Everything About Drawing Upside Down [Explained]

Drawing upside down might strike you as a weird practice, yet it’s a surprisingly effective way to enhance your drawing skills. 

This technique involves inverting your reference image and attempting to replicate it. The rationale behind this is to activate the right hemisphere of your brain, which is responsible for spatial abilities and recognizing shapes and lines.

Typically, we rely on our memory and preconceived notions of objects when we draw. 

However, by drawing upside down, we force ourselves to move away from these biases and focus solely on the visual information presented to us.

What is the Drawing Upside Down Technique?

Drawing upside down is a technique that presents an intriguing twist to the traditional approach of sketching and can be an invaluable tool in an artist’s skill set

First, search for a reference image; an everyday object like a chair, or even a portrait of a person is good. Then, flip the reference image and try to draw it. 

It sounds easy, right? No, it’s hard. When drawing, we usually rely on our memory about the object’s shape.

What we draw is not necessarily what we see. Our brain simplifies what we see when we try to draw it. This is called symbol drawing.

Symbol drawing happens when you draw something from your mind without any direct observation of a reference.

By flipping the reference image head over heels challenges your brain to process visual information differently. 

How to do Upside Down Drawing Correctly

Follow these steps to do upside down drawing technique:

Upside down drawing of a woman

Step 1: Find a reference image. You can use any photo or use your phone to browse any image you want to draw

Step 2: Turn the reference image upside down.

Step 3: Draw with your pencil to replicate the image as you see it, trying to disconnect from what the subject is supposed to represent.

Step 4: Once complete, turn both your drawing and the reference to their original orientation and compare line quality and accuracy

The Benefit of Drawing Upside Down

This method trains you to see shapes, lines, and the spatial relationship between elements more accurately. Instead of drawing what you think you know, you focus on drawing what you actually see.

The practice of drawing upside down is more than just a simple exercise—it can profoundly improve artistic perception by deconstructing complex subjects to draw into basic elements. 

Working on an upside-down image enhances your ability to capture the subject’s essence without being distracted by its familiar context. 

Origins of Drawing Upside Down

The method of upside-down drawing was popularized by Betty Edwards in her book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” It is based on the idea that turning a subject on its head, literally, will bypass your left brain’s tendency to label and categorize features. 

Instead, it activates the right side of the brain, which excels at interpreting shapes, lines, and relationships in space.

By practicing this technique, you can better portray the subject matter more accurately because you’re encouraged to draw what you see, not what you think you know. 

According to Edwards and followers of her methods, upside-down drawing can improve your ability to capture the subject’s true essence by honing your observational skills.

Example of Upside Down Drawing Exercises

Are you confused about which image to use for the upside-down drawing exercise? I have gathered many resources related to upside-down drawing to help you.

Picasso’s Upside-Down Drawing Sketch

Picasso sketch of Igor Stravinsky upside down

This is a common drawing exercise related to the upside-down drawing technique. You need to draw the Picasso’s sketch of Igor Stravinsky upside down.

Here is the reference image of Igor Stravinsky

Drawing Eye Upside Down

Drawing eye upside down

The eye is one of the hardest things for a beginner artist to draw. The reason, of course, is because most artists don’t understand the real shape of the eye. 

They rely too much on the symbolic shape of the eye. 

This exercise will help you master drawing eye quickly.

Drawing Dog Upside Down

Sketch of dog upside down

After learning to draw the eye, now you should try drawing a dog upside down. The reference image includes the head and body parts of the dog.

You can incorporate all you have learned previously. Don’t be hasty when you’re drawing this dog.

Alternative Exercise Similar to Drawing Upside Down

Blind Contour Drawing

Blind contour drawing is another exercise that enhances observational prowess by forbidding you to look at your paper while your pencil moves. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Search for a subject or reference image for drawing. Position the image in front of you

Step 2: Place your pencil on the paper without taking your eyes off the subject.

Step 3: Slowly trace the subject’s contours with your eyes as your hand mimics the movement on the paper.

Step 4: Maintain focus on line quality, avoid lifting the pencil, and resist the urge to peek at your progress.

This drawing exercise develops your ability to observe fine details and understand the form without the distraction of constantly evaluating the outcome. 

Your hand-eye coordination and confidence in drawing will significantly grow through practice.

DrawABox Online Exercise

DrawaBox is a popular online website that can help you learn how to draw from beginners. You will learn about drawing lines, 2D, and 3D shapes and perspectives.

It’s free, and you can learn it at your own pace. To be honest, some of the exercises are a bit redundant, but I think they can solidify your fundamental art skills.

You can access our review here: DrawABox Review: Is DrawABox Worth It for Beginner Artists? 

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Kenny HD
Hi, I’m Kenny. I’m a digital artist who began learning art at the age of 21. I enjoy drawing cartoons and fan art.

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