How to Draw from a Photo Using the Grid Method


Are you struggling with how to get proportions right when you're drawing from a photo? Here are some tips for using a grid, when you're drawing from a photo reference. It's a useful tool especially for drawing portraits or animals.


One of the biggest struggles in creating portrait art is getting the proportions right. It doesn't matter if you're great at shading pencil drawings. If the initial proportions are wrong, the likeliness of the person in the portrait will be off. I used to draw portraits completely freehand (examples below), but then I started using a grid for the sketching stage to get better proportions and likeliness and to sketch faster. I think it's a good tool, when you're drawing from a photo.


Are you struggling with how to get proportions right when you're drawing from a photo? Here are some tips for using a grid, when you're drawing from a photo reference. It's a useful tool especially for drawing portraits or animals. These drawings were made without a grid.
These are some of my freehand pencil portrait drawings from 2009. I think they would've benefited from using a grid.
Are you struggling with how to get proportions right when you're drawing from a photo? Here are some tips for using a grid, when you're drawing from a photo reference. It's a useful tool especially for drawing portraits or animals.
This acrylic painting and the rest of the artworks in this post were sketched with the help of a grid.

Are you struggling with how to get proportions right when you're drawing from a photo? Here are some tips for using a grid, when you're drawing from a photo reference. It's a useful tool especially for drawing portraits or animals.
Are you struggling with how to get proportions right when you're drawing from a photo? Here are some tips for using a grid, when you're drawing from a photo reference. It's a useful tool especially for drawing portraits or animals.
Pastel pencil portrait.

I've executed the grid method in a few different ways. If I have the reference picture printed out, I might draw the grid straight on the picture. If I don't want to ruin the reference picture, I would draw the grid on an overhead projector transparency with a marker and just attach the transparency on the picture. I even used to tape the transparency grid on my computer screen, if I didn't have the image printed out.

Are you struggling with how to get proportions right when you're drawing from a photo? Here are some tips for using a grid, when you're drawing from a photo reference. It's a useful tool especially for drawing portraits or animals.
A grid made of an overhead projector transparency.
At the moment I only use reference pictures on the computer and don't print them out. I also made a quick video on how I use a grid now. Instead of any of the stuff I wrote in the last paragraph, I make the grid in GIMP (a free image editor). Then I draw a grid of the same size (same number of rows and columns) on my grid paper and use the reference photo on screen as a guideline for my sketch. You can, however, draw the grid in a smaller or bigger scale to fit your paper. You can also number the rows and columns if it helps you. I don't need to erase the grid lines from the paper afterwards, because I'll transfer the final sketch onto my actual drawing or painting surface.

Are you struggling with how to get proportions right when you're drawing from a photo? Here are some tips for using a grid, when you're drawing from a photo reference. It's a useful tool especially for drawing portraits or animals.
Grid on a reference photo using GIMP.

Are you struggling with how to get proportions right when you're drawing from a photo? Here are some tips for using a grid, when you're drawing from a photo reference. It's a useful tool especially for drawing portraits or animals.

How to make a grid in GIMP 2.8.2

  1. Open your reference photo in GIMP.
  2. Set the grid visible: View -> Show grid
  3. Change the dimensions of the grid: Image -> Configure grid -> Spacing -> Set the size you want  -> Click OK
Note that the grid you make this way will NOT stay on the photo when you save it, close it and open it again.



Ennen piirsin muotokuvapiirustuksia ja luonnoksia maalauksia varten vapaalla kädellä. Mittasuhteista saa kuitenkin paremmat ja luonnoksen nopeammin valmiiksi käyttäen jotain apuvälinettä, kuten ruudukkoa. Ruudukon voi piirtää suoraan tulostetulle mallikuvalle. Ruudukon voi piirtää myös esimerkiksi läpinäkyvälle piirtoheitinkalvolle kalvotussilla ja asettaa kalvon kuvan päälle. En kuitenkaan yleensä tulosta mallikuvaa, vaan katson sitä ruudulta, joten ruudukko pitää myös tehdä koneella. Väliaikaisen ruudukon voi tehdä helposti GIMP:illä. Seuraavaksi piirrän samanlaisen ruudukon (yhtä monta riviä ja saraketta) ruutupaperille, jolle teen luonnoksen. Siirrän valmiin luonnoksen varsinaiselle piirustuspaperille tai maalauspohjalle, joten ruudukkoa ei tarvitse yrittääkään poistaa.


Ruudukko GIMP 2.8.2:lla


  1. Avaa mallikuva GIMP:issä.
  2. Näytä -> Näytä ruudukko
  3. Kuva -> Määritä ruudukko... -> Välistys -> Aseta haluamasi välistys pikseleinä -> OK

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