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 how you can use it to fix every drawing mistake!
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
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.
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.
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: Everyday 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 to you.
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 how you can use it to fix your drawing mistakes.
3. How To Use It To Fix Your Drawing Mistakes
Like I said above, viewing your
drawings in the mirrored way can be quite humbling and confronts
yourself with your own mistakes and inabilities.
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!
So let’s do this and pick my artwork
from above. We’ll use the „magic“ horizontal flip to make it
This is what it looked like after
What actually displeases me most are
the following things:
The head is too wide, especially the right side
The eyes (and ears) aren’t level
The mouth seems kindof asymmetrical
The neck muscles are too dissimilar
After trying to optimize those things with a healthy dose of digital magic and flipping it back it looks like this:
Now let’s look at the original painting compared to the ‘fixed’ one:
Now let’s do the
same thing with the Batman drawing.
Its main problem is that the right side of the face (the part that’s in the shadow) is a bit smaller than the left side of the face. And the whole face is somewhat distorted.
distorting it digitally and flipping it back I ended up with this:
look at a before/after animation here, too:
To be fair the difference is not as apparent as with my Dracula image. I guess that means the drawing was better, ha!
Since we now know the theory of it all, let us move on to the technical side of things.
4. Three Ways To Flip Your Artwork
Now that we know how it all works –
how can we actually do it?
It’s simple. There are three ways to
mirror your drawing:
4.1 Turn It Around And Hold It Against Light
Simple and easy. Just pick up your painting and hold it against a light source like the sun, a window or the ceiling light of the room you’re in.
NOTE: This obviously only works with thin paper that is opaque enough for light to shine through. If you use high quality drawing paper that is thicker, you can use the following methods.
4.2 Use A Mirror
Every household has a mirror somewhere.
So just hold up your drawing and stand in front of a mirror.
4.3 Flip It Digitally
This is the modern 21st
century way. Digitize your artwork by scanning it or taking a photo
of it and flip it on your computer or your smartphone.
Photoshop isn’t even a must, you can do
it for free in a lot of other ways.
I’ll first deal with computers and then
with mobile devices.
4.3.1 How To Flip Your Canvas In Windows Photo View
1. Open your image in Windows Photo View
2. Click on ‘Edit & Create’ and then on ‘Edit’
TIP: To get here faster, right click on your image and then on ‘Edit with Photos’.
3. Click on ‘Flip’
4. Click on ‘Save a copy’
4.3.2 How To Flip Your Canvas In Paint
1. Open your image in Microsoft Paint
2. Click on ‘Rotate’ and then on ‘Flip horizontal’
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“
4.3.5 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
6. Word Of Advice: Don’t Cheat!
Finally, I want to make something very
clear: This isn’t meant as a shortcut to success. So:
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!