Hello cuties!

Last tutorials we focussed on recreating an image, this time I will explain to you how to use references and composition to create a new, original piece.

I wanted to create a modern version of the Greek Goddess Athena and found this great image of Cara Delevingne to serve as reference (the owl is so cute!).

1. Open a blank document and set up your reference photo side by side. This document is 3000 x 4200 pixels with 300 DPI (to ensure high image quality). I choose an orange hue to ensure warm tones in my drawing.


2. Lay down your basic lines and shapes. (For a reference tutorial click here: Reference tutorial )


3. Determine your basic colours. As you can see, in the beginning I let the reference image guide my composition.


4. From here, I defined some facial details but decided not to ‘copy’ the exact features; my goal was to create a new image. The next step was adding new details. As Athena is the Goddes of strategy, I decided to add a chesspiece (the queen) in her left hand. This meant that her left arm had to be altered, I had to add a left hand and a chesspiece. Which means you have to look for references! I found my reference photos on Pinterest.


5. This is a tricky part: as you can see I tilted both pictures a bit to fit into the artwork (it is not necessary, but makes it easier). You can tilt them by using the Tranform option (CRTL + T). Paint your composition change on a new layer; when you mess up (which sometimes happens, no worries!), you can always delete the layer and start anew.

6. And keep drawing! The image below already shows the altered hand with the chesspiece.


7. This is the part where I start adding my textures (for this tutorial click here: Texture tutorial ). Furthermore, I added a lighter colour in the background to add some perception of depth in the image.


8. I felt like there was something missing in the image, like it could use another object or detail. To review the composition in your artwork, add a new layer and look at the basic shapes. I found there to be a radial component in the composition, as you can see in the image below.


I determined the spot for the new detail by arranging a triangle in this radial. As you can see, her face falls exactly in the middle of this triangle. This means that eventhough you add another details to your artwork, attention will still be drawn to her face. This is important guys!

Another composition trick that always works is the usage of the golden ratio, otherwise known as phi (Φ, 1.618). This image below explains the basics of it (image source: Wikipedia):

A formula about the ratios translates to: {\frac {a+b}{a}}={\frac {a}{b}}\equiv \varphi . A bit complicated perhaps, but it comes down to this: if you create a canvas that is 10cm or inch high (side a), make it 16.18cm or inch wide (side a+b) (and yes, 1/ 0.618 = 1.618). In order to make the most pleasing composition, place your main subject somewhere at the line between a and b.

Let show this principle in these artworks (amazing artist is Ahmed Aldoori ):

golden ratio

This does not mean you have to use these principles! Most artists compose their subjects intuitively at the golden ratio. Use these tips if you want to revise your composition.

8. I placed a roman number 7 (VII, one of the symbols of Athena) at the indicated spot. I then continued drawing.


9. This is what I ended up with!

modern athenasm

I hope you liked it! If you have any requests for a next tutorial, please let me know in the comments below 🙂

Love, Eve.




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