Drawing by eye demands a lot of looking and concentrating to make sure you are actually drawing what you see and not what you think you see.
Really, the top tip is look, look and look again!

Drawing by eye is an important skill to master as how well you see your subject is just as important as how you render it with a pencil or paintbrush. And drawing by eye trains both the eye and the hand.

It’s useful to use your pencil as a tool to help you check your accuracy as you go along. Here are a few methods to help with constructing  your drawings and checking their accuracy.

Checking horizontals and verticals

Use your pencil to check the vertical and horizontal alignment of features both on your reference photo or object, and on your drawing. This can help you spot mistakes more easily.

Measuring angles

Using angles to help draw your picture

The brain can trick an artist into drawing objects at the wrong angle, and it’s very useful to check these with a pencil. You can do this to guide your drawing.

Hold your pencil up and align it with the edge of the object you are drawing. Keep your arm out straight without the elbow bent.

Move the pencil back over your paper without changing the angle of your hand and wrist and visualise the line in your head for a moment before drawing it. It might help to compare the angle to the hour hands on a clock face.
When you have drawn your line, use your pencil to check it again.

You can check angles in real life as well as against reference photos.

Using angles to help check your drawing

It can be very time consuming to check every angle before drawing it.

Sometimes it’s easier to draw what you think is correct, and then check it afterwards.

The envelope method

If you’re not drawing something with straight sides like a matchbox, it can be hard to think of the object in terms of angles.

The envelope method is a classical drawing method to help drawing objects or scenes. It helps by getting the artist to start their drawing in a simplified form made up of straight lines and angles. You can use it for reference photos or for reference from life – though it is much easier from photographs.

You can use your pencil to check the angles of the sides on your reference objects match with those of your drawing as you go along.

After you drawn the basic ‘envelope’ of an object or scene, it’s easier to refine it, like sculpting!

Measuring ratio

Measuring how big parts of your drawing are in relation to others is not easy as your brain will try to fool you, but again, you can use your pencil as a tool to check how wide or tall an object actually is. To do this:

  1. With your pencil at arm’s length, hold the pencil up to the object. Align the end of the pencil with one edge  of the object. Mark the other edge of the object with your thumbnail so you have a ‘measurement’ of the width at a particular point.
  2. Keeping the same view of the object, move your pencil upright, keeping your thumbnail in the same place on the pencil.
    Now you can see how many times the width goes into the height

The height of the matchbox is only slightly more than the width.


Drawing tips

  • Take a break to look at your drawing and reference photo regularly from a distance or take a picture of it on your mobile phone
  • Hold your drawing and the reference photo upside-down to compare them and check if the lines and shapes look correct
  • Practise! Do quick warm-up sketches, draw yourself, draw as much as you can, draw different expressions and always look and check your accuracy as you go along

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