Here are a few simple steps to achieve a realistic still life graphite drawing.

Caravaggio is one of my favorite classic painters, he’s famous for his use of dramatic lighting in his paintings during the Baroque era.  You don’t have to be tied down to this particular technique, but I plan to use a similar effect in demonstating this drawing.

  • Subject Matter & Materials:
    • First decide on the subject matter and materials to use:
    • there are many different methods and styles to experiment with.
    • For this drawing, I used Strathmore Drawing paper and drawing pencils ranging from 2HB (hardest lead) to 8B (softest lead).
  • The Drawing Process:
    • To begin, I used a “rule of thirds” method for the placement of the orange.
    • In other words, I did not place the orange dead centered.
    • I took a 2HB pencil and quickly sketched the subject and background, blocking the darks and lights.

Photo Realistic Graphite Drawing Tips

    • Here, I used 2B, 4B & 6B pencils and filled in the areas with dark and light values.

Photo Realistic Graphite Drawing Tips

    • Along the way, I went back and built up multiple layers of graphite using different types of pencils ranging from HB to 4B.
    • I used an 8B pencil for the very heavy (black) areas and shaded it very dark. It helped to make the orange pop out of nowhere.
    • Then, I took a 2H pencil and carefully create a cross-hatch method by rotating my hand around without touching the drawing.
    • This is a very slow process, however it gives a nice photo-realistic detail and style at the end.

Photo Realistic Graphite Drawing Tips

  • The Finish:
    • Lastly and most importantly, you want to make sure you spray a couple coats of workable fixative on the drawing for protection.

I hope this post has been helpful and I wish you luck! Doug

Guest author/artist: D.E. West is a Contemporary Artist who specializes in oils, acrylics and graphite. He prefers Still Life, Nature and Landscape settings. He also illustrated his first children’s book with an author friend out of Florida few months ago. West lives in Kansas City with his wife and 3 kids. For more information, please check ~ or visit my blog ~


Doug is another talented artist friend whom I met on Twitter. I am grateful for his helpful tip and hope he is a guest author again real soon! Lori

Lori McNee

Lori McNee is a professional artist who specializes in still life, and landscape oil paintings. She is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America, Plein Air Painters of Idaho, serves on the Plein Air Mag Board of Advisors, and is an Artist Ambassador to Arches/Canson/Royal Talens. As the owner of, Lori blogs about fine art tips, marketing, and social media advice for the aspiring and professional artist. As a social media influencer, Lori ranks as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and named a #TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post. She is a keynote speaker, has been a talk show host for Plum TV, writes for F+W Media publications including Artist’s Magazine, Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, Photographer’s Market. Also, Zero to 100,000: Social Media Tips & Tricks for Small Businesses. Lori is also a member of the CBS Entertainment Tonight & The Insider Tweet Team.

21 thoughts on “Photo Realistic Graphite Drawing Tips

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    • Lori McNee says:

      Hello Daud, you can’t get to that step without the first two. It is best to start lightly, and build up. Otherwise, you will make mistakes that can’t be corrected. I hope this helps…

    • Lori McNee says:

      Hi Steve, there are some different types of Mylar. Usually the type that is available in art stores is semi-opaque, archival, and has a tooth on both sides that is receptive to colored pencil. You can obtain interesting effects by applying colored pencil to both sides of a Mylar drawing. Have you tried this? Thanks!

  5. Sheetal Nair says:

    Lori,i am sheetal,iam an interior designer..but left work and am now a stay at home mom..i have small kids aged 4+ and 6+whom i have to care for..when i learnt drawing interiors ,rendering they mostly focus on point pencils..
    and if we want we can also colour,but never taught us to work with charcoal..i am a bit apprehensive about its effect..and will i be able to draw now?please do contact me on email id provided above..
    i am really looking forward to hearing from you..because shortly i am planning to join painting,drawing classes..but all the medium looks very nice to me..could not decide which one to learn..
    could you help me with that?
    thanking you

    • Lori McNee says:

      Hello again Sheetai, I am glad to hear that you are continuing your art and drawing as a stay at home mom. I did the same thing and have been very lucky to have my art career once my kids were grown.
      I would love to help you. I am starting a mentoring program and would love to have you join me. Hopefully in May I will have it in place. I could help you over Skype. I need to decided upon the logistics and price. Let me know if you are interested.

      Happy drawing!
      Lori 🙂

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