Create accurate outlines even if you aren't a greater sketcher.

Sketching is definitely a skill in itself and capturing correct proportions can be tricky, especially for beginners. There are a variety of tools an artist can use to aid this initial setting out process.

In the grid method, a grid is used as an aid in getting an accurate layout and correct proportions. First take the reference image and draw a grid over it - the dimensions will depend upon your original reference but you’ll need sufficient “squares” to locate features. So, perhaps on a reference that measures 20 by 10 cm then a grid of 10 by 5 2cm squares should suffice. You then divide your paper into the same size grid, i.e. 10 by 5 - the size of the squares can be any size you like, so you can scale up or down the size of the image to suit your paper.

Tracing is another method. I see various discussion on social media about the ethics of tracing, but personally, I don’t have a problem with it. You’ll want to accurately capture the key details (position of eyes, nose etc) of a subject when doing photorealistic pieces or pet commissions so this is an easy and fast way to do that.

Graphite paper is a useful way to either transfer a tracing or to work directly from a reference image. Place the graphite paper between your medium and your reference or tracing on top. Using a pencil you then “draw” over the image and the pressure creates a graphite carbon copy onto your paper below. You do have to be careful using this method not to rest your hand too heavily on the paper otherwise you’ll create graphite smudges.

Another method I see some artists using (I haven’t tried myself) is to use a projector and project the image onto the paper, from which you can draw. There are specialist art projectors for this purpose, some using a hard copy image (e.g. a photo) others use digital images and work just like a video projector.

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