I thought I would write a little bit about how I use reference when drawing or completing an illustration. Firstly, I think it is essential to always use reference when drawing, as it will make your drawings more believeable. Even when drawing a mythical creature, or something that doesn’t exist in reality, it is best to reference animals and combine them together, or use as a base to create your own creature.
Use several reference images when drawing an illustration, don’t copy directly from one reference image. Using several reference images and customizing them for your own uses will make your illustration more authentic. It also protects you from copyright infringement.
These reference photos I used for a recent illustration commission. I was drawing a kid with an umbrella, standing in the rain. The photo on the right had the pose I was looking for, but didn’t have a bottom half, so I found a photo with the full body. I combined these two reference images while drawing:
This is the drawing I used to transfer to the lino block, and carved a linocut for the illustration.
Another thing you can do is create your own reference photos. I usually go to Google as a first stop to find reference. But Google doesn’t always have the right photos, or not exactly what you are looking for. In this case, you can take your own reference photos. That way you can get the exact pose you are looking for.
Here is an example of when I took my own reference photos for an illustration project.
This is my sister, and I often get her to pose for me for reference images. Thanks sis! In this case I took several photos, and collaged them together, so I could draw from it.
This is the rough sketch I drew from it. This is a killed sketch, it never got used in the final illustration.
Those are my thoughts on using reference images. These examples are for conceptual illustrations, but the same ideas apply for realistic illustrations.