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Why Reference Images Make a Difference for Art

What is a reference image, you may ask? It is an image an artist uses to help him or her create something by making it similar, but not exact. For example, if you use a house photo as a reference image, you may draw some things the same, but maybe change the shape of a window, remove a decorative touch, or use a different color for the roof.

For me, when I want to draw a person whom I have a specific envision for, I refer to different pictures to create the subject. I may use one picture for the face shape, another for the eyes, nose, mouth, and so forth. And guess what? Referring to photos makes a big difference for the aesthetic of the drawing I make.

Below is a drawing I did of my book’s main character with hardly any reference material used.

I find this sketch to be very unattractive. Not because of the photo lighting quality or the pencil marks, but because the face doesn’t look appealing. Proportions are kind of off.

So, here is a revised sketch I did of this same character. That’s another tip: revise your drawings if you feel it’s necessary.

It’s a little better than the previous drawing. However, the eyes are too big, and when I tried to adjust them in Photoshop, it just made the girl uglier. And she’d supposed to be more beautiful to me.

So, here is the third revision for the image:

She is starting too look more attractive, but the forehead is a bit too big. Also, this looks like it was cut and pasted on a solid-colored background. Honestly, I think it appears amateurish.

Now onto the final and best portrayal of my protagonist.

This is where I got serious into using as much reference material as possible. Hardly any of the features drawn were from my imagination. Of course, I didn’t copy anyone or make the girl resemble any real person. But thanks to the different approach, this is the best drawing out of all four. It kind of reminds me of a “Charlie the Unicorn” style. You know—the YouTube series about a cranky unicorn who gets taunted by two hyper ones. All right, that may be beside the point.

Anyway, for those of you who draw, you may want to consider the advice of reference material and revising your drawings. Hope this helped.

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Drawing Proportions from Face to Face is Anything but a No-Brainer

Image from Pixabay

Pretty much all of us have drawn in our youth whether it was required in school or for pleasure. Regardless of that, only some of us have taken our artistic activities seriously and honed them to produce quality work.

This post will focus on the face and why it can be difficult to create with accurate proportions. And no, that doesn’t count the simple smiley faces or the stick-figure heads. Anyone could make those easily. This will be about drawing the face as best as possible.

One fact I learned when creating faces was that the eyes are separated by one imaginary eye shape. In other words, you could fit a third eye in between the two real ones.

The mouth is also difficult to line up where it belongs. Not only because people move their mouths and have different shapes of them, but also because getting them in the center is challenging. So, it’s a good idea to have lines to guide you when you draw.

But the biggest struggle with the face is probably the nose. You want it to look attractive and, at least, kind of realistic, depending on your artistic skills. But you also might not wish to make the human look like he or she is wearing a nose costume.

What I do for that is shade or draw one line that leads up from the nose toward the eye area. It all depends on your style or plan as well as your talent.

So, yeah, the face can be a bit of a challenge. However, it can also be fun. After all, many folks like creating different variations of different subjects.

Having reference material can also help. You use it as inspiration, but not copying (unless that’s your intention and only for personal use).

I hope this post helps.

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How to Use Reference Images for Illustration

An example of an illustration I did using reference material

What is a reference image, you may ask? A reference image is a picture you use to inspire your drawing or illustration. You do NOT copy it exactly, unless, of course, it’s for personal use only. However, if you’re going to upload it online or make money off of it, then at least some aspects have to be changed.

For example, you draw a portrait of a person. You use a photo to guide you. But to make it your own and not be considered plagiarized, you should change, say the eye color, remove a piece of jewelry, etc.

Another trick I’ve come up with on my own is mixing and matching facial features to create illustrations of people. I would use different images from various sources, like Google or my school yearbooks. I would draw one person’s set of eyes, another’s nose, another’s smile, and so forth, on one character. As long as it doesn’t look obvious and you change some details, you’re fine.

Reference images are also useful for body positions, scenery, backgrounds, and more. In fact, if you go into illustration or animation, then reference images are musts. You need to make the art appear credible. Drawing just from your imagination will cause more people to consider you illegitimate.

Of course, no artist is perfect. In fact, many cartoons have inconsistencies with their art. For example, a character’s eye color may change. Or a tree may disappear. This is easily noticed by audiences.

So there you have it. Now have fun illustrating using reference images.