IS sketching off a picture useful??

I’ve thought a bout this a lot. And I’ve heard that it’s good to copy a pic from lets say a mag or a book or the internet. BUt then I’ve heard that it isnt good for some reason. Anyone know if it is good or it isnt??Thanx in advance!

I don;t think it’s good. If you need something to look at, use a real object. The problem is that an image is already flattened out, there’s no storytelling, or fabrication, or translation from 3-D to 2-D. Ultimately the 3-D will be coming out of your head. That’s a whole different discussion though, whether you get an idea, then draw it, or let the drawing inform your ideas, or both.

to help with ideation, I have my students draw something from life, like a cell phone, so the can learn the perspective and the nuances of the device that make it look look like a cell phone, part lines, speaker, mic, bezels, camera, etc. Then I have them put it away and draw 10 more cell phones to the same level of detail without anything in front of them. It works to some extent.

That’s a good exercise Brett.

I do think it is good to study photographs of objects as well. What I think you can get from it is understanding the perspectives and compositions that best communicate a product. Especially in advertising. Art directors and photographers spend a lot of time to select angles that best show a product. These images get locked into the mass perception of that product. Studying that accepted view and proportion you can selectively choose how to push and change it.

I was never one to duplicate photos though. I don’t think it would hurt however, so if you feel it would help you, give it a try.

It’s always good to draw, no matter how you go about doing it. Copying someone elses sketches (as an exercise obviously), for example, can teach you alot about how they created the drawing, how to properly shade, add reflections, etc. to make your stuff pop.
But I’ve also been taught throughout my life that to truly understand three dimensional objects, drawing still lifes or even simply analyzing form is the best way to go about it.
Regardless, the more you move that pen, the better you’re gonna get.

Thanx for the tips!

I agree that both drawing from real objects and photos/sketches can be useful.

Another helpful technique I find is tracing from a drawing/photo upside down. This way, you brain looks at the lines and doesnt draw what you “think” it is, but rather the pure spatial relationshipships between forms and line.

Its really helpful I find to get accurate perspectives aon complicated forms.

I also use a similar technique, drawing on the backside of a sketch or looking at it in through a light to see the mirror flipped view. Its amazing sometimes how off a drawing can be yet your brain is tricked into seeing it “correctly”. Looking at a sketch backwards or upside down counters your brain’s corrective perspective.

Drawing from scratch upside down can also be good to nail perspectives. takes a while to get used to, but you are far less to fall for the usual problems of wacked out vanishing points and diverging lines.


definitely, as long as you getting the mileage in, it all counts…one thing that i know i struggled with when i would draw from life is actually drawing what i see instead of my mind knew to be “correct” or what i knew or expected to be. in that way i guess drawing form a picture could save you that problem which might be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective (yes pun?)