22 outrageously realistic pencil drawings

Every one of these images is a pencil drawing. Yep, you read that right. Every single one of the artistic drawings found on this list is an extremely detailed pencil sketch, and many of them come in stunning black and white. And while smartphone cameras keep getting better and better, there's an atmospheric quality to these drawings that can only be achieved by hand. Yep, sometimes the pencil is mightier than the Apple Pencil.  

To create these pencil drawings, talented artists have sharpened their pencils to create some incredible art. Our roundup contains celebrity portraits, animals, natural scenes, everyday objects and famous landmarks. The breadth of subjects mean there's something to inspire you in each entry. If you're inspired to get drawing, take a look at our roundup of the best pencils.

01. J.D Hilberry

Though J.D Hilberry admits he originally wanted to be a musician rather than an artist, he has become a master of realistic pencil drawings. Hilberry's website (opens in new tab)contains many stunning examples of his work, as well as tutorials and tips to help you to create your own artistic drawings. 

In the above video, Hilberry talks through some of the process behind his self-portrait pencil sketch, which is based on the idea of an artist putting themselves back together again after being torn apart by critics. It's so realistic, we have to keep looking at it to make sure the artwork has't really been ripped and stuck back together.

02. Veri Apriyatno – Witnesses

Realistic pencil drawings: Veri Apriyatno

How people see the world is reflected in their eyes (Image credit: Veri Apriyatno)

Indonesian artist Veri Apriyatno (opens in new tab) explores the human form and emotion through his hyper-realistic pencil drawings. This series, entitled Witnesses, presents how people feel about the world through the reflection in their eyes, drawn in pencil, acrylic and charcoal. 

The glistening pupil and image are at odds with the matte finish of the eyeball itself, resulting in a mix of textures, which jump off the page. There is stunning detail in the physicality of the eye itself, and hidden within the reflected image.

03. Kelvin Okafor – Nawell II

Nawell's Interlude II is one of the pencil drawings in Okafor's Interlude series (Image credit: Kelvin Okafor)
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Kelvin Okafor (opens in new tab) is an artist from the UK whose intention is to invoke a real emotional response. Each piece is a pencil sketch and by using the tool he dubs a humble instrument, he created the Interlude series by drawing portraits of models when at their most serene, in comfortable environments. Nawell II (above) is one of those pencil drawings. 

Okafor explains on his website: "I love to draw faces. Each face tells me an intriguing story regardless of age, gender, race or background... I visually dissect facial features. I study them and then I put them back together again like pieces in a puzzle."

04. CJ Hendry

CJ Hendry (opens in new tab) mostly worked in black and white creating pencil drawings related to popular culture (such as this Chanel bottle (opens in new tab)) until her collaboration with Christian Louboutin in 2017. Complementary Colours was created entirely using coloured pencil, though you'd be forgiven for thinking, instead of creating a pencil sketch, she had just squirted a massive dollop of paint onto the wall. By using 12 different pencil colours to create a single hue, and layering them to create the texture and viscosity needed, she created these 'oil paint' splodges in every colour for Art Basel in Hong Kong (opens in new tab)

05. Arinze Stanley  – Black Noise

Arinze Stanley has been honing his skills since the age of six
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Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley (opens in new tab) has had a long time to practise his stunning pencil art; he's been at creating artistic drawings since the age of six. Growing up around his family's paper business inspired his love of drawing, and he expresses himself through what he calls his three Ps: Patience, Practice and Persistence. "Most times it's almost like I lose control of my pencils and like energy transfer, the art flows through me from my pencil to the paper," he says.

06. Jono Dry  – Prey

Jono Dry usually works in graphite on large paper or board surfaces
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Self-taught South African artist Jono Dry (opens in new tab) has quickly earned a name for himself with his unique style of drawing that blends photorealism and surrealism on a massive scale. His work has the look of vintage photography, but usually with an unsettling or incongruous twist; if you like the look of it, he has prints available to buy through his Etsy shop (opens in new tab).

07. Franco Clun – Anne Hathaway

Amazingly, Franco Clun has had no formal artistic training
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This incredible portrait of Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway is the work of Franco Clun (opens in new tab), a self-taught artist from Italy, who has picked up everything he knows about drawing from reading manuals and plenty of practice.

08. Paul Cadden – Shower

Paul Cadden's illustrations are frighteningly realistic
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When we first saw the work of Scottish artist Paul Cadden (opens in new tab), it took a while for us to realise that they were in fact pencil drawings – the hyperrealist artist used just graphite and chalk to create these stunning images.

"Although the drawings and paintings I make are based upon a series of photographs and video stills, I use softer and more complex focuses on the subject so that the resulting art presents it as a living, tangible being," he explains. 

"These objects and scenes in my drawings are thus meticulously detailed to create the illusion of a new reality not seen in the original photo."

09. Cath Riley – Flesh

Realistic pencil drawings: Cath Riley

This series by Cath Riley features hyperrealistic pencil drawings of flesh

Cath Riley (opens in new tab)'s artistic drawings are amazing to look at, but she regards her hyperreal work as just a stage in her ongoing evolutionary process of exploration and development. 

She's now moving in more experimental and abstract directions in her work, including very large-scale drawing projects based around the human figure.

Her incredible pencil drawings are included in collections all over the world, and she has worked with clients including Nike, GQ, M&C Saatchi, The Economist and The New York Times.

10. Armin Mersmann – Trees

Realistic pencil drawings: Armin Mersmann

Armin Mersmann's work has been featured in exhibitions all over the world

German artist Armin Mersmann (opens in new tab) is the man behind this chilly woodland scene, which elevates the humble pencil sketch to new heights. Although he also works with oils, Mersmann is best known for his intense naturalistic graphite drawings. His work has been featured in more than 150 exhibitions and has won him over 30 awards.

"The very act of drawing every branch, twig, highlight and shadow, rendering textures from the extreme winter skins to the silkiness of new-fallen snow, transforms the scene into an intimate journey. This undertaking is considerably different than merely taking a photo or simply being there," he explains on his site.

"The drawing process immersed me for hundreds of hours, interpreting and translating what I saw and felt from hundreds of reference photos, collected branches, twigs, and revisits to the site."

11. Diego Fazio – Sensazioni

It's almost impossible to believe this incredible image is a pencil drawing
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Entitled Sensazioni (sensations, in English) this mind-blowing pencil drawing was created by artist Diego Fazio (opens in new tab). Over a period of roughly 200 hours, Fazio drew this intricate piece, which we still – no matter how long we look at it – cannot believe is a drawing. Simply amazing.

12. Stefan Marcu – Gorilla

Realistic pencil drawings: Stefan Marcu

Stefan Marcu pushes himself to create his best work possible

"From the age of five, I started drawing, and over time I added more skills, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, all types of graphic design, caricature and digital photography," explains Stefan Marcu (opens in new tab), the artist behind this stunningly realistic gorilla portrait.

"My focus is on the study of art and my personal development in all its branches, and I am obsessed with excellence in the creation of any product."

Marcu created this study of a gorilla as his entry for The National Open Art Competition UK. "I'm pleased with the piece as it personally represents a big leap in scale, detail and patience," he says. "It is roughly twice the size of my previous work and I learnt a lot working on this beast."

13. Giacomo Burattini – Apnoea

Giacomo Burattini believes his work highlights the beauty of imperfection
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"Hyperrealism in my work displays the beauty of the imperfections perfectly, opening a door within the subject that is not normally depicted in real life," says Italian artist Giacomo Burattini (opens in new tab), who drew this unusual portrait.

"I believe reality is a beauty in itself so I don't need to find ways to hide the imperfections of human nature so my work shows the perfection of the imperfections of life."

Burattini found an audience by sharing his pencil drawings on Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram (opens in new tab), where he regularly shares his works in progress. This artistic drawing was created using black coloured pencils, graphite pencils and charcoal.

14. Paul Lung – Mui Chu

Paul Lung specialises in super-realistic fur
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This mindblowingly realistic image of a cat was created by traditional artist Paul Lung (opens in new tab). The Hong Kong-based creative's portfolio on Deviant Art is astonishing, featuring realistic portraits of both humans and animals. 

The time in which each takes depends on his subject matter, with this particular A2 pencil drawing taking Lung approximately 60 hours to complete.

 Next page: more incredibly realistic pencil drawings 

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