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"How do I improve my art work?" is one of the most asked questions in art related forums, mainly regarding drawing and painting in any media. Because the question is recurring so often, I wrote the following tips that I still copy-paste in various threads.

You can apply these universal strategies not just to traditional and digital painting media, but most of them even to photography and collage.


- Look at pictures by artists you admire, and try to figure out things. How do they handle light and color? What edges are sharp, and what edges are soft? Why do they use that particular color there? What technique did they use? How did they work? The more you look at work of others, the more different kinds of styles and techniques you will see.

- Learn from the masters. Copy works you adore. Not for imitating the artist or showcasing your copy, but for the sake of learning. Don't be shy, ask your favorite artist everything you want to know, such as "What paper do you draw on?", or "How do you go about painting a picture, do you start with a sketch?", etc. But be specific, don't ask "how can I paint like that?". And check the artist's website, chances are they already have tutorials, a FAQ or step-by-step tutorials there.

- Challenge yourself. Never used a particular medium? Then buy it, no matter how poor you are, and try it out. Never drawn a still life? Do it. Never used that particular color scheme? Give it a try. At a certain point, when you are afraid of repeating yourself, you are on the right track to improve.

- Use reference. If you aim for realism, you can't paint most things straight from your imagination. The old masters always made preliminary studies of life models, and did most paintings from life models too. For example, if you are unsure how to paint a head with the light source from below, look up a photo, or take it yourself, or have someone pose for it. It is worth every effort!
Stock photos from deviantartists can be a valuable resource also and provide inspiration.

- Draw from life. It's probably the most valuable practice that there is. Sign up for a life drawing class so that you'll be actually "forced" to do it. Believe me, it works wonders.
As for studying anatomy from books about figure drawing (Loomis, Bammes, etc.) a good exercise is to copy the body parts and figures in there and then trying to draw the same from your mind to see how much you remembered.

- Look up tutorials. Browse through the tutorial section and study the many different ways and media of the different artists. Also visit the websites of the great artists here - many have tutorials up there.

- Collect pictures. On my harddisk, I have different folders of fantastic art.
They are very inspiring to browse through and can give you new ideas in terms of technique. Whenever I feel uninspired, I look through my folders.
The images I've collected over time, mainly from Cgtalk.com, Deviantart, Epilogue, Artrenewal.org and many other websites.

Further Reading:
Why Reference is not a crutch

Useful resources
itchstudios.com/psg/art_tut.ht…
airage.deviantart.com/art/Insi…
www.youtube.com/watch?v=MC-4HT…
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih3djT…
forums.cgsociety.org/showthrea…
nykolai.deviantart.com/art/Pai…
forums.cgsociety.org/showthrea…

Forums for those who want to learn
ConceptArt
Pixelbrush
Sijun
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:iconanna2323:
anna2323 Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2015  Student Artist
All tutorials say that I can't use ideas*goes to the lava pit of uselessness*
Reply
:iconkristinagehrmann:
KristinaGehrmann Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Huh? What do you mean?
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:iconanna2323:
anna2323 Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2015  Student Artist
And this is why I can't do this. I draw on the iphone I'm using
Reply
:iconspocky87:
Spocky87 Featured By Owner Edited Aug 26, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sometimes... I feel myself a little bit worried because i think my art is not good enough. (Especially Traditional). And working on it as hard as i can.CURSE YOU! 

And sometimes..., i'm jealous at certain artists here that are better at traditional than me (digital too) And how they got the most attention.Sniff 

I have a flash drive with alot of pics stored with humans and other stuff to use for references. Atleast, it looks better than 5-10 years ago.:phew:

Thanks for writing this journal.Here's a kiss for you, my love! 
Reply
:iconbluefoxycat:
bluefoxycat Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I am really terrible at digital art on GIMP. In utter fact, I barely post any of my GIMP artworks. Or Inkscape.
Reply
:iconthaeonblade:
Thaeonblade Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014  Student Writer
I'm going to keep this in mind.

I really do feel like my art is missing something that takes it from "okay" to "really good".
Reply
:iconryokokyzuka179:
RyokoKyzuka179 Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2014
I can give it some thought but a lot of my favorite artists I ask are douchers... and won't bother to respond most times :/ EVEN WHEN I ASK NICELY DX
Reply
:iconkristinagehrmann:
KristinaGehrmann Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Maybe your question is already answered in a FAQ somewhere on their website, or journal. :) Or maybe it is a very general question that has been discussed in art forums already.

But anyway, if your favorite artists are really "douchers", they're probably not that good anyway. Learning to draw is a tough journey that humbles those who spend the many years on it that are necessary to attain mastery, because it makes them realize how much they don't know yet.
 MY favorite artists, atleast, have always been most kind and helpful.
Reply
:iconartgool:
ArtGool Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
This helps a lot.
I'm always too scared to try something new because I'm afraid it'll look stupid and I'll mess it up. I guess now I should just practice more with different techniques! 
Reply
:iconghaleonvash:
ghaleonvash Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thanks for the tips
Reply
:iconmoonwolfyouthotaku:
MoonwolfYouthOtaku Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is well thought out and it gave some hope to improve a lot more =)
Reply
:iconpokeabubble:
pokeabubble Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2013
Thanks for writing this! I've noticed that I'm always to scared to get out of my comfort zone, hehe.
Reply
:iconshadowstormex:
ShadowStormEX Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2013  Hobbyist Filmographer
hey can you tell me how to draw great art in a specific software i mean i have joined alot of final fantasy groups and the fan made artwork they come up with is always so inspiring the color the light and everything else so i wanna learn to draw and make digital art like that for now i can only do manips and small stuff like this [link] and now i have even forgotten how to do this as well so please help me bcoz i really wanna bcome a gud artist like my companions, + i don't know in what software to draw and how to do it???
Reply
:iconkristinagehrmann:
KristinaGehrmann Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Photoshop and graphics tablet. Just search for digital painting Photoshop tutorials here on deviantart.
Reply
:iconshadowstormex:
ShadowStormEX Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2013  Hobbyist Filmographer
i already know how to use photoshop i need a software that will let me draw
Reply
:iconkristinagehrmann:
KristinaGehrmann Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Photoshop is for drawing too. I use Photoshop. Do you have a graphics tablet?
Other drawing tools are Manga Studio, SAI, Corel Painter.
Reply
:iconshadowstormex:
ShadowStormEX Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2013  Hobbyist Filmographer
NO, i don't have a tablet, and is manga studio awesome enough to be recommended by you!!??
Reply
:iconkristinagehrmann:
KristinaGehrmann Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I never tried it, I just listed drawing software I know. Lots of people make awesome work with it. But you should get a graphics tablet for drawing, because drawing without a tablet is like eating soup with a fork.
Reply
:iconshadowstormex:
ShadowStormEX Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2013  Hobbyist Filmographer
well thanks for showing concern i'll see what i can do!!
Reply
:icontorniquelle:
Torniquelle Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for this! I have been thinking about applying for art school and then I keep beating myself down saying that I'm not good enough. Thank you again for this advice! I will take it to heart and try and learn as much as I can.
Reply
:iconskunkshampoo:
SkunkShampoo Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Good, good. I love it :). I just skimmed through because I'm browsing on my phone, but I saved this to my favorites for future reference. Thanks much for sharing and providing advice.
Reply
:iconlove-to-imagine:
love-to-imagine Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2012
thanks a lot
Reply
:iconmarobee:
MaroBee Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Thank you for the references Maidith, I'll definitely share your tip my fellow artist to keep it fresh on their minds.
Reply
:iconmelpark999:
melpark999 Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks soooo much for this advice. =D
Reply
:iconbelugababy:
BelugaBaby Featured By Owner May 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for this well-delivered advice!
Reply
:iconlucyelva:
lucyelva Featured By Owner May 7, 2012  Student Filmographer
Thank you so much for this reference!
Reply
:iconnf7:
nf7 Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Student
I freakin' love you. This is the sort of advice I am so desperate to get, but so few people seem willing to give!
Reply
:iconcirquedecircle:
CirquedeCircle Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much:) i'm trying to improve as fast as I can so I can convince my parents to let me go to an art college.
Reply
:iconshattered-stereo:
Shattered-Stereo Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2011  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you i have been looking for ideas like this :clap:
Reply
:iconminokuart:
MinokuART Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Wow this answered all my questions, I just wish that i had proper blending tools and stuff.
Reply
:iconglossyhooves:
GlossyHooves Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2011  Student General Artist
Collecting art- very good idea. That should get me going when my momentum stops.
Reply
:iconmidnitestardust:
midnitestardust Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011
thank you so much :D :iconjoyplz:
Reply
:icontoshi13go:
toshi13go Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2011
that's just what i was looking for, thanks mate!
Reply
:icondeviant666-aj:
Deviant666-AJ Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2011  Student Interface Designer
gud info thank u vry much
Reply
:iconsinnistvether:
sinnistvether Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2011
it's very useful. thanks

i wonder if you allow me to translate this article into Thai language and post in other threads, as guidance or tips for ones who want to improve their artworks. surely, i will give you credit for the article. i'm looking forward to your reply and sorry for my awful language.
Reply
:icongaarascookiegirl334:
gaarascookiegirl334 Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
☜(・ω・☜)
さんきゅう!!!
Reply
:iconcuzzacurry:
CuzzaCurry Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010  Student Digital Artist
Never used a particular medium? Then buy it, no matter how poor you are, and try it out. I'd actually refrain from this LOL

Great guide, very helpful.
Reply
:iconbadakbcula1:
badakbcula1 Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2010  Student Digital Artist
this is very useful! thanks for telling us this great tips! :heart:
Reply
:iconninjahound:
Ninjahound Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2010
Thank you so much for the article, it really makes me want to go look at some photos and try to draw something different ^^
Reply
:iconacwart:
ACWart Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
thank u for useful resousces link.
Reply
:iconlady-greenfyre:
Lady-Greenfyre Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
very helpful~!
Reply
:iconmelipeach-chan:
MeliPeach-chan Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2009  Student Traditional Artist
Awesome article~
I think every artist knows most of these tips~
But sometimes we have to be reminded to get back in track~
xD Thank you for this!!~
I like it ^^

It's really useful info o(*-*)b
Reply
:iconyukiko-berrie:
Yukiko-berrie Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2009  Student Traditional Artist
i`ll totally try using anatomy for poses, it really helps me out when i draw. Thanks a bunch for the awesome suggestions ;D
Reply
:iconsashikuneko:
SashikuNeko Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2009
Right now i feel so discouraged. Sure I've come very far since i started, but no one notices but me. I feel like I haven't improved enough, and my whole heart is just aching right now. Sorry to post something so negative here, but I don't know who else to talk to right now.
Reply
:iconinvadersymz:
InvaderSymz Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2009
Ohh I feel the same way :[ My best friend one ups every picture I draw and whats worse is that shes not even trying to be better than me. She'll give me little pictures and my friends and family will all gasp and be like 'WOW this is so amazing! Melissa is such a great artist' and I'll feel like such a failure, even though I know I've improved a lot. But don't get discouraged! One day you'll get noticed an it'll be HUGE! :D
Reply
:iconsleepyforest:
sleepyforest Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2009
An amazing article indeed. :aww:
Reply
:iconthe8mice:
The8Mice Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2008
Thank you very much :love:
Reply
:iconsyllphiel:
syllphiel Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
i love the suggestions and i think i'll try them out...^^
Reply
:iconkaynessart:
KaynessArt Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2008  Professional Digital Artist
great advice, Kristina! I will fave this article for future referrences
Reply
:iconmirai-mika:
Mirai-Mika Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2008  Student Traditional Artist
this really helps. I'll try these tips! ^^
Reply
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