The Secrets to Drawing: Drawing From Photos

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Lesson Discussion

  1. No matter how I file and copy this photo it comes out to dark to see the darkest areas on the right shadowed side so I lose the detail I need to really see what is in each grid square Any suggestions? I don’t have my computer in the same room as my drawing board area so I can’t just use the computer screen
    photo which is very clear and highly detailed. The problem might be my printer’s capacity to print.

  2. The grid technique is something new to me. It seems like something that does take patience but is very rewarding as well. Looks like I will have to try this!

  3. Wonderful classes, thank you.
    What is the catch to getting the grid to print on the image? All the image and grid adjustments worked well, but cannot get the grid to print. Using OSX 10.6.8 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 (2008); same difficulty with GIMP. Thank you.

  4. I spent 3 years in art school and I have learned so much in these few days of watching your videos. In school, my professors focused on the idea of conceptual art and creating a series of art based on an enduring idea. Often times this seems to create a block for me because I have no idea where to start and its overwhelming. I wanted to ask if you used this enduring idea and how you approach it if you do? Any advice would be much appreciated.

    • Hi Candis,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m not familiar with an “enduring idea”, but it sounds a lot like a theme. My opinion is that art doesn’t have to fit into a category. In other words, requiring you to have an “enduring idea” doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I think that you should just keep creating and let your voice and message emerge on its own time.

  5. Hi matt,
    you teach about how i could use photoshop and make those 3×3 box easily. thank you.
    i use macbook. there is no photoshop. (I miss the Microsoft computer now).
    For these simple line work. what kind of free apps would be helpful? Or, instead i should purchase some kind of specific app?
    ah…. by the way, what kind of affordable or free beginner artwork apps you think is great?
    thank you.

    • Photoshop is definitely available for the Mac, there’s no question about that, it’s always been available on the Mac since the very first version. However, unless you’re going to get into extensive commercial image production either through digital art or photography, it’s much more than you need especially given that is not free.

      On a Mac, you can download the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) to get a lot of the same features and not pay for it. If you want a commercial option, then the rather fantastic Affinity Photo application (available in the Mac App Store) is a great choice and one that I would recommend to Photographers looking to break free of the Adobe world.

      Failing all of that… Many word processors can get you there too. For a Mac, using Pages (which is free from Apple), you can drop in the image on a blank document and adjust the size. Then using the editing tools, move the saturation slider to -100% to make it grayscale. Finally use the ruler and guidelines to draw your grid with the line tool.

  6. Hi, Matt, This is Ophelia from China. Thanks for the video. I am just wondering about the technique you use for the background there. You say you use small circles? The effect is nice and neat but we dont really see the small circles. no direct lines or cross hatching there? Do you use cirlcles instead of direct lines so as to vary from the fur texture(lines)?

    • Hi Ophelia,

      You may not see the actual lines that are created by drawing small circles. It’s really more about applying the material using a circular motion to eradicate any visible lines.

  7. Like Mary Anne, I cannot get the grid to print on the picture I am using. I am using photoshop, and I looked up on their help, and the only thing I could find on grids says that the grid is non printable. Any suggestions?

  8. This is just the motivation I needed. I downloaded GIMP and I am drawing my first grid drawing (since majoring in art in college) from one of my husband’s photos. I am so glad I found this website. Thank you!

  9. Hi I am really enjoying your videos, so far I haven’t tried to do any drawing but I have downloaded the ebooks and when I start drawing will go through the videos again. Your drawing today was amazing. I have used a grid before so do know the benefits of it.

  10. Hi Matt, the next video in this series module 13 “creating successful compositions” does not have the module header bar and the click to view option. I am viewing on my iPad and don’t normally have any problems. I will try shortly on my PCs and see if this happens there too.

  11. Regarding the Photoshop grid….. In Windows, instead of “Photoshop.. Preferences .. Guides, grids, & Slice”, try, “EDIT.. Preferences… guide/grid” to get to the screen where you can make the grid size and color choices.

  12. This is great practice. Initially I really procrastinated this. Then I learned the grid in Photoshop. More recently I transferred design to paper. Then I procrastinated. Then I began to do the value work. After an hour, I began to study tutorials on drawing fur. Watched your video many, many times. FINALLY, I began to isolate each address on grid and draw it. I struggled to stay away from spontaneously working other areas but finally I isolated the particular square and covered the rest on both reference & drawing paper. That did not allow me to shift to another area spontaneously because now I couldn’t see it!! Kept thinking “trust the grid” as I worked it, square by square. WOW. That was a very good learning experience. My spontaneity can feel artistically inspired, but I can see that it takes me away from the consistency and deliberate effort that this practice requires to learn value & texture, & form in graphite drawing. I really procrastinated this and now find I learned a lot and am feeling more successful. Great subject for this.

  13. Oh my gosh! This is awesome! I first learned to draw using the grid method and always use it for my portrait drawings…but thought it was bad and that if I used the grid then I wasn’t a very good artist and should learn to draw without it. Thank you Matt! You have no idea how elated you have made me with this video. You are such a great artist and I am so glad I found The Virtual Instructor.

  14. Best lesson yet, this is very helpful for trying to reproduce a photo, I had to draw my own 1×1 boxes but it was worth it, my drawings are getting so much better. Super lecture

  15. Matt;

    Bravo for this site, Your patient, systematic approach is effective. Question: How long did this drawing take to complete? You talk about patience when drawing detailed graphite compositions…an estimate of the time this took you would be helpful when working through my own drawings. In other words, “if this took Matt an hour I am doing alright if I am at two hours” kind of thing. DBW

    • Hi David,

      Thanks so much!!! This drawing took approximately 4-5 hours to complete from start to finish. With that being said, speed is relative. Some folks will work faster and produce high quality results while others need to work a little slower. The important thing is to work at a speed where you can be the most successful. So in other words, take YOUR time – which may be different than MY time. 🙂

  16. Hi Matt,

    I am hoping I can pick your mind on something quite crucial.

    I’ve been able to draw very well since I was a kid – I’m 30. Though I’m an engineer by trade, art remains my first love. I never had formal training, so this course has helped me to grasp the basics of what I need to learn to make my work more realistic. I wish I could post some pics here of what I’ve been able to make use of from what I’ve picked from your lessons – I’m genuinely impressed with myself and hope to learn more.

    Here’s my question: I struggle drawing using an artificial light, for this reason I prefer working during the day, i.e. when I have time or immediately after work (17h00 – 18h30). I find that artificial light really obscures the quality of the value on paper work – it adds an extra sheen and it tends to become difficult to keep track of gradations in color or shading. I’ve struggled with this since I was kid and rarely drew at night. I rarely draw at night. Is this a common problem with artists dealing with graphite or other mediums? Do I need better lighting in my room and what kind? I’m only asking because it appears you draw next to an artificial light source.

    Your response will be highly appreciated.

    Lastly, I appreciate how professional and systematic the content on the site is.

  17. I downloaded your photo of the gorilla but am having difficulty figuring out how to apply the grid using GIMP. Could you please provide instruction on that?


  18. I am using an iPad Pro 10.5. I cannot find an Adobe App that gives me a grid choice. The iOS edit for photos gives a default grid.

  19. I have been going through lessons in ‘The Secrets to Drawing’ with interest, and I found them useful until I hit the one that deals with grids on photographs. I cannot understand why such grids are necessary.

    I have a photograph by Henri Cartier Bresson of Jean Paul Sartre. Sartre appears in the bottom right-hand corner, and the bulk of the photo is a gloomy linear and aerial perspective – perhaps Cartier Bresson implies some aspect of Sartre’s character. It is a masterpiece. The perspective intrigued me, having read your previous lessons on perspective. I could use your grid technique to draw this picture, but this would just replicate the photo. What would be the sense in that? Where would my creation be? My thought about your gorilla is the same. Why all the detailed work to produce a near likeness of the photo, when the photo seems interesting in itself, and your diagram adds little to your creativity? By creativity I mean your individuality. Surely no two artists would produce the same drawing of an object because no two people are the same, and if they did the same drawing where would the art be?

    • Hi Ivan,

      This is just a method for ensuring accuracy, which is important sometimes. You don’t have to use this technique if you want to be more creative.

  20. If we are following along with the video, once we have the drawing of the gorilla complete, how can we show you our progress and get your advice. Thanks.

  21. the wrinkles on my drawing doesnt look very realistic…what is the catch for drawing wrinkles? the fur is hard too…What is expected of a complete begginer at this point of the course? I wonder if iam getting caught in trying to get too much details…

    • Hi Lilian,

      Wrinkles are just a form of texture and texture is about value. A wrinkle typically has a highlight, a mid tone and then a shadow. Most beginners just the draw shadow – usually a line, but there’s more information there. If you get the highlight and the shadow, then a wrinkle will look more realistic. As far as what is expected of a beginner – just do your best and don’t get discouraged. Drawing is a skill that develops gradually over time with knowledge and practice. Keep at it and don’t judge yourself on the result of the drawing but the knowledge gained from the experience.

  22. I really enjoyed this lesson. It took some basic principles from many years of cross stitch and brought a picture I took to life. So thankful to be taking these lessons.

  23. LOVE, LOVE LOVE this! Exactly what I am here for. I haven’t ever used the grid technique before and look forward to trying this out. Can’t wait to dive into this lesson!! Thanks for the great video lessons. I am hoping in other courses I can find much deeper videos on techniques on highly realistic drawing.

  24. Enjoying the lessons and learning so much Mat. Can you direct me the link to the Gif photo manipulation programme. Can’t seem to find it. Many thanks

  25. Matt, I signed up for your colored pencil course on Udemy 2 years ago. Life got in the way, discovered your VIRTUAL INSTRUCTOR and **OHHHH** so many courses to take so signed up for it ALL. Sooo soooo happy I did!

    1) Is GIMP still a prog suggested in 2022?
    2) I’ve done the Kingfisher, are there other images you suggest for a newby learning colored pencil?

    PS – I plan on the cupcake since I also saw that in the COLORED PENCIL Magazine, which I of course promptly subscribed to 🙂

    Thank you for all the teachings

  26. I am trying to watch The Secrets to Drawing course. The sound is there but no video. I can only see the title slide. I have tried watching other courses and they are okay. Is there a problem with this course?

  27. I don’t have photo software, so what I do is go to library and print image in black and white. I keep the color on my screen and the printout beside me.

  28. Thank you so much for creating these courses! I just started and was struggling with some concepts, but you made them clear. Amazing work! Clear and concise.

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