“Learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see – to see correctly – and that means a good deal more than merely looking with the eye.” Kimon Nicolaides
Have you always been interested in visual arts and illustration? Have you been looking for ways to build your drawing skills and turn your simple drawings into masterpieces? Well, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve got some great beginner drawing tips right here to get you started:
If you’re looking to take it a step further and commit to taking a deep dive into building your skills as an artist, then it’s time to start focusing on detail.
Details are best achieved when you use the right tools. If you have to draw a hard, thin line but only have a dark, soft pencil, you’re going to lose what gives your piece the variation and visual interest it needs.
So, for the first of our drawing tips, let’s talk about some basic tools you might want to consider using:
Your pencil is the bridge between your mind and your drawing, so it’s important to make sure you’re using the right one. You may have noticed there are different kinds of pencils that have numbers and letters on them: B, F, 2H, HB…
It can get a bit confusing – but don’t worry. It’s actually pretty self-explanatory.
All these letters and numbers will help you understand how hard and dark the lead will be. Here’s a simple breakdown:
H pencils – H stands for “hardness”. You might see 2H, 3H and so on. The higher the number before the H, the harder the lead will be. The harder the lead is, the lighter and more harsh it will appear on paper.
B pencils – B represents the darkness or “blackness” of the graphite. The higher the number is before the B, the darker and softer the lead will be. 2B is a recommended one to start with, it has some softness and darkness without being too overwhelming, and you can get a decent range between dark and light.
HB pencils – HB pencils will give you more or less the same look as the standard pencil we use to write with.
F pencils – F stands for “fine”. The F pencil is pretty similar to the tone of an HB pencil, it is just slightly harder and lighter in color and will therefore stay sharper for longer.
It’s also important to keep in mind quality, brand, and geography when choosing what pencils you use as it might change the look of the graphite on paper.
Not everyone has to necessarily use pencil and paper. You might want to try using charcoal, pastels, pens, or mechanical pencils. You may even want to start digital drawing! But a great way to achieve more detail, depth, and texture is by simply paying more attention to the different tones you’re drawing with – this will help add complexity and improve the overall visual interest of your work.
You can always opt for the standard eraser you may have used in school, but there are also some different options to help take your drawing game to the next level.
You can invest in what’s called a kneaded eraser that looks and feels like a piece of clay or putty. The great thing about this eraser is that you can mold and shape it however you want to remove very specific, detailed parts of your drawing.
For less detailed parts or larger sections of your page, a gum eraser is great. But make sure to find the right one that’s best for your needs – it really can make all the difference in the quality of your work and help ease the process.
Even the simplest thing as your choice of paper can have a great impact on your drawing experience and your final product.
Make sure to get the right kind of paper for what you’re drawing. This will ensure that your masterpiece lasts over time, so you can frame it up on the wall and look back on it for years to come.
Papers can vary from ones that are acid-free to prevent yellowing (which is usually the recommended paper to use), all the way to “sketching paper” that is usually just made for practice.
This tool can help you draw an extremely fine line with a pencil tip that isn’t sharp enough. By using sandpaper, you can sharpen your pencil however much you want to get the desired sharpness and shape. You can use sandpaper from the hardware store that isn’t too rough, or buy sandpaper blocks that are specifically made for pencils.
It’s best to sharpen your pencil with sandpaper that has a medium grit of around 100, that way, it doesn’t take too much graphite off of your pencil. To sharpen your pencil, hold it sideways and draw from left to right over the grit. As you go, turn the pencil around in your hand to make sure you’re evenly sharpening each side of the graphite. You can even use this to help sharpen your blending stumps if they get too dirty or dull. It’s a great tool that can help you get better detail and precision within your work.
If you’ve been using your finger to smudge all this while, try out blending stumps and tortillons instead.
While both tools are sticks of paper wrapped into a point, and used to help you achieve a specific texture and result when blending your drawings, they differ in the following ways:
Tortillons – These tools are more tightly wrapped and come to more of a point to allow easier detail when smudging.
Blending stumps – As compared to tortillons, blending stumps have points on either end and tend to be larger. This tool is far better for wider areas that need to be softly blended and smudged.
If you want an even more simpler option, you can also opt for a tissue to smudge and shade with. That way, you can avoid oils from your fingers being transferred onto your drawings.
These tools can be super handy and are a great way to elevate your abilities to draw more detailed and realistic work. Not to mention, using either of these tools will save you unwanted fingerprints on the white space of your paper and all over your house, if you ever forget to wash your hands.
There are so many tools you can invest in as an artist, and this was just a beginner’s list of some essentials. But overall, as you start your drawing journey, it is equally important to consider both the tools and their affordability, so you can be more realistic about which to include in your tool kit.
It’s not about the fancy equipment or how much money you need to spend on your craft, the real quality behind your work comes from your imagination, your ideas, and your level of passion. What matters most is how invested you are in making your craft work with whatever tools are within reach; no matter how small or limited they might be.
Technique plays an important role in not only achieving a specific style, but also in developing your own. When you use different techniques, you’re able to find what naturally feels right to you. This is what makes your work stand out and how you eventually discover your voice as an artist. Here are a few common techniques you can try out while creating your own style:
There are so many different drawing and shading techniques from hatching, crosshatching, smudging and more. Switching up your sketching techniques can bring something new and fresh to every creative drawing you make.
When you first start out drawing, you might be inclined to just draw a circle or a shape in one attempt.
That’s what we’re all probably used to doing while creating simple drawings. But interestingly, if you’re trying to create more realistic, dynamic drawings, it’s actually better not to commit.
When you commit to heavily drawing a shape right away, it makes the image harder to erase. So if you need to change it, it’ll often end up looking more messy and rushed.
Take a look at the photo below:
You’re more likely to get a better, more precise-looking shape or figure, and one with more visual interest, when you separate your drawing into smaller strokes rather than one big line.
But eventually, there will come a time when you’ll need to commit in order to move forward. So, once you’ve lightly sketched out the form like this, then you can go back and darken the lines, erase the messy parts and commit to the shape.
Half of the art of drawing comes from observing – from focusing on the finer details to understanding things like shapes, shading, textures, curves, and angles.
Keep your eyes open to the world, and simply notice what’s around you.
An artist named Henrique Pousão was a master at observing. He would take in the simplest of details and stories by simply looking at something and then applying it into his work. He highlighted the importance of being aware of how our own biases and perspectives influence the way we see things around us.
He would pay attention to those unique perspectives that help draw attention to certain details. A famous example is this picture below of a child sitting on a stool:
There’s so much detail and movement even in a still portrait. So much said in the eyes, in the form, and in the position that could only be captured by intense observation and looking much deeper than just the surface. The most interesting pieces are the most mundane ones that show such realistic moments perceived in such unique ways – ones that could only be captured by the artist being completely present, aware and in tune with their perspective.
In order to really elevate our work, it’s important to observe and be aware of these moments as they happen in our own lives. Paying attention to the way people sit, smile, work or get distracted – that’s what will give life to your work, and allow others to connect with it.
But this does take practice. It takes a conscious effort to look deeper, to notice the way things move and the way things are shaped. It takes practice to notice how certain textures and shadows look – like which parts of a piece of grass are shaded darker to make them stand out amongst each other in their sea of green. Or how the shading of the ocean waves makes movement in the water and what gives it that glassy shimmer.
Just like with anything else in life, your mind can affect how you feel and perceive outcomes while drawing too.
If you go into it thinking that you’re not going to create anything good, chances are you’ll only end up seeing the flaws in your work. Just like how if you’re told to look for everything that’s red in a room, you’re instantly going to notice only the red things, and none of the other colors.
Having the right attitude can make all the difference in the outcome of your work. When you have a positive outlook, you’ll start to see more of the good in your work. You’ll most likely be more engaged, better at taking criticism, and open to learning than if you’re stuck in a negative mindset. Here are some important things to keep in mind while approaching your work:
The first step to building a skill in anything, including drawing, is to believe that you’re capable of it. Our beliefs shape who we are, and the more we believe that we can’t do something, the more evidence supporting that belief will show up in our lives.
It’s been proven that people who believe in themselves and their abilities are more committed to their tasks, have more of a growth mindset when it comes to challenges, and don’t see failures as setbacks.
Approaching your artwork with an open mind and believing in your capabilities will help you work through all of the setbacks that would often lead you to believe that you’re not good enough. It’s how you start to accept mistakes as a simple part of the learning process and keep moving forward. And the more you do that, the more you improve.
The mind really is a powerful thing.
One of the most important drawing tips out there is to never strive for perfection, and always strive for growth. Any content creator should focus more on learning, improving and experimenting rather than getting it right the first time.
We don’t want perfection in art. Perfection in art doesn’t exist, so focusing on it is only going to let us down. Never making mistakes means never finding the “happy accidents” that happen as a result. It means never finding the good ideas that come from clearing out all the bad ideas first. Mistakes give art a human element that draws us in.
It’s what makes the process all the more rewarding, and it’s what makes our art unique.
So if anything, strive to use your eraser in your drawing process. They exist for a reason. Making mistakes and experimenting is all part of the creative journey. Even if you think making a giant mistake means you’ve wasted all of your time and effort – the opposite is usually true.
The fact that you recognized the mistake means you’re actually even smarter than you were before. Because, now, you know what doesn’t work.
And that is the key to improvement.
Whatever it is that you draw, whether it be character drawing, landscape, or portraits, it’s important to find your own style.
Don’t decide on what to draw or how to draw it based on other people’s work or art. You have to find your own voice in your work. That’s what will turn your simple drawings into masterpieces. That’s what will make you stand out, and instantly improve your work.
Finding your style comes with practice. It comes with looking at other people’s work to find what you like, and using other artists as inspiration. It comes with being open to criticism from others. It comes with making mistakes, following your gut, and making decisions to learn what you like and what you don’t like.
It doesn’t come from pressure, from comparison, or from seeking out perfection. You can’t work to achieve an external expectation or impress others, because that will only ever result in disappointment. But what will always fuel you is finding something that is true to you and fills you with passion whenever you work on it.
Just like with any kind of art, it’s important not to be afraid of investing your feelings into your work. Let people see who you are. Show them your thoughts, your perspective, your uniqueness, and your creativity. That’s what elevates your drawings the most.
It’s how you’re going to get real satisfaction out of your work, and why sometimes the simplest drawings and artworks actually turn out to be the biggest masterpieces. They have the most impact because they have a story. They have meaning, passion, emotion, and they convey so much more than what is physically drawn on the page.
That’s all anyone wants from your work anyway, and it’s something that the world needs more of these days: people totally and unapologetically being themselves.
If you’re stuck looking for something to draw, just draw everything and anything.
Draw what you see on your way to the store, draw your dog, draw anything that’s around you, and most importantly: learn to draw from your imagination. Your art will get better each time you learn how to take random things around you and make them come to life on paper.
We have to get through the mundane and the boring stuff to get to the good stuff. And you will get to the good stuff, all it takes is practice.
Practicing regularly is probably one of the most important drawing tips that any artist can give you, if you really want to learn how to draw. Set aside time every day to draw, no matter how small the doodle, and work it into your routine in a way that works best for you.
If it’s something you want to be good at, you have to put in the time.
This is probably the most important of all drawing tips in this list.
Try things out and don’t take your drawing so seriously that you forget why you started. We create because we love creating. We want to bring light to the world with our work, we want to share our thoughts, stories, and perspectives.
Art doesn’t always have to be about making the next best thing. Try and have fun with the process. Use your drawing to experiment, to express yourself, to try out new things, and see what you are able to create. Try new techniques, get out of your comfort zone, and try a style that’s completely new.
Join different artist groups, play some good music, and get into a creative atmosphere that’s supportive and inspiring. It’s all about remembering your “why” – remembering your passion, your love, and your excitement to create.
If you’re looking for more drawing tips that will really help take you from beginner to artist, make sure to check out the Anthony Francisco Academy course. Here, not only will you learn how to draw from your imagination, but you’ll also learn Anthony’s own methods and more. It’s the ultimate course that’ll teach you how to take your ideas and bring them to life on paper.