most dangerous thing any developing artist can say. Drawing contains many aspects, and I am sure you have mastered at least a few of them, such as holding a pencil and pressing it on paper. If you are good at copying (I do not mean via tracing paper), you should be more optimistic about your artistic abilities!

Problems with drawing according to the imagination in this situation are absolutely natural!

Perhaps it scares you, because you treat these two types of drawing as one and the same, and you cannot understand why one thing is given to you so easily, and the second is just awful. At the moment you are sharing these two abilities – drawing, as a mechanical ability, and understanding of an object, as a mental ability – you can relax and concentrate on the second, without worrying about something wrong with you.

Try drawing something in imagination. Did something appear on paper? Great, you drew it! Now take a look at this. What’s wrong? I mean exactly what: “It looks terrible” is not the answer. “The limbs look wrong” is already much better. You cannot learn how to “make not terrible” a picture as a whole, but you can understand what the “right” limbs look like. It is much easier to solve the problem “I can’t draw limbs by imagination” than “I can’t draw by imagination at all”.

It is easier to learn step by step than trying to learn the whole concept at once. And even small successes will make you move on!

Perhaps there are a lot of “inability” over which you need to work, but do not let this demotivate you. Make a list, and learn them step by step, working on each separately.

Watch, ask, answer

I will repeat it again, so that it is absolutely clear: if you can draw from a picture, but not from imagination, you have problems not with drawing. When you want to write down your phone number, but forget it, the problem is not that you “cannot write it”, because you can – you just have badly written it into your active memory.

So this is not true: “I can not draw a horse by imagination,” it is true: “I don’t remember what a horse looks like.“. To draw something in imagination, you just need to remember it as something that you would like to keep in your memory.

However, living things are much more complex than a word or number. To draw them correctly, you cannot memorize a picture – they look different from different points of view, and this is not only about how they look, – they also have a special way of movement and behavior that affects the final image.

All this needs to be learned, and, obviously, here you will not be able to use your line copying technology. Theoretically, the animal you want to memorize can be converted into lines, and thus kept in memory, but that would be incredibly difficult. And here is another method:

Step 1

Learn how to draw simple blocks, such as balls, cubes, cylinders, and so on. This will require an understanding of the basic rules of perspective, and this part is simply not to be missed. Do not worry, you do not need to know everything about converging lines and their vanishing points – just to understand where the perspective comes from and how it affects the world that we see.

At this level, you should be able to draw any blocks that you just want. by imaginationu, giving them a conceived look. This may seem boring, but remember – you cannot perfectly know how to draw fantastic creatures if you don’t come out to draw a simple cylinder. Let it take as much time as you need – otherwise, it will be akin to trying to draw a picture from a thousand lines, not knowing how to draw one! In the end, do not lie to yourself. Even the best lessons will not help you if you are deceiving yourself.

First, try to understand the rules for creating forms …

… and then use / modify them to draw blocks quickly and effortlessly and carefully displace each line

Step 2

Learn to build more complex shapes using simple blocks that you have mastered earlier. These structures should not resemble something real, so just play around with them. Now you just need to make sure that you are comfortable with these blocks, and that you can build any structure according to your imagination.

Again, if you cannot imagine and draw block-based shapes, how can you imagine and draw incredibly complex living beings? Do not fool yourself, it will lead nowhere! I know that you want to quickly move on to the next steps, but trust me, It `s that, that you stopped so long. Stay at this stage, relax, and don’t be scared if it takes longer than you expected – after all, it’s 80% of what you need to draw in imagination. If you overcome this, you don’t say “I can’t draw”!

If this requires tremendous effort from you, go back to the previous step. Continue when you’re ready to easily build any shapes you imagine from blocks.

Step 3

Now is the time to watch. Focus on one topic at a time. If you want to draw horses according to your imagination, watch a real horse, find its realistic model, or just a large set of pictures of the same horse from different viewing angles. Examine them carefully, and imagine that you fill out her entire body with simple forms that you have worked on before. Answer all the questions you can ask about it. Learn horse, pay attention to every detail, understand what makes her a horse. Measure with your own eyes, understand the proportions, and imagine what the horse would look like if the proportions changed.

Step 4

Create a list of source images, where each side of the body will be shown using simplified forms. Mark all observations and measurements, every detail that you think is important. What is important – do not draw a horse, using as the source the one you are looking at. Your job is to describe it in detail, including all the information you might need when you recreate any perspective you want, and not to memorize one single pose you are looking at.

Describe the appearance, movement, behavior and outline a few characteristic poses. If you ever think “This is obvious, I will remember it” – check it anyway – now it may be obvious, but later it may be difficult for you to remember. This list of sources is a letter to the future of himself, sitting at the table and trying to draw a horse without looking at it. Do yourself a favor, and answer all the questions that may arise in the future of you.

Imagine that you are trying to describe the subject for someone who has never seen it or heard about it.

What is important: our brain does not like simple answers, like “red”, “long”, “sharp”. Much better when they are composite, related to something that we already know. Instead of asking (and answering) “what kind of a horse’s teeth?”, Ask “what is a horse?”. Try to write down your answers in the following form: “they have [feature X], because [function Y]”. Our memory is a network of related information, and so it works best!

Step 5

The day after creating a list of sources, redraw it, making it cleaner. Make sure that everything is obvious, even for someone who does not have your fresh memory after watching a horse. Draw a horse using a list of sources and see if everything you need is there. If not, find the information somewhere else and update the sheet.

Get yourself a portfolio or a folder where you prefer to store paper, and put a piece of paper there. Congratulations, you have completed the first phase!

Step 6

Give yourself a two or three day break, but no more. Try to draw a horse using the information from a list of sources, but in fact not opening him. It can be very difficult, but you will see that you have already remembered some of this. When you’re done, get a list of sources and correct the errors, paying special attention to them and noting in your head why you made them. Check again if there are any unanswered questions, and update the list with sources, if necessary.

Step 7

Repeat the previous step from time to time. Start at short intervals and then take a break longer. Each time you will make fewer mistakes, and one day you will no longer need a sheet with sources, because your active memory of the horse will be completely fashioned! Do the same with each object / item you want to master. As you fill your portfolio, your active memory will be filled!

Note that creating a complete sheet of sources would be very difficult and time consuming – for example, you would need to memorize a horse’s bones, tendons, muscles, and veins in order to draw it realistically according to your imagination. Fortunately, as long as you do not want to draw in the style of hyper-realism (which no one expects from drawing by imagination), this is not necessary. On the other hand, the simplifications you make while analyzing the subject will create your own style!

Practice (Or You Miss It)

Now your brain hates wasting space and energy on information that you don’t need, and apparently you don’t need something that you don’t use. Now you can be great at drawing a horse according to your imagination, but for a while, stop using your active memory, for example, for a month, or a year, and the memories will disappear. Fortunately, if you followed the learning process, you should be able to easily refresh your memories with the help of a leaflet with sources. However, remember that you cannot learn to “draw by imagination” once and for all — constant practice is an essential element!


An unexpected conclusion follows from this article – you always draw from a source, let it be a source in the form of a photo or a memory.

Now you understand that the romantic image of a talented artist painting amazing creatures in imagination is not at all true – this artist probably spent a lot of time drawing from the source before reaching the level at which you found him.

So, the point is not that you cannot draw something according to your imagination – you simply do not have a source stored in memory. And, in fact, this is good news for you – no matter how talented you are (or not), you can learn your own way of free and creative drawing. It takes time, it takes effort, but the result is worth it!

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