Want to become a better artist? Keep practicing.
Want to become a better dancer? Keep practicing.
No matter what your profession is, practice makes perfect. If you want to learn how to sketch, the same advice applies: keep practicing.
Steadily working on perfecting your skills will help you grow as an artist and push you to learn new skills.
This article will give a short overview of the history of drawing and sketching and the different purposes of sketching. Then we will provide you with a few tips and tricks that will help you get started with sketching.
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A brief history of sketching
The word “sketch” comes from the Greek word schedios, and it describes a rapid freehand drawing of a rough outline or a draft version of the final piece of work you intend to do.
More often than not, sketching is not intended as a finished work but rather as a prepping step that will help the artist get an idea of how the final version of the art piece will look like.
Even oil painters try to create a sketch before painting. This artistic sketching or any preliminary drawing helps them plan their painting in advance.
The earliest “sketches” or “drawings” date from 30,000 to 10,000 B.C and were mainly found on cave walls in various locations in Spain and France. The early sketches and drawings were designs carved, scratched, or painted on primitive tools’ surfaces.
Nowadays, sketches are used in many different fields, such as architecture, graphic design, product development, and more.
Sketch artists are also valuable for forensic teams. Crime scene sketches, for instance, are one of the foundations of crime scene investigation and can be a helpful scene documentation tool.
However, you do not need to be an architect, a freelance designer, an industrial designer, a graphic designer, or even a forensic sketch artist to use your sketching skills or learn an advanced drawing technique.
You can also learn how to sketch to relax after your working hours or before bedtime. Sketching now and then can also sharpen your focus and help you relieve stress. All you need is a pen and some paper, and let your creativity flow.
Here are seven tips on how you can sketch:
Buy all the necessary tools you need
In theory, sketching requires only a pen, some paper, and your creativity.
However, once you take sketching more seriously, it is crucial to find out which tool is right for you and understand the importance of using different pencils. For detailed drawing, you might want to use fine pens or pencils, but in preliminary drawing, you might use broader strokes.
Before answering that, let’s take a look at the four degrees of hardness.
The degree of hardness is usually printed on the pencil, especially if they are made specifically for drawing.
If you see a pencil with the word B printed on it, that means that the pencil is black. Usually, these types of pencils are soft and ideal for children. If you see the H letter printed on the pencil, that means that the pencil is hard, and if you see the F letter printed on the pencil, that means that the pencil is firm.
These pencils are perfect for anyone with a lot of drawing experience and who feels comfortable using them. The last degree of hardness is HB, which stands for “hard black” and means that the hardness degree is medium.
Sometimes, you will also see a number attached to B, H, HB, and F letters. The numbers will make your job easier in deciding the color intensity of the pencil or the degree of hardness. Let’s say you have to pick between a soft pencil that has 5 H or 10 H printed on them. If you want a higher degree of hardness, you should go with 10H.
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If you need to do technical drawings/sketches, then we recommend picking hard pencils. H, 2H up to 6H would be perfect for you. If you want to express yourself more on the creative side, then soft pencils from 2B to 8B would be your best bet.
Besides picking suitable pencils for you, you will also need to buy a sketchbook. We recommend hardcover sketchbooks over paperback ones simply because hardcovers are ideal for indoor and outdoor use. The hardback will provide support whenever you need to sketch or draw something.
Start with baby steps
Can’t draw straight lines or perfect circles? No problem.
Sketching, especially for beginners, is all about exploring and making all the possible mistakes. You can start practicing by trying to create a quick sketch.
Draw straight lines, squares, triangles, circles, or other geometric shapes or geometric patterns for a few minutes to warm up your hand. You can also try portrait sketching or do an initial sketch of a human body or human figures.
The next step is to pick the subject of your sketch. Is it going to be a live model (a person or an object), or will it be an image? Once you pick the subject of your sketch, it is time to identify where the light is coming from. Based on where the primary light source is coming from, you will be able to plan your sketch in advance.
As a rule of thumb, the parts facing the light source are always lighter than all the other parts of the sketch that are more “in the shadow.” You will have to make those parts more intense and create a contrast with the lighter parts.
Leave your perfectionism behind
It is essential to focus on the basic shapes rather than focus on all the details or worry if the lines are straight when you are a beginner.
Detail is the last thing to think of at this stage. Try to practice with a relaxed hand and draw free-flowing lines. To prevent your hand from getting tired, try to draw the lines as loosely and lightly.
Smudging can ruin all your hard work, especially if you are aiming for a clean-looking result.
It can be frustrating, but it happens very often, especially when you are shading.
One option is to place a piece of paper underneath your hand to avoid smudging the other parts covered by your hand. The other option is to start shading from the left to the right if you are right-handed and vice-versa.
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Keep the 70/30 rule in mind at all times
Ever heard of the phrase less is more?
This phrase is especially true when it comes to sketching. What does the 70/30 rule consist of? To achieve the goal of shifting the main focus on a particular part of your sketch, you will need to fill 30% of your sketch with details and use the rest (70%) of the area as filler.
That does not mean that you should disregard 70% of your sketch. Instead, use that 70% as wisely as possible to help the viewer get directed to the main subject of your sketch. Simplicity in sketching artwork is just as important as simplicity in design.
The greater the variety of lines, the better
Remember the part where we talked about choosing the right pencil?
That was a way to help you understand the different kinds of pencils and different purposes. However, it is not a crime if you use several pencils that vary in hardness or softness.
Why is it important to vary your lines? This tip will help your sketch look more dynamic and visually engaging. You can also use different pencils to create a subtle shift from the darkest parts to the lighter ones.
Symmetry is not always visually interesting
Unless your name is Wes Anderson, you shouldn't worry too much about making your sketches as symmetrical as possible.
Symmetrical sketches or drawings may look too dull or repetitive at times. To avoid that, try adding a few subtle changes to make the piece more asymmetrical.
Even if you believe that you can only draw stick figures and have zero talent for drawing or sketching, we assure you that you are way better than you think you are.
If you keep practicing, trying different drawing techniques, different sketching techniques, and follow step-by-step guides, you will soon see that you will get better after each day.
A daily 30-minute drawing of rough sketches with a dark pencil or charcoal pencil will help you improve your drawings and jump-start your sketching career.
Now go explore the digital sketching world!
Did you know that you can use Procreate to create impressive raster sketches, illustrations, and drawings?
Well, now you know! And the best part is, Procreate and Curve work very well together. It's a match made in heaven!
After you create the sketch of your design in Procreate, it's easy to transfer it to Linearity Curve (formerly Vectornator), where you can use Auto Trace or the Pen tool to create a vector version of your illustration or design!
Want to share your creations with us? Make sure you tag us on social media.
We are looking forward to seeing what you come up with!
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Ben is a Content Lead for Linearity living in Berlin. His hobbies include board games, cooking, reading, and writing.