Lets state the obvious up front.
– Not everyone can draw from sight. Yet!
– Not everyone has the motivation to learn how to draw or take the time to practice.
– Those of us who paint or draw portraits know the importance of having an accurate image from which to start.
– Having an accurate drawing is a very important step but a line drawing alone does not help your observation or painting skills. You get that skill from, drawing!
– And some “artists” see any method other than using your hand and eye as cheating! That is not my call to make.
So how do you get an accurate drawing onto your paper or canvas to paint without having skill or taking the TIME to draw it?
We know of some techniques the old Masters used. Some of them tried to keep their secret in fear of being accused of … cheating or someone else using it! Check out the movie, “Tim’s Vermeer”, 2013 ‧ Documentary. Very interesting on the secrets Vermeer might have used. Some classics methods included making a “Grid” (like a multi pane window) that is placed just if front of the artist. Then drawing a scaled grid on the canvas. Other fancier methods used lenses and mirrors.
There are too many ways to mention in one article. You can do an internet search to find some instruction. A basic list include:
– Projecting an image onto the wall and directly tracing it. Very common today with the Pros and seldom admitted!!! Projectors have come down in price and size.
– Tracing a 1:1 image through a light box or taped to a window. Easiest with tracing paper but takes another step to transfer the image to the surface. (See my article titled “Using a Printer to Enlarge Reference Photos to LARGE painting size.”)
– Drawing a grid on your reference image and a scale grid on your surface. Now a days the grid can be easily created with photo software on the reference.
– Using an app on your ipad or Android tablets or phones.
See below for links to download some drawing apps for your tablets or phones. See also the YouTube links on how to use them.
“This teachers artist disclaimer”
It bears repeating that knowledge of drawing and the skills of observation is something that you CANNOT get from an app or any shortcut…. I would strongly recommend that those who of you who are new to drawing and painting portraits take the time to actually draw your subject (not just “sketch” it) for practice and study. You will start to see the subtle shadows that you need to render with paint or other drawing mediums. This practice drawing does not have to be perfect to start to see and render values. When drawing with graphite or charcoal you will see the subtle changes around the eye, nostrils, dimples, corner of the mouth, chin line, folds of hair, etc. the values that create dimension. If you can see and draw them with charcoal your odds of painting them will improve! (Please join me in one of my upcoming drawing classes.)
So now you have an app on your tablet. The work is not over! There is a big learning curve to get the hang of these apps.
There are two way of using Ipad’s Camera Lucida app and ONE way the Android Artist’s Eye. (there are other apps I have not tried. Eg. “Da Vinci Eye – Anyone Can Draw” for both platforms)
The only way with Android apps! First way with Apple: You will need a device to support your tablet over or in front of your paper or canvas. If you are looking down at your surface it is very important that your tablet’s camera lens is CLEAN and directly centered on your work. It must be square, level, parallel, etc. so as to not get a distorted image. If the paper you will draw on looks like a trapezoid on your tablet’s screen you must adjust your tablet until it is the BEST you can get it. The time it takes is worth it. It is frustrating until you figure it out. See below for a list of items you can buy. Please see my article on purchasing tablet holders.
Second way: With the Camera Lucida app (for Apple devices not the android’s Artist Eye). You will use the front camera. You will first need a way to hold your ipad up at a specific angle. I will be selling my new designed easels soon. Second, you will need a mirror for your ipad to view the image while you draw it. I make these or you can buy just the mirror for $10 from Osmo.
You can buy an Osmo base and mirror online (see below). You will need to lift the Osmo assembly off your table to enlarge the image. You must watch the Camera Lucida instructions listed below.
You will need to have this Camera Lucida image stored on your tablet and also printed on paper to calibrate your mirror to your holder.
Drag the “jpg image” below onto your desktop or Right click the jpg image > Copy and >Paste onto your tablet and save as “favorites” or somewhere on your tablet that you can get to and view easily. Print the other “PDF image” below. See below for the calibration instructions. Or go to the Camera Lucida app directly from the help screen within the app.
Remember you are an artist. Don’t draw lines that are boring! It will be easy to overdraw your subject and create a STIFF overworked painting!
First, practice with the app sketching a still life or some flowers around your house. Yes SKETCH! Stroke your pencil. Not TRACE! The sketchy lines you get will look very artsy. Don’t let your lines get too long or continuous. These lines are boring!!! Let them change in width and light-dark. You will like the results. Keep the lines light, you can darken them later. If you plan on painting the drawing don’t use too many lines. Just indicate the critical lines. Critical lines and marks include the eyes nose and mouth. Mark the placement of the corners and the angles of the lids, and pupils. Also note the corners of the mouth, nostrils and ears. Things like hair and clothing can be loosely placed and drawn by eye when you are done with app. Now put the tablet down and look at your drawing. You are the artist. Refine and repair the drawing. If you don’t like the drawing you won’t like your painting!!!! Eyes are hardest for me. The subtle shadows and darkens of the lids hide the details. Same with the corners of the mouth. Little differences change the expression.
You can add more lines and erase or lighten the ones you don’t want or need. On a face, use light dotted lines for soft shadows like the cheeks or dimples or glint on the nose. When done, I roll a log of kneaded eraser over the drawing to remove the surface graphite that can smudge and foul the first clean washes. After the first wash dries, erase the lines you don’t want to see.
NOTE: Too many lines can make the paper dirty or cluttered or confusing. You don’t need EVERY line!!
For Apple devices, search for the ‘Camera Lucida‘ app from ITunes, Apple Store.
This is a series of videos from YouTube on how to use this app. It is titled “Camera Lucida Tutorials” You really need to watch all of these. Here is an NEW excellent YouTube on adjusting/calibrating the app. Search Adjusting The Camera: Peter Moeykens.
For a base and mirror from Osmo search on “Osmo new base for ipad”. You might find one cheaper than Amazon. Or ask if I have started to sell mine. Mine work great!
For those with only Android devices (phone and/or tablet), there is a similar app called ‘Artist’s Eye’. It has been improved to get close to the one above. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=karhulabs.daid Also, “Da Vinci Eye – Anyone Can Draw” I have not tried this app. With an Android app you need a way to hold the tablet over or in front of your art. Please see my article on purchasing tablet holders. (They are excellent for on line learning too!)
Bubble levels: If you use an app with your tablet positioned over your paper you must ensure the tablet and paper are level with one another. Tool stores or home improvement stores sell bubble levels. If you buy them on line make sure they are around 32mm or close to 1.25″. You will find lots of tiny ones you don’t want!
Here are a few YouTube for more instructions on drawing your images.
Lesson 10 / Doing a drawing for a Painting / Stan Miller YouTubes from Stan Miller are excellent! This one shows how to use light to trace an image onto your watercolor paper. You can use MY easels with plexiglass to do the same thing!!
Four ways of beginning a portrait by Ben Lustenhouwer 17 min. YouTube where he discusses and explains 4 ways to transfer a drawing to Canvas or to WC paper, 1. Trace from full size drawing, 2. Projecting an image, 3. Grid method, 4. Drawing from direct observation. He gives good detail on each!!
This YouTube is from JD Hillberry is one using grid method, X-Cross, and using a prop-deviders to get a drawing on paper. http://www.jdhillberry.com
Last Change 20 Aug 20, added a PDF of the cal sheet and wording. 28 July 20, minor wording and linked to my article on Tablet Holders, 5 Mar 20, updated the tablet stands and wording. 3 Mar 19, updated the Tablet stand, 28 Aug 18, updated the prices. 29 Jun 17, edited and added Stan Miller link. 21 Feb 17, added tablet holder with desk clamp, 11 Dec 16, Added a YouTube on 4 ways to get a drawing onto paper or canvas.