If you’re looking to pick up a new hobby or become more creative, then drawing could be a great place to start. Drawing has many benefits: it improves creativity and memory, relieves stress, boosts mood, and is a great way to disconnect and focus on the task at hand.
Luckily, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t drawn for decades and your skills are a little rusty because anyone can improve, and often much faster than you think.
With all this in mind, here are six tips that you might find useful when starting out on your drawing journey.
1. Understand the art of drawing
The art and joy of drawing is something that we often forget about as we get older. Almost all of us drew as children – circle suns with radiating beams, stick figure families, smiley faces – but unlike other creative pastimes like sewing, baking, or playing music, drawing often gets left behind in childhood.
This could be because we felt we weren’t good enough or we worried that we weren’t drawing in the ‘right way’. However, the beauty of art is that it’s about expression and there isn’t a right way.
When you consider the fact that for as long as humans have existed, we’ve drawn – prehistoric paintings on cave walls, maps to show the way, doodles while we’re daydreaming. As Pablo Picasso famously said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.” Hopefully, this guide might provide that little spark of inspiration to help revive your inner artist.
You don’t have to be unusually gifted to draw well. Some people might have more natural talent than others, but if you can sign your name, you can draw – and with a bit of practise, your drawings can be impressive, whether you’re drawing an animal or a self-portrait. It’s actually quite a technical skill, and once someone shows you the tricks and techniques of how to draw your first landscape, you’ll suddenly find it much easier.
Try not to let fear of the blank page put you off. Drawing is about perception, individuality, and expressing yourself, and there’s no reason why, with the right instruction, you can’t reignite your creativity and draw pictures that you’re proud of.
2. Keep in mind these drawing tips for beginners
Before we delve into the basics of drawing technique, let’s look at some drawing tips all beginners should keep in mind.
1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you draw something you’re unhappy with, try not to feel discouraged. Not everything we draw is going to be great and not everything needs to be judged.
It’s helpful to see drawing, especially at this early stage, as an experiment – or a chance to play around. If you don’t like something you’ve drawn, you’ll still have learned from it. Nothing is a failure or a waste of time.
2. Remember that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to drawing. One of the beautiful things about drawing is that there isn’t just one way to do it. Drawing, like all art forms, is about self-expression, and if we’re able to express ourselves through a drawing, then it’s a success – no matter how it looks.
Whichever way you draw, whatever stage you’re at, your brain is getting a workout and your mind is being focused. So no matter what, taking some time to draw will always be a positive.
3. Keep your drawing materials on display. If you want to practise drawing more, keep pencils and paper on display somewhere prominent. This is a small step that can have a big impact, and ideally, you should try to practice every day – even if just for 10 minutes.
4. Don’t worry about buying fancy materials. If you decide you want to pursue drawing seriously, you might want to buy different pens, pencils, and special types of paper to get experimenting. Art Discount provides a huge range of art supplies at reasonable prices if you fancy having a browse, but keep in mind that during these early stages, you don’t need anything fancy.
Practising drawing is just as effective on the back of a receipt as it is on luxurious cartridge paper. Drawing can be done on any surface, with any pen or pencil.
5. Don’t publicly display your drawings (yet). As we’ve seen, it’s helpful for beginners to think of drawing as a learning experience, not a finished product. The thought that we’re creating ‘art’ isn’t always useful in the early stages of learning to draw – it can cause our brains to panic which stifles creativity.
Keeping your drawings for yourself at this stage can allow you to feel more free, experimental, and relaxed when you draw. Sharing your drawings with your loved ones (or even drawing them!), can be something to look forward to when you’re ready.
6. Don’t feel pressured to finish every drawing. Drawing isn’t always about the destination, but the journey itself, so you shouldn’t feel pressured to finish each sketch. Draw for yourself, and if you don’t want to finish a drawing, stop and move on to the next.
3. Start out with some simple drawing exercises
Hopefully, at this point, you’re feeling mentally prepared to get started drawing. So we’re going to look at some different ways to get started. It might sound simple, but one of the best ways of learning to draw is to get used to the feel of a pencil in your hand and the different ways of moving it.
There isn’t one specific way to grip a pencil for drawing. Though, it’s best to start out holding it the way you would to write, and then adapt it if it doesn’t feel controlled or comfortable enough. Remember that while your hand might get tired after drawing for a long time, it shouldn’t hurt – if it does, you should try adjusting your grip.
You might find it beneficial to play some music while you’re drawing or even listen to a podcast or audiobook. At this early stage, it isn’t necessary to focus entirely on what you’re doing. For now, you’re just trying to make these motions feel natural for your hand, and become more controlled and intentional with your movements.
You also want to avoid seeing these exercises as a chore. Drawing should be enjoyable and if you’re not feeling it, it’s fine to stop.
1) Begin with some doodles
Kicking off your learning experience by doodling is a fun, relaxed way to start. Doodling helps your hand warm up and relaxes your mind.
Remember that even if you doubt it, you already can draw. You just need to gain more control over it, and doodling is a good way to feel more comfortable and calm while drawing.
So try to draw whatever comes into your mind: the plant on your desk, your cat, a tree, or simply swirls, shapes, and symbols. Try not to think about it too much or judge what you create.
2) Draw lines and ovals
Drawing well relies on having control over the direction of your pen or pencil. Try to picture a complicated and intricate drawing; the reason why it looks so impressive is because the artist has total command over their hand movements. Lines and ovals may seem very simple, but they form the basis of all line drawings and can be surprisingly difficult for the untrained hand to master.
Drawing these types of shapes helps you to find the ‘flow’ of your hand and practise a steady grip – you’re basically training your muscle memory here, just as you do when you learn to knit or drive.
Try drawing lines and ovals quickly, lightly, and going in different directions. You can have a look at some specific exercises for drawing lines here.
3) Practise hatching
Hatching is a drawing technique used for shading. It uses a series of fast, short lines going in the same direction to add dimension and texture to drawings. It’s easy to learn and helps train your hand to create quick and deliberate motion.
The best way to practise this is to print out a few copies of an outline of an image or shape and try out different hatching techniques. Have a look at this example, which uses the image of a hand and six different styles of hatching, to see how the different techniques add shadow and perspective.
Alternatively, you can watch this YouTube tutorial…
4. Get familiar with different drawing styles
There are many different styles of drawing and you might find yourself drawn (pun intended!) to some more than others.
First, there’s line drawing, which uses lines and contour without any shading to create eye-catching sketches. Because it’s quite simple, this is a good drawing style to start out with. You can have a look at some examples of line drawing here, and read some tips on technique here.
Or perhaps it’s cartoon illustrations that interest you. There are lots of different types of cartoon styles, from caricature, anime, manga, and Disney – you can check out the different styles here. In general, cartoons are also a good place for beginners to start, as they don’t rely on the realism that other types of drawing do.
This takes a lot of the pressure off and allows you to enjoy playing around with the different ways to capture the spirit of a figure. You can find out more about cartoon drawing here, or watch the video below.
Examples of more advanced styles of drawing are photorealism and hyperrealism. These are the types of drawings that look realistic, often incredibly so – to the point where they look just like a photograph.
Obviously, this requires a lot of skill, practise, and patience. But if that’s your preferred style of drawing, there’s no harm in trying to work towards it gradually. That way, you’ll always be aware of the drawing techniques that are most beneficial for you to do regularly – for example, realistic shading will be helpful and caricature won’t be.
Have a look at some stunning examples of photorealism here, or watch the in-depth video tutorial below.
The next step in improving your drawing skills is to practise, practise, practise. You’ve done some warm-ups and learned a bit more about drawing control, so now it’s time to draw some pictures.
If you’re a beginner, then there’s no need to go searching for dramatic vistas or beautiful subjects – the simpler, the better, at this stage. Although, bear in mind it’s important to draw something you find interesting or inspiring so that you enjoy your first drawing experiences.
Objects with simple, clear lines work well – things like a coffee cup, a banana, a vase, etc. It’s also advisable not to draw things that have great sentimental value, otherwise, you might put too much pressure on yourself to get it right straight away.
Once you have your object in front of you, the next step is to break it down into shapes. You can do this with almost all objects – for example, your coffee cup is two horizontal ovals connected by two vertical lines, and the handle is a half-circle. A banana is basically just two curved lines (this is why those simple line and oval drawing exercises are so helpful!).
Have a watch of the video below to see how to hold your pencil to create different effects, as well as how you can draw outlines and edges to form the backbone of your object.
Once you’ve got your shapes outlined, you can begin to slowly sketch the lines and curves in more detail. The trick to getting this right is to keep looking at the object: look up often and draw what you see. Don’t worry if your object looks wobbly – you’re just practising and what’s important at this stage is capturing the essence and shape of the object.
Once you’re comfortable with creating a basic line drawing, you can start adding details – any designs on your coffee cup, for example, or bruising and lines on the banana. Think about and experiment with the pressure of your pencil or pen and how you want to create shading. Look at where the light is coming from and where it hits the object: is one side dark and the other light? Is there a shadow?
You can use hatching to create shadow and depth or, if you’re using a pencil, you can smudge your strokes and build up layers. Have a look at this video below, which uses all the steps outlined to bring the objects to life.
Drawing a still life is the easiest way to improve your drawing technique. Though, if you’re more interested in drawing people than objects, you might want to try drawing a self-portrait.
This is more complicated on the whole (noses are notoriously difficult to get right) – but if you enjoy it, there’s no reason not to give it a go. The New York Times has an excellent guide to drawing a self-portrait, complete with a template. All you need is a pencil, an eraser, and a mirror.
6. Never stop learning
The great thing about learning to draw is that perfection doesn’t exist. The more you practise, the more confident and skilled you’ll become – but you’ll probably never reach a point where you think you’re good enough and it’s time to stop learning. There’ll always be aspects of drawing you struggle with, techniques to try out or ways you can improve yourself, and continually learning is part of the joy.
With this in mind, if you do decide you want to learn in a more focused, intense way, there are many ways you can do this from the comfort of your own home.
For example, Drawspace has some great guided drawing courses for beginners, including Getting Started with Drawing, Traditional Drawing and Drawing People – all of which are totally free. If you want to go at your own pace, there are also over 500 self-directed drawing lessons on Drawspace, so have a look and see which ones interest you.
If you’re happy to pay to improve your drawing technique, there are many courses that’ll take you from a novice to a pro. You might want to have a look at some of the drawing courses we offer on our site, such as Drawing and Illustration for Beginners from the International Open Academy. Whether you want to draw realistic human faces or learn to capture light and shadow, there’s a course that will suit you.
Drawing is one of the freest and most flexible of all art forms, and part of the fun of learning to draw is discovering this.
Unlike other arts, you don’t need any fancy materials to get going – you can draw with a finger on a steamed-up mirror or on the back of an envelope with a marker pen. But once you start carrying a sketchpad around, you might discover that a whole new world of creative experimentation and expression awaits.
You can use drawing to keep yourself occupied, to relax and unwind, to feel more creative, to express yourself, or simply because it’s fun.
Try to enjoy the learning process and don’t worry if you make mistakes – it’s all part of the process and every drawing, good or bad, is a step towards creating something even better.
Have you recently taken up drawing? We’d love to hear from you and see photos of your sketches. Join the conversation on the art and culture section of the Rest Less community forum, or leave us a comment below.