13 Tips To Be A Photorealistic Painting Rock Star

By Nicole Tinkham

13 Tips To Be A Photorealistic Painting Rock Star

Have you ever found yourself admiring a photo and then realizing that it’s actually a painting? It’s crazy, right? Trust us, we’ve been there too. Although there is no quick answer on how these artists achieve the photorealistic look, we do have some pointers that can help you get started. Disclaimer: Photorealistic painting takes loads of time, practice and patience to get it right! Read on for what to expect when first starting out and 13 tips to become a photorealistic painting rock star.

What to expect

It takes time. A photorealistic painting won’t be done in just a few hours. It takes DAYS. There’s so much detail and precision that goes into it. Don’t begin with a mindset of quick and simple. Get your head in the game and prepare for the journey.

You will work in layers. MANY layers! You’ll start with the larger basic shapes and get more and more into the detail work as you add on layers. We’ll dive into this a little later but it’s important to understand the process before you begin.

You’ll have to step up your perspective game. Even a minor slip up in your perspective can totally throw off your painting. Accurate perspective is a MUST for a photorealistic painting! Keep practicing and adjusting until you get it just right.

You’ll learn to look at shadows differently. They are no longer shadows that you add on last. Look at them as shapes in various dark colors.

You’ll have to actually paint what you see. It’s so easy for us to fill in the blanks when we know in our minds what the object looks like. But sometimes that vision in our mind isn’t accurate. For photorealistic painting, you must really examine the object and paint exactly what you see. You’re totally relying on your eyes for this one.

13 Quick tips

1.    Before you begin, plan out the composition of your painting. More on that here.

2.    Practice first! Play around with different brushes and colors to make sure you get it as accurate as you can.

3.    Use a projector to create an outline for your painting.

4.    Or you can use a grid to get an accurate drawing. To do this you can draw a light grid over your reference photo and another grid over your canvas.

5.    Add a layer of gesso over the canvas before laying down any paint to eliminate the streak of graphite from your drawing.

6.    Your shadows should vary in dark colors but not be totally black.

7.    Don’t wait until the very end to paint in the shadows. Paint them as you go with everything else.

8.    Keep checking the perspective as you work to make sure everything looks accurate.

9.    Block in main color first before going into the fine details.

10.    Work in layers, mostly glazes (thinned paint).

11.    Work on a flat surface so your glazes don’t run!

12.    When it comes to reflections or shadows, paint what you actually see, not what your mind believes is there. This can be tricky but you’ll pick it up with practice.

13.    Quality supplies are a must! Invest in a really good set of brushes in various sizes.

The best piece of advice we can give on photorealistic painting is to just get started. Now that you know what to expect and some tips to help you succeed, you’re ready to begin. We know that this can be an overwhelming project but you’ll never get better if you don’t choose to start. Remember that it takes time. Don’t give up after one day of giving it a go. Keep on practicing and you will become a photorealistic painting rock star!

Tell us, have you ever done a photorealistic painting? What was your experience with it? What one piece of advice would you give a newbie? Let us know in the comments!

7 Tips for drawing realistic eyes

By Nicole Tinkham
7 Tips for drawing realistic eyes
Image found on Flickr.com/creativecommons by jeneyepher

Drawing facial features does not come easy and based on what we’ve been hearing from various artists, drawing realistic eyes is the biggest challenge. We aren’t saying that these following 7 tips will transform your skills overnight. As with anything drawing eyes takes time, practice, and loads of patience. What this blog can do is provide the basics to help you get started and understand how to successfully draw eyes. Here’s exactly what you need to do starting with rule #1, drawing what you see!

1.    Draw what you see!

Before we get into the nitty gritty of drawing realistic eyes, remember the golden rule: Draw what you see! When we think of eye shape, we often think of a football with a large circle in the middle. At the same time, we know that if we were to draw these simple shapes without much detail, it wouldn’t look much like an eye at all (realistically, anyway). Take a picture of your own eye up close and really examine it before you get started. Notice the shape, placement of the pupil and iris, how the eyelashes are shaped, the pattern in the iris, and shading.

2.    The basic outline

Start with drawing the outline of the eye. It doesn’t have to be super detailed but be sure to have the shape down. You also want nice light lines so you don’t have a hard outline when the drawing is complete. When drawing the outline, remember the spacing rule: There should be one eye length between the two eyes and 5 eye lengths across the face. Keeping this in mind will help with placement and size.

Important! The eye is asymmetrical. The upper and lower lash lines will be different so look back at your reference photo carefully.

When placing the iris, remember that the upper eyelid will cover it slightly. In other words, the entire iris shouldn’t fit within the white of the eye. The lower part of the iris should rest on or slightly below the lower eyelid.

3.    Filling in the pupil

The pupil will be a dark area of the eye but we advise against pressing really hard with your pencil as it makes it extremely difficult to erase it if you need to. Instead, fill it in with layers. Lightly fill in the area and then go over it with a blending stick and repeat until you’re happy with it.

4.    Shading the iris

We want to start shading the iris very lightly. In fact we won’t be using our pencils directly on the iris at this point. Grab a scrap piece of paper and scribble on the paper to lay down as much graphite as you can. Using your blending stick, pick up some of that graphite and use the blending stick to shade the iris. This produces super light shading, just what we want.

5.    Adding detail

To produce the lines in the iris, use a mechanical pencil. This works wonders to achieve detail on a small scale. They should be drawn quick and random. Be sure to leave a little space between the pupil and the iris lines. At this point, you also want to draw in the highlights. In the following steps it’s important to keep those highlight areas graphite free.

The next step is lightly filling in this space around the pupil. Blend over this area so the dark graphite of the pupil blends in with this outer ring. Take your blending stick and starting from the center of the pupil, drag it outward blending those tiny lines for a smooth look.

Using your kneaded eraser, form a pointed tip and remove some areas in the iris for highlights. Don’t go overboard here! However, if you do you can always correct it by using your blending stick to cover the extra highlights. When creating highlights with a kneaded eraser, be sure to use different areas of the eraser after picking up graphite otherwise you’ll have a difficult time pulling more graphite.

Outline the iris and the outer ring of the pupil and then blend the outlines to soften the look. Go back into those highlights you created earlier and darken around them to make them really stand out.

Keep adding highlights and blending until you get the look you want.

6.    Shading the whites

When shading the whites of the eye, you’ll want to start with very soft shading. We’ll be using the same method we used to initially shade the iris with the blending stick.

Also shade the fold that’s under the eyebrow and above the eyelash.

With a hard pencil, lightly draw in blood vessels running from the corners of the eye. Little details like this make your eye look much more realistic. Go over the white of the eye with a blending stick.

7.    The eyelashes

It’s important when drawing in the upper eyelashes to really look at their angle. They won’t be perfectly straight especially the outer lashes. Take a picture of your own eye and examine the lashes. Draw them as you see them. Be sure to draw them last as they overlap other areas. A small detail to keep in mind is the reflection on the eyelashes in the highlight of the iris.

Lower lashes should be lighter and remember to look at your reference photo for their placement and shape with these as well!

There is a lot of detail that goes into drawing realistic eyes but don’t let that overwhelm you. Remember to take it one step at a time and draw what you see. The best way to improve is to practice often! We recommend carrying a sketchbook around with you. Any chance you get even if only 5 minutes you should be sketching away on any area you feel you could improve in. Please don’t give up if you don’t get it perfectly the first time! It’s not supposed to be easy but you will get better. Keep on drawing!

Tell us, which facial feature do you struggle with the most? Leave us a COMMENT below!

7 BASIC Pen & Ink techniques to help you get started

By Nicole Tinkham
7 BASIC Pen & Ink techniques to help you get started

Pen and ink– these are two very scary words for any newbie. If the first thought that comes to mind when you hear these words is PERMANENT then you’re not alone. Many of us shy away from even trying pen and ink drawings for fear of making a mistake and not being able to easily fix it. Here’s what we want you to do today. We want you to LET GO of that fear. Anything you attempt in life will take time and practice, pen and ink being no different. One main difference between pen & ink and pencil drawing is shading. With a pencil, you can produce different shades depending on how much pressure you place on the pencil. Pens on the other hand don’t work that way. In order to get nice shading, you have to rely on TEXTURE. Don’t stress out, this is actually super fun. Continue reading for 7 BASIC pen & ink techniques and how to achieve them.

1.    Hatching

START HERE. This is the most basic of the 7 techniques listed in this blog. Hatching is simply straight parallel lines. No need to use a ruler though. The lines don’t have to be perfectly straight or the same distance apart. In fact, we prefer them not to be perfect. Give it some character!

Use hatching for: Light shadows

2.    Cross Hatching

Cross hatching is like hatching but doubled. You’ll create your straight parallel lines going one direction and then do the same exact thing going in the other direction so that the parallel lines cross.

Use cross hatching for: Deep shadows

3.    Contour

Take the parallel lines in your hatching technique and curve them with the shape of the object. This will give a 3D effect to the object and really make it stand out. Again, your lines don’t have to be perfect.

Use contour for: Dimensional effect

4.    Cross Contour

The cross contour technique is similar to that of the cross hatching technique. You’ll take your contour lines and cross over them with a second set of contour lines going the other direction. Be sure to follow the form of the object.

Use cross contour for: Enhanced dimensional effect

5.    Contrasting lines

We always think contrasting lines are so much fun.  These are shorter angled lines going in one direction and then another set of short angled lines going in the opposite direction (not overlapping). This is a more decorative approach and produces a detailed look.

Use contrasting lines for: Movement

6.    Stippling

Stippling is another fun one to play around with but also the most tedious one in this post. It’s basically a series of small dots, clustered where the shading should be. The further away the dots, the lighter the area. The closer they are together, the darker the shading.

Use stippling for: Detailed shading

7.    Doodles

Doodles are the exact opposite of hatching. Instead of shading with straight parallel lines, you’ll be shading with random squiggly lines. This technique is meant to be done loosely. Overlap squiggly lines where the shading is darker and thin them out where it’s lighter. This works great for furry or fuzzy areas.

Use doodles for: Depth

The 7 pen & ink techniques mentioned in this blog are simple enough but they do take some time and experimentation to understand when to use each one. You also don’t want to go overboard with a particular technique. Mix it up and remember that it’s ok to keep it basic. When beginning with pen & ink, you may be tempted to start out by sketching with a pencil first. It seems so much safer, right? But we want you to break out of your comfort zone. Take out your sketchbook and practice in ink. Keep working at it until you feel comfortable. You’ll improve your skill and discover new techniques along the way if you stay consistent with it.

Tell us, what’s your favorite pen & ink shading technique? Leave us a comment below.

9 Tricks for painting on glass

By Nicole Tinkham

9 Tricks for painting on glass

Glass painting is huge right now and with the holiday’s right around the corner, they make excellent personalized gifts. But painting on glass can be tricky when you haven’t done it before. There’s a certain type of paint to look for, special tools to fix mistakes, a shortcut for non-artists and many more to keep in mind when starting your next glass painting project. Read on for our best tips and tricks!

1.    Read the label
Not all paint is made to be used on glass. Many types of paint are toxic and not to be used on pieces that you eat or drink out of. Be sure to choose paint specifically for glass. We recommend Pebeo Glass Paint.

2.    Choose your brush wisely
You can use the brush of your choice when painting on glass but note that synthetic brushes will leave brushstrokes and natural hair brushes can pick up more paint resulting in a smoother surface.

3.    Create a guide
You won’t be drawing your design right on the glass. Instead, you’ll be drawing it on paper. To get the correct size of the design, roll a piece of paper so it fits inside your glass. Trace the top edge of the glass onto the paper. Your design shouldn’t be larger than this marked line.

Next, draw your design in pen or marker so it’s easy to see and put back into the glass, using a little tape to hold it in place. This way you’ll be able to see the design through the glass without having to mark up the outside of the glass.

4.    Keep it clean
Clean your glass and work area thoroughly before beginning. It may also be a good idea to wear latex gloves to prevent oily smudges from your fingers to become part of the design.

5.    Don’t apply too much pressure
When you apply a lot of pressure with your brush when painting glass, the paint can easily be wiped off the slippery surface. Apply lighter pressure to avoid this.

6.    Apply thickly
Glass paint tends to take awhile to dry and can crack if painted over too soon. To avoid applying layers, paint one thick coat on the glass.

7.    Fix mistakes with a cotton swab and toothpick
You can dip the cotton swab in alcohol to get rid of any mistakes and use the toothpick to scrape away mistakes that have dried.

8.    Use painter’s tape for clean straight lines
You don’t necessarily have to hand-draw your own design. Use painter’s tape for crisp lines or a stencil if that’s what you prefer.

9.    Set the paint
Setting the paint ensures that it will last a long time. You can do this with the oven method. Place your glass in the cool oven. Heat the oven up to 350 F and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and let it completely cool down before removing the glass. Note: The glass will break if not heated and cooled gradually.

Painting on glass may be something entirely new to you and could feel a little odd at first. We suggest purchasing an inexpensive glass to experiment on so you get the feel for it. Just practice until you get it! We love the idea of giving a painted glass as a gift or maybe even putting together a glass painting party with a few friends. Just have fun with it!

We want to hear from you! Share your best glass painting tip in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.

6 Common watercolor painting mistakes and how to correct them

By Nicole Tinkham
6 of the most common watercolor mistakes & how to deal(1)
Do you have an interest in learning how to paint with watercolor? A lot of our customers either currently paint with watercolor, or have in the past, but what about those just starting out? Is it a difficult medium to start using? While watercolor is a unique medium, we believe with a few pointers and a fun sense of adventure, you can take it on and have a blast doing it. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll flow through the painting like a pro. So, no need to stress out, we have solutions for your slip ups! Here are the 6 most common watercolor mistakes and how to deal with them.

#1: You’re painting too close to an already wet area
Oh no! Your colors are bleeding together! You’ll most likely run into this at least once on your watercolor journey but don’t freak out. This happens when two colors are wet right next to each other. Luckily, there’s a simple solution. Wet your paintbrush with water and paint over the area. Let it dry and paint over the area again with the appropriate color to fix the mistake.

#2: You’re using the wrong brush
Using too small of a brush on a large area will not only take a long time to paint but will also leave your painting looking rough. And using a brush too large is way too frustrating to get those details in. We suggest having a range of brushes ready before beginning a painting to eliminate your oncoming headache.

#3: You’re not planning out your painting
Just winging it doesn’t always cut it when working with watercolors. It’s important to know which steps you need to complete and in which order for a successful painting. For instance, you may need to mask a particular area before you begin.

#4: You aren’t working quickly enough
Watercolors dry fast so if you’re working on a wash for your background, you’ll have to work quickly. If you stop in the middle of a wash and allow it to dry you could end up with uneven color. To fix uneven color, wet your brush and paint over the area. Next, go over the area again with your wash color a few times. This should blend everything together and make those uneven marks disappear.

#5: You’re not using the correct amount of water
Too much water on your brush results in washed out and less than vibrant colors. For darker colors, use more (or almost all) paint and less water. If you keep getting light colors, try to figure out where the excess water is coming from. Are you washing your brush every time you pick up a new color? This could be the issue.

#6: You purchased poor quality supplies
In the art supply world, the phrase “you get what you pay for” is more than accurate. If you want a beautiful painting, you’ll have to invest in some quality supplies to get you there. A cheap paper can be absorbent and produce a very different effect. The big thing about watercolor brushes is the amount of water they can pick up. The better the brush, the more it will hold. Do yourself a favor and start with good, lasting supplies. Let us know if you need help determining the best supplies for your next project.

Starting anything new can be terrifying especially if it’s just not “clicking” with you. Remember to practice often and try some different ways of doing it. You may discover your own personal style when doing so. The 6 most common watercolor mistakes listed above are just a few of many. Not everything will work out the way you had planned but that’s ok! You’ll learn as you go.

What do you think of our list? Do you have anything to add to it? Leave a COMMENT below or on our Facebook page with any advice you would give a new watercolor artist.

14 Quick Tips For Working With Acrylics

By Nicole Tinkham

Quick Tips For Working With Acrylics

Acrylics are a wonderful medium to work with and if you haven’t done so already, we highly recommend playing around with them. But before you do, there are some very important things you need to know. If you typically work in oils or watercolor paint, there’s a trick to help you feel more comfortable when making the transition to acrylics. For instance, if you use them straight out of the tube you’ll get more of an oil paint feel. Mixing them with either a medium (to achieve different consistencies) or water tends to thin the paint and will remind you of watercolors. There are numerous types of a medium you can use to create different effects but that’s a whole other post. Literally, check it out here: The Various GOLDEN Mediums Explained. Anyway, one challenge that you’ll be facing is keeping these paints workable as they dry extremely fast. They’re also permanent so that could be another adjustment if you’re used to lifting color with watercolors. And we’re sure you’ll encounter other unexpected things along your journey so remember that there’s always a learning curve when trying something new in the art world. Luckily, we put together these 14 quick tips to prevent some of the oopsies that tend to come up when working with acrylics.

1.    Keep them workable by having a spray bottle near by to mist the paint as you work. Since they dry so quickly, only put on your palette what you’ll definitely use to avoid wasted paint. A Stay-Wet palette is another option to look into. It’s basically a sheet of wax paper that lies on top of a wet piece of watercolor paper.

2.    Make them transparent by mixing the paint with a retarder which will also open the working time of the paint. Water can be used to thin them but will compromise the pigmentation. Stick with the retarder instead. Note: Not all acrylic paint is opaque. The tube itself will note whether it’s opaque of transparent.

3.    Blend quickly by dampening the canvas first which will buy you more working time.

4.    Create hard edges with masking tape. The tape can be applied to a layer of dried acrylic paint and removed without lifting the paint. Use this method to easily create hard, straight lines. Just be sure not to paint too thickly up along the tape.

5.     Use it as glue when working on a collage as long as the pieces being held together aren’t too heavy.

6.    Masking fluid can be used as a resist if you’re using the acrylics like you would watercolors (watered down). Be sure the masking fluid is dry before you paint over it and don’t paint over too thickly.

7.    Acrylics dry darker. Don’t freak out, you’ll get the hang of mixing them just right with a little practice.

8.    Create depth by layering. It takes away the flatness of the piece and adds dimension.

9.    Applying white over a dark blue can give you a blue tint. The trick: Paint a second layer of white OR neutralize the blue by adding a little bit of yellow or orange to your white.

10.    Use larger brushes when possible to cover large areas quickly before the paint dries. Of course you still need smaller brushes for details so keep those handy as well.

11.    Clean your brushes right away. Acrylic paint can harden on your brushes quickly and ruin them if left on for too long. Be sure to have some water close by to dip them in while you work. Also be sure to rinse them with warm water and Murphy’s Oil Soap (no solvent necessary) right after use.

12.    Prime your canvas with acrylic gesso primers instead of oil based primers.

13.    Don’t stack acrylic paintings face to face as the paint can stick to itself and destroy your piece.

14.    Use a palette knife for mixing. Palette knives make mixing acrylic paint much easier (not to mention a lot of fun) and you can even use this tool to paint. Learn more about the palette knife technique here: Painting with a palette knife.

Experimenting with any new medium can be a challenge. Even though it may feel foreign to you right now, remember that acrylic paint can be used similar to oil paint or watercolors. Starting out with what you’re already comfortable with can make transitioning much easier. But it all really comes down to experimentation so grab a brush, a few tubes of paint, a blank canvas, and get started!

Name one type of medium you’d love to learn more about and we might just feature it in our next blog! Comment below or over on our Facebook page!

9 Drawing Mistakes Beginners Make

By Nicole Tinkham

Art is a very difficult skill to master. First of all, every artist and instructor has a different way of doing/teaching things. Many times there’s no right or wrong answer, which can add to the struggle. All we can really go off of are tips from artists who have made the mistakes and learned from them. That’s the sure fire way to grow as an artist; by making mistakes and figuring out how to fix them. So instead of becoming frustrated, embrace those mistakes! We know that drawing in particular can be extremely challenging; there’s so much to understand when it comes to the various types of paper and pencils as well as techniques like perspective, proportions, and shading. In this blog we’ll discuss the 9 most common drawing mistakes beginners make and tips to fix them. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself making these very mistakes. Every artist has been there and at some point has done them too.

1.    They only use one pencil

Artist pencils come in a variety of different lead hardness, each one producing different shades. The system in which these pencils are measured is known as the HB system. Pencils with an H lead are harder and will produce lighter lines. Pencils with B lead on the other hand, are soft and produce darker lines. There’s also a range between the two from 8B (the softest) to 6H (the hardest). HB lead is located right in the middle of the spectrum and is also known as your ordinary #2 pencil.

That being said, more than one pencil is needed in order to produce a nice drawing with various values. We suggest having a variety of artist pencils including one in the H range, one in the B range and an HB.

For more information on artist pencils, check out What is the Difference Between H and B Pencils?

2.    They avoid black

Many new artists are afraid to go dark in their drawing. Dark gray is common but black can be intimidating for the beginner. Not going very dark when shading can limit your depth and make your drawing look flat.

The solution: Put a black piece of paper in the corner of your drawing and challenge yourself to go dark, really dark! Keep practicing until you feel more comfortable with it.

3.    They outline

It’s common for new artists to draw a hard outline around the object. However, this is not realistic and takes away from the depth of the drawing. Instead, practice value drawing. Create an illusion and let the edges be defined by two tones meeting rather than harsh outlines.

4.    They use the wrong paper

There are many options when it comes to paper so it doesn’t surprise us that this happens to be one of the most popular mistakes beginners make. You’ll find it difficult to produce a decent drawing on cheap copy paper. Don’t even try it! Instead, choose a thicker artist paper (we recommend 70 lbs or higher) with a little bit of a texture. Completely smooth surfaces will show even the slightest variation pencil marks and can keep you from achieving deep values. Your best bet is to look for artist paper made specifically for drawing (it will specify right on the pad).

5.    They work from images taken with flash photography

Flash photography flattens all of the features leaving you little to work with. Don’t use it!

Tip: Have your model turn slightly to the side and use natural lighting. You’ll be able to clearly see the skin tones and features which will help you in your drawing.

6.    They make proportions perfect

You’d think you’re on the right track with perfect proportions but think about it for a moment. Is anything in life really perfectly symmetrical? Train your eye to see even the slightest uneven proportion. It takes time to really recognize it but just acknowledging that it’s there is the first step. Remember that irregularities are what brings interest and makes a drawing unique.

7.    They start by focusing  on the details

Don’t get us wrong, we love detailed drawings but it’s all about timing. Many beginner artists start working on the details right away when really they should focus on getting the large forms and layout correct first. The most frustrating thing is putting an extraordinary amount of time and efforts into detail and having to erase it later because the positioning was off.

Solution: Get everything laid out FIRST starting with large objects and working your way down to the smaller ones. Details always come last.

8.    They leave parts of the paper white

How many times have you left eyeballs and teeth in a drawing white? Seems natural but you actually don’t want to leave any part of the paper totally white. When we say white, we’re referring to the color of the paper itself. You’ll want your pencil to touch every part of the drawing even if it’s very light.

9.    They think they’re done learning

No matter how advanced an artist is there’s always room to learn and grow. Just because you have some serious skill and everything’s coming naturally to you doesn’t mean there isn’t room to improve. Make a promise to yourself right now to never stop learning. There’s always new inspiration out there and like life, there’s always something new to discover.

Making mistakes is a difficult thing to handle especially when you’re working so hard on improving your drawing skills. Always remember this: for every mistake you make, you’re getting one step closer to where you want to be. Any form of art is a learning process. Sometimes you have to take a step backward in order to take two forward. Keep going, keep learning, and keep being inspired!

Which mistakes (either on this list or otherwise) have you been making? Let’s discuss over on our Facebook page!