Improving drawing skills in Photoshop


Drawing at the most basic level is almost an intuitive skill for us. Even small children know how to turn an image in their head into a set of pencil lines, even if they are not clear to others. When we grow up, we learn more about the world around us, and also learn how to capture it with the help of lines more accurately.

Lines seem almost synonymous with drawing, but if you look closely, you won’t find them anywhere in the real world. It is we who “pack” real objects into a dense shell, because the shell is all that we can draw. The shell, the lines – this is the averaging of reality, and often a lot of averages describe the same subject.

Until you understand this, you have to draw flat, using lines, as something natural and unchanging. No matter how beautiful you are of your creatures – you have to draw them in one banal pose, with shading that does not make them any less flat. This is how far one talent can bring you. Now is the time to take your abilities into your own hands. I will show you the method of thinking necessary to fully control the lines, to create them from the imagination and still make them more realistic than the drawn ones.

And one more thing before we begin: I want you to be very, very focused in the process of reading this article. If something seems incomprehensible at first sight, for a second stop, re-read and try it in practice. If you continue to read without doing this, you will not learn anything.

What are lines and where do they come from?

Two ways to draw

We cannot depict reality. This is too difficult, even if we consider only the visual aspect of the process. If you use only a static frame of reality, a separate picture, you can try to reproduce it using colors with different brightness and saturation, simulating light and shadow in the image. Of course, it will, nevertheless, be a drawing of a picture, not a reality.

With a linear pattern, things are different. This type of pattern is based on lines, and the lines in this case symbolize contours items that we see. But as soon as we separate the lines from their “parents,” they become something distinctive. Lines can be used even without parents at all – you can use them to draw something that you have never seen.

Apparently, our consciousness needs a bit to recognize reality. We are very capable in terms of recognizing patterns and symbols, even if they are quite far from reality. We do not need clear contours taken from a photograph to depict an object — we can draw random lines until our consciousness recognizes them as anything.

So, there are two types of lines. The first includes contours derived from a static image of reality. There are no random contours in it, but the more you incorporate them into work, the more realistic the result will be. The second type is the opposite of the first: you draw any lines, and wait until your consciousness leads you to a recognizable result. There are many recognizable results, and the more skills you have, the closer it will be to the result of the first type (in the photo).

We use both ways when we learn to draw. The first is usually used when drawing, or when we have, from where to draw. This is an easy way to draw a recognizable image, but in this way you can draw only those objects that you have already seen. Boredom!

Another method is used when you draw from the imagination. You have a certain picture in your head, but you cannot take lines from there, because in fact you do not see it. Just like the text you are trying to read in your dream – the picture changes every time you try to focus on it. The only way to draw what you imagined is … to draw, comparing each line with your expectations. Obviously, this is not easy.

When talent becomes an obstacle

Talent is a very peculiar “teacher.” It allows you to do those things that you have never consciously learned; it seems that they are simply obtained by themselves. However, speaking of talent, we usually represent a person creating a work of art simply and without any effort. The truth is that talent will never give you any skills, it will only make the basics obvious.

Talent seems to be something good, but I noticed that talent for drawing often becomes an obstacle to your progress. You never learn how to draw, you just draw and wait for a stunning effect. It works for a while, but a time comes when you just stop progressing. And you do not know what to do, because you have never had such problems before!

When a talented person draws, the lines look more like reality than the lines of the others. The artist does not know how this happens; it just happens. Therefore, a talented person has no control over his own progress. All he can do is paint more and hope for the best.

It doesn’t matter whether you are talented or not – to learn how to draw, you need to understand the origin of the lines. You need to learn the difference between the lines that our mind perceives as realistic, and those that, in essence, do not represent anything. And only then you will gain control over your drawings and will cease to be a slave to your talent or its lack.

Line Source – Form

We mostly draw lines from the contours of the object. Outlines can be “seen” even by a blind person, since they can be felt as an abrupt change in the shape of an object. But you do not need to touch the object to find the edges – the unevenness of the shape affects the light falling on it, and the lines in most cases are quite clear.

The problem with the lines with which we depict the contours of an object is that, using the same set of lines, completely different forms can be captured:

Forms and their cross section in side view

It seems that shading is the very key to showing the true shape of the object, but does this mean that the unshadowed drawings must be flat? Fortunately, no, and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of sketches with more depth than in detailed, color drawings. How does this work?

Many shapes

The difference between a form and a flat object is that the latter has only one side. It has no front, rear, top and bottom, and therefore it cannot be rotated. We can easily turn the form, and this, in fact, is part of its essence.

Let’s look at the three sides of the cube, which is a very nice simple shape. We see the left edge (1), the upper edge (2), and the right edge (3). Each of them individually looks very flat and boring. In fact, you cannot even obscure them in order to make them more interesting!

A similar view arises when you look at a figure placed in the “original” position.

If you rotate the shape horizontally, you can see two sides at the same time. But she still looks flat!

Let’s rotate the shape and vertically too. Voila!

The very essence of the form lies in the fact that it can be rotated so that we can see its other side. However, in a static image there are no visual differences between a flat object and a form that has not been turned and which has no other sides visible. You must rotate the shape to add depth.

The cat was a three-dimensional form from the very beginning, but it was necessary to turn it in order to prove the three-dimensionality of the shape to our eyes.

From forms to lines

To draw lines that resemble shapes rather than flat sheets of paper, we need to base them on shapes. Talented artists achieve this by trial and error, expecting the right lines to appear by themselves. And when they appear, the artist does not know where they came from, or how to correct them, without losing their meaning.

The real secret of drawing forms is not in the lines that you draw, but in knowing where they came from. Or rather, where do they come from? should be to appear. Before you start drawing, you should submit the form on which your lines will be based, instead of drawing original lines. So, the key is to know how the lines should change if the object is rotated, and not just remember a certain set of lines depicting a certain pose.

This is the true reason why beginning artists usually paint the same “standard” pose all the time. They do not understand how to visually convert this pose into a three-dimensional shape in order to rotate it. This also applies to the problem with drawing by imagination, when you can draw a horse, looking at its image, but without an image you are lost.

Lines are difficult to remember and cannot be modified; Forms are easy to remember and can be modified just as easily. The reason we choose lines is that line drawing is intuitive and based on talent. The second requires great effort and active learning, but the result is worth it!

How to draw shapes instead of lines

Now that we know why forms are more important than lines, let’s see how we can use this knowledge in practice.

1. Think Forms

The first point is a change in your thinking. If you can easily draw something from a photo, but not from life (even if the object does not move), this indicates the very problem – you pay too much attention to the contours. I will show you what I mean:

Let’s imagine that you look at this photo and get ready to draw it. You think you see a horse, but what you see is actually …

… looks rather like this. You separate the body from the background and look for characteristic contours.

Then you start drawing what you see. Do you think you will really draw a horse like this? Or rather the contours that you saw on her body, the contours that remind the rest of the horse?

Perhaps this is a suitable method if you are going to draw so-called “references” to objects. Because this method does not allow to predict other poses! Look at the two examples below. On both images of the horse, just in different poses. In fact, they are almost identical, but their lines do not have nothing in common!

You cannot get the lines of one pose from the lines of another

So this is your first exercise. You need to change your thinking habits, what cannot be done overnight, but do not let this stop you! What you should do is observe the objects and take apart their. Represent each complex object as if it were made from more simple objects. Yes, and even a horse!

Turning a horse in your imagination can be quite difficult, but what if you turn simple shapes, such as balls, eggs, or barrels?

2. Understand the concept of parties

Most of us understand this concept intuitively, but when it comes to drawing, we usually forget about it. Let’s draw the most important rules, and I’ll show you why they are so important! For a moment, the explanation may seem too “geometric” to you, but this is the easiest way to explain the basic rules.

1. The main parties

There are 6 main sides that we can find in forms, even if they already have very complex surfaces and smooth edges:

  1. Front side
  2. Backside
  3. Upper side
  4. Down side
  5. Party A
  6. Party B

These sides with the names A and B can also be called left and right, depending on the point from which you are viewing the object. For example, if you are standing in front of a box, side A is your left side and side B is your right side.

This rule applies even to such an unusual form as Mr. Chubby’s body:

2. Types

The problem with the parties is that they cannot all be seen at once. For example, if you are standing in front of something, you see only that and nothing more. A box, for example, will look like a square. To see any other side, you need to move the box or move yourself:

  • To see top boxes, move box way down (or move yourself higher)
  • To see bottom boxes, move box upstairs (or move below)
  • To see left side move box to the right (or move left)
  • To see right side move box to the left (or move to the right)
  • To see the three sides at the same time, combine the movements.

You cannot see more than three sides at the same time.

3. Opposite parties

There are three pairs of opposite sides: top bottom, front-ass, left right. The rule concerning them is that they cannot be seen at the same time, since one side overlaps the other.

4. Adjacent sides

The adjacent sides can be seen at the same time, but the more you see one of them, the less you see the other. The only way to see the side completely is to look from a point from which adjacent sides are not visible.

5. Perpendicular lines

Only when we see one or two sides, do their edges form the correct angle (they are perpendicular to each other). When you want to see a third party too, this attitude disappears.

It is impossible to simultaneously show three sides and save at least one correct angle. You can use this rule as a simple method to check whether the object is rotated correctly.

If you use the wrong angles when drawing a complex object, it may look “somehow wrong, but I do not understand why.” Drawing lines at first can help you avoid this situation.

6. Distance

The object becomes visually smaller at a greater distance, so that if the two opposite sides are very far from each other (when the object is large), the side that is farther away will appear smaller.

Mr chubby in terms of the ant he jumps over

As an exercise, check your drawings, and find those in which you tried to achieve a three-dimensional effect, ignoring these rules. Now do you understand your mistakes?

3. Understand the concept of guidelines

The sides of a cube are usually quite simple to understand, but the objects that we draw very rarely have such a clear and neat design. They are basically something like averaging between the parties, as shown here:

However, the concept of the parties can be used as the basis for a much more useful method of representing rotation. I do not know if he has any professional name, so let’s call this method for now. guide lines. Their goal is to convince your eyes that you are looking at a rotated shape, and not on a flat set of lines.

Let’s use the cylinder as an example. This is an elongated shape with a circle at the base. In most species, the cylinder looks like a rectangle, but on top view (3) and bottom view (4) he looks like a circle. It is important!

  • BUT: it’s your eye level (right in front of you). Here the circle lies parallel to you, so you see only one edge of it – the circle looks like a line.
  • AT: than above the cylinder rises above your eyes, the more he aspires to become a species on top of – all around. The line is rounded to the top..
  • WITH: than below the cylinder goes down from the level of your eyes, the more he aspires to become a species below – all around. The line is rounded to the bottom.

This also works with side views if the cylinder is horizontal:

This is exactly what happens with any form with, roughly speaking, a circular section, such as, for example, the body of Mr. Chubby:

This mystical perspective, about which you may have heard, is nothing other than a change between two kinds — a change in the length of the sides, described in rule 4 (adjacent sides).

Mr. Chubby’s face is not completely flat, so length B is averaged.

When you want to draw the guiding lines on the side of the form in any intermediate form, imagine how the edge you are trying to draw looks in two forms between which you are. It will be as intermediate as you can see:

  • If the view is “a front view, slightly turned to the right“The guides will be slightly curl to the right, and the front view will be slightly shortened.

As a reminder: when you rotate an object to the right, you are showing its left side.

  • If the view is “a front view, heavily moved down“The guides will be strongly rounded to the bottom, and the front view will be greatly shortened.

The basic rule can be described like this:

If you want to be sure that you are drawing the curves correctly, always draw an ellipse completely – a loss of symmetry will signal that you have lost accuracy.

Draw the “inner” half of the ellipse with thinner lines, and you will certainly see the depth

If you watched carefully, you might notice another curve on Mr. Chubby, which does not follow the rules that we have described. This is because we talked about the cylinder, and Mr. Chubby is completely rounded. Do not worry – in this case you need to add just one thing, and it comes from what we already know.

The cylinder has only one circular section, and the sphere of circular sections has three, and all are perpendicular to each other. This means that if one of the sections you see as a circle, the rest will look like straight lines.

That’s why Mr. Chubby has more than one set of lines. Let’s take a closer look:

  • As long as we rotate the object along the same axis, its guideline will not change (here: the vertical blue line).
  • BUT: this eye level. Blue oval one it’s just here line. Blue oval too simple line, and curves 2 and 3 together make up a circle; they are the central oval of the lower bottom, respectively.
  • AT: this is a view below: central oval bottom looks like a straight line here line, and since blue oval still looks like line, the last of the ovals, one, goes to entire perimeter.
  • WITH: this view from above. Central oval top looks like straight on this view line, and since blue oval still looks like line, the last of the ovals, one, goes to entire perimeter.
  • Ovals change places between phases turning from lines to curves, just like the cylinder

Take time to understand this scheme. Try to rotate the sphere in your imagination and compare it with the body of Mr. Chubby.

In fact, there is one problem with the tripartite view. The circle that we see in this view is not only shortened vertically and horizontally, but also rotated a little. Instead of trying to figure out how to rotate it, just remember this: an ellipse has two pairs of long curves (1) and two pairs of more rounded curves (2).

Feel how your brain is smoking? Take a break and look for guidelines in your surroundings!

Guide lines can change the flat contour into a whole set of different shapes.

4. Analyze and practice until it becomes apparent.

OK, now you know the rules, but it seems that they have more in common with mathematics than with reality. To really understand how to use them, you have to feel them, and for this there is no better exercise than drawing.

Find a set of images of objects that we will use as a source, first let it be simple objects. Print them on one page, a little lighter (you can lower the opacity of the image or change its brightness in the printer settings). Analyze: where was the camera that captured this photo? Is it on top of the object or on the bottom? Then how should the guide lines be rounded up or down? Strong or light?

When in doubt, go back to my explanation of the rules and try to see them in practice. Do not use a ruler or other items; Try to draw the lines freely, with a relaxed hand. Draw them effortlessly, and then strengthen the contours. You can also experiment, and intentionally draw distorted lines, and then see what happens to your perception of the object.

When you feel ready, you can try more complex objects. Draw lines on them, and then try to redraw the same objects in different poses.

From forms to lines – in practice

Perhaps now you are a little confused – at first I say that you should not begin drawing with lines, and then I give you a whole bunch of confusing rules that lead to … more lines. Let me explain.

I mentioned earlier that there are two ways to draw. For drawing by imagination, we should always use the second method: start from random lines and wait for our consciousness to recognize them. However, drawing with forms adds another step here. You do not start drawing with lines that will be part of the final result – you sketch form, and wait until your consciousness recognizes it. When the forms are set by you, you can safely add detailing lines, knowing that they will look good no matter what!

Let’s see how it works!

Step 1

Start by sketching the main idea. For now, you do not need to use guidelines, but consider the rules of the parties.

Step 2

For a moment, think about what kinds of shapes your sketch represents. How are they turned? You can define a turn with simple, crossed guide lines.

Step 3

When the base is ready, you can add the remaining body parts according to the guide lines of the base. Of course, simple knowledge of forms will not make the anatomy of animals obvious. You need to spend some time analyzing the images of real animals, and try to convert them into simple forms. As soon as you memorize them, you can draw an animal by imagination!

Step 4

Now it’s time for a “normal” pattern. You can add parts without wondering where to add them, or how they will change when you turn.

Notice how the wool points to some guide lines.


Do you see how forms, which, though difficult to explain, facilitate the drawing process? Sure, now this may all look too confusing, but the truth is that you work with forms every time you try to draw realistically. You just do not know about it, so you shoot at random. No wonder it’s hard!

This is normal if you feel overwhelmed by this information, but do not give up! Take the time you need and learn step by step; no need to try to understand all this in one sitting. You have been shown the secret of all great artists – do not deny it, just because it is complicated. Slowly apply it to your drawing method and return to the lesson each time you have a question that requires an answer.

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