Top tips about sketching for beginners
This article is about sketching for beginners. You'll find basic insights and techniques about sketching to help you get started. Then how you can take your drawing further.
If a lack of sketching tips is holding you back from beginning your sketching journey, then we've got you covered. I'm sharing my best sketching advice to help you start with confidence.
So if you would like technical advice or tips for getting inspired, this article is for you.
Do you have your pencils or pens ready?
If you need some help deciding, here are drawing pencils and drawing pens I recommend. In case you need help choosing which ones you should start with.
01. Understand your drawing pencils
When you buy a drawing pencil kit, all the pencils are in different darkness and lightness. There's a big difference between 2B and H.
Picking the right pencil for your sketches is key. When it comes to the different types of pencils to sketch with, the hardness of the graphite is shown on the side of the pencil. ‘B' pencils are softer, ‘H' is harder, and ‘HB' sits in the middle.
I recommend starting somewhere on the H scale when you start a sketch. Then finishing your drawing with a pencil on the ‘B' scale.
02. Hold your pencil right
In sketching for beginners, you'll want to hold your pencil in the middle. Unlike holding it towards the point as you would if you were writing. Holding your pencil in the middle ensures your sketches stay loose. This way you avoid tight, un-energetic drawings.
In your early sketches, avoid details. Only focus on drawing the larger and medium shapes of whatever it is you're looking at.
03. Vary your marks
There are a variety of ways to make marks. Sketching for beginners is about experimenting to see how you naturally draw. This includes how you make marks to emphasize darks. Which help create a form to your sketches
It’s essential to experiment and find what works best for you. This way you'll grow your natural drawing style.
04. Vary your lines
Just as you should vary how you create your darks. You should also vary your thought and contour lines.
Creating thicker lines for areas where there are more weight and thinner lines for lighter areas.
This use of varied lines will create a dynamic, visually interesting drawing. Controlling the line quality is tricky for sketching for beginners. However, the more you sketch, the easier it'll be to create a variety of marks. Marks will work together to create an interesting image.
Also, test out different pencils (from H to 6B) while holding your pencil at different points of your pencil.
05. Avoid smudging
It helps to keep your sketch smudge-free by putting an extra piece of paper under your hand.
This will prevent the side of your hand from touching lines in your drawing. For example, if you're right-handed, begin shading from left to right. If you're left-handed, start at the right and move to the left.
Using a scrap piece of paper to prevent smudging will make it so you don't have to go in with an eraser to clean up your drawing later.
However, you can use smudging to enhance your drawing. Smudging lines on purpose to create shadows in your sketch.
06. Sketching for Beginners: Control your edges
Create interest by combining different types of edges.
Using lines such as thin, hard, lost and undefined. Thin and hard edges will give objects solid borders. Lost edges occur when what you're sketching is in light or blends with the background. Explore and combine all types of edges to create interest in your drawings.
07. Apply the 70/30 rule
Keep your main focal point within around 30 percent of the image.
Essentially, the 70/30 rule helps you create more interesting compositions. Here's the idea: 30 percent of your sketch should be the main focus. The remaining 70 percent is filler. You see, the more detailed area drives more interest. Directing the viewer's attention to the main focus of your sketch.
08. Differentiate different textures
Show different textures within your sketch.
For example, avoid shading skin the same way you might shade scales on a lizard or fur on a tiger. Try to capture the unique properties of what you're drawing.
Before you sketch pay attention to whether the object is rough or smooth. Then observe if the object is absorbing or reflecting light.
09. Make characters readable as silhouettes
When you're drawing any life form. Such as human, animal, or character. Pay attention to the silhouette that is created from your sketch. Without looking at any of the internal details, is the figure identifiable?
To test whether or not your character figures have strong, easy to identify silhouettes, place a piece of tracing paper on your sketch and trace around the figure. Then look at it so see if it's identifiable on its own.
10. Make gradients work for you
Gradients influence where the viewer will look.
Gradients are visually pleasing to the eye. They also serve the purpose of guiding the viewer’s attention to an area of focus. Larger gradients coving most of your drawing will guide the viewer's eye. Smaller gradients will add detail and contrast. So if your sketchbook page is looking flat or doesn't have an area of focus, try adding a subtle gradient.
Remember the 70/30 rule from earlier in this article.
11. Explore abstract backgrounds
Add interest to your backgrounds with abstract strokes.
By using irregular lines and textures when you're shading will make your sketch more dynamic. Definitely use a variety of textures if you have a large uninteresting background.
12. Embrace imperfections
Sketching is about creating imperfect drawings. Sketching for beginners especially.
It's best to not even use an eraser as you are learning to sketch. By keeping thought lines and contour lines in your drawings, you're making your drawing more unique. It's adding your personal signature to your sketches. Only you can create those lines. These imperfections add a uniqueness to your sketch. It's what makes drawings so interesting to look at.
13. Get lost in the details, sometimes
Hidden details are a treat for those who look long enough to find them.
By spending some additional time to revisit old drawings and adding details, you'll create more interesting drawings. You may think they'll go unnoticed in your drawings, but will be a joy to look at for viewers who are excited to study your drawings.
14. Trust your intuition
You'll find that people will respond more to work that feels authentic.
This means steering yourself away from trying to make “perfect” photorealistic drawings. Instead, embracing the way you naturally make lines and make mistakes. Not being afraid to keep your thought lines and “mistakes” in your drawings. Treating your drawings as a record of the moment you were looking at a specific scene.
Final thoughts on sketching for beginners
Drawing with this sense of freedom feels more authentic to you as an artist when you're in the moment of drawing. Plus, it'll feel more authentic and resonate with your viewers as well.
If you would like to take your sketching skill further, I recommend these sketching books. To this day I still pull them off my shelf to reference them.