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Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in

this book was correct at press time, the author does not assume and hereby disclaim any
liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions,
whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.

This course was originally published online in 2012.

Copyright Lianne Williams 2016

Welcome! Thank you for downloading your copy of my Drawing Course, Your Guide to Drawing a
Photorealistic Eye in Graphite, with me, Lianne Williams maker of art and creative lifestyle blog
Lemonade Lianne.

Today we will be drawing a photorealistic eye in graphite pencil, as this is a great starting point for
artists wishing to learn how to draw more complicated subjects such as faces. Eyes, as subjects,
are quite forgiving and that means I can teach you a lot about tone and technique before you
attempt something like drawing a full face which can be quite a struggle for new artists.

Eyes are also full of detail, drama, expression and texture which is fun to draw. Their symbolism
makes them a consistently popular subject for artists.

I hope that whatever you learn from this that you go on to become a better artist then me.

This course will require a number of materials to complete successfully.

You will require smooth paper. Printer paper or sketchbook paper will be fine but I will be using
Bristol Board, around A5 size. You can work larger if you find it easier. Secure this paper to a firm,
flat surface so it doesnt move about. A clip or a little masking tape should help.

You will also need at least two graphite drawing pencils, one hard and one soft (HB/2B and 5B-8B
would be great) and a black colouring pencil if you have one, but its not essential. I will be using
Faber-Castell mechanical drawing pencils 2B, Derwent Graphitone in 8B and a black Faber-Castell
Polychromos pencil.

You will need a blending stump and an eraser. I will be using a Faber-Castell eraser pencil as they
have a nice fine tip.
We will be using the following reference image. An image file can be accessed and downloaded
here if you wish to print the image out or view it on a screen.

This is my own photograph but I give permission for it to be used for the purpose of this exercise.
I recommend saving this photo to your desktop to refer to, rather then printing it off, (unless you
have a very good printer).

Let's have a look at the reference itself.

Start making a mental note of the largest, areas of light and dark- the contrast. Squint if you need
too and notice how you can still see its 'an eye' even though it's blurry. These are the areas of
light and dark that you will need to accurately translate from a photograph to a drawing.

Notice the white of the eye isnt all white? It's shades of grey towards the sides which gradually
build toward a white highlight where the light, in the reference, hits the surface of the eye. Even
the dark eyelashes have different shades of black within them. Black in the middle, light at the
tips. If you can, zoom right into the drawing until you can't register parts of it anymore, and have
a look at the range of greys involved in drawing an eyelash. And now look at the very, very fine
detailed areas. The glitter of the delicate highlight on skin. The pattern in the iris.

You will need to see and draw ALL of this.

You will be transferring those textures and contrasts onto white paper, the white being your
highlight and the huge range of greys/blacks available from layering your graphite will become the

Ready? No? Never mind...

Grab your equipment and settle down. Youll need 30 minute blocks of time to really focus and get
flowing in each stage of the drawing process. Dont rush.

I'm starting with my 2B mechanical pencil as I need a fine and light mark to begin blocking out my
drawing. I hold my pencil like I'm writing with it, in case anyone wonders and I'm also right
handed. Do what feels comfortable.

TOP TIP Once you've completed this drawing course, I would recommend you attempt it again, or even try
another subject, holding the pencil differently, or try it in your opposite hand- you might find your drawing
improves. And I'm not joking. Some people find they magically draw better in their non-writing hand or by
holding their tools differently and it might just be what you need to excel at this skill. Give it a go.

Set your paper comfortably in front of you with your reference image either in front or to one side.
Make sure you don't need to move much to see it. If you move or the image is at an angle, or your
board is, your image will distort slightly as you draw it, so make sure you look at your drawing and
reference straight on.

Our first marks are going to be 'planning' marks. When doing photorealism we never just start
drawing- that's far too intimidating AND leads to errors. To begin a drawing we need to figure
out where the drawing is going to fit on the page and mark where key features will go. Once that
is in place and we have measured and planned and know exactly where parts go in our drawing we
can then begin building on this and connecting those areas together to create our final image.

A note on this... Getting this right is key to creating a well-proportioned, accurate drawing.
Drawing free-hand, like this, without the aid of grids or other measuring tools (which are classic
techniques for achieving photorealism) relies on the accuracy of the eye muscles, and this relies
on muscle memory and practice. You may not develop accurate drawing skills for a long, long,
long, long time. But, you can ONLY improve with practice. The more you practice the more
your hand eye coordination refines and the more you can 'see' to draw better. So don't despair.
It's normal to struggle and it's good that you're practicing.

Even my skills suffer if I don't practice.


The first technique we need to learn is how to plot out where our finished drawing will end up on
the paper. This way, we'll use all our paper effectively and avoid drawing off centre or worse,
having the drawing fall off the page as we don't have enough room.

The very first two marks we are going to draw represent the top of the subject (the subject being
the eye), and the bottom of my subject (Image 1) In this case the top will be the top of the
crease of the eyelid which is the top most part of the reference and the bottom mark will be based
on the area just under the bottom of the eye. My eye drawing will not extend much beyond these
marks and everything else will be drawn in proportion to those place holders. You may have
noticed that I've ignored the eyebrow for now, and that is a creative decision, as the reference is
focused on the eye and I want that to be nice and central. There IS enough room above my eye
for a brow anyway, but for the moment I want the eye to be the primary point of interest.
Likewise, it is YOUR decision where the top and bottom
of your drawing rest on the page. Be brave. You've got Image 1
this. So- make those marks on your paper, now.

The whole point of these marks is to allow me to

mentally measure and draw the other components and
structures of the eye in relation to them. Our drawing
will soon become a map of other marks like this,
guiding us where we need to draw lines and add shade.

For instance, if I drew a mark at the half way point

between these two marks, regardless of how big my
drawing was, I know that proportionally that new mark,
in the centre, will also represent the half way point
between the top and bottom of my reference photo.
This is a key drawing skill. Being able to relate the
space on the page, to the space in real life or in a

From that centre point on my reference I can see that

2/3 up from the point there's a black squiggle so
therefore I know that 2/3 up on my drawings centre
point that I will need to add in that black squiggle too.
From there I can measure out other landmarks in my
drawing plotting out a whole line drawing based on
comparing distances, angles and shapes. The majority
of the drawing will be sketched and planned out based
on this method.

Any marks we make should be light and erasable.

We are navigating ourselves around the page trying to establish where all the main boundaries of
our drawing lay and this means we may need to erase and edit what we've recorded when we
notice if certain points dont line up correctly etc.


Drawing the iris and then the whites of the eyes can best
be achieved by adopting a technique called 'drawing the
negative space'.

This is where you draw the space outside and around the
main silhouette of a subject. For instance, if you were
using a tree as a subject for exploring negative space you
wouldn't aim to draw the branches, you would instead
focus on drawing the triangles of sky showing through the
branches instead. Once you capture every gap of sky
correctly on the paper the form of branches will appear.

In Image 2 you could try drawing each and every white

irregular shape on black paper in white pencil, and from
that the branches would emerge in reverse.

It helps us by teaching us to look for shapes and

proportions in our subject rather than to just draw what we THINK we see. Looking for negative
spaces improves accuracy and plotting skills as its easier to copy shapes like for like then to draw
a branch.
So to apply the lessons of negative space in the case
of our drawing lets look at the white of the eye and
the curve of the eyelid. I am not drawing the curve
of the eyelid/lashes, I am looking at the shape the
white of the eye is making as a negative space
against the curve of the eyelid and I am going to be
drawing that shape as exact as I can. If you can see
it, it should resemble a warped triangle.

The reason for doing this is that when you draw an

irregular shape (the warped triangle shape) it's
much, much easier to get an accurate drawing with
correct proportions then if you attempted to draw the
subtle curve of the eyelid. The brain needs to be
tricked into switching off from thinking 'I am drawing
an eye' and needs to narrow down into drawing just
random irregular shapes, perfectly, and
then connecting them all together.

Once you've drawn everything you can see, you can

step back and see your drawing as a whole, and it
will magically reveal itself as whatever it is that youre drawing. You could even turn the reference
and paper upside down and draw it that way and you will still get an accurate drawing IF you focus
on drawing shapes rather then what you think you see. Don't draw the eyelashes. Draw the space
in between the eyelashes. Dont draw the highlight in the eye. Draw the space around the
highlight. And so on.

To further demonstrate, in Image 3 you can see my warped triangles and Ive drawn the round
iris, because biologically our iris is round and this is an important anatomical reference point I
need to consider. But these marks Im making are just a guide. Look at our reference. What is
the actual shape of our iris? It's not round. The lid cuts across trimming that circle into a different,
irregular, strange, shape. It's definitely not round. If I drew what my brain was telling me to draw
my drawing would go seriously wrong... So to get an accurate drawing we need to ignore the
advice our brain is giving us and JUST DRAW EXACTLY WHAT WE SEE. Hence why we need to have
soft marks when drawing at this stage to allow us to erase and correct any drafting corrections like

So i'll repeat it again, because it's the most important thing you'll learn today:



To correct my round iris shape to the correct
shape, I now roughly draw in the arches of my
eyelid ensuring the final iris shape matches that in
the photograph, checking negative space to
confirm my eyelid is curving at the right angles.

I now begin locating and checking all the other key

landmarks in my reference and apply them to the
drawing, such as the tear duct or highlights. I do
this in a series of comparisons. For instance. Can
you figure out how wide is our eye from tear duct
to outer corner? We're not getting a ruler out

By looking at the height of the eye, (the same

marks I first placed- from the bottom lid to the top of the eyelid crease) I can see that the eye is
about two and a half 'eye heights' wide. The height of my eye will fit into the width of my
eye 2.5 times. I now know how wide my eye is. I will now locate and compare other proportions
and that will plot my entire drawing for me.

Notice in Image 4 my little dots around the tear duct area on the left side? Here I'm deliberately
showing my working out, (I dont normally use dots- I use my minds eye/comparison of length
and angle to figure out measurements- some people use their fingers or string). As I compare my
plot marks I ask myself will the next line be longer, shorter, higher, lower etc. I found that the
tear duct length was a similar length to the bottom edge of the white of the eyes so I could sketch
that out in proportion and know it was an accurate comparison.

A further point to consider: You may use completely different points of reference to me. You may
find you can see different proportions easier or you may see them as different sizes to me. This
adds personality to your work and makes your drawing your own. As long as you plot landmarks
and build up your drawing on the paper, it doesnt matter what measurements you use.

If you're worried your measuring isn't very accurate, and this can be an issue until your eyes are
trained to see, try the Grid Method (google will have plenty of advice) for the moment. Its a bit
more preparation but will help you get your outline down accurately and authentically.


I next blocked out the general shape of my highlights in my iris which I concluded were an
irregular shape of bent rectangle, three squares and a hazy mist. This will help me retain the white
of the paper early on in that area, ready for when I start laying down more layers of darker
Highlights are important to draw as
Image 5 accurately as any other part of the
drawing. I see a lot of people assuming
their highlights are a round light or a
square or something else which
blatantly isn't in front of them or on
their reference so LOOK at your
highlights shape, position and surface-
is it crisp or a haze? Is it white or are
there forms in the highlight too? What
shapes can you actually see- draw
them, not what you think should be
there. (image 5)

To finish I now begin adding in the

outline of the pupil. This will be the focal
point of my drawing as we are naturally
inclined to gaze into it.

I began by looking at its shape (not a

black dot- but an irregular shape carved
up by highlights) and then figured out
its size by comparing it to other parts in
my reference. I feel the pupil is about 2
pupils width away from the right edge...
and its not perfectly centre either.
That's not for me to correct even though
my brain says 'that should be central to
the iris'. Maybe this time it's not. Draw
what you see. Because if you don't, if you draw what you think should be there, or start ignoring
the structure of your carefully measured blocking, you will begin to distort the proportions and
your drawing will not resemble what you're trying to draw.


I have punctuated this drawing course with recommended rest breaks. Please consider
taking a short break, even leave the course overnight, and allow your muscles and brain
to absorb what you are seeing, learning and physically doing. Once refreshed youll find
it easier to continue.

By now you should already have an accurately plotted, but vague, outline of an eye in the centre
of your paper (if that's where you've chosen to place it, you may have decided to compose it
differently to me) and we can now begin to add some shaded areas.

We're now moving on from making plotting lines onto using our graphite to create shading and
blending techniques. If you would like to learn more about this in detail why not head over to my
blog post My Essential Graphite Pencil Techniques which includes a whole load of detailed tips and
instruction on how to use graphite. Otherwise stay with the guide and Ill explain what you need to
know for this project.

When it comes to mark making at this stage I am no longer completely focused on carefully
plotting and measuring lines. Im moving a lot faster now and swirling in the detail with thoughtful
sketch marks and small areas of shading. Because Ive plotted my drawing out already, I can now
afford to move quicker and fill in areas that have little precision required. Accuracy is still
important, but we're not refining at this point. We are looking to cover the white of the paper and
get layers of tone down. I'm working softly and lightly and only leaving firm marks when I'm
100% sure I want them there.
We are now beginning to 'fill in' the detail of the artwork and there's numerous ways you can
choose to start this.

Many people, for the sake of avoiding smudging their work, begin filling in detail by starting at the
top left or right hand corner of their drawing, the opposite side to whichever hand they draw with-
i.e. I'm right handed so I would begin working from the top left to top right, bottom left to bottom
right. This way of working prevents my hand from resting on artwork after its been drawn and
prevents it from being smudged.

Or, if youre like me and prefer to jump about the page, you could use a sheet of paper under your
hand, to protect your work. That way you can choose where ever you like to start shading from.

On this project I decided to begin rendering the beautiful patterns and textures of the iris first.

TECHNIQUE 7: Image 6

Were now at the stage where we also need
to start paying attention to contrast- light
areas, dark areas and how that all works
together to create the illusion of a 3D shape
emerging from a 2D piece of paper. Correct
contrast can take your drawing from being
flat and grey, to bold, clean and popping.

To begin, I layer shades of graphite on top

of each other, gently moving the graphite
from left to right making soft, even,
horizontal lines close together. I try and
avoid gaps that allow the white of the paper
to show through and fill these in as I go to
create a soft even coverage of graphite.
More layers on top of each other create
darker areas of tone, and start giving us
contrast against lighter areas with less or no
layers. You can also use softer and
therefore darker grades of graphite pencil
to create darker areas too.

As I layer my graphite I'm also emulating

any patterns and textures I can see in the
reference, for instance, in the iris (image 6), I am capturing the stripes and radial lines coming
from the pupil. Its much better to start considering this detail now rather than work the texture
into the drawing later on.

I'm still plotting and comparing even tiny irregular shapes and lines, comparing the angles and
negative spaces between each ripple to make sure everything is fitting into my drawing. If you
make a smudge too big or too short, it will distort the location of other areas in your drawing that
you try and plot from it. If you draw a line too light or too dark, it will change the contrast of your
drawing and it will be harder to read as a final artwork and could look muddy or clunky.

Attention to detail will make all the difference, even at this stage. But our priority is getting tone
down on the page so we can work with it.
Next we'll move onto the blending technique, smoothing out our layers of sketchy shading into flat
areas of glassy graphite with our blending stump, which is an important starting point if you want
a photorealistic finish.

TOP TIP: You can't see pencil marks in a photo so why would they be in our photorealistic drawing? This is a
key difference between photorealism and drawing from life or even just drawing. We are trying to draw a
photograph. So our drawing should end up looking like the photograph. Obviously once youve mastered this
technique you are free to apply it however you wish to your photorealism, sketches and life drawing. But for
the purposes of this guide we are focusing entirely on photorealism. Personally, I prefer adding in pencil marks
to my photorealistic pieces at the end to add a hand finished sentiment. Its up to you.

I'm using a fine stump here as my drawing is so small and I rasp this down with sandpaper if I
need too. Basically, I use anything that will blend and give me some control over the result. This
can be rags, tissue, a cue tip or even a homemade cone out of paper... but never ever my finger.

Huge note of caution here as I see finger smudging recommended so often... The oils on your skin
can make graphite go greasy and sticky making it impossible to remove or blend. It can
completely destroy a drawing beyond repair and is NOT worth the hassle. Put the finger blending
away and make a paper cone stump if you're really struggling to find a blending tool. You've been

My goal for blending is to

Image 7 smooth my shading lines out,
getting rid of the harsh lines
which I cant see in the
reference photo, and filling in
the white of the paper with an
even layer of graphite so I can
build on it (image 7).

Blending stumps also allow you

to pick up fine amounts of
graphite dust which you can
then apply to your drawing
without adding more graphite to
the paper from a pencil. This
means you can create very
delicate soft areas of tone with
the mark of the stump, which
wouldn't be easy to achieve with
the harsher mark of a pencil.

To blend simply move the

stump, (or whatever tool your
smudging with), over the paper
and rub the lines out, either in a
shading motion (side to side) or
in a circular fashion. Experiment
to see what happens.
TECHNIQUE 9: Image 8

With some blending and texture
building up in place, we are now
going to explore the surrounding eye
area, along the creases and edges of
the lid.

Using the blending stump, which has

picked up fresh graphite from
smoothing the iris, I jump around
the outlines of my eye gently
smoothing down new passes of
graphite in the areas where there
creases or shadow. Like I said, the
stump leaves a soft mark which I
wouldn't be able to make easily with
pencil. Squint at the reference to see
any subtle areas of very light shadow
or texture and buff those in with
your stump too.

If we want to show highlights on this

pale skin were going to have to put
down a layer of graphite tone
everywhere, even if it appears very
white in the reference, to allow us to
erase back in and let the white of the paper 'shine' through and be a highlight in our drawing. If
you like, zoom in on the reference image and take a look at how grey the supposedly 'white' areas
of the skin are. Compare how dark your layers are to that of the image and aim to match them in
terms of lightness and darkness.

Looking at the reference, I can see I'll need to smudge in graphite for all the creases, little bits
around the corner of the eye, extending up into the eyebrow, basically anywhere that's not quite
white. But don't shade in all of your drawing in one go because you'll lose your plotting
outlines and you will get lost. Stick to one area, build it up until its defined, then once youre sure
youre not going to lose it in a haze of grey THEN move on and add more points of reference from

Are your smudges the right size, shape and distances away from your other smudges? Are you
noticing any negative spaces that can help you draw more accurately?

Going back to my 2B now I start putting in more graphite to start building layers and getting
contrast. The pencils sharper marks allow me to create crisp edges and work with the blender to
create clean drawings with nice blocks of even shading and depth. If it starts looking too harsh, I
simply blend it back out again.

The rest of the drawing is essentially this process over and over:

Lay graphite
Erase bits
Lay more graphite
And so on.
TOP TIP: The greater the difference between your lightest areas and darkest areas, the greater the contrast.
This will create a nice bold, clean drawing. Too contrasted and it may look unrealistic. Not enough contrast and
it can look flat and lifeless. Experiment!

The iris should now have

Image 9 approximately 4 layers of graphite,
each layer blended after its applied,
Image 9 also shows an unblended
5th layer on top which still has
pencil marks visible.

Notice how areas are starting to get

darker in contrast to the rest of the

Were only about half way through
our project but lets discuss how
much shading and how many layers
youll be expected to do to manage

As a guide, expect to do anything in

the region of 10-20 layers in most
drawings. Maybe even more. This is
where the real work comes in and
you can never really tell how many layers you'll need to put into a drawing because we only stop,
when its done.

You put down as many layers as you need to put down until its right.

If there's one thing I notice time and time again, is novice artists ending their drawing too soon,
when there's not enough layers or depth. Another days work could completely transform their
drawing, which I can respect is a frightening prospect if you feel like you'll ruin the artwork if you
add anything more. In this instance though, trust me. You're doing great and this is a safe time
and place for you to try something new. Lets push on further. Let's add more to our drawing and
lets try it this way today, and see what happens.

If youre really nervous, take photographs of what you've achieved already and they can count as
proof of your amazing drawing even if it all goes wrong later.


After working so hard to create smooth even layers of shading its time to add back in some
texture. Texture creates the illusion of detail and give vital visual information. If we dont have
texture in our photorealistic drawing, itll just look odd. We can use a mix of mark making with
graphite, blending or mark making with our stump and also erasing to achieve a whole variety of

Image 10
Because the eyelid is so finely creased, and
would be super difficult to draw by eye, we can
create an illusion of detail by applying a
texture. Image 10.

Some photorealists WILL draw every little

crease however, so if you want the challenge,
go for it, but today Im going to teach a little
technique for creating that skin pattern which
isnt as involved. All you need to do is
crosshatch quite firmly with a sharp pencil,
creating crisscross effects in the areas where
there is texture and then to blend this back in
a little, retaining the hatching in areas that
look creased in the photograph, but buffing out
the softer and smoother places to help patch it
all in. I then erase over the top, once again in
a crosshatching motion, into areas where there
are highlights on the skin, and these two
techniques together this will create a random
crisscross effect which will look like skin
creases. Its not 100% true to the photograph
but it will serve me fine for this small drawing
because it looks photorealistic, even if its not
a duplicate.


Image 11 After blending and cross hatching back in with
my eraser pencil I tend to tweak any areas
that need 'lifting' and lightening, to get my
contrast balanced.

I compare my drawing CONSTANTLY to my

photograph, and then brutally erase or darken
areas. At points I can remove whole areas of
work just because they're too dark and not
required. I decided the iris needed some more
contrast between the patterns in the iris and
the pupil so I erased back into that to make it
pop it bit more. This resembled my reference
more. Image 11.

If you want to compare your drawing to the

photo to see what needs tweaking place the
drawing next to the reference at the same size
(zoom in/out if digital) or compare from a
distance. You'll quickly see what areas need
reworking to get it to match the shapes and
contrast of the photograph.

It also helps to hold your drawing up in a

mirror to view as a reflection. If the reflection
doesn't look right, try and amend it to make it
look better in the reflection- it will make your
drawing appear more balanced when looked at the right way again. Reverse your reference, even
turn it upside down, and balance any errors in your drawing. Your eyes can often trick you and
these little tests will confirm if you've been measuring correctly with your eyes. Some artists will
leave their artwork for weeks, and recheck it with 'fresh' eyes to pick up on any errors. Another
short term way to check your image is to squint at your drawing too- can you see what it is still? If
not, maybe your contrast isn't high enough and your drawing is being lost in murky greys? Try and
correct it.

TECHNIQUE 13: Image 12

Even though it's not a landscape this subject still
has a background and foreground. Completing
our drawing in respect of that will add to the
depth of perspective we are trying to create. So,
eyelashes start getting blocked in next for
our foreground (Image 12). I'm not refining
them at this point, their presence is just for
planning and proportion needs. I tend to sketch
their general position in, then do the skin on the
lid on the background first and then work
towards the foreground in stages, finishing off
by really defining the lashes at the very end.

In regards to the eyelashes, since I've

mentioned them, there is no trick to drawing
them. You draw them exactly as you would any
other part of the eye- drawing what you see,
measuring your proportions and examining any
negative space. I observe these shapes and
lines, and then just draw.


If you're struggling to find detail to draw at this point, don't worry. It could be time to rest. Ive
placed suggested rest stops throughout the book but nothing I suggest should take precedence
over your own creative or physical needs. If you need to, take a break, do something else. Just
don't rush it.

Drawing like this is hard work. You're moving and looking constantly. We are exploiting our fine
motor skills. Don't be surprised if you get tired. That's normal. Try and avoid working for longer
than 1hr at a time when you first start drawing as your body is just not used to it and by this point
you could be feeling the strain. You can injure yourself. Eye strain, back problems and carpal
tunnel issues cause very real pain for artists. Even if you take a moment to step back and assess,
that's fine. Do it.

Ready to carry on?

Keep going, adding layers, blending and so on until your drawing begins to form depth and detail.

I've begun adding the bottom lashes. We're nearly there.

Image 13


Artistic licence is important at this point as we start to decide what to work on and what to give
less attention. This is about creating artwork rather than a photocopy. Because human eyes are
quite lazy and dont pick up all the detail in one look like a camera would we can afford to leave
bits out, but in the same light there are certain illusions we need to create to give the appearance
of something realistic in our drawing.

I've begun blending other parts of the eye to make them soft and fine, just like the photographs
texture. I've now buffed the very outer black rim of my iris, just very slightly, to help connect it to
the whites of the eyes. It's a little detail that seems to work as the black edge of the iris can look
very stark without it. We want clean crisp edges, but NOT stark marks that grab our attention.

Next, I dab back into any layers on the skin with my eraser pencil to reveal little flecks of white
again, usually where light is hitting the skin in the reference. This starts making the skin seem
more real and textured. It becomes mottled and random. You might want to add in more
crosshatching or even circulation. This, like before, isnt exactly per the reference, but the eye
cant see that level of detail, so it doesnt matter.

Be careful with dark creases or freckles. They can look out of place in the drawing, even though
theyre very much there in the photograph, so they need careful handling or to be ignored
completely. Ive decided to ignore some very subtle freckle marks as they just look like flecks of
dirt on my paper and they dont add anything to the final piece.

Erasing back in along the eyelid creates

those soft white streaky highlights on the Image 14
creases which would be so difficult to draw
one by one. Blending on top of this helps
even out any harsh lines left by the eraser
further pushing the illusion of soft skin.

I also buff in over the top more layers of

graphite to help flatten out any areas that
are too contrasted and help balance them
out. Even though we need the contrast for
our drawing to pop, we still need the
contrast to be natural looking.

Eyebrows next (Image 14). I start by

sketching in lines in the direction of the hairs
and then blend that all down to create an
even light tone across the shape of the brow.
This is my background base.

Because of this base, when I come to add

darker clearer hairs later in the foreground,
the contrast of the hairs against the skin will
be correct across the brow and I'll have a
full, even, and accurately drawn eyebrow
rather than thick stark hairs on very white

Planning a drawing like this solves SO many

problems but it does come with experience. You may find you dont want to use any of these skills
and would rather apply your own.


Once I feel like I can go no darker with layering my standard pencils, I being very subtly dabbing
in some of the darkest graphite I have, or a black colour pencil. I reserve this ONLY for the very
darkest areas in my drawing and as a result it achieves lovely clean, dark marks.

If youre a purest, stick to graphite in the 6B-9B grades. If you dont mind mixing media, definitely
give colour pencil a go. Adding in Faber-Castell Polychromos in Black transformed photorealism for

In regards to dark and black areas in the reference, it's a bit more complicated than just filling in
everything as dark as you can. Even though something appears flat and dark or even black, like
the eyelash, it doesnt mean it shows up black in the drawing. Black things can have just as much
greyscale and variation in tone than any other area so look out for subtle tonal changes and
textures. Drawing these accurately is difficult but its essential to achieving a photorealistic

Starting with the darkest (so you've got a reference point for the maximum contrast you should
create) look on your reference for the very darkest points, and draw those in. Darker areas may
be near or around the lashes, under the lid against the white of the eye, the pupil (but not always)
or creases in the lid. Blend them into your drawing if you wish and make sure they fit into the
other areas of shading like we did with the rim of the iris in Image 14.


It's now getting to the stage where we can compare our drawing to the photograph kindly so we
can see what's going on and make a critique.

Critique is not about shaming ourselves or picking up on everything that's wrong. That doesn't
serve us as we are naturally inclined to be perfectionists and criticise ourselves harshly, and often
for things beyond our current ability.

Critique, constructive critique, is about identifying good things AND problems. But most
importantly Constructive Criticism provides a solution, or allows us to accept and learn from our
mistakes for next time. Constructive Criticism MOTIVATE's us. Any critique that prevents us from
wanting to work any further should be swiftly ignored as its sabotaging us.

For example, if you find yourself saying 'my drawing looks rubbish', actually examine what you
don't like about it. Is it warped? Lacking detail? You can see too many marks? You've ignored
gradients and you have big clunky lines? ALL OF THESE PROBLEMS CAN BE FIXED. So you're
drawing isn't rubbish, you just haven't learnt how to solve those problems yet and that comes
from practice. Saying its rubbish prevents you from learning. Saying I need to practice measuring
by eye or I might try the grid method is giving you your next step in your learning process.

So. Take a deep breath and lets critique our work.

The problem of this stage is that we cant really change much about our drawing anymore because
we've already done so much work. Its important that we've stayed on the right track and
respected our earlier plotting marks, but we can do some fine tweaking to ensure everything looks
its best. The most important thing we can learn is what we could do better next time. But for now,
well focus on what we can fix right now.

My first concern in MY drawing (Image 15) is that I can see that my iris is larger than the
reference... but that's okay. Im going to say it's okay because if it wasn't for comparing it to the
photo, it would still look photorealistic in its own right, and that's my goal. Not only that but I can't
really change that important piece of structure now- its too late. Erasing will potentially damage
the drawing. I could try reducing the size of the iris but looking at it, I think it would be
unnecessary. Simply improving my measuring overall on my next drawing will prevent that in
future (one of the things I know I can always improve on) and that's all we can do with that.

What does matter is that YOU can also see how my iris is different to photograph. That means
your eyes are refining to detect little errors like this. They're common, it happens, and its part of
the life of being an artist.

I like how my skin textures are coming along and the patterns in the iris and lash placement are
pretty accurate. I'm thinking that sparkle across the skin is going to be pretty difficult to achieve in
graphite at this size so I may just exclude that from the drawing entirely and focus on doing
something simpler with the skin. I could draw the sparkles on with white pen at the end but as this
is a graphite exercise I just want to use graphite if I can.

But most importantly, out of all the critique at this stage, I can see it's taken from the reference
image and they look pretty similar both in shape, texture and contrast.
Image 15


I have punctuated this drawing course with recommended rest breaks. Please consider
taking a short break, even leave the course overnight, and allow your muscles and brain
to absorb what you are seeing, learning and physically doing. Once refreshed youll find
it easier to continue.

Now that I've rested and critiqued my work, I can move on to the final stages of making this
drawing complete.
By now I have around 5-10 layers over the entire drawing. Certainly more in the darker areas and
I'm not looking to add much more. Perhaps some fresh passes of crosshatching and erasing for
texture but other than that I'm starting to feel satisfied with the level of contrast and detail.

Image 16 TECHNIQUE 18:

In photorealism and
hyperrealism detail really is
king. I'm now going to share
with you some of the ways I
incorporate that in my work.

My first check is to make sure

I've covered everything area
of my drawing in something.
If I see an empty area on my
drawing I check my reference
and note what I can add to
make that area come to life.
That could be as simple as a
buffed layer of graphite with a
blending stump or I could
have a whole shadow to add
and render. You'd be
surprised what we miss when
we're engrossed in drawing.
Dont forget! We also need to
draw right to the edges of our
frame. You can draw or mask
the border if it helps.

I also take my opinion and

taste into account. This is what defines your style as an artist. For instance, I've begun darkening
the iris more (Image 16), but I've decided to keep a higher level of contrast in it then what's
showing in the photograph because the patterns I can see are so pretty that it would be a shame
to lose them in an accurately rendered area. In my opinion. You might prefer it another way.

Now that I'm adding in my very last layers, I cover anything dark with a final layer of graphite,
even over black colour pencil. I do this to make my drawing look like an entirely graphite drawing.
Colour pencil tends to be more matte and graphite is nearly always shiny (which is why its a pain
to photograph nicely). So to rectify this, unifying everything with graphite allows the artwork to
have the same reflective consistency across the surface without losing any darkness from the
black pencil.

I then darken all the eyelashes, finally, bringing the foreground to life and make sure they're all
lined up and positioned in the right places, respecting the tonal ranges in the dark areas.
I also make little tweaks to the drawing,
zooming in and out of my reference image and Image 17
making sure I've got all the little reflections,
highlights and shadows in things like the tear
duct, waterline, in between the lashes, and the
skin around it. This takes an incredibly long
time as we are now working at a much finer
level of attention. I literally count crease lines,
I am drawing the edge of the highlights in the
eyes so they are razor sharp and crisp, I am
putting in whisper light veins in the eyes, I am
counting eyelashes and eyebrow hairs. This
level of attention can consume you if you're
not too careful so always take a step back and
examine the artwork from afar- does it still
look right or are you adding too much stuff
that's being lost? It's okay not to draw
everything if it doesn't add to the drawing.

My advice would be too draw everything you

can first and then experiment with removing it
or toning it down. You can also experiment on
future drawings with implied lines which create
a more sketchy look, but can still have a place
in complex photorealism.

After drawing a variety of subjects youll begin to collect a repertoire of favourite marks which
youll apply for particular situations.
When it comes to the hairs on the eyebrow I have found certain marks create a more 'hair like'
finish. I tend to use just a flicking motion. If you draw a flick you will notice you have a thicker
starting point then your finishing point. The trick with hair is to try and avoid making that thick
point visible.
Image 18
I try and ensure that every hair root or tip that's
visible is actually the thin end of the flick.
Otherwise the base of the hair can end up looking
very hard and false. Hiding that base up in the
brow means you get a much finer, realistic
looking mark. I then flick hairs in the opposite
direction up and over the arch so that the tips of
those flicks can be seen on the top/bottom/end of
the brow instead of the chunky base. (Image 18)

My goal now is to start removing any remaining

pencil lines so my drawing looks glossy and
photorealistic. This can be a pain unless you've
blended consistently through-out and we need to
have a delicate touch as the pencil marks
themselves add the detail we need to make a
crisp and interesting drawing.

So down goes more shading/dabbing/mottling

with the eraser (Image 19) and then smoothing
that over with a blender. If I find pencil marks
are too stark I will use a hard grade pencil with a
fine point and try and fill in the gap in between
the lines to even out the shading.
Image 19
My final tweaks involve a final layer of tone over the
eyebrow hairs to unite all of them into a more even
tone with yes, some blending.

I bet you're sick of hearing that now, but at least you

can appreciate these drawings don't just fall out of the

I darken some of the bottom lashes and go over

everything one final time to make sure it looks the way
I want it.

I think I'm done. A certain feeling of exhaustion/pride

normally takes over right now because its time to put
down your tools and grab a cup of tea. Or gin.

Time for the final comparison.


Settle down with your artwork and your reference. We're going to make some final checks to see if
there's anything left that we can possibly do to make this artwork perfect. (Image 20)

Image 20
1. Is your artwork the same size and proportion as the reference? You might want to squint. Same
height? Width? Same shape? If not can you alter this slightly? Thicken or reduce edges?
2. Does your drawing have a similar level of contrast (light and dark)? Swap your reference and
artwork over. What needs to be done to your drawing to match the contrast to your reference. Fix
it now.
3. Turn you reference and drawing upside down. Look at them side by side. What differences can you
see? Are any angles of lines wrong? Is something warped? Is something suddenly looking too dark
or light? Correct it, upside down, to match your reference.
4. Hold your artwork up to a mirror. Does the reflection look right? Does it look like an eye or is one
end drooping? Would erasing/darkening/lengthening/reducing any areas help balance it out?
Sometimes it's just a contrast issue.
5. Have a look at the detail of your drawing against the detail of the photograph. Are there any bits
missing? I've excluded the tiny highlights on the skin for instance.
6. Look at your artwork as a whole. Does it need any tidying- any smudges or blemishes that need
removing before you spray it with fixative?

All done?

Happy? Relieved? Learnt something? Inspired? All of those are great results.



If it's you're first, congratulations! If it's your second or third attempt I hope I've given you
something to improve with and a way forward in developing your talents.

Thank you so much for taking part and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

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