Useful Drawing Techniques to Help You Get Started

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Someone sketching intricate leaves in a note book.

In highly competitive business environments, it’s important to stand out. Taking up a creative hobby can bring out your creativity and give you a better sense of perspective. That will help you gauge how others experience things and how they’re feeling.

One of the best creative hobbies you can engage in is drawing. We detailed cool reasons to get out your pencils in an earlier post.

Many of the problems beginners come across when they take up drawing are the result of a lack of skills some people forget to work on when they start out. They may seem obvious to more experienced, practiced artists, but they are easy to forget when you’ve not drawn anything for a while.

Today, we’ll take you through some basics of drawing, so you can get off to a good start and unlock your creativity. If you find you enjoy it, you may even become more productive, as you tend to become more efficient when you’re happy. Later, we’ll take you through how to get the proportions in your drawings correct. First, we’ll see how you can master the art of the straight line.

Let’s take out our pencils and begin.

Drawing straight lines 

Do you struggle to keep your lines straight? Do you find they keep bending no matter what you do?

Well, the good news is that it’s not hard. If you cheat and use a ruler, you will probably never be able to develop the muscle memory needed to draw a long straight line freehand. Lines that start off perfect can go wrong the longer you draw them. So, if drawing a long line is tricky, you can begin by drawing short lines.

You need to focus when you’re engaged in technical drawing. You must draw things precisely as they are. There isn’t room to add your personal touch or unleash your creativity. But is that really what you want to do when you draw as a hobby? No way.

So, you need to learn how to keep your hand relaxed without surrendering your focus.

Here are a few tips to help you draw something more easily. Let’s say you’re trying to draw a flower.

  • Split longer lines into shorter ones.
  • The more things curve, the shorter the lines should be.
  • Don’t press the pencil too hard on the paper.
  • Draw quickly and try not to hesitate.

After you have a basic image on the page, you can fill in the gaps between the lines you’ve drawn with any that are missing. Then you can stress certain lines by going over them with your pencil and pressing more firmly.

Hey presto, you can now draw straight lines. To make sure you don’t go rusty, practice drawing circles consisting of short lines, instead of long ones that begin to bend. Draw lightly. That way, it will be harder for people to spot any little mistakes you might make. Now let’s turn to how you can get better at drawing the correct proportions.

Suss out proportions

What happens when you can’t get the proportions of whatever you are drawing correct? You find it difficult to add a sense of perspective to your works. You find yourself using tools to help you.

This problem can be solved. But it’s important to know what proportions are before you can do so. Proportions clarify where things are in relation to others.

You can use your pencil and thumb to measure your subject to help you improve and depict more accurate proportions in your art. Just like when you practice drawing lines and circles, press lightly with your pencil so that you can rub out and correct any errors.

Here’s what you need to do.

Step 1

Use your pencil and thumb to measure your subject and the relationships between objects or body parts in an image.

  • You must be consistent with how you measure things.
  • Bring your pencil up to eye level without bending your elbow.
  • Bring your eye as close to your shoulder as you can to get more accurate measurements.

If you have a reference image you can measure proportions straight from the image using your pencil.

Step 2

If you’re drawing a person, use your thumb to work out their length.

  • Measure your subject’s head with the tip of your thumb and the tip of your pencil. Then you can work out how tall they are by counting down the length of the body in head-sized units.
  • Next, measure the head in your drawing and multiply it by the number of head units you ended up with to find out where you should draw your subject’s feet.

Step 3

Turn your pencil to measure the width of the object or person you’re drawing.

  • This will help you figure out how wide things are in relation to each other.
  • Remember that there will be times when the width and length of something won’t equal a whole unit. For example, your subject may be one and a half heads wide. In that case, make the most accurate representation you can.

By measuring both length and width in head units when you’re drawing a person you can get a fix on how things relate to one another. This can be particularly useful if you’re drawing a crowd of people. You can figure out how tall and wide one person is, compared to someone standing next to them.

Step 4  

Check your angles. To do this, you need to make sure your sketchbook is upright. This is how you do it if you’re drawing a person.

  • Use a sliding technique to check angles. Hold your pencil between the eyes of your subject and tilt it at an angle until the edge of it matches the angle you want to check.
  • Hold the pencil as still as you can and bring your other hand in front of your drawing to gauge the angle.

If you’re having trouble getting a fix on the relationship between parts of your image, you can use the sliding technique to help. Another great tip if you’re finding it hard to draw something with a weird shape, is to study the space around it to find more familiar shapes. You can start with them.

You can also create guidelines to help you. This means you can focus on a small part of the image at a time. You could draw a box around your image, for instance.

Finding your style

How do you go about finding your style, so that your drawings and artworks feel like your creations? Let’s find out how you can go beyond mere technical, precise drawing.

Style comes when you’re not copying exactly what’s in front of you. Here’s how to add a touch of originality to your drawings.

  • Try shaking your hand when drawing the last lines. This can help you add your own stamp to your art.
  • Add a dash of creativity.

When you learned how to write, you were likely asked to copy letters from a template. After lots of practice, you developed your own style, so that you could start to write your thoughts, write faster, and express your emotions, rather than just copy meaningless letters.

To add a little creativity, you could make minor changes to the image or piece of work you’re copying to make it your own. Let’s say you’re drawing a garden gnome and fancy giving him a bigger nose. Go for it! Making your works your own is part of the joy of creating art. Don’t be afraid to break a rule every now and again.

You can practice adding your style to your works by sketching often. Use shaky lines to draw what’s around you and don’t worry about the effect. Just practice natural hand movements. If you’re following tutorials, try changing shapes and see what you end up with.

Woman sketching on an easel.
Photo by cottonbro on

Draw fast to free your hand

Do you find it difficult to draw concurrent lines? It might be because you’re trying too hard. Try drawing fast and see if there’s any difference. Try drawing snakes to practice. You can practice proportions, and get a fix on lengths, angles, and shapes. Crucially, this exercise is a way to teach you how to move your hand naturally and gracefully across the paper.

But what if you end up with a snake that’s thick at one point, thin at another, and just looks messy?

Here’s an exercise you can do to fix it.

  • Draw a row of circles and make sure each one is smaller than the previous one you drew until you have a single point at the end of the row.
  • Join the corresponding ends of the diameters and you’ll have your snake.
  • Now draw a vertical row of circles and connect them to form another snake.
  • Draw another row of horizontal and vertical circles, but this time leave more space between each circle.
  • Connecting each of them will be trickier now because you’ll need to draw arches. That’s the point of this practice exercise. You can draw snakes that are long, curled, short, or straight.
  • Each time you draw a snake that isn’t messy and looks roughly as it should, increase the gap between the circles.

With enough practice, this will train your hand to move naturally, and you won’t have to think about it much. Next, we’ll give you tips on what to do if you struggle to draw from your imagination.

Drawing from imagination

Luckily, if you find it hard to draw from imagination all you need to do is change your attitude. You must learn how to draw lines instead of the object. Ask yourself which points of whatever you are drawing connect to each other and observe the distance between those points.

Then ask yourself what those points are for and what they are part of. What do they do? How does that impact other elements of the image, object, or subject?

Let’s try it out. Choose an object and examine it, then describe it as best you can. Describe the shape and purpose of the object as fully as you can. Even if you describe the object well, you will still only know how to draw that object when it’s in a particular position but it’s a good start. Plus, engaging in this exercise will help you develop your imagination. That way, you’ll have an idea of how to draw something that’s not before your eyes if you’ve analysed that object before.

You can use a similar technique to learn how to draw the human body. You can learn how to draw people in a given pose, but that won’t tell you how to draw people in a different attitude. Instead, ask yourself what a given body part is used for and why one part is connected to another part. In short, ask yourself the same sorts of things you would when attempting to draw an object.

This will help you begin to imagine how various parts of the body might look when someone changes position, and you’ll have at least a rough idea of how to draw them.

So, to get better at drawing from imagination:

  • Try to understand objects as a whole and think about how and why they are built. When you do, it will be easier for you to put your own stamp on your work.
  • Always ask why something appears as it does. When you can answer why questions about whatever you want to draw, you can use those answers as a jumping-off point for your imagination.

When you can draw using only the information and images you’ve got stored in your head, you will feel that the art you create is truly yours.

 Wrapping up

If you are beginning to learn how to draw and have struggled with basic drawing techniques, we hope you’re feeling more confident. By practicing natural hand movements, drawing straight lines, drawing from imagination, and nailing proportions, you can soon find your own unique style. You might even feel sure enough in your own abilities to start breaking the odd rule.

When you’re able to create works that possess a quality that makes them indefinably but unquestionably yours, you will be able to take even more joy in your art and can aspire to greater heights.

Get practicing and see how far your new hobby can take you!

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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