Photo Realistic Graphite Drawing Tips

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

2013-12-28T12:40:23+00:00 January 13th, 2010|Fine Art Tips, General, Guest Articles, How To Paint, Draw & More|21 Comments


  1. khurram August 1, 2010 at 3:29 am

    i appriciate your work . it has feelings and depth. keep doing it 🙂

  2. edward johnson July 10, 2011 at 5:59 am

    You have agreat website with lots of insights on a variety of mediums, you are most definitely an inspiration to me.

    • Lori McNee July 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Thank you so much Edward. It is great to see you here!

      Happy creating-

      • sandip July 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

        yeh great work in shading

        • Lori McNee July 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm

          Thanks for the comment Sandip.

  3. DAUD JAVED KHOKHAR August 24, 2013 at 1:06 am


    • Lori McNee October 24, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      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…

  4. Steve Sandifer December 22, 2013 at 11:56 am

    What do you think about the use of mylar for color pencil drawings?

    • Lori McNee January 20, 2014 at 12:10 am

      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 March 12, 2014 at 2:27 am

    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 March 23, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      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 🙂

  6. Sheetal Nair March 12, 2014 at 2:30 am

    me again sheetal..Lori wow!that was is beautiful.i love it..keep up the wonderful work..

    • Lori McNee March 23, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Sheetai, Thank you for the complimentary feedback. I’m glad you are enjoying this blog. 🙂

  7. Michael June 13, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Hello Mam Lori McNee, what can I use to make
    my drawing look shiny, for example, the eyes?

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