Here are some drawing tips to help you become a better drawer. These are some of the steps that I use to create professional drawings and that help me compose and organize a drawing. Following these steps will help you eliminate headache later in your drawing process. If you’d like me to cover additional drawing tips, please leave me a question at the bottom of the page and I’ll cover it in another post.
#1 Draw a Series of Thumbnail Sketches Before You Start a Project
Before you start a drawing it is always important to plan out what you are going to draw. So grab your sketchbook, or a piece of scrap paper, and create a few boxes for thumbnail sketches. They should be the same ratio as your finished drawing.
Thumbnail sketches are just tiny versions of what you are going to draw. They should be no smaller than the end joint of your thumb. That’s why they’re called thumbnail sketches. You can draw the first few quickly just to get an idea of the layout of the shapes on the entire page.
Next you can focus on a few of the thumbnails that catch your eye, draw more details. If you think you need to get a clearer picture you can take the sketch even further by drawing a larger frame so you can draw more details. But only do this after you have done a small version first.
Make sure your thumbnails don’t have any unnecessary tangents. Tangents are elements that draw unnecessary attention to a part of the drawing. For example, if you have two objects that are just barely touching each other the place where they are touching causes visual tension. This is a tangent if it is unnecessary.
If objects are overlapping each other they should be really overlapping. Avoid just barely overlapping unless you want to draw attention to an area. There are many ways to create tangents I will make an additional article explaining the various ways.
#2 Find Reference Material For Your Drawing
Now that you have your composition completely planned in thumbnail form, go find some reference material. If your drawing includes a bird, get on Pintrest and find some images of the type of bird that you want in your drawing.
The purpose of reference material is not to copy the image exactly, but rather to include realistic details that most artists can’t remember. You are drawing your own bird, just using the reference to get the details, the colors, and the lighting right.
I have read so many online comments and forums, where people agonize about using photos for reference material. It’s as if they don’t feel like real artists if they cheat by using a photograph. Well it isn’t cheating. All the professional artists I know use photo reference from online images. Before the days of the internet, artists would collect newspaper, and magazine clippings that they would keep in a filing cabinet. They called it their “scrap” collection.
If you include human figures in your drawing, this is a good time to take your own photos. Show your model your thumbnail sketches. Instruct them on what pose they should take. Get the lighting and their costumes just right and snap some photos.
The most important thing to take away from this section, is to always use reference material. Whether you take photos yourself, build a 3D model, or by find images online, in magazines, or newspapers.
#3 Use Bristol Board and Kneadable Eraser To Preserve Your Drawing Surface
Use Bristol Board or paper suitable for drawing. Your paper should have some tooth, and have a poundage of at least 80lbs. Heavy paper is good for drawing because when you draw, you are essentially making thousands of scratches on a paper.
Have you ever scribbled on a piece of paper so much that the paper took on a metallic sheen? This should never happen to your paper! If you are drawing on paper with a poundage of 80 or greater and still getting a metallic sheen, you are pressing too hard and damaging your paper regardless. If you need to get a darker value use a darker, softer pencil, like a number 8B.
Tiny grains of graphite get stuck in the fabric of your paper, that’s what causes the marks that you can’t erase. The sheen is caused by completely flattening the tooth of the paper. That’s why it’s so important that your paper can take a beating.
Printer paper has very little tooth or poundage and is easily damaged. Because the paper has very little tooth, the graphite smeers very easily as well.
You can help minimize the damage your paper takes using a kneadable erasers. Kneadable erasers gently lift out graphite rather than using friction that further damages your paper.
Following this drawing tip will help eliminate the frustration of using poor materials. You’ll be able to erase your mistakes more easily with less fear of damaging your paper. Using the proper materials makes a whole world of difference in the quality of the final drawing.
#4 Draw Outlines First, and Then Outline Shadows
When you begin your final drawing it’s important to start by drawing your objects as outlines. Focus on getting long graceful lines instead of short sketchy lines. After you get your forms outlined, go back in and lightly add additional graceful lines indicating the general shape of your shadows.
This is a process I call shadow mapping. It’s basically a road map to help you begin your shading.
#5 Draw Your Core Shadows and Shade with the Curvature of Your Objects
The final step is to begin shading your drawing. Focus on finding the core shadows, or the darkest part of the shadow first, then gradually get lighter as you approach the edge of your shadow maps showing the edge of your shadow.
When you are shading follow the curvature and shape of your objects. For example, if you are drawing a sphere you should move your pencil around the sphere in arches, as if your pencil were following a 3D shape. Using curved lines will give the impression of a round 3D object instead of a flat dimensionless shape.
Pay attention to your highlights and reflected light. Typically objects are divided into two parts, the light side and the dark side. Everything on the dark side of your drawing should never come close to any of the values found in your light side. The reflected light, for example is a section of light that reflects off the table back into the sphere on the dark side. Even though the reflected light is lighter in comparison to the penumbra, it still should be much much darker than any value in the light section.
I’ve seen people who add reflected light, that is as light as the highlights in the drawing. This is not realistic, and it creates a great deal of visual confusion. It makes it difficult for your eyes and mind to interpret what the object is.
Drawing Tips Conclusion
Thank you for taking the time to read my drawing tips. If you follow these steps you will dramatically improve your drawing skills with continuous practice. If you enjoyed it please share with your family and friends on Facebook and Twitter. Make sure to subscribe to get updates on new articles and my projects. Feel free to leave comments or questions below. And check out my portfolio of other works.