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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

All artists, at the very beginning, will learn how to draw. Many of the tips and techniques that you can learn have been used for centuries, passed down from one generation to the next. This article uncovers just exactly how to draw.

Introduction to How to Draw

Learning to draw can be a long process, with much to learn. However, there are many simple exercises which can make the process easier and much more fun, particularly at the start. For children, it is always best to concentrate on them having fun, with technical improvements coming later. There are also different mediums to make use, starting with a simple pencil in order to complete your earliest creations.

This article covers the process of learning how to draw in detail, covering all factors that you will to consider over time, different drawing techniques to practice, as well as listing further resources which can help you to improve in the future. Most of the tips here on how to draw are provided from the perspective of a beginner artist, often a young child, and learning the basics is key to long term success.

List of Steps in Learning How to Draw, including Artworks

We have provided a list below of the key steps to learning how to draw, and these will apply to most artists, regardless of your artistic style. Starting simple is key, and whilst some of the items below may sound obvious, it is helpful to be reminded of these building blocks of knowledge. There are also links to information on how to draw specific items, for those looking to improve their techniques around one particular item, rather than just more general sketching.

There are many benefits to teaching children to draw from a young age, such as developing their creative mind but also in building muscles in their hands and wrists, which will later make it easier for them to write too. Additionally, some of the techniques below include observing elements and learning more about their inner workings, which can be very beneficial too. Success in painting and sculpture has also traditionally required a strong base of drawing skills.

Let's Get Started: Introduction to Drawing for Beginners

The purpose of drawing, or art more generally, is not about pretty pictures, but more as a means to expressing your creativity. That said, most will unhappy if their early work does not look as intended, and so accurate sketching early on will help them to build confidence, and then persevere. Many also find it brings other benefits, such as relaxation, improving concentration and also helping to increase your skills of observation.

Another common mistake people make is that they feel art is only for some people, and possibly not for them. In reality, it is a wide ranging discipline, and is accessible to all. The simple practice of observation and repetition is enough for anyone to improve as they go, and typically there will be a medium which suits your approach, that eventually you will come across. Early on, it can be impossible to decide on things to draw, but in that case, take a look at some of the ideas included in this article.

Fun with Crayons and Paper: Gathering Your Drawing Supplies

Crayons can be a wonderful introduction to drawing for kids, helping them to understand the use of color for different objects, but without the mess commonly brought about by using paints. Additionally, children often find crayons easier to hold and use than alternatives, with their thick, wide construction. Each is normally entirely colored in the same tone that they will apply, helping children to understand what will appear on the paper when they use each one.

Once you have some crayons, and a suitable place to work from, grab some spare white paper and make a start. With young children it is difficult, but necessary, to try to keep them working in the same area, as otherwise crayons will soon be used on your furniture, walls and appliances. It might even be a good idea to work outdoors in the garden or park, where any mess is completely limited. Certainly keep your eye on their progress, help when necessary and they will probably enjoy the experience more too.

Meet Your Drawing Tools: A Beginner's Guide

Beginners can pick from a variety of tools to starting with. These include standard pencils, which are normally readily available in your home already, as well as crayons, colored pencils, pens and markers. As you need to correct mistakes as you go, erasers can also be used to fix issues, depending on what you chose to use to draw with. Crayons are a great choice for kids, and can be held in the same way as a pencil, helping children to understand how to write too. Another positive of crayons is that their colors can combine in a similar manner to painting, helping children to understand the method of mixing palettes of color.

Colored pencils are a cross between standard pencils and crayons, and also work well with children. They are better for varying intensity of line as compared to crayons, but are also more fragile than their alternative, leading to broken lead from time to time with those unused to drawing or writing. Markers come with different tip widths and can bring great results, with bold lines, but can also lead to more mess, and are harder to clean up afterwards, when children choose to 'freestyle' on where they are applying their work.

Creating a Creative Space: Setting Up Your Drawing Area

Finding somewhere to draw may seem fairly straight forward enough, but there are several tips which will help you to make the most of your creative talents. Firstly, the chosen environment should be clean, tidy and pretty quiet, to allow your mind to focus entirely on this process alone. If you plan on sketching regularly, then you should also make sure that the ergonomics are suitable, to avoid stresses and strains from these repetitive actions, just as you might within an office setting.

In the modern world there are many distractions around, and leaving digital devices elsewhere, as well as turning off the tv are important ways to ensure your concentration remains unbroken. Setting aside a solid block of time, such as one hour, without any other actions or tasks is a good way of giving the process the best chance of success. Another tip which works for some, but not others, is to have some relaxing music playing whilst you draw, which might help you to retain your concentration levels.

Shapes and Lines: The Building Blocks of Drawing

Shapes and lines will have an important role within your drawings and it is necessary to truly understand the different types that exist. Shapes can be organically produced or related to standard geometric ones, whilst you must also consider outlines which can have interesting effects, as well as the use of negative space which is something that many beginners overlook. Organic and geometric shapes offer a contrast between the natural and the manmade, with the former bringing in an inevitable variability. Your own tastes will dictate which you use, though they can be used in a complementary manner, with a required level of skill.

Equally, there are many different lines to pick from, with techniques such as cross-hatching being used to create shade and texture, with the great masters of the Italian Renaissance using this method frequently. Contour lines can be used to create the image of depth and volume to your work, whilst implied lines are used by the artist to tap into one's existing knowledge and expectations about something, making them able to form details without actually implicitly drawing them. This is another technique that beginners will be entirely unaware of but can add to their repertoire at a later date.

Look, Imagine, Draw: The Magic of Observation

Observation is crucial to drawing items from real life accurately. It can help us to break complex elements down into smaller components, just as engineers would do when designing a new system or machine. We can also observe elements from different angles and in different conditions in order to learn much more about them. Cubist painters mastered a method of including different angles within the same two dimensional artwork which was a groundbreaking approach which took some of the benefits of sculpture into the painting format. A good practice is to observe an element several times and then close your eyes and try to imagine each and every detail of it without looking - if you can do this successfully, then you can claim to have observed it well enough.

You can then turn away and do some quick sketches entirely from memory, then compare them to reality. It may be necessary to look directly when working on the more precise elements, but slowly over time this process will improve your skills of observation and also help you to notice more subtle elements that previously you may have overlooked. The final phase would be to observe different items, covering nature, pre-arranged still life set-ups, portraits and also over elements such as photographs.

Making Things Look Real: Easy Perspective for Beginners

There are many different techniques for mastering perspective within your drawings, but it is best to avoid these challenges until simpler techniques have been used. Once you are ready, you can make use of one point and two point perspective, as well as overlapping and atmospheric perspective. Overlapping involves placing several items in an overlapping format, which allows us to understand depth by comparing their relative positions. Likewise, comparisons of size can also help us understand more about each item.

You can experiment with one and two points in the distance, where elements will converge towards, with the outlines moving towards these points as they drift off into the distance. The standard format was to have a single point, to which all other elements would converge and this is the simplest technique to start with. Perspective within art is a challenging technique that only relatively recently has been mastered by even the most respected artists, as examples from medieval art will make evident.

Adding Shadows and Highlights: Shading Techniques Made Simple

Understanding the impact of light is a key aspect to successfully drawing all manner of objects. The great sketchers of the past would take a single object and concentrate on its textures, shading and shadow in highly accomplished pieces which demonstrated years of practice and training. We do not need to try to achieve these levels of precision, but a basic understanding of shading techniques is still necessary in the long term. A simple practice would be to use a bedside lamp to shine light on an object and then to observe the impact of shading, whilst also moving the lamp around to see how this changes the experience.

Once you have observed these intricate details, there are then techniques to capture the variations in tone, such as hatching, cross-hatching, blending and stippling, all of which have their own unique benefits. Mastering each of these methods will give you a full array of options when working on a variety of subjects and in a variety of conditions. Gradation, the use of gradients of tone and color, is a common method for capturing the shadows of light.

Adding Texture and Detail to Your Art

Textures can be formed within your work, or at least suggested at through various techniques. The direction, intensity and pattern of your lines can be combined with our own knowledge of different elements to produce ideas in the viewer's mind. For example, when drawing trees, you would try to replicate the irregular texture of the bark, and try to also match the hard thickness of this material. You can also use small dots instead of lines, and this approach is named stippling.

Consider all ways of impacting your work, rather than just the standard application of a pencil or brush. Some artists will even use their fingers to smudge elements for different effects, and learning each of these different techniques will give you a wide selection of choices from which you can select the most appropriate one for each task. The most obvious use for varying light and dark is to portray shadowing, which helps to make an image more real, and reflect the imapct of light on the three dimensional structure of what you are drawing.

Drawing Your Favorite Things: Choosing Subjects You Love

Artists are constantly striving for ideas on what to draw, and despite such a huge choice out there, many continue to struggle for inspiration. It is imperative to choose subjects for your work that uou are passionate about, as this will make the whole process easier and more enjoyable. For many, nature offers this passion, be it animals, birds or the countryside itself. For others, it may be the human form, leading to iterations on the human body, or shoulder-length portraits.

Memories and friendships can also be helpful sources of inspiration, such as a much-loved pet, or perhaps a location which provided a particularly enjoyable holiday. Choosing subjects in this manner also makes it more likely that you oeuvre will become more unique to yourself, almost becoming a type of visual diary of key parts of your own life. You might also be interested in historical elements, which can be studied from photographs or old magazines, which just in itself could be a treasure-trove of opportunities for your work.

Your Unique Style: How to Develop Your Own Drawing Style

In order to create your own style, the process should be entirely organic, and involve experimenting as much as possible. By trying out different subjects for your work, and also many different techniques, such as those listed through this article, you will be able to discover which approaches best suit your own skills and interests. You will likely than start fusing different ideas together, whilst adding some of your own imagination and this will eventually lead to something of a unique style which may become consistent over the longer term.

In order to be unique, it is important to move away from copying the styles of others as soon as possible. This process early on can help you to master different skills and techniques but over time you should try to forge your own path, working directly from observed elements, rather than studying other people's art. This will also start to build your confidence, and make you feel more like a real artist.

Practice Makes Perfect: Why Drawing Regularly Matters

Regular practice can help to make certain tasks automatic, with your muscles being trained into certain activities and also the formation of certain objects within your work becoming second-nature. You will also be able to work faster, as many actions can be completed without much thought, moving a sketch onwards at a much quicker pace before you reach the more challenging parts. The most important aspect of practice, though, is to really master a particular challenge over time, by slowly eliminating mistakes and achieving a standard that ultimately satisfies you. You may practice one component of a larger item, before moving on to another part of it.

As you continue to practice, more and more items will become familiar, and your overall confidence in what you can achieve will grow and spread. Eventually, taking on a new genre will not be so intimidating, and you should be able to retain motivation by expecting success, even in new content. Practice may help you to think about what you are doing, helping you to understand why some things work, and others don't.

Oops! Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

There are many ways that artists struggle, particularly early on in their development, but the most common ones can be avoided by following these tips. Errors of proportion can be spotted by all of us pretty quickly, and aos learning the correct proportions is essential in order to avoid making obvious mistakes. Anatomy is a tricky challenge, and even the great masters understood its near-infinite intricacies, meaning practice and deep observation were essential to mastering this genre. Another problem can be from keeping the same line width throughout your drawing, which loses the opportunity of telling us more about each object, but this is fine for those just starting off.

It can be difficult to know when to stop, and we can add too much detail, or not enough. More experienced artists who develop a particular style will eventually learn when to leave their artworks, and move on. Those who carry on can end up with cluttered images. Many will also rush their work, not spending sufficient time on each component part and this will result in elements not fitting together properly, and by the time the artist realises their mistake, it will be too far evolved to go back and fix everything. Patience will result in not moving on until each part is correct, and the final result will be much better.

Fun Drawing Games and Activities for Kids

There are many ways of making drawing accessible to children, with certain activities being well known as effective in pricking their interest in working creatively. Providing half-finished drawings and asking them to fill in the remaining elements can avoid intimidating them and will be easier than working from scratch. Another option is to provide drawings of several objects and ask them to put them together into an artwork of their own, such as a variety of animals, people or elements in a home.

Dot-to-dot puzzles are the most famous children's drawing exercise and helps them to put outline drawings together by following a simple process of numbering. This lacks creativity, but is a good way of building confidence. Once these dot-to-dot books are completed, they are no-longer useful, too, so it may be better to print off your own versions each time instead. You can also incorporate other lessons alongside art to help your children, such as encouraging them to work collaboratively, thus improving their social skills whilst evolving their artistic techniques.

Coloring Your Creations: Exploring Colors for Beginners

The color wheel is a good place to start when you start to question the choices of color that you make within your art. Initially, you can just work with whatever you have to hand, but as you progress, you will want to consider the relationships between different colors, which can be categorised into primary, secondary, tertiary and complementary colors. Besides that, there are also groups together for different atmospheres, such as the warmer and colder tones which can be particularly important in landscape art, but can be applied to anything else.

The next challenge is for those who move on to painting, or pastel drawing, where colors can be mixed together, either directly on canvas, or prior to application. This knowledge will bring new colors into your palette, and is a fundamental skill for your evolution as a painter. You will also be able to experiment with touches of white and black paint to create variations of the same colors which can be useful for shading and replicating light sources.

Digital Drawing Made Easy

In the modern era we have seen a rise in digital art, where art is produced using software and hardware, rather than traditional tools. This approach was first seen with photography, but that approach is handled outside of modern digital art. This genre includes digital drawing tools, which can be used to sketch on your tablet device, and your creations can then be edited and shared using various software packages. When using software, many options are available in complex packages, including layering, erasing, and filters.

Art drawn digitally can more easily be adapted for other purposes. Line drawings can be coverted into formats such as svgs, and then applied to merchandise, or increased in size without losing quality. This makes it better for commercial work, and designs can even be translated into code, helping to reduce file size.