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How to train your eye for detail.

One of my biggest passions is picking up detail, recreating it and training others to do the same. It's one of the key learning curves built into my comprehensive online VIDEO course. This skill alone is the number one secret to growing ones instinct as an artist.

Just like any exercise, it takes time, practice and most of all repetition, in order to flourish. So here are my top tips for identifying differences and training your eye for detail. Although this will be a challenge, I can assure you that you won't even have to think about it eventually.

Round and round, up and down

One of the first things I teach children, aside from how to hold a pencil, is to draw around and around and up and down. Just scribble and sing those words in a song to get them on board. This exercise helps to get a rhythm to the movement of the muscles and also train the muscle memory. If you want to get better at detail I suggest you default to this exercise. As one certainty of detail is either repetitious curves or lines, often packed tightly together.

Now before I go too much further, I would like to point out that I still use these methods constantly. The addition of detail means there is just too much for your eyes to take in at once. You may know something is not quite right with yours in comparison to the resource photo but just can't quite see why.

Isolate small sections

My number one tip for this is to isolate small sections of the image and the matching portion of your work in either a grid pattern or with the use of a photographic layout app. Naturally this is much easier in 2D than it is in 3D, so I will demonstrate here on my recent 2D piece, "Zen Garden."

As I used an image from a Facebook advertisement for this art work, I can't use it to show the comparisons to my work. I can, however, show you comparisons of my own work and assure you that it took many attempts to perfect it after I thought it was "finished." Thirteen photos to be exact and each time I could not quite see it with my eye but the camera does a great job immediately. This is the first image I took and the mistakes jumped out straight away. I wonder if you can see them in comparison to the final image at the top of my blog.

Use your camera and zoom

Some of you will see the differences immediately but some will need to zoom in. This zooming in is a game changer, for everyone, even me. Just like a spot the difference cartoon in a magazine, checking the image in sections, reveals the differences easily. Of course you will compare the resource picture and your work but I will show you with these two images that are thirteen photos apart.

As soon as you decide to use your camera for this exercise, make sure to take the photo from the same distance, angle and in the same light every time. Crop the photos if need be and use an app to put them together, either side by side or above and below as I have here.

If this is still too difficult and you need more clues you could try duplicating the image a few more times and then picking the odd one out. In this next layout I have three images of the "final" piece and one of the original "finished" and incorrect piece.

Pick the odd one out

This should allow your eye to pick out the odd one but I will give you a couple of clues. The first picture, with my watermark on it, is the "final" corrected piece and there is only one of the original "finished" incorrect pieces in the layout. There are two changes at the top and one at the bottom of the image. Can you see them all? If not I will reveal them at the end of the blog but really try to see them and get started on your exercise plan.

Choose wisely

It also pays to choose your image wisely, especially if you are recreating a photo. The brain will view a photo as real, even if it doesn't look quite right, we rarely question it. Sometimes it doesn't matter how perfect you recreate it, the actual image just doesn't work. Remember that perfect imperfection is good enough, its art and you have the power of artistic license on your side, so use it.

Step away

My final top tip is to step away from the project, for many reasons this is vital. This is very hard work and can be draining and frustrating. You are stretching your eyes, hands and brain beyond their normal capacity. Put the piece up where you can observe it in a passive manner over a few days, weeks, months, years or even decades. There is no rule to this and I often put pieces away when my abilities don't match my ambitions.

Returning to it with fresh eyes that have recovered and strengthened or not returning to it at all. Not every creation has to be a masterpiece but it will always be a valuable exercise. There is one other certainty and that is once you see it, you wont be able to unsee it, I promise!!

Fortunately needle felting is incredibly forgiving and fibres are easily pulled off, added on as extra or just plain pushed around to achieve the desired results, So you know what to do .. just keep stabbing!!


If you are unable to see these differences easily, can I suggest you participate in my complete and comprehensive, online VIDEO course. It is designed to train your eyes, hands and brain in a gentle and organic way, gradually challenging you to achieve advanced detail detection. Not to mention all of the other techniques and skills shared through out, allowing you to evolve at your own pace, and encouraging you to develop your very own style of learning.

Get your first lesson FREE here;

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