How to Draw: Free Course

Lesson 10: Putting it All Together!

In this final lesson, I’m going to challenge you to put everything you learned in the previous lessons into practice.

I’m going to show you several images and you need to draw them using some or all of the techniques from lessons 1-9. If you forgot what each lesson was about, click the links below to refresh your memory, or see the list below that (each link opens in a new tab):

Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

1.) Intro to sketching
2.) Break things down into simple shapes
3.) How to make things look 3D
4.) Proportions
5.) Commons drawing mistakes (example: continuity)
6.) Perspective
7.) Line quality
8.) Shading techniques
9.) How to shade

 

Draw Image #1

Before you pick up that pencil, run through the list above and see where you can apply each technique. Use it as a checklist.

Below is my approach. I encourage you to try it out for yourself first. So don’t scroll down until your drawing is finished!

 

My Approach For Image #1

There’s no single right way to do it. So don’t worry if your approach was different from mine.

Step 1: Observe the Reference Photo

Get to know the scene, objects, proportions etc. Can you use one-point or two-point perspectives to help you draw some objects more accurately?

It looks like the wooden planks can be drawn using one-point perspective. Let’s draw on top of the reference photo to see if this is true:

I extended each wooden plank towards the ships until the lines met at a single point – called the vanishing point. Now that I know one-point perspective can be used to draw the dock and I know where the vanishing point is located, I can save this information for later and apply it to my drawing.

Note: Notice how the lines don’t exactly meet at a single point? The dock is made of wood, which can warp due to changing weather conditions, so it’s normal for the vanishing point to be a little ambiguous.

 

Step 2: Break Everything Down while Checking Proportions

Before you draw, you can trace the rectangle shape of the photo so you have enough space to draw everything. If you don’t want to trace, just eye it and then revise the rectangle along the way.

The whole image can be broken down into 3 main sections horizontally: the dock, the water and the sky. The dock takes up about 1/3 of the photo width-wise while the sky takes up about 1/4 of the remainder.

Pay attention to angles as well. The dock should slant downwards on the left side.

 

Next, pick out the main subjects within the scene and sketch them in one after the other, roughly. You can break a subject down into a much simpler shape and add details after you measure, compare and confirm the proportions.

 

While adding details, make sure to constantly check if the proportions are right. How much space is there from the top of the right shoe to the edge of the water? What angle is the left foot rotated and how far is the heel from the right foot? The more observations, comparisons and measurements you make, the more accurate your drawing will be.

Have a look at the checklist on the right hand side. You’ll notice that I crossed off number 1,2,4 and 5: “continuity”. If you haven’t been paying attention, I applied continuity twice throughout the drawing already – Once where the dock line crosses through the feet and another where the water level line runs through the boat.

 

Step 3: Sketch More Details

So far, it’s just a rough sketch. Not too much commitment has been made to the drawing yet, so it’s the perfect time to check over proportions again. I noticed that the second boat from the left was a little short, so I extended that one slightly.

Add a few details here and there…

I sketched some patterns on each shoe, further defined the shape of each boat and drew some tiny boats in the distance (over on the right side). If you’re happy with the shapes, you can darken your lines.

 

Step 4: Perspective

Remember step 1 where I found the dock’s vanishing point? In the drawing below, I drew a dot to represent the vanishing point and used a ruler to draw straight lines, creating individual planks of wood.

I’ve crossed “perspective” off the checklist as well.

 

Step 5: Line Weight

Pay attention to each of the lines you make. The thicker your lines are, the more attention you will bring to that particular area of the drawing. In the picture below, I’ve added some waves using light pencil marks. This makes them subtle.

The main focal point for this image are the shoes and the dock. You can pull these things closer to the viewer by using a variety of thicker lines where appropriate. If you look really close, you’ll notice that the squiggly designs on each shoe are thicker the closer they are to the viewer.

I also thickened the lines for each wooden plank. It’s just something you can add to make the drawing look more impactful. Let’s cross number 7 off the list.

 

Step 6: Shade Everything and Make it 3D

I like to shade the darkest areas first. Especially if the value is solid.

Take a look at the reference image and see if there’s any white. I didn’t find any true white, so there shouldn’t be any white areas on my drawing. The lightest color seems to be a light gray, so I went ahead and shaded a base layer of light gray over the whole drawing.

 

It’s been shaded but it still looks flat. Observe where the light is coming from or simply where the lightest/darkest areas are and then use the shadow-lining technique to outline all the major shadows along the legs and shoes.

 

Then shade those shadow areas using the appropriate values. It’s starting to look more 3D.

I went ahead and shaded the mountain and boats as well. Those values were pretty solid, so it was quite easy.

 

Introduce more midtones to the shoes so the surface has more planes (what are planes?). Make sure your shading is gradual where it needs to be (gradual transition around smooth edges, less gradual around hard edges).

Time to shade the water. To make the waves look calm, you can use the contour shading technique. For rough waters, try a mix of hatching and squiggling. If you don’t want the viewer to take their attention off the main subject, avoid adding too much detail into the water.

 

I think that’s enough shading. Look over the drawing once more to see if anything is missing…

I forgot to add the weaving patterns on each shoe, the wood grain on the dock and I should probably add more detail into each boat…

 

That looks much better! Anything else missing? It never hurts to check again you know!

There’s no shadow underneath each leg/shoe! Once the shadows are added, the feet look more relaxed and less like they’re photoshopped into the scene.

Hey! I’ve managed to cross everything off the checklist!

 

Draw Image #2

If you couldn’t help but read through the steps for image #1 before trying it yourself, you should be able to do this one on your own now :) There’s no harm in trying!

 

My Approach for Image #2

 

Step 1: Observe Reference and Find Vanishing Point

When I first looked at this image, my brain filtered out all the clouds! After some time, the clouds became very apparent and I also noticed some shadows coming from the trees and people.

Observe your reference image well, a glance is never enough.

It looks like one-point perspective can be used to draw some elements in this photo. I extended the train tracks and grass edges until the lines met at a single point. Now I know where to draw the vanishing point on my drawing later.

 

Step 2: Break Everything Down

From the reference photo, I measured the ground vertically and found that it took up about 1/3rd of the photo, so I made a horizontal line 1/3rd of the way up from my drawing. Again, if you want, you can trace the outside of the photo to get the correct rectangle shape, or you can revise it as you go along.

Before drawing the mountains and trees, I drew a dotted line down the entire reference image and drawing, crossing through the spot where the vanishing point will eventually be drawn. This dotted line helps me break the images in half, which simplifies the crowded scene while also providing me with a great way to measure where each mountain and tree should be drawn.

EDIT: Looking at the drawing now, I realize that the mountains should have an equal amount of space from the dotted line. I didn’t pay enough attention and instead, drew the smallest mountain too close to the dotted line.

Try to avoid making assumptions like I did.

The trees are very detailed but I just want to draw a loose representation, so I’m using teardrop shapes for each one. To make sure the trees are drawn roughly the right size, you can measure and compare them against the image’s width, against each other and against the mountains.

 

Step 3: Perspective

Where the horizontal line meets the dotted line, draw the vanishing point. The train tracks and grass edges can be drawn from there.

 

Step 4: Sketch More Details

Give the trees some more detail making each one a little different from the other.

Step 5: Address Continuity

I want to draw the people last because they cover a part of the horizon line. Again, I’m using a simple shape to represent the space they take up in the scene while checking to make sure I placed them in the right spot.

Continuity is now crossed off the list!

 

Step 6: Line Quality

If you want to give your drawing more depth, make the train tracks thicker in the foreground and thinner in the background.

 

For the grass edges, I’m using the straight line I drew earlier as a guide to draw random squiggly shapes. This creates a more obvious difference from the train tracks.

 

Step 7: Shade it

I’m shading the mountains first because I think they’re the easiest things to shade compared to everything else.

 

Look at the reference photo to see what the lightest value is and then shade a light layer of that value across the whole drawing.

Shadow-line the lightest areas in the sky and then shade around it. You can use a random scribble shading technique for the grass.

 

Soften the outline in the sky so the lighting looks more gradual.

 

For tree detailing, I like to use squiggly lines.

 

For the tree branches in the top left corner, I’m using a variety of triangles and loops to represent individual leaves.

 

Time to add the rest of the details! There were so many clouds that I just sloppily scribbled them in.

 

Draw Image #3

This one’s a bit of a challenge, but I’m confident you’ll be able to check off everything on the list with some effort. You might not know how right off the bat, just trust in yourself that you can figure it out along the way!

 

My Approach for Image #3

 

Step 1: Observation and Vanishing Point(s)

While observing a scene, it may help to describe what objects there are, people, colors, reflections, lighting observations, etc. Think about what shading techniques can be used and where.

There are several objects in this scene that can be drawn using one-point perspective – the two laptops. The unique thing about this image is that our two laptops have different vanishing points.

Let’s keep this in mind for later.

Note: The reason I didn’t use one-point perspective for the paper is because the edge of the page is covered, giving me only a single edge to find the vanishing point with – I need at least 2 edges to find the vanishing point of a single object.

 

Step 2: Break Things Down

The scene is really busy, which can be super intimidating to start drawing. All you have to do is start with one line or one object. Once you have the first few main objects drawn, the rest will be easy.

I’m starting with the table because it’s the largest object and is very straight. I can see the far edge of the table quite well and I know it’s about 1/3 of the way down. The right edge of the table is really hard for me to make out and it’s mostly covered, so I’m making my best guess here.

 

The next thing I want to sketch is the second largest object – the laptop in the foreground. Since I’m going to draw the side edges using one-point perspective, I’m only going to sketch the two furthest edges from view.

Step 3: Perspective

Draw a dot where the vanishing point for this laptop should be. Once that’s in place, drawing the rest of the laptop should be a complete breeze!

 

Using the same approach, I’m going to draw the other laptop as well. The vanishing point for this one is in a different location because neither laptop is a fixed object (they can be moved around freely on the table). If they were attached to each other, their vanishing points would be in the same spot.

 

I checked the reference photo to see how much space there was from the far edge of the laptop to the edge of the table and made a small tick where I wanted the laptop to end.

Once I defined the laptop’s width, everything else fell into place.

 

I’m happy with the placement of everything, so I’ll go ahead and add details like the keyboard keys (using the vanishing points).

 

Step 4: Sketch More Details

Now that I’ve drawn 2 major objects, The rest of the drawing should be a lot easier to fill in.

Hands are complicated to draw, so I like to start out by roughing out the general shapes I see. No details yet! Focus on the positioning/alignment and size.

I’m crossing continuity off the list now. Can you see why?

After I’m happy with my sketch, I can finally erase all the unneeded lines crossing through the hands and arms.

 

Now I can add more details while keeping my construction lines as a rough guide.

 

Step 5: Shade and Make it 3D

In this scene, it looks like the light is coming from a window on the far wall or a light source coming from that direction, evident by the light patterns on the wall and the bright reflection on the laptop screens. I know where the lightest and darkest values are.

Instead of shading the whole drawing with a light layer of gray, I’m going to take it step by step this time. You can approach it any way you want.

Again, I’m starting with the darkest values: The laptop borders and keys, shadows on the hands and shirt, etc…

Adding some midtones…

The arm is already starting to look more 3D/round.

Here, I’m adding more details like the fabric wrinkles which I sometimes like to draw last because they can be distracting. Along areas of fabric that need highlighting, I’ll just use my kneaded eraser to lift away the precise amount of graphite needed.

 

Slowly adding more midtones to other areas of the drawing…

For the wooden table, I’m using lines of various thicknesses to convey the texture of wood. The reference image doesn’t have such obvious lines, I just thought my drawing could use that bit of detail.

The laptop screens have also been shaded. I used a kneaded eraser to create some clean, light reflections along the screen.

Shadowline the ring of light on the wall and shade the area around it.

Shade inside the shadowlined area until it’s the right value.

I forgot to draw the pencil tip being held by the hand in the foreground, so I’m adding that while making sure the pencil is straight from tip to end (if you haven’t noticed, the eraser end is visible through the thumb webbing).

Also forgot about the lines of text on the paper. I don’t want these lines to be too distracting, so I’m making them very subtle.

Finally, look over your drawing to see if you missed anything else. I forgot to erase the continuity lines going through the other pencil.

Were you able to check all 9 items off your list?

 

Your Homework and Challenge

Try to draw all of the images below. You can improvise if you want to.

What techniques will you use? It’s all up to you! You might not be able to cross everything off your checklist, as some techniques may not be appropriate. But that’s up to you to decide.

 

For the image below, what are you going to draw first? Second?

 

So many pots and they’re all different sizes! How will you draw them all in proportion?

 

What shading technique(s) will work best to portray thick, rough elephant skin? What shading technique will help the trunk look round? How can you make the two elephants in the foreground pop out from the elephants in the background?

 

There’s a lot going on here! How can you filter out all the little distractions and break everything down into larger, simpler shapes?

Once you’re done, share your artwork with me on Facebook. I want to see your unique approaches!

Submit all 4 drawings from the challenge with a detailed description of how you drew each one, share with me any realizations you made (aha moments) and explain any techniques you came up with along the way.

If you would like some constructive feedback, please let me know when you share your work :)

If you complete the challenge, I’ll feature your artwork down below with a link to your website or social media profile so other readers can learn more about you!

 

What’s Next?

Finished the whole course and have no idea where to go next? Here are a few suggestions:

 

1.) Discover and try my other tutorials on RFA and Youtube. Here are a few that I highly recommend:

 

2.) Go on a 365 day drawing challenge

Draw something everyday for a year! It doesn’t matter how sloppy your drawings are or whether you feel like it or not. Just get something down on that sketchbook. If you’re having a bad day, just draw a triangle and shade it in plainly – doesn’t have to be fancy, brilliant or perfect!

You’re training your muscles, your brain and developing a good habit of setting a goal and always following through.

 

3.) Discover and learn from other artists and art styles

There’s always something new to be learned and you’ve got a great resource right at your fingertips… the internet.

If you’re only interested in realism, watch some cartooning tutorials on Youtube. I just discovered an amazing and super creative Youtuber, Jazza, who inspires me to create more and helps me get those creative juices flowing.

If you’re afraid of making mistakes, watch abstract artists in action!

You never know what awesome nuggets of information you’ll find along the way. Just know that everyone has a unique perspective, approach, story etc… always something valuable for you to learn.

 

And with that, I hope you enjoyed this free course and learned at least a few useful things from it. Whether you learned a lot or only found one technique useful, I want to congratulate you for making it all the way to the end and thank you for making that commitment for yourself and trusting me to assist you along your artistic journey!

If you want to become a part of my Patreon community and support what I do, check out my Patreon page for more info.

And if you want to continue following my tutorials, subscribe to my Youtube channel for new ones coming your way!

 

Darlene

Lesson 10: Putting it All Together! Read More »

Lesson 9: Learn How to Shade

Let’s cut to the chase! Here are some straight up steps for you to start shading right away. Keep in mind that there are many ways to approach shading. This is just one!

1.) Sketch your subject
2.) Add dark values
3.) Add a light values
4.) Add the midtones
5.) Draw cast shadows
6.) Define the highlights
7.) Final touchups

These are the tools I’m going to use:

  • Kneaded eraser (you can use a hard plastic eraser too. It’s just easier with the kneadable one)
  • Pencils – HB, 2B, 4B (or you can use one pencil and vary the pressure for different values)

 

Step 1: Sketch the Shape of Your Subject

This is my subject:

Use a hard pencil such as an HB to lightly sketch your subject.

I’m sketching darker than I should, so you can see it clearly. But you should keep the outlines as light as possible. We don’t want outlines in our final piece – it takes away from the realism.

Step 2: Add the Darkest Values

Remember the shading techniques from lesson 8? Select a shading technique (or two) for the drawing. I’m using the hatching technique because I think it’s the easiest and fastest way to shade.

Along the darkest areas of your subject, shade a medium layer of graphite. I’m using a 2B. Try to keep those edges fairly soft.
If you’re happy with how it looks, darken your shading further. Here, I’m using a 4B.

 

Step 3: Apply a Layer of Lighter Graphite

Since the subject is fairly light, I’m going to define the highlights at the very end. If your subject is dark, use the shadow-lining technique to outline your highlights now and then shade around it.

Take a look at the reference photo again. Where are the highlights and what value are they?

Answer: The highlights are located on the right side of the body and the brightest areas appear to be white.

We cannot leave any other part of the drawing white because this value is reserved for the brightest point of each highlight.

I see a lot of beginners shade only the darkest values and leave the rest white – which is what I used to do as well. It makes the drawing look flat:

Don’t be afraid to shade your drawing fully. It was a big obstacle for me and it took a lot to get over. It wasted a lot of my time… time I could have spent leveling up!

So use a light pencil such as an HB to shade a medium/light shade of grey over the entire drawing. Since the highlights appear along the outer edge of the subject, I shaded past the body so that later when we add the highlights, there will be a higher contrast between the subject and the background.

Keep those lines thick and close together.

Before we move on, I wanted to darken the facial features and hair so it looks more interesting :)

Step 4: Add the Midtones

Now that we have dark and light values, we’ll need to soften out the transition between the two by adding medium values in between.

Shade a medium value in between the dark and light values to soften out your shading.

pencil graphite value scale H to 9B RFA 4I’m using a 2B because it’s between HB and 4B.

 

Gradual Shading Transition RFAIf you want to convey a round edge, avoid abrupt shading transitions. The more gradual your shading is, the more smooth your edge becomes.

Take your time and work in layers to build the shading up slowly.

 

Step 5: Add Some Cast Shadows

Where is the light coming from? Draw cast shadows to give the piece more contrast.

There are shadows on the ground around the feet. Define the boundaries between the feet, belly and ground by drawing outlines where appropriate. This will clean up the outer edges of the drawing.

Remember to draw the outlines no darker than the shadow itself.

Make the shadow darkest where the subject touches the ground and lighter where the shadow stretches away and the edges soften out.

 

Step 6: Add the Highlights

Use an eraser to add highlights to the lightest areas of the drawing to pull the subject out and off of the sketchbook. I suggest using a kneaded eraser for higher precision.

Darken the background even more to make the highlights pop out really well!

Use your eraser to remove small amounts of graphite from the right side of the drawing. The center of each highlight should be the lightest. If you’re using a kneaded eraser, roll it to a rounded tip and press the eraser onto the graphite a few times until you get a bright white.

To make the transition between highlight and midtone look more gradual, roll the kneaded eraser to a finer tip and press it along the transition zone while using a much lighter pressure..

This particular part isn’t possible with a regular plastic eraser, so use your pencil to smooth out the transition instead.

If your highlights aren’t popping as much as you’d like, darken the background further.

 

Step 7: Anything Missing?

Do a final check to see if you missed anything. Can you see what’s missing from my drawing?

Answer: Cast shadows on the body and the triangle of light beneath the belly. There are probably others, but these are the major ones.

To get rid of the grainy look, you can blend the drawing so the graphite fills all the crevices on the paper. That’s a topic for another tutorial!

Bonus

Here’s a much simpler example of an apple:

how to shade step by step

The 2nd and 3rd step are switched: I shaded a base layer of graphite first and then added the darkest values because unlike the sumo, which is made up of a combination of basic geometries, the apple is made up of one basic geometry.

If I were to shade a base layer on the sumo before adding the darkest values, the outlines would all disappear – making it hard to redraw details like the facial features, fingers, toes, etc. Here’s a small example:

 

Homework Assignment + Challenge

Your homework assignment is to pick any subject and draw + shade it 3 times.

For the first drawing, set a timer for 3 minutes. The second drawing should be set to 5 minutes. For the final piece, set it for 30 minutes. Try to finish the entire drawing within the time frame given.

Feel free to share your artwork with me on Facebook under the Lesson 9 post. I’d love to see it!

If you want to challenge yourself further, draw it within 2, 1 or even 0.5 minutes. If you can do all six timed drawings and post your results on the RFA Facebook page, I’ll feature your artwork down below along with a link to your facebook page! I’ll also be posting my left handed homework when I get around to it (I’m so far behind!).

 

I hope this tutorial was helpful to you! It’s just an introduction but I hope it gives you a good starting point. If you want to learn more about shading and pencil techniques, visit this detailed guide.

And as always, if you have any questions or think I could have explained something more clearly, please let me know in the comments below. Your feedback is always welcome!

Waiting for lesson 10? Follow me on facebook and sign up through the candy-striped mailing list in the sidebar (on desktop) or at the bottom (on mobile) to get notified when it’s released!

If you like what I do and want to support me, check out my Patreon – where you can support your favorite artists and earn cool rewards at the same time.

 

Go to Lesson 10 >

Lesson 9: Learn How to Shade Read More »

Lesson 8: Introduction to Shading Techniques

You can create a wide array of textures by applying different shading techniques to your artwork. A simple change in the direction or shape of a stroke can turn what looks like smooth skin into rough or dry skin.

Below are a few common shading techniques:

HatchingHatching Pencil Shading Example 1 RFA

This is the most common shading technique as it is easy to learn and allows you to cover more ground in a short period of time. It consists of a series of lines that go in one general direction. You can use it to shade just about anything.

When hatching, angle your pencil down closer to the paper so your strokes are nice and thick. This allows you to minimize gaps, making it so much easier to blend.

If you’re not careful, this technique can work against you. The straight lines can make something such a sphere look flat, like the example above. These unblended lines will work wonders for shading things like brushed steel, wood grain, etc.

 

Cross Hatching

Cross hatching shading technique RFACross hatching is where you overlap lines at various angles. It’s great for drawing fabrics like burlap, textured (wrinkly) skin and whatever else you can think of that displays such a pattern. To shade light areas, lighten your lines and space them further apart. In shadowed areas, darken them and bring them closer together.

 

Circulism

Circulism Shading Technique ExampleAs the name suggests, circulism consists of many overlapping circles. The more circles you draw, the more smooth the texture becomes! You can use it to draw fuzzy fabrics, soft cottony fabrics, realistic skin textures and more.

This technique is time consuming, but the results are amazing!

Apply this method using a sharp pencil for textured skin with wrinkles or use a blunt pencil for smooth skin, as it will be easier to blend.

 

Contour Shading

Contour Shading Example Lips RFA 3Contour shading is similar to hatching and cross-hatching. The difference is that the lines are curved to follow the contours of the subject. So these lines can be drawn horizontally, vertically and even diagonally.

Do you remember what was covered in lesson 3? Contour shading is a great way to practice giving form to your 2D line drawings. This might be difficult for you as a beginner, but try to use your imagination to visualize the shape of the object in a 3D sense and then try your best to draw lines that give the object form.

 

Combine Shading Techniques

It’s perfectly normal to use several shading techniques in one drawing. All of the above were used to draw the image below.

Circulism: Used to shade a base layer on the hand to give it a consistent base texture.

Contour Shading: Used to shade stretched skin.

Hatching: Used to shade nails and stretched skin.

Cross Hatching: Used to create patterns in the skin and to emphasize deep valleys/crevices.

The combination of these shading techniques helped me achieve various textures commonly seen in wrinkled skin.

Shading Techniques Closeup RFA

Tip: When drawing rough or wrinkly skin, try to avoid blending your graphite.

 

Homework Assignment + Challenge

Shade 4 different subjects using each of the 4 shading techniques above. Once you’ve completed your homework, feel free to share it on the RapidFireArt Facebook page. I will post my left handed homework there as well :)

Challenge: If you can use all 4 techniques on a single subject, I’ll feature your artwork below along with a link to your facebook page.

Happy drawing!

 

Go to Lesson 9 >

Lesson 8: Introduction to Shading Techniques Read More »

Lesson 7: Introduction to Line Quality

Do your drawings have good structure but lack depth, weight, texture or realism? In this lesson, we’re going to learn how line quality can:

  • Accentuate a drawing to make it more interesting.
  • Allow you to direct the viewer’s eyes where you want.
  • How it can make 3D objects appear even more realistic.
  • And more!

 

The Power of Lines!

The weight (or thickness) of a line is referred to as line quality and can suggest material, lighting, weight and more! Introduce a variety of line weights into your artwork to enhance it further. You can find some examples of this below.

 

Texture and Material

Thin lines appear softer than thick ones when it comes to drawing textures on clothing or even strands of hair:

The example on the left contains very faintly sketched lines because each strand of silk is very thin. You can probably imagine how the fabric feels just by looking at it. Burlap on the other hand is a very rough and thick material, so each of the lines are bold and blunt.

 

Lighting

If you’re drawing a scene with high contrast, try using heavier lines for shadowed areas. Any side facing the light should be thin. In certain places, lines can even be non-existent – leading the viewer to fill in the gaps on their own.

The sun and arrows illustrate the direction in which the light is shining. For the wine glass example, there is a good mix of thin, medium and thick lines. The thickest lines can also be interpreted as the thickest areas of glass. While the thinnest parts show how delicately thin the mouth of the glass can get.

 

Weight

Check out how a simple change in line weight can transform an object from light to heavy!

This also works the other way around. What would you do if you wanted to draw a helium balloon?

 

Enhance 3 Dimensional Drawings

You can manipulate the viewer’s perception by using thin lines for objects far away in the distance and thicker lines for objects, edges, etc in the foreground. The closer the object, the thicker it should be drawn to better illustrate that 3 dimensional space.

 

Here are some examples of 3D objects being enhanced so they appear even more realistic:

An object stretching far into the distance appears to become thinner and thinner.

If I want to draw a long road stretching beyond the horizon on the morning of a foggy day, I would gradually lighten and thin out my lines until they disappear into the fog.

 

Create Interest and Guide the Viewer’s Eyes

A drawing done using the same line weight from beginning to end can look a little boring. Consistent line weight can confuse people because they don’t quite know where to look.

Vary the line weight to guide your viewer’s eyes where you’d like them to go.

Our eyes are naturally drawn to thicker lines. You can use this to your advantage when drawing an image that tells a story!

If you’re drawing a scene with various objects or people, you can draw secondary subjects using medium to thin lines so they don’t stick out as much as the main subject. This is very helpful, especially in a busy scene.

 

Homework Assignment and Challenge

Go over your sketches and drawings from the previous lessons and transform them using what you learned in this tutorial. Post 10 of your favorite transformations on the RFA Facebook page in ‘before and after’ style like the one below and I’ll feature your work here, along with a link to your facebook page!

 

 

Go to Lesson 8 –>

Happy drawing guys!

Lesson 7: Introduction to Line Quality Read More »

Lesson 6: Introduction to One and Two Point Perspective

How to draw one point perspective for beginnersIn this lesson, I’m going to introduce one and two-point linear perspective. Perspective drawing is a way for us to express a three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface.

Here are a few terms you will encounter throughout this lesson:

Vanishing Point(s): The point(s) where parallel lines seem to converge and disappear. To put it a different way, it’s the point or points where orthogonal lines come together.

Horizon Line (aka “Eye Level Line”): This an imaginary line represents the farthest distance in the background. In perspective drawing, a horizon line is the height of the viewer’s eyes. So, when objects are centered on the horizon line, they are sitting at your eye level. If you place an object below the horizon line, the viewer will be looking down at the object, while placing an object above the horizon line gives the illusion that it is floating above the viewer’s head.

 

Orthogonal Lines: Imaginary diagonal lines that are parallel to the ground plane and radiate from or converge to the vanishing point(s). They act as guidelines to help you maintain perspective while constructing a three dimensional scene.

Transversal Lines: These lines are parallel to the picture plane. They connect orthogonal lines at right angles, establishing an object’s fixed width or height.

 

 

Introduction to One-Point Perspective

One-point perspective is the easiest to learn because there is only one vanishing point. In the image below, all the perspective lines in the scene originate from a singular vanishing point on the horizon line.

When to Use One-Point Perspective

One point perspective is appropriate when drawing subjects that are facing you directly, instead of at an angle.

This method is a really popular for drawing interior spaces – like the example you’re about to see below.

 

How to Draw Using One-Point Perspective for Beginners

In this step by step mini tutorial, I’m going to draw a room with several people in it.

Step 1: Draw the Horizon Line and Vanishing Point

Use a ruler to draw a straight horizon line with a vanishing point that you can see clearly.

 

Step 2: Draw the Room

Let’s start with the wall that’s facing us directly. Use your ruler to draw a rectangle (transversal lines). Make sure the vanishing point is somewhere inside of it.

If the vanishing point is outside of the rectangle and the rest of the room is drawn, we — as viewers — will be looking at the room from the outside.

Use the ruler to align the vanishing point to one corner of the rectangle. Draw a very light orthogonal line that stretches far past that corner.

Do this for the other 3 corners of the rectangle.

 

Now that your orthogonal lines are in place, draw solid lines to complete the structure.

 

Step 3: Add Some Detail

You can add things like tables and chairs or even doorways into the scene. For this example, I’m going to keep things fairly simple. So let’s put a glass panel on the left wall to turn this room into an aquarium.

Start by drawing a set of orthogonal lines on the left wall of the room.

 

Add two transversal lines (or dotted lines if you’re not sure exactly what size you want it to be just yet).

Once you’re confident with the shape and size of the glass panel, draw solid lines to define the new object within the room.

 

Add a big sea creature into the tank!

 

Step 4: Add People

Draw Person #1: I’m calling him Gary… for short.

Before I draw Gary, I want to define:

  • Where he is going to stand
  • How tall he will be

To do that, draw 2 orthogonal lines. The top one will define his height and the bottom one will define how far from the wall he will be standing (look at the distance from the bottom orthogonal line to the edge of the wall). Make sure your bottom line isn’t too close to the wall or else poor Gary will be flat against it.

Then, draw a straight transversal line to define exactly where he’s going to stand.

 

Now all you have to do is draw Gary!

 

Draw Person #2: Her name shall be Lisa.

Let’s draw her along the exact same orthogonal line as Gary. Since those lines have already been defined, all I have to do now is add a transversal line to define where Lisa will stand.

How to draw one point perspective people exampleTip: If you want Lisa and Gary to have the same body proportions like the same head size or waist height, draw an orthogonal line under his chin and another one through his waist. When you draw Lisa, just make sure her chin rests on the first line and her waist intersects with the second line.

 

Draw Person #3: Pete

It’s getting a little crowded on the right side of the room, so let’s fill the rest of the aquarium while keeping everyone’s height the same.

To do that, use a ruler to draw a dotted horizontal line from the top of Lisa’s head and the bottom of her foot to the far left side of the room. Then draw a vertical line where you want Pete to be positioned.

Draw Pete!

 

Draw person #4: Tom

You’ve probably gotten the hang of it by now! But let’s draw one more person.

Tom is going to be standing in the middle of the room. To make sure he doesn’t block Gary or Lisa’s view (they’re really enjoying the sharks by the way), draw a transversal line in between Lisa and Gary.

Remember the technique you used to draw Pete? Use the same one here.

Now they can all enjoy the show.

 

Introduction to Two-Point Perspective

In two-point perspective, there are 2 vanishing points. A single object can be drawn using reference lines coming from both points.

Here, every edge of the shape except for vertical edges can be found by using perspective lines.

 

How to Draw Using Two-Point Perspective for Beginners

In this example, I’m going to draw two structures and five people.

 

Step 1: Draw the Horizon Line and Vanishing Points

Use a ruler to draw a straight horizon line and two dots placed well apart.

 

Step 2: Draw the First Structure

How to draw 2 point perspective 2 RFA

Start by drawing a small vertical line between the two vanishing points. The length of this line will determine the height of your structure.

 

From each vanishing point, draw 2 perspective lines. Each line must touch the top and bottom of the vertical (transversal) line you just drew).

Step 3: Continue Forming Your Structure

Between each set of perspective lines, draw another transversal line. Now the structure has 3 edges.

 

The new transversal lines need to be connected to both vanishing points. So draw two additional sets of orthogonal lines to connect them.

 

Step 4: Define Your Structure

Those orthogonal lines were used to help you form the unknown sides of the structure. Now that you have a nice set of guidelines, use solid lines to define the shape.

 

Step 5: Draw a Second Structure

Use the same steps to draw a second structure somewhere in the distance.

 

Step 6: Add people

If you want to add people, draw a vertical line to represent the average height for each person. It can go anywhere you want.

 

Once you have that in place, draw orthogonal lines coming from each vanishing point. They should touch the top and bottom of the vertical line.

 

Draw people walking along the dotted perspective lines.

 

To add more people in other areas of the drawing, employ the same method mentioned in the section on one-point perspective, above.

 

Here’s a clearer image of what’s going on without the buildings obstructing your view:

two point perspective people only

 

How to Find the Vanishing Point & Horizon Line in a Scene

Let’s say you went out for a walk at lunchtime and came across a beautiful cityscape you badly wanted to capture in your sketchbook. With only 25 minutes left to spare, you struggle to measure and draw all 38 buildings and 15 lamp posts in the scene in front of you. Was that enough time to get the job done?

Perhaps the better question is: Was that the right technique to get the job done?

In lesson 4, I covered measuring techniques – and although they’re great to use on several objects or individuals in the same scene, it’s very tedious for something such as a crowded street or a railway with six train tracks.

If you can find the horizon line and vanishing point(s) in an existing scene, it will reduce the amount of guesswork and measuring greatly.

 

One-point Perspective Example

Here’s a large L-shaped building. Without scrolling down, can you find the vanishing point and horizon line?

 

You can find the vanishing point of a scene by tracing your way back to its origin using orthogonal lines. Draw a straight line against every side edge of the building. Where each orthogonal line intersects, you have your vanishing point.

 

To find the horizon line, look at the building’s horizontal edges.

Why is it important to find the horizon line? When it comes to one-point perspective, the horizon line helps you know which angle to draw certain edges of a building or objects within a space. For example: not all photographs are perfectly level, so it’s common to come across a reference image that is tilted/slanted.

 

Two-Point Perspective Example

Can you find the vanishing points and horizon line for the image above without scrolling down for the answer?

 

Draw perspective lines along the edges of each shape until they intersect/converge. You should end up with 2 vanishing points.

 

To find the horizon line, simply connect both vanishing points together using a straight line.

 

Homework Assignment + Challenge

Here’s your homework and challenge rolled up into one assignment! What does that mean? If you complete the assignment from this lesson and post it on the RFA facebook page, I’ll share your artwork with everyone by posting it below (along with a link to your facebook page).

Sound good? Here’s the assignment:

Find a room in your house or an outdoor space with buildings, structures and/or people and draw it using linear perspective. The more detail the better! I can’t wait to see what you guys will draw!

I’m going to submit my left handed homework too… as soon as I finish the assignments from lesson 4 and 5 haha. I’m a slacker.

If you’re done the assignment and are waiting for lesson 7, sign up to my mailing list over on the right to get updated when a new lesson comes out.

UPDATE: Lesson 7 is fresh out of the oven. Click here to continue learning!

Happy drawing!

Go to Lesson 7 ->

Lesson 6: Introduction to One and Two Point Perspective Read More »

Lesson 5: Common Drawing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Common drawing mistakes and how to fix themThis is a short lesson on the importance of paying close attention to what you’re drawing and how to avoid common mistakes.

The format of this lesson is: question, answer and solutions. Try your best to guess what is wrong with each of the examples below. These examples are based on a few few common mistakes I see over and over again. They are meant to make you think more critically about your own work.

Note: Scroll down slowly so you don’t accidentally reveal the answers.

Continuity

A big mistake that beginners make is not paying enough attention to the flow of lines in their artwork. Can you spot the mistakes with the examples below?

 

Example #1:

What’s wrong with this drawing?

Answer:
The sword’s handle or hilt is not straight. If you put a ruler up against the side or the middle of the blade, you’ll notice that the hilt is not aligned with the blade. It’s crooked.

How to spot mistakes as an artist

Solution:
When drawing an object being held in a hand, draw the entire object as if the drawing were an x-ray. Then erase the lines you don’t need.

 

Example #2:

What’s wrong with this scene?

Answer:
The surface of the table and the horizontal ribbon are not straight. Again, if you use a ruler to check the alignment, you’ll notice that they’re very crooked.

Solution:
Lightly draw the table first and then the objects.

For the gift, draw both ribbons in their entirety without thinking about which one is on the top or bottom. Then erase the lines you don’t need.

Another solution is to use a ruler so you don’t have to draw a continuous line through all of the objects on the table.

 

Example #3:

Find anything wrong with this tissue box? Hint: there are two.

Answer:

The opening of the tissue box is not forming a proper rectangle because its sides do not exhibit the same width.

The furthest corner of the box hiding behind the tissue makes the tissue box look stretched out, forming a skewed rectangle.

How to critique your own artwork _ Example 3_Tissue Box Answer RFA

 

Solution:

Draw the box first to make sure you have a solid shape, then draw the tissue.

 

Consider The Underlying Structure

This is where I see most people make mistakes. I’m a victim of it too…

Example #4:

Can you spot what’s wrong with this portrait?

How to critique your own artworkAnswer:
There’s not enough hair in the upper right, which makes it look like she has a cone-shaped head. This is a common result of drawing the hair first.

The right eye is much larger than the left eye. A common result when an eye is partially hidden behind hair.

The right jaw has a wider angle compared to the left. This is a common mistake when the rest of the jaw is hidden behind hair.

Etc…

Solution:
When drawing people, think about the skeletal structure. You can draw light guidelines before you start drawing in order to understand more of what you’re seeing.

Hair is not a tool to hide things. Whenever you’re drawing a face with features that are only partially visible, always think about what you don’t see and how your drawing will look if the full face were to be drawn. You can even go ahead and draw it lightly to see if the visible features make sense afterward. If not, make the appropriate corrections before you start shading and adding details.

 

Example #5:

See anything wrong with this boy?

Answer:
For some reason, he has additional joints in his arms. It’s a common result when drawing a character’s clothes before drawing the body.

Solution:
Draw the body first, then draw the clothes last.

 

Example #6:

What’s wrong with this car?

Answer:
The wheels are too big. Draw a full circle the same size as each tire and see what happens. The dotted red lines show that the wheels would need much more room to fit inside the car’s body.

How to spot drawing mistakesSolution:
Draw the full shape for each wheel to determine the maximum size the car’s structure allows and then erase the parts you don’t need.

 

Bonus Example #7:

Last one! I’m not going to give you the answers though. Let me know what you think the answers and solutions are in the comments below.

 

Conclusion

All the examples above have one purpose… to get you to observe your artwork critically. Whether you’re drawing animals, people or things, you can apply the same observations to correct mistakes which may not have been apparent to you before.

I find it also helps to ask questions while I draw. Questions such as:

  • How is the vertical/horizontal alignment of ______ ?
  • Does my drawing make sense mechanically?
  • Does it look right? Why not?
  • Is it symmetrical?
  • Is it still symmetrical when I look at it in a mirror?
  • Etc…

Constantly ask yourself questions as you draw so you can make sense of what you’re doing and be aware of the choices that you’re making. Attention to detail is very important if you want to draw realistic art.

 

Homework Assignment

Up until now, you must have a lot of drawings from each homework assignment. Look back at your work and analyze each and every person, object or scene you’ve drawn. Did you find any apparent mistakes that you didn’t see before? Share you findings with me on facebook. Any brave person who posts their mistakes and a fixed version of the drawing(s) will be featured below along with a link to their facebook page.

If you’d like me to pick apart your previous work and share my corrections with other RFA readers on facebook, let me know in the comments below or send me a message on facebook.

Happy drawing!

Go to Lesson 6 ->

Lesson 5: Common Drawing Mistakes and How to Fix Them Read More »

Lesson 4: How to Draw with Accurate Proportions

How to draw with accurate proportionsProportion simply refers to the size relationships between objects. If you want to draw a subject or scene with accurate proportions, you must employ proper techniques and train your eyes over time.

When drawing, most of my time is spent on measuring, comparing, re-measuring and re-comparing. The more time you spend trying to improve the accuracy of your drawing, the better you will “see”.

How to Draw With Correct Proportions

I’m going to introduce a few techniques to measure and check your accuracy. When you draw, it’s best to use as many measuring techniques as possible. You can use these techniques in any order, wherever you see fit.

I like to measure my subject before, during and sometimes even after I finish my portraits.

Measuring before I draw helps me understand what I’m seeing and familiarize myself with the subject. It’s very helpful when drawing portraits of people I’ve never seen before.

Measuring after I draw is a way for me to do a final check to find mistakes that I may have missed and a way to gain confidence in the finished product. You should never leave measuring to the very end!

Important: If you’re following along, you’ll want to use very light pressure so you can easily erase any mistakes you make.

Navigation

1. Measure with Your Pencil
2. Check Relationships Between Objects on the Vertical and Horizontal Axis
3. Check Angles
4. Observe Negative Space

#1: Measure with Your Pencil

To draw something accurate in relative size, you can use your pencil and thumb as a measuring tool to measure the relationships between body parts or objects in a scene. Here’s how to do it:

Maintain Accuracy Across All Measurements

Before you make any measurements, it’s important to understand how to maintain accuracy throughout the measuring process.

How to draw with accurate proportions _ How to hold your pencilRaise your pencil up directly in front of your eye without bending your elbow. If you bend your elbow, it will be very difficult to maintain consistent measurements. This could result in compounding mistakes. Since your arm is pivoting from your shoulder, not from your eye, your measurements will not remain accurate throughout the process. To combat this, lower your eye as close to your shoulder as possible to get the most accurate measurements from start to finish.

If you’re drawing from a reference image, there’s no need to worry about bending your elbow or tilting your head because you can measure directly up against the reference photo.

If you’re not comfortable measuring with a pencil, you can use a proportion drawing tool.

Measure Your Subject’s Length and Width

How to draw with accurate proportions_Measuring

Length

Use the tip of the pencil and the tip of your thumb to measure the height of your subject’s head. To find out how tall he is, move your hand down slowly, counting how tall your subject is in head units. For this example, my subject is equal to 8 heads. These units are relative, so you can draw the subject much larger or smaller compared to the original size of the reference image.

Let’s say I already drew the head and then decided I might as well draw the rest of the body too. Since I know the man is 8 heads tall, all I need to do is measure the head in my drawing and multiply that by 8 to find out where I’ll need to draw his feet.

Width

You can do the same thing for the width as well. Simply measure the head’s length and then turn your pencil horizontally. You can figure out the width of the head as well as the shoulders, waist, etc.
Note: Sometimes, the relationship between two body parts will not be a whole unit. In this case, you will need to search for other relationships or do your best to eyeball that part of the sketch.

 

How to Transfer that Information to Your Sketchbook

How to draw with correct proportionsWhat’s the maximum length you want for your drawing? Once you decide, make a tick at the top and bottom of the sketchbook. It will help if you draw a vertical line down the entire page to align the ticks perfectly.

Since we know the man is equal to 8 heads tall, we can confidently divide the space into 8 equal sections vertically. Double check that the spaces are all even. You can use a ruler to do this. Now that I have my ticks, I know the exact height and width to draw the head.

How to draw with accurate proportions _ Transfer onto paper 2

Measure and Compare Other Parts of the Body

You can use this technique to measure all other parts of the body to get a good idea of the size relationships between each. This is very useful when you’re drawing several people in one scene. How do you know how tall or wide to draw one person compared to another? How big do you draw a child’s head compared to her parents?

Example:

  • The buttock is equal to 2 head units.
  • The right shoe is slightly smaller in total width than the left shoe.
  • Etc…

 

If there’s another person in the scene, you can compare the 2 bodies against each other so you know how wide to draw the second person or how big their head is compared to person #1.

#2: Check Relationships Between Objects on the Vertical and Horizontal Axis

proportion sketch comparison

Getting the sizing right is great, but it’s also important to know where to align everything. Let’s say you already jumped ahead and made a rough sketch. You got the length and width of each body part right, but something just doesn’t seem quite right.

In the examples below, I’m using vertical and horizontal lines to find out where certain body parts are aligned.

How to draw using the sight size method _ Vertical and Horizontal Relationships ComparisonIf you look at the first row of images, you’ll find that the following statements are true:

Image 1: The right shoulder and right buttock are aligned perfectly on the vertical axis.
Image 2: The middle of the head is in line with the inner side of the right foot.
Image 3: The bottom of the left shoe comes down to the middle of the right shoe.
Image 4: The left elbow is lower than the right elbow.

If you compare the top row to the bottom row, you’ll notice that 3 of these observations do NOT match the sketch. Now I know what’s wrong with my sketch and what I need to fix.

Tools you can use

To get accurate vertical/horizontal measurements of your subject, you can use the following tools:

  • A pocket level tool
  • A weight on the end of a string, aka a plumb bob + line (works for vertical measurements only)
  • Your pencil: Put your pencil up in front of your eye and align it with a straight horizontal or vertical edge, lock that angle in place and then move your hand back over to your subject. You can reference a straight edge such as a flat horizon line or perfectly straight poll if you’re outside. If you’re indoors you can reference the edge of the floor or the side of a wall. Make sure your vertical/horizontal references do not change!

If you’re drawing from a photo reference, you can simply use a ruler or pencil. Press the ruler flat up against the photo and align it to the edges of the paper. For super accurate measurements, you may want to try a drawing board with an inbuilt transparent ruler.

If you’re drawing from a digital reference, you can use an image editing software to draw lines directly onto the photo.

#3: Check Angles

Angles are especially hard to eyeball. For this dilemma, I use a sliding technique. What you want to do is hold your arm out between your eye and the subject without bending your elbow and then tilt your pencil at an angle until the edge of the pencil matches the angle you’re checking. Then carefully slide your hand in front of your drawing while holding the pencil as still as possible.

How to draw with correct proportions_angles

Important: Your sketchbook must be in a fairly upright position, sitting on something stable such as an easel and aligned fairly close to your subject for accurate results. As a beginner, you want to minimize the amount of travel time while you’re moving your hand from the subject to the sketchpad.

If you lost your grip and lost the angle, don’t worry. Sketch it anyway by making your best guess, then verify your line by repeating the process above until you get the angle just right.

You can use the same sliding technique to measure the relationship between several body parts. For example: the angle from the bottom of the seagull’s foot to the end of its tail feathers.

No doubt this is a tedious process. The more you do it, the faster you’ll become. Over time, you will tune your eyes to draw more accurately, allowing you to do all of this at a quick glance.

#4: Observe Negative Space

If you find it easier to draw geometric shapes like squares, triangles or circles than it is for
you to draw detailed subjects like people and animals, here’s a useful technique you can add to your drawing process.

Look a the negative space around your weirdly shaped subject to find familiar shapes such as triangles or circles that are easy for your brain to recognize. Shifting your focus from the subject to the space around it will change the way you see, perhaps simplifying it, which will allow you to make more sense of things.

 

Important things to remember

#1: Don’t press too hard
Keep your lines light. Make sure everything is in the right place before you start adding details and shading.

#2: Always triple check and cross-check
Measuring once or twice is not enough. Small errors that you make in the beginning can add up to bigger mistakes in the end. So make sure you do your due diligence. I like to measure my subject before, during and even after I’ve completed the drawing.

#3: Spend A LOT of time measuring to get the best results
The more time you spend, the more accurate your drawing will be.

#4: Use all the techniques above In any order you want
…just make sure you try all of them.

 

Homework Assignment

I have 4 images here, each with an increasing level of difficulty. Your homework this week is to use the techniques in this lesson plus what you learned in the previous lessons to draw your most accurate representation of each image.

How to measure correct proportions homeworkOnce you’re done, you can post your work on the RFA Facebook page, which is where I’ll post my left-handed homework assignment as well. If you submit your 4 drawings on Facebook, I will feature your work down below with a link to your facebook page so other readers can check you out. Feel free to draw other subjects or scenes as well!

If you want constructive feedback, please write “constructive feedback request” somewhere in your facebook reply :)

Happy drawing!

 

Readers Who Completed the Challenge!

José Perez

 

Kara T.

Go to Lesson 5 –>

Lesson 4: How to Draw with Accurate Proportions Read More »

Lesson 3: Going From 2D to 3D

How to Draw Form and Volume 3DIn this lesson, we’re going to focus on how to give our sketches a 3 dimensional quality.

At the end of this lesson, we’re going to revisit our homework assignments from the previous 2 lessons and apply the techniques from lesson 3. If you haven’t read and applied what you learned in lesson 1 and 2, I encourage you to visit them before you read on.

Lesson 1: How to Sketch

Lesson 2: Learn to See Things Differently

 

Drawing in 2D vs 3DWhen drawing something realistically, we’re depicting what a 3D object will look like on paper. In reality, the objects drawn are actually 2D because they have no physical depth.

How in the world can we draw something that looks 3D, while in reality being flat on the page?

 

What Makes Drawings Look 3D?

Many factors contribute to this. I’m only covering a few in this lesson and will sprinkle more in the following lessons.

Planes

The image below shows you 2D objects being transformed into 3D. I added some shading for you to visualize it better.

How to Draw Form_3D objects with shadowsThe reason why these objects look 3D is because I’ve given them additional faces. Each face is called a plane and each plane is facing a different direction. Multiple planes on one object give the illusion of depth. You can now imagine each object having volume.

It’s easy to draw 3D objects when they have obvious vertices or hard edges, but what about weird shapes like circles, blobs, or even people? How do you define the planes/faces on a round object? That’s where contour lines come in.

 

Contour Lines

The first row of objects below appear completely flat. You could say they each have one face.

How to draw 3D shapes_Contour Lines

In the second row, the objects have lines wrapped around them which make you visualize their many sides. These lines are called contour lines because they follow the form of the object. Contour lines can run in any direction along the surface of an object to help you create the illusion of form, giving the object a more meaningful shape.

 

When to Use Contour Lines

Here are some examples of when you can make use of contour lines.

Drawing Faces:

If you’re drawing a character whose face is tilted, contour lines will act as guidelines to help you find out where to place features on the face, such as where to draw the eyes, nose and mouth. Notice how the eyes on the cat in the second row wrap around the face more naturally. The nose and mouth are also aligned properly down the center of the face compared to the first cat.

2D vs 3D cat sketch example RFA

Here’s a more obvious example – a creature with 6 eyes:

How to Draw Contour Lines and Eyes_ spider example

Use your imagination to think of where you can make use of this technique. Perhaps a belt around Santa’s large stomach, a ring around a finger or a headband around someone’s head.

 

Defining Surfaces

Contour lines can be used to accentuate curves. Observe how the lines used in the examples below make a big difference in how the subject is perceived: Full lips versus flat lips. The more curved my lines are, the more plump the lips appear to be.

Here’s an example of a flower. When you look at the flower on the right, the stripes of each petal are curved. The curves follow the shape of each petal.

Flower contour lines example

 

When Should You Draw in 3D?

The short answer is: whenever possible.

First of all, whether you’re drawing a transparent or opaque object, you’ll want to approach it the same way. As a beginner, it’s always a good idea to draw all sides of the object. This practice will help you improve accuracy, so you can draw objects that make more sense.

Using the toy car example below, drawing the entire object in 3D helps me know where to draw each wheel instead of guessing where they should go.

2D vs 3D Car example

 

How to Draw in 3D

Since this lesson is an introduction to 3D, I want you to focus on only a few things to begin with.

Drawing Objects with Vertices and Hard Edges

This is the quick and simple method because it doesn’t account for perspective (something I will cover in lesson 6):

Steps: Draw a simple shape with corners, duplicate that shape, draw lines to connect the vertices together and then shade the object.

Tip: If you draw your second shape lighter than the first, it will appear further away.

How to draw 3D objects step by step_edges and vertices

For shapes with round edges, draw your connecting lines at the outer-most edges. If you size your shapes differently like the example below, it will give your drawing an added layer of depth. However, as mentioned above, this freehand method is quick but not very accurate compared to what we’ll be learning in lesson 6.

How to Draw 3D Round Edged Shapes Examples

For cylindrical shapes like cups, jars, pop cans and vases, you can use the method below: Draw your 2D object and then add ellipses to the top, bottom and/or sides.

How to Draw Cylindrical Objects

By changing the diameter of your ellipses, you can tilt your cylindrical shape more or less, as illustrated in the example below:

How to draw 3d objects on paper ellipse size
A bowl drawn from different angles

This idea can also be applied to drawing faces. You can change the direction you want your subject to face by changing the diameter of each ellipse or ring.

In the image below, assume that the sphere in the center is facing straight towards you. The point at which the 2 rings cross is the very front of the sphere.

As you look to the left, each sphere starts facing more towards the left side. The opposite applies to the right side. If you want a character to look up or down, you can apply the same idea to the horizontal ring.

How to draw contour Lines
Manipulate the vertical or horizontal ring to change the direction your character is facing.

 

Drawing Irregular Objects

Contour lines help you turn irregular 2D shapes into 3D. You can influence the way a viewer perceives your drawing by manipulating its contour lines. However, this process comes with some practice. If your contour lines do not accurately represent the shape you are drawing, for example, a sphere, your viewer will not perceive a sphere.

Here’s an example of how contour lines can manipulate your perception. I’ve shaded each object to better illustrate what I mean. Contour lines + shading make a powerful pair!

How to Draw Using Contour Lines _ Circle Example RFA 4

Tip: If your lines curve near the edge of your object, it makes the viewer think there is more on the other side, which magically lifts the object off the page.

A sphere, if observed from any side, has the outline of a circle shape. So if you want to draw a sphere, use various ellipses as contour lines.

A series of narrow rings will give you a pebble-like form, while a series of wide rings will give you a wider, rounder form. Here are some examples of what I mean. For each shape below, I’m showing you the front of the shape and the side view.

No matter what shape it is that you want to add contour lines to, always visualize it from different angles so you can create contour lines that best describe the form.

The ability to draw good contour lines takes a lot of visualization and practice. Once you understand it, it’ll be one of the greatest tools in your toolkit!

 

Summary of the Above

In short:

  • You can make things look 3D by indicating that your subject has multiple planes.
  • Use contour lines for irregular objects like circles, blobs, etc.
  • Always sketch in 3D. Your final drawings will look more accurate.
  • To draw a 3D object with vertices: draw 1 shape, duplicate it, connect the vertices and then shade it.
  • To draw irregular shapes such as spheres or blobs: use a series of contour rings.

 

Your Homework for the Week

Your assignment for the week is to take a look at your drawings from lessons 1-2 and recreate as many drawings in 3D or incorporate contour lines in them if you haven’t done that already. I’ll be submitting my left-handed homework to facebook. You’re welcome to share your homework on there as well :)

A great way to practice drawing contour lines is to grab a newspaper, magazine or a few pictures off the internet and draw over them! If you want more examples, head over to Google Images and search for “object wireframe” or “animal wireframe” etc and study the images. You can use them as reference while you practice drawing contour lines.

If you want to try a more difficult exercise, check out these cool pictures here. Try creating forms using only contour lines. Here’s a simple tutorial you can use to draw a hand: http://www.handimania.com/diy/3d-handprint.html

This week’s challenge: Turn 15 2D objects into 3D sketches. These objects can be anything from apples, chairs, milk cartons to light bulbs. Submit your drawings to the RFA Facebook page and I’ll feature your artwork below! Each transformation must have a 2D column and 3D column similar to the example below:

Have fun!

If you’re waiting for the next lesson, sign up to my special mailing list in the sidebar or follow me on facebook!

Update: Click here for lesson 4

 

Readers Who Completed the Challenge!

Kevin Stockard

 

Manjistha Rawat

Lesson 3: Going From 2D to 3D Read More »

Lesson 2: Learn to See Things Differently

How to draw what you see RFAFirstly, I’d like to thank everyone who left feedback and commented on the course so far. Thank you for your support! I really appreciate your feedback and look forward to working with all of you toward your goals!

If you’re committing to this course, I hope you share your progress with me – it’s the most rewarding part of what I do :) If you check out my Facebook page, you’ll notice that I’ve posted my homework assignment for lesson #1 already. You can also see other readers’ artwork posted there as well.

In this lesson, you will learn several things:

  • How to draw faster! (individual objects and entire scenes)
  • How to make your drawing look closer to reality
  • How to draw objects and people that are more structurally sound

 

Do your drawings look similar to the one below?

This is an example of how I used to draw when I first started out. I would trace the object with my eyes while translating what I saw to the paper immediately without really thinking about the rest of the object. It’s even more exaggerated when drawing complicated subjects.

If you’re like me, the reason why our drawings are so distorted is because we’re so focused on a single area instead of looking at the big picture. This is called tunnel vision.

This tutorial takes you a step back, shifting your focus away from the details, allowing you to see the world differently, which will change the way you draw for the better.

 

Breaking the World Down into Simple Shapes

Everything we see around us can be broken down into a series of simple shapes.

Whether it be an individual object or an entire scene, you can break it down in your mind with a little concentration.

 

Let’s hop into a quick example!

What are the shapes that make up this pepper mill?How to break objects down into simple shapes RFA

For me, it’s 1 circle, 2 ovals, 2 rectangles and a trapezoid. It might be different for you.

Let’s arrange these shapes into a pepper mill resembling the one above:

Wait, that doesn’t look right does it?

That’s because I skipped over a very important step! The overall shape of the object!

Take a step back, squint your eyes until the details fade away and tell me the one shape you see that could represent the pepper mill’s general form.

Breaking Down Objects into simple shapes stage 1

For me, it’s a rectangle. Let’s try drawing the pepper mill again:

How to break an object down into simple shapes

That’s much better! The first rectangle provides a container for the rest of the shapes to fall into, allowing you to create 1 solid object. Pretty neat, eh?

So, do people actually draw like this?

Yes, a lot of artists do, but most of them do it in their minds. That means they can do all of this without planning it out on paper first. That’s a valuable skill that will come with lots of practice!

Let’s recap! The entire process can be broken down into 3 simple stages:

 

Stage 1: Sketch the Overall Structure

This is where you look at your subject’s form and sketch a simple shape that represents the overall structure. The more simple it is, the better! If you can’t decide on one shape, that’s fine! Sometimes it’s easier to sketch several shapes instead of just one.

How to break objects down into simple shapes Stage 1jpg

Creating a boundary or outline of your object allows you to think about the object as a whole instead of focusing on one specific spot at a time.

If you pay close attention, you’ll see that I only outlined the head, body and wings of the fly and not the legs. It’s okay to leave portions of your subject out to make it easier for you to visualize a solid shape.

Stage 2: Identify Secondary Shapes

How to break objects down into simple shapes Stage 2

These are the general shapes that make up the fly. In this example, I’ve used 4 ovals. If you find that you made a mistake in stage 1, it’s okay to revise it as you continue to work on the drawing.

Stage 3: Define the Subject

Continue sketching until you join all the shapes together into one solid object, insect, person, etc. When you finish your drawing, the shapes you drew in stage 1-2 shouldn’t be so obvious anymore.

Here’s a better example of joining shapes into one object

This may be a simple exercise, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’ve ever struggled with a drawing before, revisit it using this technique and see how it works for you.

 

Let’s Apply this to a Scene

No matter how complicated a scene is, this technique can help you plan out your entire drawing in just a few short minutes. It also helps when you’re drawing from life because you can draw a lot faster when you see the world in shapes.

Blocking out areas of your drawing allows you to make sure all the elements are in the right place before you commit to drawing the entire scene in detail. You can also very easily gauge the size of each element in your drawing and revise it in the first stages. Nothing is set in stone! We have erasers for a reason :)

How to Draw a Scene Quickly by breaking it down RFA

For this example, I could  have drawn a bunch of triangles for stage 1, but it would look very messy and confusing to start.

Since it’s a mountain range, it’s easy to find other shapes that make up such a huge mass. You can divide areas of the mountain up by grouping certain sections together by difference in overall value, distance, etc.

The couple standing side by side fit perfectly into a rectangle, so I drew a rough one and eventually split it in half.

The entire process can be as quick or as well thought out as you want it to be. Generally speaking, the more time you spend, the more precise your drawing will be, but you’re minimizing the amount of practice you get.

 

More Examples

I was a slow learner in school and really appreciated when teachers took time to give different examples because I learned a lot better that way. If you’re like me, this section is for you!

Examples how to draw faster

 

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start to see shapes everywhere you look!

Nadia, that flower example is for you. Hope it helps :)

 

Your Homework Assignment for the Week

Pack up your sketchbook and go for a little walk. Find a place to sit, relax and draw what you see in front of you. Don’t be afraid of drawing moving things and people. The more practice you get, the faster you’ll be able to draw.

Try limiting the amount of space you have on the page and see if you can draw faster that way. Experiment with different ways to draw a single scene or subject to challenge yourself even further.

If you want to draw from pictures to get the hang of it first, visit sites like Flickr or Pinterest to get some ideas. You can search for “nature scenes”, “home interiors” or pictures of “food”. Get creative and draw a huge variety of things so you can train your brain to look at the bigger picture, shifting your focus off the details.

My challenge to you is to draw 3 scenes and 5 individual subjects using what you’ve learned in this lesson. Take a picture or scan your work and post it on my Facebook page under the post for Lesson 2. I’ll feature your artwork here if you can complete the challenge!

If you simply want to share your homework and don’t want to participate in the challenge, you’re very welcome to!

You can expect to see my left handed homework assignment posted to Facebook sometime this week.

If you’re waiting for the next lesson on going from 2D to 3D (drawing volume), sign up to the special mailing list in the sidebar or follow me on facebook to get an update when new lessons are out!

Update: Click here for lesson 3

Have any questions? Leave them below!

If you have any friends that would benefit from this course, share it with them using the share buttons below :)

Readers Who Completed the Challenge!

Nika Andrienko

 

Kevin Stockard

 

Manjistha Rawat

 

ShinChan

 

 

Lesson 2: Learn to See Things Differently Read More »

Lesson 1: How to Sketch

How to Sketch for Beginners

Click here to read the introduction to the course if you missed it!

Drawing is simply the process of layering shapes, lines, scribbles and values on top of each other until you get your desired result.

In this first lesson, we’re going to focus on the process of sketching. If you can make a mark on a piece of paper, you can learn how to sketch! You don’t need to be able to draw straight lines or perfect circles in order to be an artist.

 

Introduction to Sketching

Sketching is the process of roughly scribbling an idea on paper. It allows you to bring your ideas to life quickly so you can save time in the long run. It’s a great way to brainstorm!

learn to sketch for beginners _ bike exampleThe awesome thing about sketches is that they usually blend in or fade away while you continue to build upon the concept of your drawing.

So don’t be afraid to make mistakes!

This stage is meant for exploration! When I make a mistake, I find ways to use that mistake to my advantage. If I can’t, I’ll simply move on.

sketching for beginners _ bike example 2
Can you tell this sketch was created using one of the rough sketches above?

 

How to Sketch

It’s best to use free flowing lines that are loosely and lightly drawn. To do that, adjust your grip on the pencil so that your hand is relaxed instead of tense. If your hand usually gets tired after you’ve drawn for less than an hour, you’re probably gripping it too tightly.

how to sketch for beginners _ dos and dontsIt’s okay if your lines are wobbly because you may not be used to drawing certain lines and curves yet. Drawing is very different from writing, so you’ll need to improve your muscle memory by drawing as frequently as you can!

When making an initial sketch, you’ll want to leave your perfectionism behind and focus on general shapes. Think about the size, shape, angle, etc. The last thing you want to think about is detail!

 

Let’s Sketch Something Together!

Since this is a sketching tutorial for beginners, I’m using my left hand (non-dominant hand) to show you that you don’t need to have good control of your hand in order to sketch well.

Step 1: Sketch a circle loosely

How to sketch a circle 1
My lines are so wobbly!

I sketched a circle using a bunch of loosely drawn lines. Don’t worry if your lines are going in weird directions. It’s likely that you’re not going to draw something perfect the first time around. That’s totally fine! Remember, we’re supposed to work in layers.

Step 2: Refine the shape

After your initial sketch, find areas that need improvement and sketch over it until you get closer to your desired result.

Step 3: Keep refining

Keep repeating that step until you get even closer to what you want.

Tip: You can rotate your sketch book to help your eyes look at the shape differently. You might spot some obvious areas that need fixing.

Step 4: Define the shape

Happy with how it looks overall? Use more confident lines to define the shape of your circle. You can erase the scribbly lines or let them disappear naturally as you continue to work on your drawing.

 

Like That Example? Here are Some More!

How to Sketch_Beginners Sketching Examples RFAAfter drawing all these examples and more using my non-dominant hand, I noticed some big improvements!

I got used to moving my elbow and shoulder joint to draw which gave me much smoother lines. If you look at the images in the example above, you’l notice that my lines gradually become a lot less wobbly.

I thought it would be fun to show you the difference between a sketch made with my left versus right hand:

How to Sketch Portraits _ Left Hand vs Right HandAgain, you don’t need to be good at drawing straight lines or have amazing control of your pencil in order to be able to sketch. Having good control just means that your drawing will look cleaner and in turn more precise.

 

Your Homework Assignment

Things to remember while you draw:

  1. Don’t be a perfectionist
  2. Focus on the overall shape instead of the details
  3. Use a gentle amount of pressure

Assignment #1:

Fill an entire page in your sketchbook, following the steps in this lesson.

Step 1: Sketch Loosely

Step 2: Refine the shape

Step 3: Refine it further

Step 4: Define the desired shape

Find objects to draw around the house, outside or from a quick google search on “random objects”. Once you fill an entire page in your sketchbook, fill another one.

My challenge to you: If you can draw 50 things in your sketchbook and submit it to the facebook page, I’ll feature your artwork down below!

Here are some ideas for you to draw:

  1. Fork
  2. Apple
  3. Banana
  4. Laptop
  5. Jacket
  6. Hat
  7. Your hand
  8. Your foot
  9. Your eye
  10. Key
  11. Lamp
  12. Cat
  13. Dog
  14. Bird
  15. Boat
  16. Tree
  17. Flower
  18. Car
  19. Helicopter
  20. Plane
  21. Alligator
  22. Person jumping
  23. Person sitting
  24. Person standing
  25. My avatar picture

 

Done the assignment?

Let me know if/how you improved and how this lesson helped you draw better!

If you’re waiting for lesson 2, sign up to my special mailing list in the sidebar or follow me on facebook and I’ll notify you when it’s posted.

Update: Click here for lesson 2

Have any questions? Drop them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you shortly!

 

Readers Who Completed the Challenge!

Pamela Gail Rowell

Nika Andrienko

Firoz Wadud <– he drew 80!!

Chris Brown

ShinChan

Nykesha Guinita

 

Anahita Sharma

 

Ritwik Verma

 

Guylene Antoine

 

Lesson 1: How to Sketch Read More »

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