20 phenomenally realistic pencil drawings

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the images in this article are photographs. But we assure you, they're not. Each and every one is hand-drawn pencil art – many of them in beautiful black and white.

Here, some seriously talented illustrators have pulled out their best pencils and drawing techniques to create some truly exceptional pencil art. Featuring celebrity portraits, animals, natural scenes, everyday objects and famous landmarks, there's something to inspire you in each artwork here. Enjoy...

01. Franco Clun – Anne Hathaway

Amazingly, Clun has had no formal artistic training

This incredible portrait of Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway is the work of Franco Clun, a self-taught artist from Italy who has picked up everything he knows about drawing from reading manuals and plenty of practice.

02. Paul Cadden – Shower

Cadden's illustrations are frighteningly realistic

When we first saw the work of Scottish artist Paul Cadden, 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."

03. Cath Riley – Flesh

This series by Cath Riley features hyperrealistic pencil drawings of flesh

Cath Riley's pencil 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.

04. Armin Mersmann – Trees

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

German artist Armin Mersmann is the man behind this chilly woodland scene. Although he also works with oils, Mersmann is most 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."

05. Diego Fazio – Sensazioni

Pencil drawings Diego Fazio

It's almost impossible to believe this incredible image is a pencil drawing

Entitled Sensazioni (sensations, in English) this mind-blowing pencil drawing was created by artist Diego Fazio. 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.

06. Stefan Marcu – Gorilla

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 Stefan Marcu, 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."

07. Giacomo Burattini – Apnoea

realistic pencil drawings

Burattini 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, 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, where he regularly shares his works in progress. This drawing was created using black coloured pencils, graphite pencils and charcoal.

08. Paul Lung – Mui Chu

Lung specialises in super-realistic fur

This mindblowingly realistic image of a cat 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 this particular A2 pencil drawing taking Lung approximately 60 hours to complete.

09. Jay Varma – Inner Courtyard

Varma captures every tiny detail in his coloured pencil drawings

Give self-taught artist Jay Varma a set of coloured pencils and a piece of paper and it will undoubtedly result in a gorgeous illustration, like this architectural study. 

Art runs throughout Varma's family, his grandfather being master oil painter Raja Ravi Varma – one of the most highly regarded artists in India. 

Jay Varma's skills have been recognised by many, with his work featuring in various prominent publications. In his pencil drawings, Varma pays particular attention to mood and lighting.

10. Randy Owen – Samuel L Jackson

Owen creates portraits like this in his spare time

Randy Owen creates incredibly realistic pencil drawings – like this image of Samuel L Jackson, drawn using Mars Lumograph black pencils – in his spare time. 

On his ridiculously good Deviant art portfolio, he explains his aim: "Portraying the human essence in a traditionalist manner, while not being ignorant about contemporary trends, is my goal as a craftsperson."

Next page: 10 more incredibly realistic pencil drawings