Improving your skills as an artist takes passion and dedication. Whether you want to be a professional artist or just get good at a new hobby -- with a little patience and a lot of practice, you can create thoughtful, high-quality art. You should develop a daily routine to practice and have an open mind about taking on new ones and experimenting with old skills. Training your eyes to see the world as an artist will also help you create realistic pieces or work with light, shadows and composition in a new, creative way. Art is supposed to be unique, so have fun and don't shy away from breaking the rules!
Method 1 of 3: Learning new techniques
Step 1. Look for free online tutorials to learn techniques such as blending or light and shade
If you want to learn how to create certain colors or how to create realistic light and dark and shadows, consider watching some free online tutorials. Keep your sketch pad and supplies handy so you can pause the video and practice while the instructor explains.
- Carefully read the comment section accompanying the videos as it is likely that other artists have left some tips and suggestions.
- Look for tutorials in a particular technique you want to learn. For example, you can find good classes on composition, working with light, cubism, surrealism or even creating 3D effects. If you can think of it, the internet probably has it!
Step 2. Take private lessons or join an art class that focuses on specific skills
If you're a beginner, head to local community centers and libraries for beginner courses. If you are already a little or more advanced, consider enrolling in classes at a local college or art institution, if possible.
- Taking classes is a great way to meet other artists and receive constructive criticism.
- To find local instructors, classes and workshops near you, visit
Step 3. Use instruction books if you are a beginner or learning a specific skill
Workbooks are a great way to start if you're a beginner or looking for a very specific skill like figure drawing or cartooning. This is a great option if you have a busy schedule as you can tackle each lesson at your own pace.
- You can buy instruction books online or at most major bookstores.
- If you borrow an instruction book from your local library, don't draw in the book! Photocopy the practice pages so you can draw on them.
- If you're a beginner, look for instructional books that have traceable practice sheets so you can get a feel for them before practicing on a canvas or sketch pad.
- Beware of the 'paint or draw by number' system – this can help if you're an absolute beginner, but it can also hinder your individual style. Great artists are unique!
Step 4. Connect with other artists for tips on styles and materials
If you want to learn how to draw or paint certain things (such as people, animals and landscapes) or want to work with certain materials (such as oil paint, watercolor and charcoal), join an online artist group, for example. Check the forums for a particular style or material and don't be afraid to ask questions!
- Deviant Art, Artist Daily and Wetcanvas are convenient online communities with thousands of artists to connect with and learn from.
- For example, you might visit a new artist conversation and post something like, "I'm trying to learn different techniques for mixing oil paints. I'm also not sure what kind of brushes are best for my geometric style. Does anyone have any tips or advice?'
Step 5. Know your weaknesses and work on them
Take the time to think about the techniques you are really good at and which you can improve on. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 for each of the following skills: realism, figure drawing, portraiture, fantasy or memory drawing, proportion, composition, human anatomy, color mixing (or theory), and shading. Then put some extra time into working on those things that you rated low.
- For example, if you are good at drawing geometric shapes but have trouble with light and shadow, spend more time practicing different light and shadow techniques.
- Set a realistic goal for improving particularly weak skills. For example, you could say, "I'm going to spend at least 40 minutes of each sketching session practicing light and shadow on faces."
Method 2 of 3: Practice your skills
Step 1. Practice every day and set yourself goals
Schedule time each day to practice, even if you only have 20 minutes to spare! Practicing every day is essential to learn and master new techniques. If you're a beginner, make an effort to practice for at least 30 minutes a day and gradually work your way up to an hour or more.
- After dinner or before bed are good times to exercise as it will help you relax from the day.
- Mark days in your calendar that you are working on your art. Try to find as many consecutive days as possible to create a good habit.
- Set daily or weekly goals for your art practice. For example, you could say, "I finish one charcoal sketch a week."
Step 2. Use a wooden mannequin to practice drawing anatomy
To practice drawing the body, place a wooden mannequin in any position. This is especially helpful for learning the correct proportions.
You can buy a mannequin online or at any art and craft store
Step 3. Use a photo as a reference to practice creating realistic art
Use a photo you took or cut one out of a magazine. Hang it near your workplace and try to imitate it as closely as possible. You can also take some elements of the photo (such as the color scheme and composition) and use them as inspiration for your own artistic creation.
Step 4. Set up your own still lifes to draw or paint
Search your home for interesting objects that you want to paint or draw. Then arrange those things in an interesting way for whatever background you want. For example, you could place a vase, candle and bowl of fruit on a table in front of a checkered wall.
- When setting up a model, play with the composition by moving pieces around before you get to work.
- Create interesting shadows by rearranging larger or taller pieces relative to the light source. For example, you can create an interesting shadow over a bowl by placing a tall candle between the bowl and the light source in the room.
Step 5. Ask a friend or family member to act as a model
If you want to practice drawing or portraying life, consider asking someone you know to sit in front of you while you sketch or paint. Make sure they don't mind sitting still for as long as you need!
When drawing a live model, keep the lighting in mind. You can use a small desk lamp to illuminate the model from the side to create interesting shadows
Step 6. Invest in quality art supplies
Better paint, tools and other materials will often give better results and last longer. Putting money into your art also makes you more likely to take it seriously and keep practicing. Don't completely swear off cheaper materials, just try to work with the best materials for what you're trying to do.
- Experiment with different brands of the same media in different price ranges.
- Loose materials (such as paint, pencils and markers) are often cheaper than ready-to-use kits.
- Don't get started on the art supplies for kids! These brands usually don't have the same features as the more professional or artist versions.
Step 7. Break out of your comfort zone by trying out new media and styles
Try out different media and styles to expand your general skills. For example, if you usually use pencils and colored pencils to create classic art, try working with pastels for a new perspective. Or if you're used to drawing anime, try surreal art or cubist styles.
- If you don't mind spending a little extra, get a pressure-sensitive tablet to take your art to a new (digital) level!
- Getting to know different media will also help you create unique pieces using mixed techniques.
Step 8. Get inspired by your favorite artists
Look at the work of some of your favorite artists and consider learning how they have used certain techniques. Suppose you want to learn how to use shapes in an interesting way, you can study Picasso's Guernica and try to recreate a similar sense of urgency through the geometry of your work.
- To take another example, suppose you want to get better at mixing colors, you can focus on imitating a particular part of one of Van Gogh's works. Then use that skill and apply it to your own work.
- Visit local art galleries and museums for inspiration. And while you do go, read the artists' notes and statements next to their works to see what materials they used. If the artist is present, ask them about the techniques used.
Step 9. Don't be afraid to experiment and break existing rules
Some of the greatest artists have strong opinions and unique points of view, so feel free to rebel against artistic standards. Think of how Picasso rebelled against the traditional way of seeing or how Edgar Degas rejected the classical way of image composition. As Picasso said, "Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist!"
Art is all about making mistakes and working with them, so if you're experimenting and don't like the result, find a way to make something new out of it
Method 3 of 3: Training your artistic eye
Step 1. Take the time to look at your surroundings with curiosity
Study the color, shape, texture and size of random things you come across during the day. Look at the face of the person you are talking to. Notice how the light affects the shadows and the shape of their features. Pay special attention to how the light appears on certain textures such as clothing and skin.
- Noticing these things will help you gain a better understanding of what real objects look like when different types of light fall on them.
- As a fun exercise, try describing objects without using their names to help you visualize and capture shapes. For example, if you look at a tree, you can describe the trunk as an oblique cylinder and the leaves as small lemon shapes.
Step 2. Identify variations in color so that you can mimic them accurately
When you look at something, pay attention to any color variations and how that makes your eyes want to linger or look at something else. Note the subtle hues within a particular color (like all the different shades of red on an apple).
For example, if you're looking at a brightly colored tulip, notice how the hot pink petals contrast with the soft green hue of the stem and how your eyes are drawn to the lighter tips of the petals
Step 3. Squint at objects to see their composition of shape and color
Take the time to fix your eyes on a particular thing, landscape, or scene. Squinting your eyes allows you to see color and detail and blurs the distinction between things. This is especially useful if you want to paint a mass of individual things that are far away, such as a landscape or a forest full of trees.
Squinting your eyes will also help you distinguish between shadow and light
Step 4. Use the negative space to create balance or tension
When looking at a particular object or scene, pay attention to the background space (such as a wall, table, or backdrop). Allowing negative space in your paintings will give it a sense of balance or tension, depending on the scene and the overall aesthetic.
For example, pay attention to the colors, shadows and textures of objects behind the central objects you want to paint. For example, a wall of burnt orange with a diagonal shade can make the candles and flowers in the foreground stand out more
Step 5. Study the composition of a particular scene or object
Notice how certain objects are merged into shapes or lines. The geometry of a particular scene or collection of objects draws the viewer to a particular pattern.
For example, imagine a still scene from a bookstore. The aisle on the left creates a line that moves the eye vertically, a string of twinkling lights between the shelves can cause the eye to move upwards, and another shelf encourages the eye to move up or down. The vertical eye movements on either side of the painting can act as a kind of frame for the still life
- Join a local meeting group with other artists so you can share tips, critique each other's work, and practice together.
- Ask friends and family to critique your work -- if one of them is an artist, even better!
- Everyone has an opinion about art, so learn to handle criticism and be open to different interpretations of your work.
- Don't worry about drawing or painting quickly. Let the time pass and be fully present in what you are doing.