Hey art friends! Over the past couple of years, I’ve been on a journey to revive my drawing skills as a beginner. Specifically, I have been reading art books, watching tutorials by experienced artists, and practicing fundamentals to improve my drawing skills.
So, in this post, I am excited to share the 10 most essential drawing techniques for beginners based on my own experience and what I have learned from fellow artists. I’ve also included some valuable tips and resources to help you master each technique. 😊
Hatching is the most basic way of shading your drawings and involves making a pattern of lines to convey the shape, volume, depth, and texture of your drawing.
The technique has been around for centuries, and old masters like Albrecht Durer, considered the pioneer of the hatching technique, perfected this art by demonstrating how constructing lines of varying angles, densities, lengths, and shapes can effectively create the illusion of depth.
Here are the three basic types of hatching:
- Parallel hatching is where the lines are made, guess what, parallel to each other following the same angle.
- Cross-hatching involves a network of parallel lines made at different angles.
- Contour hatching does follow a specific angle but follows the curves and bends of the drawing subject.
For a detailed explanation of these techniques, check out my article on the 6 ways of hatching.
Quickly blocking in large shadow shapes can significantly improve your ability to handle values and make rendering more efficient.
The key to improving your blocking is to identify the pattern of dominant shadows in a drawing and organize those within the structure of your drawing just like you would approach outlining the visible forms.
Check out Chris Hong’s Skillshare Course on block-in for valuable insights, especially if you’re into portrait drawing.
8. The Loomis Method.
Developed by the American illustrator Andrew Loomis in the 1950s, this method simplifies portrait drawing into logical steps, starting with a basic sphere. Even if you’re not focused on portraits, learning the loomis method enhances your understanding of proportions and constructive drawing.
For more on the Loomis Method, refer to my guide here.
7. Using vanishing point to figure out perspective
The first time I tried to sketch a room from life as part of an exercise in a drawing workshop I was horrified to see how bad my drawing looked because I had no idea how perspective works.
We all know that objects closer to our view appear bigger to us than objects that are further from our view but it can be tricky for beginners to line different objects correctly in relationship to one another on paper and that’s where the vanishing point becomes so useful.
Perspective drawing techniques help us create a three-dimensional space on a flat piece of paper by finding one or more vanishing points on the horizon line (eye-sight level) and using that as a reference to figure out the angles at which the objects converge towards it.
Here’s a nice introduction to the concept of vanishing point and perspective drawing by Proko.
6. Blending the pencil shading
Blending techniques help add some variety to your shading and can also speed up the rendering process quite a bit compared to other techniques like hatching.
You can use various tools to create different types of blending including paintbrush, stumps, and finger smudging (my personal favorite). If you’re new to blending, experiment with different tools to figure out what works best for you considering your drawing materials, art style, and the level of precision you’re going for.
Here’s my post comparing the different ways of blending that you might find helpful.
5. Subtractive drawing
As beginners, we often think of erasers as something we only use to correct what’s wrong in a drawing. Subtractive drawing is about exploring erasing more intentionally in the art process as a reductive drawing method.
So, instead of shading carefully to avoid going over an area of drawing you want to create highlights, you can instead tone the drawing surface first with a layer of charcoal, graphite, or colored pencils, and subtract the highlights once the structure of the drawing is in place. This may not seem like a big change, but from my experience, it can considerably speed up the rendering process.
In a way, subtractive drawing helps you to approach drawing like a sculptor who starts with a big block of mass and then chisels and refines it to give it shape and form.
4. Bargue drawing method.
Recently, I started studying the Bargue Plates from the famous drawing course by the nineteenth-century French Painter Charles Bargue. These plates, which are 197 in total, feature drawings based on plaster casts of various sculptures depicting the human form. They were designed to be copied sequentially, allowing art students to progressively grasp the basics of classical academic drawing.
Remarkably, some of the most iconic artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Cezanne are said to have also studied these plates, and studying the plates has been an integral part of the drawing curriculum of many art schools and ateliers even today.
Studying the Bargue Plates is also a nice exercise in value drawing and observational drawing. Here’s a nice tutorial by Stephen Bauman on the Bargue Drawing Method.
3. Gesture sketching
Gesture sketching is about capturing the essence of the drawing subject in a handful of quickly drawn lines. Instead of focusing on the contour of the individual forms of a drawing subject from the outset, gesture sketching helps you to explore its overall shape, balance, and relationships before proceeding to the structure and rendering of a drawing.
Gesture sketching is an essential skill for making your drawings more dynamic, fluid, and accurately proportioned, and learning it is a lifelong pursuit that is deceptively hard to master. Here are some useful tips by Stan on improving your gesture drawing.
2. Negative space
When you’re drawing something complicated from observation, it is super helpful to divert your attention toward the edges of the background void instead of the subject itself.
Betty Edwards in her book ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ explains how beginners often allow their preconceived notions about how something should look like to override their observations. Diverting your attention towards the shape of the empty nameless void instead of the subject itself can help you trick your brain into seeing (and therefore drawing) the shapes better.
Besides being a purely technical drawing technique aimed at fooling our brain to draw better, being mindful of the negative space can also improve the compositional balance and emphasis of our drawings as I explore in this post.
1. Lost and found edges
The interplay of lost and found edges within a drawing can not only improve its depth, it also lend a nice impressionist effect to a drawing. John Singer Sargent was a master of varying the edge quality in his artworks and is always a treat to study and learn from.
Here’s a nice analysis by Ian Roberts on how some of the old masters handled the edges in their artworks.
And there you have it – 11 basic drawing techniques. If you know some nice drawing techniques that you would like to add to the list, leave a comment below and share your wisdom. Happy drawing! ✏️😊