Transitioning from Tutorials to Your Own Work

Transitioning from Tutorials to Your Own Work

Transitions of any kind can be intimidating. Transitioning from tutorials to making your own work start-to-finish is no different.

These days, there are many learning resources available on the world-wide web, so finding instruction is easy. I know a lot of artists who learned colored pencil skills by doing tutorials. Maybe that describes you.

If it does, then maybe you’ve finished one project and asked yourself this question. Do I do more tutorials, or start making my own art?

That’s an important question. Don’t take it lightly.

Transitioning from Tutorials to Your Own Work

Transitioning from Tutorials to Your Own Work

A good friend and fellow artist recently asked me about this subject. She loves learning and has taken courses and done tutorials with a number of artists. She’s learned (or is learning) colored pencils, watercolor, pen-and-ink, and freehand drawing. In short, she loves to learn!

But her skills have reached the point at which she wants to create her own work start-to-finish. She just doesn’t quite know how.

So she asked me.

My answer to her and others like her is two-fold.

First, use the tutorials and courses to learn new things. When something is brand new to you, it’s usually better to get instruction from someone doing what you want to learn. You see how someone else does that thing and that’s helpful. But you can also often avoid the pitfalls that happen with learning something on your own.

Both of those will help you make progress more quickly.

Second, once you gain confidence with your ability to produce good results with tutorials, consider making your own art.

But how do you do that?

Tips for Transitioning

You can just stop doing tutorials and start creating your own work if you want to. There’s nothing wrong with that idea.

But you don’t have to do it that way.

When I moved from paint-by-number sets to making my own paintings as a teenager, the first thing I did was do some of my favorite sets over. But I changed things. Usually, I changed the color of the horses, or added white markings to legs or faces. As I gained confidence, I changed backgrounds, too.

Then I discovered (thanks to my mother) that I could draw my own horses and paint them. The skills I’d learned by doing paint-by-number sets helped me paint my own drawings. Once I got started, I no longer needed the paint-by-number sets.

Do the same thing with your favorite tutorials.

Draw the same image, but change it a little. Change colors. Change the background.

You can also find a reference photo similar to the tutorial’s reference photo. Look for similar lighting, similar poses, and similar colors. Then do the tutorial again, but with your own reference photo.

Transitioning from Tutorials to Your Own Work

Making the move from doing tutorials to creating your own work doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Yes. It can be intimidating, but don’t let that stop you.

The more you do things like this, the more confidence you’ll gain.

Yes, you will make mistakes. Some of your work will not be good. Some of it may be downright bad. I have some of those myself. I could show you pictures!

But the more you do, the better you’ll get. And gaining new skills and improving existing skills is worth the risk of a few bad pieces of artwork!

Isn’t it?

Got a question? Ask Carrie!


  1. Gail Jones

    Great article Carrie! I am transitioning from step by step, “walk you through” tutorials by taking classes now where you get showed techniques, but you have to come up with your own project using those techniques. In my current class we have to work from multiple photos and come up with our own original piece that is a not a copy of any one photo. This is definitely a new learning curve for me and a lot of fun!

  2. It’s also one of those things where you go from high school instruction to college instruction to then applying everything that you’ve learned to something new.

    During the course of my art career, which has been since 1998, I have had many successes and a good amount of bad and failure pieces.

    Today I am very, very happy with how my pieces have turned out and I have also been able to enjoy looking at my entire run and seeing how I have progressed better and better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *