Basic Sketching and
Drawing Techniques

What a Beginner
Really Needs To Know

Colored Pencils and CrayonsColored Pencils and Crayons

We all need to know the basic sketching techniques for beginners! They are the foundations as you move up to get newer skills under your belt.

If you don’t know the ins and outs of how to sketch, it’s a tough road to build up from there.

The basics are the framework you build on. It forms the skeleton of any drawing or painting.

When starting out, select simple tools to work with – a number 2 pencil works just fine for beginners. Get seated comfortably, and relax. Sketching isn’t about making things look perfect the first time your pencil touches your paper—and it’s about getting familiar with your subject from several angles so that you can create a well-rounded 3D finished product.

Start Simple

One of the important reminders within sketching techniques for beginners is to “start simple.” Don’t set out planning to sketch a cathedral or a horse; pick something easily accessible without many details like a small box. Mastering simple objects allows you to build fundamentals you can then apply to larger projects.

This simplicity can also be applied to your tools, your work space, and even your paper. Don’t go big when you’re beginning; just focus on capturing your subject on paper the best you can. In fact it is better to start with small “thumbnail” sketches—something about the size of 4 postage stamps! (about 2 inches x 2 inches).

Break it Down

One of the important sketching techniques for beginners is to break it down into smaller shapes. Everything you see in life is ultimately composed of the same basic shapes. A house is a triangle on top of a square. A fish is a circle with a triangle for a tail. Being able to see these shapes in more complex objects will help you build the forms of the things you are drawing. 

Don’t Sweat the Small Details

Details come later. Sketching the basic shapes are the part that matter. Fur can be conveyed with a couple of lines indicating the fur’s direction; you don’t need to include ever single hair.

Focus on the essence of your subject. Sketches can be a big bundle of squiggles in the general shape of your subject. So long as form and energy are captured, you have succeeded at sketching. 

Work on Tone

Sketching is typically done in pencil, and it’s usually with graphite pencil or charcoal. This keeps things simple--you’re not worried about color, which means you get to focus on shading and tone. Visualize in grayscale. Once you’ve figured out how to break things down into simplistic shapes, add tone into the mix.

Shadows are what give 2D shapes a 3D feel. Study the object you are drawing and note how light bends around it. Play with tone and see what different effects it can have on your sketches.

Own Your Flaws

One of the hardest to stick to basic sketching techniques for beginners is DON’T erase. The mis-marked parts of a sketch are the best part; they let your eyes see exactly how the drawing changed, and they create borders for honing in on the best lines of your sketch.

A sketchbook is allowed to be filled with things only fit for you to see. They aren’t meant to be hung up on walls; they’re meant to be a place when you can uninhibitedly practice drawing. And practice a lot!

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