How to Improve Drawing - Realistic Drawing Tips

There has been a notable rise in marketing and advertising on social media channels. Lot’s of professionals, beginners, and learners are using these tools to get themselves noticed and reach a large diverse audience at a global scale….and this is working great, users are reaching a mass audience - the demographic they are able to target is insane!

Let me get to the point of this - that means if you are coming across a social media “artist” or a “painter” or any other “professional”, it is hard to tell how experienced they are and how much knowledge do they actually have.

I surf instagram, youtube, and blogging platforms quite often and I come across some extremely amazing artists sharing valuable tips and techniques but…… I have also come across so many who are sharing inaccurate drawing tutorials. These “artists” have a large following and they are sharing things that may have a reverse effect on aspiring learners. From my own experience, I noticed so many posting portrait drawing tutorials with incorrect proportions, wrong shading techniques, some do’s and don’t videos with wrong advice and what not..

Inspired from these experiences, I decided to write a brief yet detailed article on how to draw using correct proportions. In this article, I will particularly delve into drawing human figures. The concepts I will be discussing can be applied successfully to ANYTHING you wish to draw.

Here are the four golden steps to get you all prepared for drawing correctly. I will also be including some general drawing tips that will be helpful for any kind of drawing. Read and follow these steps carefully and you will definitely see a huge difference in your drawings. Make sure you remember that drawing is skill and needs patience and dedication. So no matter what, do not give up! Without further due, here are the steps:

1. Drawing Best Practices

Pencil Pressure:

The first question I always get from my students and fellow aspiring artists is how to begin a drawing. So I ask them back, what would you draw the  first thing? Here is what I would get - the biggest mistake I have seen them do is starting like this.


What is the problem with this? The problem is “pencil pressure”, this is common among new artists, they will not just draw a dark outline but they also press the pencil so hard against the media (like paper/canvas). This is bad practice because it leaves a very harsh impression on the paper; not to mention these lines will be extremely hard to blend in when you begin shading.

ALWAYS draw lighter to start with. Remember - we can always go from light to dark in drawings but going from dark to light is definitely a struggle, sometimes completely unsuccessful.

Now that we know how to use pencil pressure, we can move forward to specifically drawing our composition - in this case, I will be using human figure drawings as examples (as I mentioned earlier). First thing you want to nail is drawing gesture lines.

Gesture Lines and Armatures

What are gesture lines? Gesture lines as the name suggests are the lines that show movement in human figures. These are drawn minimally to suggest the posture of the subject you are wanting to draw. Below are examples of gesture lines (left of the image) and on the right is an example of a simplified armature drawing. Drawing armature is extremely useful in starting a realistic drawing when the subject is a figure.


S-Curves, C-Curves, and Straight Lines

What kind of lines? If you have not heard about the famous S curve, and C curve, you have come to the right “place”. There are mainly three kinds of lines you can use to illustrate gestures really well, namely, s-curve, c-curve, and straight lines. See some examples of S curve, and C curve below:


Now I did mention that I will be describing techniques you can use on all kinds of drawings not just on human figures. How would you draw gesture lines on objects? Well the term changes for objects, instead they are called lines of symmetry. In this case you will use these lines to find angles and de-construct the object in mainly three basic 3d shapes - cone, cube/cuboid, and cylinder. We will dive deeper into this in a bit.

Let’s move onto the next very important step

2. Using relative proportions for Accuracy:

Okay, what are relative proportions? Sounds strange….Well, actually most professional artists are familiar with this concept and use it very effectively. Relative proportions help artists draw an armature (a basic skeleton) of the subject.

Let’s take an example of a girl in a ballet posture and we have a gesture line to explain the main movement. This image is a reference taken from by Skitterphoto. You can download the full size one from here and you can see the full profile of Skitterphoto here.


Now we need to have an armature of the subject. 

To get an armature, we need to have some cross references to guide us and help in determining the correct angles to recreate her posture on paper.

Begin by just placing a generic sphere shape for showing her full head or you can use an oval/elliptical shape as well. Next thing you want to do is approximately measure the distance (you do not need a ruler! just use approximation) and determine angle from her head to her right arm’s elbow or her hand. Then draw two cylindrical shapes to show placement of her right arm; you can also show her hand using an oval shape. Here’s a visual example:


Using the same technique and the armature reference, draw the rest of the armature. You can do the same for torso by using the bean or robo bean method.


Bean and Mechanical Bean (aka Robo Bean) method are used by artists to simplify human figures into simple shapes. This technique is called Mannequinization and is popularly used during life drawing studies of humans and other animals as well.



This step requires patience so don’t give up! “Mannequinization” is basically drawing a mannequin of your subject like this image. You dont need to draw all the joints in detail but just to help you simplify movement and posture in the subject you are trying to draw.


Now let’s discuss this concept in objects - as you read earlier, lines of symmetry help us deconstruct objects. We essentially break down the object into very simple 3d shapes: cone, cube/cuboid and cylinder. I call this method "Simplification".

Similar to Mannequinization, the simplification technique makes it easier to draw the contours of our object of drawing. Now, drawing something like a generic juice glass, it will be as simple as just one cylinder. In a complex object like a car, this is extremely useful as it really brings the complexity of a car down. See illustration below. This isnt a pretty looking car but once you have this type of drawing ready, adding details to make it pretty and realistic is much easier and faster.


The above techniques not just help in determining proportions but also help us simplify light and shade.

We have now successfully created an armature of our subject/object. Now time to actually draw the full figure.

3. Adding volume, depth, and details:

At this point, you should have a good layout of the posture of your subject. Now is the time to add muscles/volume and more details. One tip I have for all readers here is to imagine everything you want to draw in dimensions as in remember organic and inorganic objects have volume and are not flat. Even something as thin as paper has thickness, be it a very small measure.


You can now begin adding contour lines and start drawing the form. Remember to draw lighter and then darken strokes where necessary. Draw confident lines that follow the muscle form nicely. You can also use strokes that vary in thickness to exaggerate the muscle curves. This makes the drawing very dynamic. Once you are all done, you can proceed to adding your highlights, midtones, and shadows.


PRACTICE more. PRACTICE often. Here is a reference image with steps on how to draw human figures for your future use.