How I Achieve Photorealism

Myra Naito
5 min readNov 23, 2022

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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…



Myra Naito

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