23 phenomenally realistic pencil drawings

No, they're not photographs. These mind-blowingly realistic images are hand-drawn illustrations. Seriously.

You'd be forgiven for thinking the images in this list are, infact, photographs. But we assure you, they're not. Each and every one is hand-drawn.

Here, some seriously talented illustrators have pulled out their best pencils and drawing techniques to create some truly exceptional pencil art. Enjoy!

01. Stefan Marcu - Cat

realistic pencil drawings
Stefan 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 artist Stefan Marcu. "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."

02. Giacomo Burattini - Clint Eastwood

realistic pencil drawings
Burrattini believes his work highlights the beauty of imperfection

"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. "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."

03. Keith Moore - Big Ben

realistic pencil drawings
Practise makes perfect with Moore's hyperrealism work

"I love the challenge of creating small scale hyperrealistic graphite pencil art without compromise," says Keith Moore. Practising his personal techniques and refining his toolset, Moore has been embracing the liberation of high definition digital photographic referencing and we think his work is all the better for it.

04. Paul Cadden - Shower

Cadden's illustrations are frighteningly realistic

When we first saw the work of 47-year-old Paul Cadden, it took a while for us to realise that they were in fact illustrations. Even more unbelievable, the hyperrealist artist used just graphite and chalk to create these stunning images. Working from photographs and video stills, Cadden's work proves if you're super-talented, all you need is the simplest of tools. 

05. Rajacenna - You are not alone

Crazy amounts of talent from 19-year-old Rajacenna

Rajacenna is a 21-year-old artist from The Netherlands. Yes, you read that right, she's 21. But even more astonishing is the fact that Rajacenna has never taken any art lessons and she only started doing realistic illustrations three years ago. A natural talent, she was discovered instantly and has since had her work published in Amazing pencil portraits 2.

06. Paul Lung - Tiger

We wonder how long it took Lung to perfect the fur...

This mindblowingly realistic image of a tiger was created by traditional artist Paul Lung. 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 one cat sketch taking Lung approximately 60 hours to complete.

07. Jay Varma - Mother

Master of his craft, Jay Varma captures every tiny detail in his illustrations

Give self-taught artist Jay Varma a coloured pencil and a piece of paper and it will undoubtedly result in a gorgeous illustration, like this one titled Mother. Art runs throughout Varma's family, his grandfather being master oil painter Raja Ravi Varma – one of the most highly regarded artists in India. Varma's skills have been recognised by many, with his work featuring in various prominent publications. 

08. Randy Atwood - Sir Sean

Seriously, how real does this portrait of James Bond star Sir Sean Connery look?

Artist Randy Atwood creates phenomenal photorealistic pencil pieces, such as this Sean Connery portrait. On his ridiculously good Deviant art portfolio, the 25-year-old states, "When time allows, I enjoy practicing the craft of image-making. I favour creating celebrity portraits on paper with graphite drawing pencils".

09. Dirk Dzimirsky - Frozen

This Dzimirsky illustration looks so real it's seriously creepy

Dirk Dzimirsky draws the most stunning up-close-and-personal portraits. So close in fact it should be easy to see that it's not photography. But it isn't. A master of his craft, the artist captures every bit of fine detail perfectly, from the moisture in his subject's eyes to lines and fine hair. 

10. Linda Huber - Light bulb

Even the simplest of objects can make stunning illustrations

Linda Huber has been practising the art of drawing with a pencil for over 40 years. Inspired by her surroundings, Huber draws everything from portraiture to inanimate objects, each piece taking anywhere from 20-80 hours. Huber comments on her site, "Drawing in the style of realism is what I love to do, to recreate life as we see and know it with just a simple pencil is exciting to say the least."

11. Ken Lee - SADA Beats

It took a while for us to believe this was hand drawn. You can see why...

UK-based artist Ken Lee is the man behind this stunning pencil portrait. An ongoing theme, Lee's online portfolio is brimming with artwork of famous Asian woman. And they're all amazing. Lee captures so much detail that his images really do look like hi-tech photography rather than pencil drawings. Incredible talent. 

12. Mihályi Anita - Morning Rose

With the amount of detail captured in this beautiful image, it could easily be mistaken for macro photography

This stunning 'Morning Rose' drawing is the handiwork of traditional artist Mihályi Anita. Based in Hungary, Anita draws inspiration from everything she sees, literally. Her online portfolio includes amazingly realistic illustrations of plants, humans – including brilliant portraits of Michael Fassbender and Johnny Depp – and animals.

13. Damien May - Yesterday

This man's life is written, or in this case drawn, all over his face

Damien May is a graphite, charcoal, and pen artist based in the UK. A self-taught artist, May is an amazing talent whose skills extend to portraits of both humans and animals. You can find a full selection of his work on his site Pencil Art Studio, which states, "May tries to capture the true likeness and fine details of his subjects".

14. David Kao - Audi R8

Fancy a spin anyone? It's real, right?

David Kao first started drawing when he was just 3 years old. But it was only at the age of 19, after his father took him to his auto shop, that Kao began to take his art and realism seriously. Now, still only 24, the young artist has a stunning portfolio of ultra-realistic car drawings. Included is this gorgeous Audi R8, which Kao created using a graphite pencil, tissue, eraser, and brush in approximately 10 hours. 

15. Helen McNicholas - Rhino

The amount of detail in this beautiful creature blows our minds

This beautiful beast was drawn by UK artist Helen McNicholas using just graphite pencil. An incredible talent, McNicholas has spent over a decade lecturing art and design in further education, sharing her experience and expertise with students venturing into the creative industries. At the same time, she has built on her skills as a freelance artist, creating phenomenal images such as the above in the process.

16. Josi Fabri - Eternal Sunshine

At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a press shot from this brilliant film

No, we haven't sneaked in a cheeky still from the film Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind to try and catch you out. This amazing illustration was drawn by Brazilan artist Josi Fabri. The 28-year-old tends to draw inspiration from her favourite musicians and films. She is an avid fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, her portfolio filled with beautiful images of scenes from the movies. 

17. Mark Stewart - When I'm old and wise

Stewart has spent years perfecting the art of pencil drawings, which is evident in this highly detailed illustration

The artist career of Mark Stewart began when, after graduating from an art and design course in London, he was hired as a wildlife illustrator. The years that followed saw Stewart perfect his skills, producing highly detailed traditional wildlife illustrations in watercolour and gouache. He now works exclusively in graphite pencil producing highly detailed drawings, mostly of portraits. 

18. Robert Eaves - Teacher

It's easy to see how this image was an award winner

This beautiful Teacher illustration, created last year by Canadian artist Robert Eaves, instantly received a lot of attention. And it's clear to see why. Since Eaves unveiled his creation, it has been published in Amazing Pencil Portraits 3 and was one of twelve winners of the ArtHere contest in Canada in 2011.

19. Armin Mersmann - Steve Packhurst

It's not hard to see why Mersmann's work has been featured in hundreds of exhibitons all over the world

German artist Armin Mersmann is the man behind this hyper real portrait. Although he also works with oils, Mersmann is most known for his intense naturalistic graphite drawings. Super-talented, his work has been featured in more than 150 exhibitions and has won him over 30 awards.

20. Martijn Versteeg - Audrey Hepburn

We love this stunning realistic illustration of film and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn

Martijn Versteeg is a 23-year-old artist from The Netherlands, who appears to have a small obession with Audrey Hepburn. But, more importantly, he also has massive amounts of talent in the art of pencil drawing. This stunning illustration of the Breakfast at Tiffany's star took the artist 1993 minutes - "the same year Hepburn died," Versteeg comments.

21. Andy Buck - Dimples

This adorable image was penciled together by UK artist Andy Buck

'Dimples' is, unbelievably, an A-level piece created by artist Andy Buck. His online portfolio has a fantastic selection of realistic graphite drawings, some of which took him up to 100 hours to complete. Buck comments on his site, "Whenever I start a drawing it is always my aim to achieve photorealism, this strive for perfection is the reason I have continued to draw."

22. Justin Meyers - Smitty

This illustration makes it easy to see why Justin Meyers specialises in graphite drawings

US-based artist Justin Meyers specialises primarily in graphite and charcoal drawings on paper. And with this as an example of his work, we can see why. Talking about his work on his site, Meyers comments, "My works in graphite and charcoal strive to explore the use of simple material to portray simple subject matter and composition with a borderline eccentric approach to detail."

23. Mike Rider - Grandfather and Grandson

A timeless moment captured by super talent Mike Rider

Last, but by no means least, is artist Michael Rider. Having worked at some prestigious animation studios during his career, Rider has spent years perfecting the art of illustration. Although currently teaching drawing and animation at The Art Institute of Phoenix, Rider still regularly puts pencil to paper, creating masterpieces such as the above.

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Kerrie Hughes is content manager at Creative Bloq. Her employment at Future Publishing began in January 2010 as staff writer for 3D World magazine. Since then, she's written regularly for other publications, including ImagineFX and Computer Arts magazines.