How I Achieve Photorealism

Myra Naito
5 min readNov 23, 2022

My #1 Priority

Before we get into how I achieve photorealism, let’s define what photorealism is. Photorealism started off as a movement in the late 1960’s, primarily in New York and California. Photographs were used as a visual reference. This allowed artists to capture everything about the subject matter, including imperfections. The goal being a finished piece that is so highly detailed that a viewer would think it was a photograph.

These days photorealism still encompasses work that is meticulous in detail and incredibly realistic. Artists use a wide variety of mediums and methods vary from artist to artist. And the ultimate goal is still to produce a finished work that looks as close to a photo as possible.

Personally, I always use a photo or reference of some sort. But sometimes, a client’s photo of their pet awkwardly chops off part of the animal’s body and I end up having to ad-lib a bit.

The method that I use to achieve photorealism is probably pretty common. I start off with a very light, basic line drawing. The line drawing stage looks closer to an image you’d see in a coloring book. Just the outline with little to no details other than the outline. Granted, mine has a little more detail, but you can see what I mean in the alligator drawings below.

To achieve photorealism, good rendering skills are needed. This is what really makes a drawing or painting look realistic. In a nutshell, rendering involves adding color, value (shading), and texture to an image. A line drawing for example, won’t have any rendering. One of my finished portraits however, is highly rendered.

For Example…

Alligator line drawing (Artwork: Myra Naito)
Alligator — rendered sketch (Artwork: Myra Naito)

To illustrate the difference, I’ll use three of my own drawings. As you can see, a line drawing is only comprised of simple lines and very similar to a coloring book. It is very flat because there is no shading or texture. (I’m not discussing the element of color here since most of my drawings are black & white.) And technically, I think this drawing has a too many lines which indicate some amount of texture. But, it’s still more line drawing than a…

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Myra Naito

Freelance copywriter who is passionate about art and fitness. Check out my art blog at mnatiodesigns.com/blog/ or follow me @mnaito_fineart .