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How to Draw: a beginners guide

Drawing is a timeless skill that allows you to express your creativity and bring your ideas to life on paper. So many people believe that drawing is a talent that only a few people possess but in reality everyone can learn to draw.

this guide will give you 10 tips on how to start your drawing practice!

I started drawing more serious and practice with purpose in my 30’s and it made such a difference.

In this guide I will talk about the art materials you need when starting your drawing practice and I will give you tips on how to practice drawing as a skill to improve quickest. In my art courses and community I have years of experience in teaching beginners how to become comfortable with drawing and how to practice drawing and painting skills.

If you are a complete beginner to drawing, this guide will walk you through the essential steps on how to draw. This guide does not include any specific drawing tutorials, you can find a number of free "how to draw" templates in my shop and you can watch one of my free introduction classes here:

How to draw a corgi:

How to Draw: a beginners guide

1. Gather Your Supplies

Before you start drawing, you’ll need some basic supplies:

  • Pencils: Start with a range of pencils from 2H (hard) to 6B (soft). H stands for Hard and B for Blackness and HB is the pencil that sits perfectly in the middle of this range. I personally prefer pencils that have higher B numbers when I draw with charcoal and Higher H numbers when I paint in watercolours as the harder pencils smudge less.

  • Erasers: A kneaded eraser for gentle corrections and a standard eraser for erasing large areas.

  • Paper: Use a sketchbook or drawing paper. I personally like to draw on paper with a little texture but many artists prefer smooth paper. Some sketchbooks have different types of paper combined into one sketchbook which is a great way to try out what your own preference is.

  • Sharpener: Keep your pencils sharp for fine details.

  • colour: when you first start drawing adding colour can be super daunting but it is also super fun, really elevates your artwork and opens up a whole range of new possibilities! When you start I would first have a look at what materials you already have. Perhaps you have some markers, pencils or watercolour paint in a drawer somewhere? Have a play with those and see what you gravitate towards before you splurge and buy lots of new art materials.

Remember that children’s art supplies are usually made for durability and that they do not usually have the richest colours or the most precise paint brushes. They are great to start with but you will probably quite quickly want to upgrade to a student grade. Student grade art materials are a fantastic way to purchase materials that are both more affordable as well as good quality. Artist grade means that they materials use the best pigments, are most lightfast and are really meant for professional artworks and that is fantastic but at this stage you want to have art materials that you feel free to use and that give you a great experience!

2. Understand Basic Shapes

All complex drawings start with basic shapes. Begin by practising:

• Circles and Ovals: For faces, eyes, and round objects.

• Squares and Rectangles: For buildings, books, and structured objects.

• Triangles: For roofs, noses, and geometric designs.

Every drawing is made up of these basic shapes. When you understand that every picture can be broken down into simple shapes you will start realising that you can really simplify your drawing process.

This does take a little practice. Start with drawing random objects (for example, vehicles) and start sketching them by using super simple shapes first before you add any details. This will really help with step 3:

3. Learn About Proportions

Proportions are crucial for drawing realistic images. Here’s how to get them right:

  • proportions are probably the most basic but also the most difficult part of learning to draw to master. Take your time, step back regularly and use a pencil or viewfinder to help compare the proportions. It can’t also really help to print out your reference picture at the same size of your drawing and keeping the two next to each other.

  • Start with more simple objects to draw. still lives are far from boring and when you are a complete beginner, an apple for example is much easier to draw than an animal or a person. It also really helps to draw things that are fun to YOU. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Just draw the things that bring you joy!

A few tips:

  • Human Figure: The average adult is about 7.5 heads tall. Use the head as a unit of measurement.

  • Facial Features: Eyes are roughly halfway down the head. The distance between the eyes is about one eye’s width.

  • Objects: Compare the size of one part of the object to another. For instance, the length of a car is roughly three times its height.

Remember: Proportions change if you look at an object (or person) from a different angle. Because of that it is not super useful to learn all the different proportions by heart, it works better to really look at the object you are drawing and measure the different shapes you see.

4. Practice Contour Drawing

Contour drawing helps you capture the outline of your subject. Here’s how:

  • Outline: Focus on drawing the outer edges of the object.

  • Details: Add interior lines to define details like folds in fabric or features in a face.

  • Observation: Look closely at the subject and draw what you see, not what you think you see.

  • Contour drawing is super fun when you use a more chunky material. For example a big pencil, a brush pen or even a larger brush. That way you are forced to simplify shapes and ignore the details.

5. Shading Techniques

Shading adds depth and dimension to your drawings. When you start to learn shading you will instantly feel sooo much better about your drawings! Guaranteed!

Try these techniques:

  • Hatching: Drawing parallel lines to create shading.

  • Cross-Hatching: Drawing intersecting sets of parallel lines.

  • Blending: Using a blending stump or your finger to smooth out pencil marks.

  • Stippling: Creating shading with tiny dots.

Shading can made a 2D drawing look more 3D!

6. Study Light and Shadow

Understanding how light affects your subject is key to realistic drawing. In fact, I would claim that having your contrast right (the darks dark enough and the lights light enough) is more important to making a realistic drawing than the colour you use.

  • Light Source: Determine where the light is coming from.

  • Highlights: Areas where light hits directly.

  • Shadows: Areas blocked from light. Include cast shadows (on surfaces) and form shadows (on the object itself).

  • when you first start practicing with light and shadow I would use the light as you see if ‘t on your reference and when you have a bit more experience you can practice changing your light source.

7. Use References

Drawing from references helps improve your skills and accuracy.

Types of references:

  • Photos: Use photographs to practice drawing a variety of subjects.

  • Still Life: Arrange objects and draw them from life.

  • Models: Draw people or animals in person.

Sometimes artists can be a little snobby about reference pictures but they are super useful and a great way to learn! Almost all artists use reference pictures at times. It is worth keeping in mind that a lot of pictures on the internet are copyright protected. If you want to share your artwork online, sell it or use it in any other commercial way you have to be sensitive of copyright laws. There are lots of websites with photo’s that are open source (such as Unsplash and Pixabay) and there are groups on facebook where people share photo’s for artists to use and practice drawing from. You can also take your own photo’s off course. Whatever picture you use, make sure it is sharp, well lit and clear! When you are more experienced in drawing you can start drawing from memory and imagination and mix and match your reference pictures to create your own designs.

There are techniques that people use to copy a reference picture accurately. Some artists use a light box, trace against a window, use a grit system or use a projector to start their sketch for a drawing. I usually sketch freehand as I quite like the little ‘mistakes’ that make a drawing look handmade.

8. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like any skill, drawing improves with practice:

  • Daily Sketching: Dedicate time each day to draw, even if it’s just quick sketches.

  • Challenges: Take on drawing challenges to push your boundaries.

  • Feedback: Share your work with others to get constructive feedback if you are comfortable with that. When you ask for feedback it helps to be specific. For example, tell a friend that you are practicing proportions and if they can look at the proportions of your drawing to help you see what changes you can made before you proceed to the next step.

Makings and Musings Hosts lots of Art challenges in the Creative community! If you need a little inspiration, go check it out!

9. Learn from Others

Study the work of other artists to learn new techniques and gain inspiration:

  • Books and Tutorials: There are many books and online tutorials dedicated to teaching drawing.

  • Classes: Consider taking a drawing class to get hands-on instruction.

  • Art Communities: Join online or local art communities to connect with other artists.

With Makings and Musings I host online courses, art classes and an online community where we practice together.

10. Have Fun and Be Patient

Drawing should be enjoyable, so have fun with it and be patient with your progress. Every artist started as a beginner, and improvement comes with time and dedication​.

You will never stop learning so enjoy the process and have fun!


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