I spent a few days thinking about and gathering these techniques. Then I drew a few example illustrations to show you different concepts you can apply.
You can use these drawing techniques for both digital art and traditional art.
These techniques and tips include:
Keep reading to learn all of these different techniques!
Drawing techniques – Drafting
The first step to creating any artwork is to draft the art and lay down solid foundations for your work. Your focus in this step is to have the right proportions, perspective, and composition.
1. Choose the right paper and pencil for the job
Most pencils are graded with an HB scale. “H” simply means harder leads that give you lighter lines. “B” leads are blacker and softer. “F” stands for “fine” and has a fine, sharpened point. It is between HB and H in terms of darkness.
The number beside the alphabet also indicates how light or black the pencils are. For example, a 4B pencil is darker than a 2B pencil. A 5H pencil is lighter than a 3H pencil.
Lighter “H” pencils are good for drafting and adding lighter shades and values. Blacker “B” pencils are good for shading and adding details that stand out.
As for the paper, pick the one that suits the job. Paper manufacturers usually mention what the paper is for. For most, a mixed media paper is a good choice. For sketching, you can use any cheap paper or a sketchbook.
If you’re drawing digitally, then a drawing tablet or an iPad is good enough.
2. Find reference photos
Reference photos allow you to look back to the photo to get a more accurate representation of the object. It’s hard to remember things like proportions, perspective, and fine details if you have not spent a lot of time studying the object.
Even professionals use reference photos as a tool to help them get a better end result. You can Google images and use Pinterest for this. Use sites like Unsplash if you would like a non-copyrighted photo.
3. Use underdrawing as a guide
Underdrawings are great because they act as a guide for your harder lines. When you commit to your lines, it is harder to fix them so it is best to fix things like perspective and proportion at this stage. Start with light lines or use lighter pencils so that you can easily erase the lines if you need to.
4. Draw the basic shapes first
You can break down most objects into geometric shapes. Break down your subject into shapes like circles, squares, rectangles, and rhombuses. This helps your drawing have a better form and perspective. As seen in the picture, I have broken down the picture of a dog into geometric shapes. You can practice this by simply drawing the shapes you see on top of photos of different objects.
5. Keep your work clean
It’s hard to fix a big smudge on your artwork. One tip is to work from left to right. This would minimize the smudge on your art. You can also put paper underneath your hand to avoid smudging. Another tip is to clean up your lines before moving on. As you draw lines that you want to commit to, erase your guidelines to keep your artwork clean.
6. Use thumbnail to plan art
Thumbnails are rough sketches of what your art would be. You can play around with different proportions, perspectives, colors, or backgrounds to see what you would like in the final piece. It helps to draw multiple versions of things you would like to flesh out so that you can pick the one you like the most. Thumbnails also help you refer back to the great ideas you had as you finish your artwork.
7. Not everything needs to be symmetrical
Play around with symmetry. Most organic things like plants and animals are not completely symmetrical. In fact, asymmetry can make your drawings look more natural and interesting. But in some cases like drawing a face, symmetry can be important. You should keep a little asymmetry to keep the drawing natural, but major proportions should still be correct.
8. Check, check, and check before committing harder lines
At this stage of the drawing, you should check your work. Check proportions, perspective, and composition of your sketch/underdrawing. Correct any mistakes you see before you commit to harder lines or before adding details. You don’t want to waste valuable time by adding a lot of details just to find out that you have a big glaring mistake that you can avoid by double-checking.
9. Trace your sketch to another paper
You can trace your final sketch before shading or coloring in your work. This gives you a second chance in case you mess up on your drawing. You can also trace your work onto multiple papers to try out different colors or shadings to see which ones you like. As for digital art, you can simply duplicate layers and save a backup one in case you mess up.
Tracing also helps you check your proportions. You can try flipping the tracing paper horizontally to see if your proportions are off. In digital art, you can also horizontally flip your image with the software. In my dog drawing, I noticed the leg is a bit small after I flipped the image.
Drawing techniques – Adding details
After you go through the drafting process of your art, your next steps would be to add more details to your work.
10. Use different line thickness
Line thickness can affect the way we observe forms. You can use thicker lines to show that there is a shadow there (for example, the chin line of a face). You might want to make lines thinner in cases where light is shining at that location. Lines outlining the drawing and key parts are usually a bit thicker as well. These lines differentiate body parts, backgrounds, and add depth to your drawing.
Use different shading techniques
This brief section would go over shading techniques you can use for your drawing.
11. Hatching, Crosshatching
Hatching is drawing parallel lines to add value and depth to your drawing. Closer lines would make the shadings seem darker than lines that are farther apart. You should also keep in mind the direction of the shading to see if it is suitable for the shape of the object.
Cross hatching is like hatching but the lines can cross. You can use parallel lines that cross in two or three different directions. This allows more flexibility than hatching.
Stippling is the process of using dots to add shadows, textures, and shades to your drawing. Dots that are closer to each other would make the shades seem darker. You can also vary the pressure you put into your pencil. The good thing about stippling is that it gives you a lot of control. But, it is time-consuming and takes a lot of patience.
Scribbling is drawing in random patterns. You can make it more circular or you don’t have to follow any set path. This technique gives you more speed and is more of a stylistic choice. But, if you want your art to look neater then this technique might be too messy.
This technique is better for pencils than for digital art. For circling, you simply draw smooth circles to add value to your work. Sharp pencils in this case would create lines that you may not want. Duller pencils would give you a smoother look.
15. Back and forth
Back and forth is exactly as it states. You go back and forth with your pencil to add in shading. This is the most basic technique for shading.
Blending helps make each individual line in your shading less visible. This creates a smoother look for your drawing. You can use a blending stump or your fingers to blend. But, finger blending can cause the oils in your finger to mix with your drawing and make your work harder to erase. For digital art, you can try textured brushes to blend your shadings.
17. Vary elements in your drawing
When you are drawing things like snow, stars, sand, and leaves you can try to vary the size or the shape of your drawing. This helps make these elements look more interesting and real. You can also try this in stippling by varying the size of your stippling.
18. Add highlights and darken shadows
Higher contrast images and drawings usually interest us more. They draw you into the details and allow you to focus your eyes on a specific part. Low contrast makes it hard for your eyes to differentiate depth or focus on details. Remember that you can also erase parts that you want to add highlights. For more precise erasing, try using an electric eraser.
Finishing up your work
Once you are happy with the details you added, here are a few tips.
19. Avoid reworking and obsessing over your work
Don’t obsess over mistakes you have made in your work. Once you decide that a piece is finished, move on. I know it can be hard to resist the temptation to improve your art further, especially if you’re a perfectionist. But, moving on would allow you to learn faster and work on your next art piece. You can also set a time for yourself to finish the art. For example, give yourself an hour to finish up and don’t touch it after that.
20. Reflect on how you can improve
When you finish a sketch or an artwork, reflecting on your artwork can help you improve. Ask yourself: what are the 3 areas you did well on? What are the 3 areas you can improve? Reflecting on your work helps you spot your mistakes and learn from them. Check things like proportions, shading, and perspective to see if there is any room for improvement.
What to do next
Now that you’ve learned these techniques, be sure to practice them and let us know how it went! If you’re running out of ideas on what to draw next, check out our article on drawing ideas for beginners.