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How to Draw ANYTHING by TamberElla How to Draw ANYTHING by TamberElla
When people ask how I can create a level of realism in my paintings without any direct reference, THIS is what I describe. Doing these steps over and over leads you to MEMORIZE the details you need to know to draw accurately from imagination. We aren't born able to come up with every detail of every object! We need to LEARN how to draw it first, so when it comes time to paint from imagination, we have plenty of information stored in our brains to draw on!

Every time I have EVER talked to a professional artist I truly admire and asked how they got where they are, they have described something along the lines of these steps! Vary it up to fit you! :D

Bonus: I'm currently practicing rocks! And my development over time if anyone is interested, suggested in the comments!
 Rock StudiesF by TamberEllaArtistic Development Retrospective by TamberElla

Q&A from the comments

I have school/full time work and can't spend 3 hours a day practicing!
Shorten each time period if you need to! Progress will be slower but it certainly will still happen! Even if you only have a spare half hour each day, divide that up into 15 minutes of referenced sketching and 15 minutes of imagination sketching. You will SURELY see improvement over the long haul, whether you put in 30 minutes a day or 3 hours.

But what about backgrounds? That's what I have trouble with!
Background can be divided into categories just like anything else! You don't need to learn to draw backgrounds as a whole, though that can be your overarching objective; divide it up into: how to draw trees, then rocks, then grass, bushes, clouds, rivers, lakes, ponds, beaches, the ocean, difference climates, buildings, cities, etc. Narrow your area of focus down each day so you have something specific to practice. "Backgrounds" seems daunting because its a VAST array of subjects! Narrowing your practice into individual subjects is much easier!

But how do I learn to color and shade?
By using the same method, but doing color studies. These are quick paintings where you learn to estimate all of the colors. To do this, try to copy photos but NO COLOR PICKER. You MUST not use the color picker or you won't learn anything! Try to capture the subtleties! Browse this blog: to get an idea of what color studies look like. Some great books to pick up on color are James Gurneys "Painting with Color and Light" and "Imaginative Realism" as well as "How to Render" by Scott Robertson.

What are master copies?
Here's a post about master copies:…
To sum it up, you're copying the work of a master in the field. CHOOSE SOMEONE WHO IS TRULY A MASTER. To get the most out of this, you must really try to gain as much insight as you can into WHY the master made decisions in the piece. How was each line or paint stroke put down? What tools did they use? Why is this color here, why is the placement of this object like so, etc.
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harmzee Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2019  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
That was very helpful thanks 🙂
flabbergastingdragon Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2019  Hobbyist Digital Artist
practicing recall is essential to memorization
flabbergastingdragon Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2019  Hobbyist Digital Artist
practicing recall is essential to memorization
KiraRohan Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2019  Student Traditional Artist
I had to log in after on a hiatus from this exact problem, I read this then a light clicked in my head. This is exactly why I idolize Hirohiko Araki, he uses some many references in his artwork. Look at level progress all through the Jojo Bizarre Adventure series.
Zidkon Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2018  Student Digital Artist
Loved that guide, but this apply to pixel art too? 
VixenDra Featured By Owner Edited Nov 24, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I believe my artistic journey intuitively went rather similarly to what this guide says (with few exceptions, but I did develop the skill to draw any subject from references, can manage to draw a possum(never done) almost on the level I draw a canid(lots done) if I try), and about 1.5 year ago I started to try to actually learn pixelart. It required me to reinvent shading to some extend (I always  focused on progressing mostly realistic shapes, but not shading, if I want I can be pretty much a photocopier tho, still, I had a few years break here) because my imaginetive shading was rather pillowy (while it looked acceptable in my digital transparent-BGed, it's the fundamental no-no in pixelart after all). My first very focused pixelart attempt(after a few flats on other people's sketches): Otter and Wotter (Tales of Ostlea) by VixenDra made with just some writen crits from other spriters (second time ever I did anything otter - after 4 years). And I also needed to stop thinking in just distinct outlines because of the detail level I needed to achieve in pixels - when a detail is 1-2 pixels wide: Skeleton Longma (Tales of Ostlea) by VixenDra . I started at this in digital: Veronica by VixenDra (distinctive black outline, no distinctive lightsource aside to eye and jewellery highlights) - and it's still pretty much my style: Thomas Booker by VixenDra (different fur texture due to different marking type only) Though I can't say my shading wasn't influenced at all - without me intending to alter my digital style at all...
This all also concluded in a lesson: your skill in your main medium always partially tranfers to your new medium making your starting point much higher on the progression ladder. Similarly to changing subjects with the method described in this guide, just a matter of proportion.
Starting from mastering realism is what I often hear as a pro tip. And agree with it, any kind of style profits from mastering realism - knowing the rules you can break them in ways that actually make sense and look good and correct.
I believe the answer to your question is yes.
Stydealized Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2018  Student Digital Artist
I really really like this tutorial, but I don't get what you mean by break it down.
FangTheHedgebat Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
When you break a toy car, you'll see smaller parts like "Oh, that's a wheel, that's a window, that's a door, that's a headlight," etc. All these parts TOGETHER make a toy car. If you break apart a beach scene, you'll see "That's sand, that's water, that's waves, that's sky, that's a cloud, and that's sun," etc.

What they mean is take off bits of what you want to learn from the whole and take them into smaller, digestible bites. You wouldn't try to swallow a whole pizza down on the first bite, so take what you want to learn and BREAK it into smaller parts that you can start off with. Eventually, you'll be able to put those pieces BACK together and make the scene, character, or colors work the way YOU wan them to. 

Another example of breaking down:
If you take apart a PERSON, you'll see, "Oh that's a head, torso, arms, legs, hair." Then you might go "Oh that head has eyes, a nose, a mouth, hair, skin, etc." Break it down even smaller and you might go "That eye has eyelashes, pupils, sclera, irises, maybe eye bags." When you get good at eyes, move on to noses, lips, teeth, etc you get the idea by now. It'll take quite a bit of time I know, and you'll be extremely overwhelmed at the thought of tackling it all, but you WILL get better at it. The unfortunate truth is that these things don't happen in one day. But if this is really something you want to learn to draw, then you'll find yourself quite interested by all this, and it won't be painful to learn at all!

*TLDR*: Break it down means taking the big picture, isolating and pointing out certain details or characteristics of the what makes the item in question whole (ex: the beach is made of sand, water and sky) and learning those individual pieces one by one, then putting them back together when you can draw each bit better. DON'T TRY TO LEARN IT ALL IN ONE BIG CHUNK.
Colourval Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It means like learn about the elements of your subject, like skeletal structure, muscular structure, posing, etc.
Alfirea Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm just starting out and this was very uplifting, thank you very much! 
MelodyofaHeart Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2018
Is it the same day or another day when the comfortable enough to go from copying photos to also drawing with imagination step is administered? What's advised- a weeks wait? I know everyone works differently, I'm just... trynna plan this 'cause I'm easily confused. Thank you sosososo much for this, this is so cool and exactly what I've been trying to find. 
Ilibeth Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2018  Student General Artist
I'm no expert nor am I a professional artist, but when it comes to humans, it can get overwhelming pretty quick (Since drawing the human body can get complicated real quick), so focusing just on one part of the body helps a lot. Just drawing faces, necks, torsos, arms, whatever it is. I feel that breaking down the human form into separate parts to practice is easier. Also, doing loose sketches of real life drawings of models and gestures also is a big help. :) 

As for getting comfortable with going from practicing with images to drawing freely without them, it's really up to you. Once you know you got the basic forms and structure of whatever it is you're doing (I usually think towards anatomy wise), you can try to draw freely and experiment with anything, especially if there's the possibility you want to try your hand with digital art. And from then, practice and experiment continuously. That's how I see it to say the least. :) Not sure if this was what you're looking for, but hopefully this can give you some idea. 
MelodyofaHeart Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2018
Holy shoot//// tHANK YOU so much!!    This looks very interesting-- ohh-- ... oh- oh/// - ... ohHhhh///-- ....       ... ... That's so cool/fascinating-- oh-- ohhhHH-- ... .. interesting! -- oh-- Oh//- THANK YOU SO much! Yes, that does help!
MelodyofaHeart Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2018
Also, um!! I want to be able to draw all sorts of humans (as a beginner step into learning this technique). Is there any particular thing you'd advise someone start with, considering all the complicated things that go into humans? Apologies for convoluted inquiries.
slanciato Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Hello! I am creating an art resource group called the-artists-bible. I am wanting to fill it with high-quality tutorials and resources so it becomes a one-stop-shop for any artist wanting to improve or just needing a little help. This tutorial is so wonderful for an aspiring artist, and it's super motivating! I was hoping that you would allow me to add this tutorial to the group. Heart
TamberElla Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
slanciato Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much!
isuzu51 Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2018
thank you for sharing this, it's very motivatig! is this working even for an old geezer like me?
undeadmonkey88 Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for this. I've been out of drawing for a long time and wanted to get back into it, but I didn't want to go back into my old stagnate way of drawing and struggling to improve. Major props.
Cleverfox110 Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
im so doing this 
dreewong Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much for this!!! I'm starting to teach myself digital painting and how to draw things after skipping all the fundamentals as a teen in order to draw portraits from photos. Now I need to make up for the lost years... This is honestly invaluable! Thanks again!! :) :)
HorseLeafsCabbage Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2017  Hobbyist Filmographer
I thank ye, my good fellow, for this summation of how to (as the kids say these days) "get gud" at drawing (I say "kids," yet I'm not yet in my mid-twenties).
In all seriousness, this helps breakdown the process of learning to draw things. I all too often try and rely on just my imagination when my visual library is extensively lacking.
vegascat Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2017
I just started drawing this year after taking a drawing class.   I still suck (which is not totally unexpected), but it was fun and I want to keep at it.   I've had a few set backs (one literally being a herniated disc in my lower back) but am going to squeeze drawing time into my day, most likely at lunch.  I've tried drawing on the bus home and its...not recommended. :D  Sorry, I'm getting Off track, I wanted to say that I really love your post above.  I paint miniatures for wargaming and some display stuff, but its much the same way.    Thank you so much for this and I'm really looking forward to seeing what else you have here.
achipps Featured By Owner Edited Jun 14, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
If you want to do backgrounds just look at hills, mountains, and fields. Just starting out with drawing hills helps sets up the ground for everything to start.

I have done a lot of this lone before I read it, and I can add once you can do this much you can pick up more with a quick study, and maybe some 3D figure thinking, because when you see something with a shape in real life you can walk around it to learn the shape like a 3D model in a 3D program, you can imagine a wireframe of a shape, and that makes the shape easier because it is in a simple form in your mind. You can sketch that out, and then you just need something for the surface like what material is it made from. 

If you get the experience of learning to create any materials like glass, different types of wood, different barks, and different kinds of metal surfaces then no matter what the shape it you can apply any materials to that shape. So materials is kind of a key to just needing the shape, because you can know the materials and you will not need that information when you study something like looking at different types of dogs and knowing the direction of their hair all over their body and know how to draw it, then all you need is the shape and you can cover it with dog hair of your choice.

This really helps when you want to create a fantasy creature.

So, knowing many of the materials can help you take a quick look at something just to see the shape and then go draw it in many angles and poses so you cover it with the materials you know. 

It really cut down on the time you get to know what something looks like, and it is possible you can draw it from a quick glance to establish the shape in your mind.

I found that just knowing the materials gave me a better chance at learning more about lighting and details like how the materials and textures are effected by lighting. Learning enough to make my imagination look like a photograph.
Luminaara Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Damn thank you sm for sharing this, I have heard a few professionals say this before but whenever I tried to copy a photo without the color picker I just... failed. I even failed when I drew WITH the color picker :XD: so I got disencouraged and gave up. But this post makes me being hopeful again.... I am gonna do a real photo/color study now :la: hope it'll look decent :D
Emperor-Koto Featured By Owner May 25, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for sharing stuff like this! I'm sure many hobbyists are self taught, and any guidance we can get from skilled artists is really invaluable. I will study this.
Sarosna85 Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I've been trying to do this for a while but especially recently I've fallen into a big slump. I was asked to do a painting of a horse/unicorn so I started to re-learn how to draw horses. I've been having an incredibly hard time at it. I look at photos and try to practice with some gesture but everything is off. Head vs. body proportions. The legs I can never draw and it's the same thing with every ungulate animal. I've been reading Terryl Whitlatch's books a lot. I look at her anatomy diagrams, study them carefully and even draw some of them myself. The bones, the muscles and then full renders of the legs. I still can't put it all together. The mere though of ever being able to draw animals in motion and from different angles feels like an impossible task. I can barely draw a proper profile full body drawing.

When I look at my older work from 2013 and 2014 the drawings have a lot more life in them. My technique was a lot worse, especially with coloring, but the drawings themselves look a lot better. Nowadays I end up with very stiff drawings and I dread the moment I need to practice drawing because I know how frustrated I will be after a while. If I'm working on some drawings/paintings I tend to spend 1-2 weeks on coloring the pieces and when I need to get back to actual drawing, I feel like I can't do anything.

Am I simply rusty all the time because I don't draw daily? Or am I experiencing some kind of mental block? I know the ability to draw these things is there but I just can't get it out anymore.
TamberElla Featured By Owner May 6, 2017  Professional Digital Artist
When feeling stuck, taking a class on a subject can be a really wonderful experience! I know Terryl Whitlatch has a class on Schoolism that might be helpful for you! Sometimes that extra push of having another set of eyes can be the magic key. I wish you all the luck with your studies!
Sarosna85 Featured By Owner May 6, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you. I actually have 4 of Terryl's books and I have signed up on her Creatures of Amalthea course. But I think I'll consider the Schoolism course as well.
PizzaPotatoNBacon Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2017  Student General Artist
:clap: Thank you for making this very helpful tutorial!
ComicGoals Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2017  Student Digital Artist
Omg I've always been wondering how I should go about improving my art.  I knew I had to practice a lot but I never once thought of getting myself organised and dedicating time each day to improve.  It's exactly like exercising at the gym!  I realize now how much time I've been wasting thinking of what to do next instead of planning in advance.  Thank you for this, I would have been so lost without it.
remnaru Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2017
I love this,thanks
roxya1 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is an awesome tutorial! I can finally organize my practice time and make it useful. :lol: 
AngellicButterfly Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2017
this doesn't work..
daw-nn Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2016
hey ! quick question
when you say practice from references, what would that include? Drawing ontop of images, replicating them on the side a bit of both--? 
TamberElla Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Honestly whatever helps you most at first, but hopefully moving quickly past drawing on top of them into drawing side by side :)
daw-nn Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2016
Awesome thank you ! <3
Heybye44PTX Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I hope this works for 3D art. :P
TheEnigmaMachine Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
This advice is spot-on. Focused practice really is the best way to improve quickly. I think reading fundamentals textbooks and life drawing really are the best way to improve quickly. Learning is very much an exercise in problem solving, and by reading texts/copying masterwork, you do can learn solutions to problems other people have already figured out for you. It's a much more effective way to practice than just drawing whatever and hoping for the best.

Incidentally, if you read the literature on the science of how people learn (Peak by Anders Ericsson is the best book on this, and Freakonomics also did a podcast about it it), this method of learning is called "Deliberate Practice," where you pick one skill to improve and practice the skill in a focused manner. It's the best way to learn quickly, and it's what most experts in a field do to become experts.
rotcivsette Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
That's now my mantra.
ThatOrangeDragon Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Amazing tips ^^ Any advice you can give for forced or exaggerated perspective art? In some cases it can be hard to draw a specific angle even if you're very familiar with the dimensions of the item you're drawing.
Nordeva Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2016  Student Digital Artist
I recommended this tutorial on my first video! I think it's awesome and it really helps, thanks again for making it! <3
Here's the video, in case you're curious
TamberElla Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
That was a really lovely video! Loved it, I'm sure your followers really appreciate it.
Nordeva Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Thanks a ton! <3 I'll try my best to keep improving and helping others!
Sillageuse Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
This sums everything up so well, best advice! Thanks so much!
nishagandhi Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow that was a perfect read for those who want to learn drawing !! Thanks for sharing :)
saissize Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This should be read by a lot of artists, PREAAACH!!!!
Sujith1999 Featured By Owner Edited Oct 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks! This is really helpful for my practice. 
flinthecyote Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
wow this is amazing really 
SugaryDeath Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2016
My goodness this is beyond helpful! I thank you dearly for taking the time to let us know of such a great learning method! 
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