Illustrative and Traditional Realism

Illustrative realism is often used by commercial artists such as illustrators, designers, and graphic artists. Using contour lines to outline artworks is also popular with illustrative realists. The resulting images appear bold and powerful when used for various commercial applications such as websites, icons, logos, magazines, advertisements, and/or books.

A drawing of a giraffe in the style of illustrative realism is outlined with thin contour lines. In a close-up view, the contour lines stand out even stronger.


Traditional realism employs a variety of different drawing techniques, most of which attempt to represent living beings and objects as they appear in real life without stylization or distortion. Traditional realists prefer to “suggest” contours through shading rather than render actual contour lines. After all, you can’t see lines around objects in the real world.

Precisely rendered shading added adjacent to sections of a subject allows viewers to clearly see its edges without using lines. For example, a drawing of a young man demonstrates a technique used by most traditional realists to create the illusion of outlines. The viewer’s subconscious mind automatically fills in contour lines where the contrasting background meets the edges of his arm and face.

The full version of this lesson by Brenda Hoddinott © is FREE only on Drawspace.


About Brenda Hoddinott
Award-winning artist and author; illustrator, art educator, curriculum designer, co-owner of, owner of Drawspace Publishing, and retired forensic artist Brenda has developed art curricula and taught multidisciplinary arts since 1980. During her 25-year career as a forensic artist, Brenda worked with diverse criminal investigative agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Department of National Defense, private investigative agencies, and municipal police departments. Brenda and her partner John live in the suburbs of Halifax, Nova Scotia with their two SPCA rescue dogs: Timber the Huskador and Katie the Pitweiler. Their blended human family includes five adult children and two grandchildren. Books by Brenda Hoddinott include: 2012: Introduction to Contour Lines (Drawspace Publishing) 2012: Introduction to Drawing (Drawspace Publishing) 2011: Illustrated Dictionary of Art-Related Terms (Drawspace Publishing) 2010: Getting Started with Drawing (Drawspace Publishing) 2004: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Drawing People Illustrated (Alpha Books) 2003: Drawing for Dummies (Wiley Publishing, Inc.)

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