Accuracy Training

Would you believe this top hat is as wide as it is tall?

See for yourself by moving your cursor over the hat.

Surprised? I was, too. But it turns out that we are prone to over-estimating the length of verticals, compared to horizontals. This goes to show just how difficult it is to see proportions accurately. But I am convinced that we can learn to overcome some of these biases with deliberate practice.

Below are three ways in which you can train your accuracy with proportions.

I developed this exercise during my time in Florence, when I was working on Bargue drawings. I wanted to train my hand to put marks in the right places without me having to consciously consider each decision. Just like a pianist trains his fingers to find the right keys without looking.

My instructors were very helpful, but I wanted more immediate feedback on how well I was doing.
The instant gratification of seeing your results right away is powerful. Give it a try! 🙂

Level 1: Sight-Size Placement

Instructions Level 1

  1. Get a reference image.
  2. Enlarge canvas to 200% width.
  3. Create a new layer and indicate placement marks on the reference image: top, bottom, left, right.
  4. On the empty side of the canvas, do your placement: top, bottom, left, right.
  5. Double-check the lines you’ve drawn. Move them, refine them, until they look perfect.
  6. When you’re ready to check, drag your placement lines on top of the reference image.
  7. Enable “Lock Transparency” on the placement line layer and color-code your lines.

Level 2: Comparative Measurement Placement

Instructions Level 2

  1. Get a reference image.
  2. Enlarge canvas to 200% width.
  3. Create a new layer and indicate your placement marks: top, bottom, left, right.
  4. Double-check the lines you’ve drawn. Move them, refine them, until they look perfect.
  5. Erase the placement lines until they are at about 10% visibility. They are useful guides, but we don’t want them to distract us.
  6. Continue with the block-in stage. Establish the biggest shapes within the image.
  7. When you are happy with the level of complexity of your block-in, take a moment to refine it. Find all mistakes and make it as strong as you can.
  8. When you’re ready to check, drag your block-in lines on top of the reference image.
  9. Enable “Lock Transparency” on the block-in layer and color-code your lines.

Level 3: Sight-Size Block-In

Instructions Level 3

  1. Get a reference image.
  2. Enlarge canvas to 200% width.
  3. Create a new layer and indicate your placement marks: top, bottom, left, right.
  4. Double-check the lines you’ve drawn. Move them, refine them, until they look perfect.
  5. Erase the placement lines until they are at about 10% visibility. They are useful guides, but we don’t want them to distract us.
  6. Continue with the block-in stage. Establish the biggest shapes within the image.
  7. When you are happy with the level of complexity of your block-in, take a moment to refine it. Find all mistakes and make it as strong as you can.
  8. When you’re ready to check, drag your block-in lines on top of the reference image.
  9. Enable “Lock Transparency” on the block-in layer and color-code your lines.

PS. If you prefer to do this in traditional media, you can use transparent paper or use a window as a free light table.


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