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Have you ever wondered why your
drawings suck when looked at in the mirror?
Have you ever finished a piece of art
that you thought was amazing and symbolized the apex of your current
skills – so good that you were eagerly awaiting your invitation to
artists’ Valhalla – just to turn it around and think that you can’t
draw at all?
It happens to all of us, even advanced
artists with lots of experience.
And it’s actually not a bad thing –
it’s amazing! It’s like magic!
Read further to learn why this is a good thing and why many artists intentionally flip their canvas.
Table of Contents
1. What Flipping Your Art Does
Flipping your drawings confronts you with the reality that you maybe can’t draw as well as you thought yet. Therefore, it’s probably something you fear and avoid doing.
It shouldn’t be!
But first, let’s examine what mirroring
your canvas does:
To illustrate this, I’ll use a few of my own drawings.
You see, it also happens to me regularly. Some months ago I finished this little Dracula drawing. It started as a sketch and was actually meant to be a test for my new Sakura Pigma Brush pens. (Check out all my art tools here.)
I liked it though and put two or three
hours into the rendering.
This is what it looks like:
Back then I kinda liked it. But I
didn’t feel so good about it anymore once I flipped it.
So let’s take a look at what happens when you mirror it:
Yep, that kinda sucks.
I wasn’t even particularly trying to see my own mistakes.
I had hung the drawing in my living room and as it happens, I have a large mirror in my doorway.
One day I saw my drawing in the mirror and was drastically confronted with my own mistakes and how off my picture somehow looked to me.
Let’s take a look at another example:
A Batman drawing I did at the beginning of 2019:
Let’s mirror this one too, to make its
Can you see it? It just looks off in
But why is that? Why is it that your
drawings look worse in a mirror?
2. How Flipping Your Canvas Works – The Principle Behind It
It’s difficult to find a concrete
explanation of the science behind this phenomenon.
I personally think it has to do with how your eyes and your brain get used to things.
Basically it’s the same effect when you look at yourself in a mirror:
Every day you see your own reflection when you get ready for the day. It’s what YOU look like to yourself.
When most people look at a photograph of themselves they feel that it looks bad.
The thing is that they probably look perfectly fine to everyone else because everyone else knows them exactly the way they look like on the photograph.
Actually, it’s the image in the mirror that you are used to that doesn’t look like reality.
It’s the same thing when listening to a recording of your own voice:
Most people think their voice sucks and sounds just weird while it’s actually totally okay for everyone else because they know the voice just that way.
When you listen to your own voice while talking though, it’s totally skewed by the acoustics of your skull.
Your brain gets used to the way your mirror image looks and the way your voice sounds to yourself. It’s what’s normal for you.
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In the same vein your brain gets used to two more things related to drawing:
First, it gets used to the drawing itself.
Depending on the complexity of the artwork you might spend hours and hours on it. Your brain gets used to it and also to its mistakes, thinking that it looks alright the longer you look at it.
You basically become blind to your own
mistakes. Flipping the artwork can help put things into another
Secondly, your brain gets used to the drawing mistakes you make on a more global level.
You might tend to draw something particularly asymmetrical all the time and your brain thinks it looks fine.
Flipping your pieces circumvents this
adjustment effect of the brain.
Your art looks weird when you flip it because your brain gets used to the mistakes you make in a drawing. It also gets used to the drawing mistakes you make on a regular basis. Flipping your artwork makes these mistakes visible to your brain again.
We now know the underlying principle, so I’ll show you why many artists flip their drawings – and how you can learn from them and fix your drawing mistakes.
3. Why Artists Flip Their Drawings
Artists flip their drawings because it helps them see their mistakes. They can view their drawings from another angle and notice the incorrect parts of the artwork – that they can then easily fix after flipping the canvas back. It’s a common practice among (digital) artists.
Like I said above, viewing your
drawings in the mirrored way can be quite humbling and confronts
yourself with your own mistakes and inabilities.
Flipping your drawings reveals all the inconsistencies you have with proportions, angles, symmetry, etc.
Changing your mindset about this can transform it into a great opportunity though. An opportunity to accept your mistakes – to learn and grow from them!
You can actually flip your drawings to actively check your proportions and everything else.
3. Select ‘Flop Horizontally’ and click on ‘Click here’
4. Save the flipped picture by right-clicking anywhere on it and choosing „Save Picture As“
5.3.5 How To Flip Your Canvas On Mobile Devices
Android and iOS versions are continually updated. In some versions you can flip an image with the standard image viewer and in some versions, you can’t. It would be too complex to list all possible scenarios.
There are a lot of very easy-to-use apps though that do what we want.
The sad thing is that this technique is
often an afterthought.
I myself know how it is:
You have a new idea for an amazing painting, you plan your composition, lighting and colors… and then you’re eager to start and jump into the sketching phase.
One of your first sketches turns out great and before you even know it you have a finished piece of artwork.
But then you happen to flip it and are
bummed out because your work could have been much better, had you
just put some more time into the preliminary drawing.
It doesn’t have to be this way and it
You could actually save yourself a lot of frustration if you just flipped your image every now and then before rendering all the details.
This can help you lay a better foundation for your finished piece of art and make it look way better in the end.
Furthermore, you can only get better by doing this!
By regularly confronting yourself with your own drawing mistakes, you might notice patterns. Things you draw wrong regularly. It helps you to improve in those areas and it also helps you to see better.
I know that a lot of people don’t use this as much as they should – especially beginner artists.
I for myself should use it way more often.
For my next art project, my goal is to flip my canvas a few times in the sketching process, to lay a great foundation for my finished piece that I’m going to be happy with when all is said and done!
7. Word Of Advice: Don’t Cheat!
Finally, I want to make something very clear: This isn’t meant as a shortcut to success.
Don’t use the flip trick as a magic pill to fix your drawings digitally once they are finished.
This won’t help you become a better artist and it will deceive everyone who looks at your art.
Even worse, you will deceive yourself and it won’t make you truly happy in the end. Be honest to yourself and everyone around you.
Use the flip trick during the drawing
process to fix mistakes you might not have seen at first.
You will learn how to see the things
you often draw wrong and improve your art more quickly as a result.
It’s like magic!