Simple theories and excercises to improve your drawings


Here’s my attempt, he’s name is AwesomeMan. I tried but it doesn’t look right lol some help please?


Kami - his fist is nearest to the viewer… it should be sharpest! Compare it to the foot at the right border of the pic

Gonna post mine in a second…


the composition for the sake of completeness…:

My take on depth…:


I had the following problems:

  • perspective… none of your concern, but I suck at it. Need to go through that again

  • How do you blur? I just used a blur filter, but is there a preferrable method, like using brushes to do the job? IF so, how?

  • I am just starting to understand values through the work in the OFDWs around here and here I had to mind a full colour palette. I mean, keeping an eye on the values is one thing, but minding saturation at the same time was really hard.
    Maybe if we rested on this exercise a little longer? Or if someone who can spot my mistakes in this can give me a hint on what to mind next time so my homework does not totally suck? Again?


Awesome Mr. Mu. Thanks for the advice too. I didn’t know… I was trying to set the focus on the head. Guess it doesn’t work.

If you are using photoshop like me. There’s a blur tool on tool set. It’s under the eraser and you might have to right click it. hope it helps.


Hi Kami Z,

Awesome Mr. Mu.

Thank you… I am still unhappy about the outcome, hope someone can poke my nose in the dirt to make me find out why:shrug:

Thanks for the advice too. I didn’t know… I was trying to set the focus on the head. Guess it doesn’t work.

Sorry, I did not get that. In that case you were right to blur the fist (as Kirt said about very near objects), but you would have to blur the feet much more in comparison to the face, then, I guess…:slight_smile:

If you are using photoshop like me. There’s a blur tool on tool set. It’s under the eraser and you might have to right click it. hope it helps.

Hmmm, well no, I use artweaver, awesome freeware, take a look at the link in my sig… But now you said it I realize there’s a sort of blur brush there, too! So, thanks for that hint!

I do wonder though, is it better craftmanship to blur by blending colours? Is that advisable in order to “know your shit”, as the americans say:scream:



Kami Z - AwesomeMan is quite the styling guy! :smiley: But he does appear to be flat. Here’s a couple things that you can work on to fix him. First, the edges and details of his trailing arm and legs are too crisp. They are equal in all aspects to the character’s face and upper chest area (which should be closer to the viewer).

Secondly, the saturation levels are consistent throughout the whole character. Applying black shadows over the limbs will not desaturate the color (only make it darker). Try using other colors other than black and white for your highlights and shadows then you’ll find it easier to get the saturation corrected.

The smudge tool works really nicely to blur edges as well. :smiley:

Mr. Mu - Try to open up the character’s pose a bit so there is greater use of negative space. Since he’s bunched up tightly into a ball, it’s difficult to show perspective on his form. With arms and legs spaced out more, you’ll be able to see the distance in the pose more effectively.

Tighten up your edges on objects within the focal point and be more loose with objects close or further away from the focal point.

The desaturation of the furthest mountains is good, but I think you can push it further. Try to do some mountains that are less flat and planar. There appears to be 3 distinct planes that divide your image. If you can show that the mountains recede into the distance the image will be more convincing.


Thanks Kirt! I tried to fix it but it still doesn’t have a nice 3d feel. I think I blured the whole thing too much lol. Here’s my attempt to fix AwesomeMan. Instead of black I used a grayish blue for the desaturation.

Tell me what you think.

I’ll draw another picture for this excercise. I really want to get the hang of it.


Well, he does look more dimensional now. However, I think you could be a bit more subtle with the blur. It’s a bit too much which distracts from the illustration’s qualities. I look forward to seeing your next submission.


Hi Kirt,

thanks so much for all the useful hints - we’ll be visiting family members all over the place for a few days, so my update’s gonna take til next week, but it is sure to come,

merry christmas everyone



Hey Kirt,

I hope this thread isn’t dead! (Kami?)

It may turn out to be a private tuition, though…:smiley:

I tried to sharpen the edges on my character, blur the distant objects and desaturate the mountains even more. The mountains I tried to make less planar, also. What I feared to do is to recreate the pose of the character to make it more dynamic, but I might just do another assignment based on your hints on distance.

Looking forward to anyone’s updates and your lessons, Kirt!


No, the thread is not dead. I imagine everyone has taken a break for the holidays. I have much work to do at the end of the year on my job, so I may not be able to post my own drawing until next week sometime.

Good improvement on the furthest mountains, but it’s still a bit planar. Another thing about the character is that he looks as if he’s going to fall over. I wish I had some time tonight to draw a paintover for you. Hang in there and I’ll try to squeeze one in as soon as I can.


Hi Kirt,

this is not a character painting, but I thought it fit in here, because I could make use of both your tips on composition and depth in th emaking of this painting which I really liked when it was finished - which is rather seldom, you know?

I off-centered the circle of the petal, kept the contrast high in the foreground by juxtaposing hues and using crisp edges, while desaturating and blurring the petal at the left border. I think it worked.

If you have more gems in that pro-suitcase of yours and feel like sharing: I am all ears!

Also, if you think I should do another depth-exercise before we proceed… just let me know…

blows the dust off the desk
stares at the door of the classroom, light is slowly fading with the setting sun


Mr. Mu - Not bad. :thumbsup: However, I think that you could desaturate background colors a bit more and tighten up your edges around the focal point a bit more. The background is highly saturated, which is competing for attention with the forground point of interest. Here’s one of my older illustrations of a flower that has some of these principles applied.

Notice that even though the leaf in the bottom right is in the same plane as the flower/face, it’s focus is desaturated and blurred. This provides the viewer enough information to make out the form and relevance to the image, but contributes to make the flower the more important aspect of the image.

I’ve also used muted colors when dealing with background elements and reserved the highly saturated colors to draw the viewer’s attention to the main focal point in the image. The face is crisper and more focused than the green leafy parts behind it.

I think you can apply some of these ideas to your flower image to make it more focused and to convey more depth.


oh, very instructive counter-example!

raises arms
wiggles fingers in a wannabe virtuoso manner
will post an update soon


also the color red is the color the human eye tends to gravitate towards quicker than any other.

Another thing is doing hot and cold colors. Hot being the main focal points of your peice and the cold being everything else. hots are orange,red,violets,yellows cold colors are blue,greens etc.

Nice tips so far.



I have been looking through all of your instructions and it absolutely nowhere said: “Destroy the freshness of your painting by dumbwitted and blunt strokes which you place all about the canvas!”

So, erm, I seem to have added this instruction by myself…:scream:

which means, I think I might have succeeded at adding more depth, but I somehow destroyed the liveliness of the first attempt.

But as concerns depth… Do you think that’s better? I have another character concept on my mind, with a character that’s completely stretched out in the z-axis so I can apply the blur/desaturation to the body parts also… Will post this this week also, I think.

(Still hoping that someone will join in so I don’t get this private tuition feeling which is somehow uncomfortable…hope I am not bugging you…)


LOL :smiley:

Take it easy there Mr. Mu … you have to make mistakes (often) in order to learn. If it was easy, everyone would be doing this stuff and then it wouldn’t have any interest to anyone. I like your efforts and it’s good that you can have a sense of humor about the entire process.

Since things have sort of turned to a one on one situation here, I’m going to help you out with this sunflower. First thing I’m going to do is get a rough line drawing going. I like to work with a sketch, but it’s not a requirement. Some artists can just start painting and it works out great for them. I’m not one of those people.

I’ve used your original illustration and created the line drawing above. I’ve changed a few things, mainly getting tight edges on the pedals and varying the lengths a bit (making the close ones longer and the furthest shorter). This adds depth … perspective rule applies.

Some values are added for my own reference, but you can see how I’m putting the brightest spots on the forward pedals. This will remind me that the focus will be on these pedals and the center of the flower. The pedals along the back edge should be desaturated and blurred a bit.

[I’m doing this on my free time at work … so be patient for the next steps] :smiley:


Thanks for the continued effort, Kirt! Watch out for that Mr. Mu…he’s a feisty one! :scream:

hugs to Mr. Mu :slight_smile:




I’ve put my drawing on a layer set to multiply (which will null out your highlights - so be aware of where your bright spots used to be. Setting to luminosity will show where they’re at but will show colors on lower layers much brighter than you want). Under that I’ve created a new layer for my colors and started roughing in some values.

I’m going to try and do this with high saturation values to remain true to your original drawing, but will carefully mute colors where needed to push the depth. As you can see, I’ve reserved the highest saturation values for the focal point of the illustration. Leaves and pedals in the background are getting dulled and blurred.

But things are still very rough here …


I’m just adding in details and messing around with spreading my colors around the page now. Not much I can offer for advice here … I just doodle around until I hit on something that I like. The left side of the image is coming along OK. I’m not too pleased with the muddy look of the right side of the flower. So, I’ll continue working on that.

I also duplicated my color layer and applied some noise using a PS filter (then erased most of it). I generally say, “Avoid filters” but in moderation they can be helpful to introduce some chaos to your image. Another trick is to put a texture layer over the top and reduce the opacity enough so that the values randomly break up your solids. Unless you are going for a toon shader look, I find that a bit of random chaos improves the appearance of your brush strokes.

Still working on it …