Making a Photo-Realistic Watch in Adobe Illustrator

I am not at all kidding when I tell you that this was the most difficult yet rewarding project of my college career thus far! I had never tried any photo-realism before, and I never imagined the amount of time and work that goes into it. I found that one of the most important thing to pay attention to in order to create a more realistic look, is to pay attention to your light source. Look closely at what part of your object would have a spectacular highlight, as well as shadows and other highlights. I also learned to not to be afraid of high contrast.

When starting this project, I had no idea what kind of watch I wanted to do. The first thing I did was start sketching. At that point, I had the ambition of designing my own, but I realized very quickly that for my first time I would do much better if I had an actual watch to go off of. Here are my sketches:


As you can see, instead of drawing a bunch of watches, I drew different elements of a watch. I started with what I wanted the face to look like, thought about the hands, the band, etc. Like I said before, I ended up finding a watch that was real to go off of, but these sketches helped me because I was able to not look at the watch as a whole, but as different elements that make it up.

After some searching, I found a Kate Spade watch that I really liked as a whole, but also it’s individual elements. I loved the pop of color on the second hand! When I pulled it in illustrator next to my art board, I was quite intimidated. Then, I tried looking at the watch as a bunch of basic shapes. After about 5 or 6 hours, I finally had a skeleton that I would then go in and add a bunch of detail to. Here is my first draft along side the actual watch:


First draft of photorealistic kate spade watch

Now that I had a skeleton, I could go in and add the details that make it look more realistic and not-so-flat. After hours and hours of trying to add detail, succeeding at times but mostly hard-core failing and starting over, I was able to add some realistic detail. At this point I felt like the watch looked a lot better, but still had a long way to go before it looked real. Here is my second draft next to the actual watch again:

second draft of photorealistic kate spade watch

I was getting closer! The metal was looking more like metal, but overall the watch still looked flat. After some feedback, I realized that the whole thing needed a lot more contrast. Back to illustrator I went. After hours and hours, here is how my final turned out!

Photorealistic kate spade watch

I am very pleased with how my first go at photo realism art went! I’m excited to try more projects!

Stephanie Holcombe

Stephanie Holcombe

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Stephanie is a Photographer and Graphic Designer, and enjoys all aspects of visual communication. She loves having a creative outlet everyday. She was raised in Las Vegas, NV but has an extreme case of wanderlust.
Stephanie Holcombe

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