006: How to Create Perfectly Symmetrical Hand-Drawn Illustrations with the Reflect Technique

005: How to Create Perfectly Symmetrical Hand-Drawn Illustrations

With today’s technology it’s easy to scan in a drawing, digitise in Adobe Illustrator, duplicate and mirror it to make it symmetrical.  However, I want to show you how to create a perfectly symmetrical illustration when you’re still in the hand-drawing stage using the Reflect Technique.

When I was drawing the Zentangle Owl for Brown’s Barber Club I used the Reflect Technique to make sure that all of the line-work was identical before I moved onto the digital stage.  As the final design I had for the Owl was a-symmetrical, I wanted to draw out everything first and make sure the idea would work.

My good friend and tattoo artist Rhys Sheppard showed me this technique during a drawing session we had at university.  It really couldn’t be much simpler.

All you’ll need is paper, a pencil and a fine-liner to ink the final drawing ready to scan in.  Not planning to scan in and digitise?  I’ll cover that too.

The Reflect Technique

This example will apply the Reflect Technique to an A4 size drawing.  However, the technique can be applied to any size or shape piece of paper.

Stage 1

Before starting your drawing; take your piece of paper and fold it in its middle along it’s vertical line as illustrated below.

This line in the middle of your paper will act as the mirror line.

Stage 2

Unfold the paper. It’ll be easier to draw on the side with the debossed fold.

Proceed to draw one half of your symmetrical drawing in pencil making sure your lines meet the fold but don’t surpass it.

Stage 3

When you’re happy with your illustration, fold the paper in half again so it resembles a closed birthday card. Your illustration should be hidden inside the card.

Stage 4

Putting enough pressure on the paper so that you can see your outlines through it, carefully and accurately trace your illustration with applied pencil pressure.

Note: If you can’t see your line-work through the paper, unfold it and re-line the illustration with darker lines.

Stage 5

Unfold your paper. You should be able to see an imprint of your pencil line-work reflected symmetrically on the other side of your mirror line.

Note: If your lines don’t show here, revisit the previous step and apply more pressure so that the pencil’s graphite is pressed onto the paper.

Stage 6

Carefully trace over these lines with pencil so that they image the other half of your illustration accurately.

Stage 7

Your symmetrical illustration is now ready to be lined with pen and scanned in for digitisation.

However, if you’re looking to create a symmetrical illustration in non-digital media there are a few more steps to follow.

Stage 8

Due to the hard-pressing of the pencil your paper might look quite worn down with indents and graphite stains.

For your final piece you will want it to look as presentable as possible, which may require the use of a light-box to re-draw your linework on a new, cleaner canvas.

In conclusion, the Reflect Technique is a brilliant tool to use for creating symmetrical illustrations. Whether you’re just trying to piece together your ideas before digitising or wanting to create the perfect line-work before applying paint to your canvas, it’s the simplest method I’ve come across for creating symmetrical hand-drawn illustrations.