Pencil drawing of two gourds.

How Do I Learn To Draw From Scratch? (10 Tips For Beginners)

Drawing ability can be successfully developed through learning and practice, it does not depend on innate talent. If you want to learn to draw but don’t know how to get started, let me give you some useful tips on how to draw for beginners.

To learn to draw from scratch as a beginner, you must first become familiar with the basics of drawing, on which you can build further. These include:

• Good eye-hand coordination, which develops with practice.
• Mastering perspective and tonal rendering, which is essential for depicting three-dimensional reality on a flat drawing sheet.
• Knowledge of the effects of light and shadow.
• Correct use of materials and techniques.
• Proper use of measurement techniques and determination of proportions.

Once you are familiar with the basics, you will need perseverance and a lot of practice to develop your drawing skills well. The more you draw, the more precise and faster you will be. 

Drawing is one of the oldest activities of mankind, a form of communication by which we can communicate our thoughts, emotions, and impressions. Drawing is the foundation of visual arts, including painting, architecture, and sculpture. In addition, drawing is considered an art in itself, equivalent to the others.

Learning the basics of drawing is crucial, whether you want to work with traditional materials and techniques or digital tools. The beneficial effects of drawing have a positive impact on our quality of life, whether it’s just a creative hobby or a source of income.

Can anyone learn to draw?

Drawing skills can be learned and taught like any other skill we have, such as writing or speaking. Some people are born with good abilities, but that alone is not enough. Through learning and a lot of practice, you can develop your drawing skills.

Even the greatest masters gained their knowledge through learning and much practice. Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), one of the greatest artists of all time, said of his skills: “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

1. What drawing equipment do you need?

The minimum equipment you need to start drawing is some paper and a smooth, hard drawing surface (drawing board), an HB wooden graphite pencil, a pencil sharpener (you can also use a scalpel or knife), and a soft eraser.

  • The drawing board to which the drawing sheet is attached. You can also make the drawing board yourself, from wood, Masonite, or chipboard in about A2 size. The drawing board must have a smooth surface. Attach the drawing sheet to it with bulldog clips or masking tape. You can also use an art bench or easel if you have one.
  • Drawing paper. You can use cheaper office paper (80-90gsm/20lb) for sketches and exercises. For larger drawing projects, thicker paper from 100 to 130gsm (70-80lb) is best. Medium-rough paper is recommended for graphite or colored pencil drawings. Ink drawing requires a smooth paper surface. Paper with a rough surface is best for charcoal or pastel drawings.
  • Drawing materials. At the beginning of the learning process, it is recommended to use a wooden graphite pencil. HB, B, or 2B hardness is best. Charcoal is also a good medium for beginners. You can then work with other drawing tools such as colored pencils, dry and oil pastels, or pen and ink. Drawings made with charcoal and pastel tend to smear, so it is recommended to protect them. Fixing sprays is best suited for this.
  • Pencil eraser. Putty rubber (kneaded eraser) is definitely a good solution, as it does not damage the paper, there is no residue left and we can knead it into different shapes according to our needs. The simple white soft rubber eraser is also acceptable.
  • Pencil sharpener or a scalpel and a block of sandpaper. Make sure your pencil is always sharpened properly.

2. How to start drawing as a beginner?

I recommend that you start learning with larger drawings. This is how you can practice the right-hand posture and movements in the best way. Larger drawings make it easier to draw details, and they’re easier to fix.

For larger drawings, it is appropriate to set your drawing board to a vertical position and stand or sit in front of it. Do not squeeze the pencil, you will get better results if you hold it loose. Do not just move your wrist while drawing, but your whole arm.

how to hold the pencil when drawing
How to hold the pencil?

When making smaller drawings, you can use the usual pencil grip used for writing. To do this, keep the board at a small angle of 20-30 degrees.

3. Exercises to improve eye and hand coordination

  • Step 1: Draw straight lines

Attach a drawing paper of at least A3 size to the drawing board and set it to an approximately vertical position. With loose movements, draw first horizontal, then vertical and diagonal lines until you can draw straight lines. Then practice drawing parallel lines at equal distances from each other horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.

When drawing lines, move your whole arm, not just your wrist. Guide the pencil with even pressure on the paper so that the lines are of uniform thickness. Draw each line in a single motion.

  • Step 2: Draw plane geometric shapes

Once you have learned how to draw lines, you can move on to practicing plane geometric shapes such as squares, triangles, circles, and ellipses. It takes a lot of practice to draw a nice circle or ellipse, so don’t lose your courage if they’re not perfect at the beginning.

It is best to draw the correction by drawing the corrected line before deleting the faulty one, otherwise, there is a possibility of repeating the fault.

4. Applying perspective in drawing

When drawing, we display a three-dimensional space on two-dimensional paper, which is not an easy task. To do this, we need to know the rules of perspective drawing. The geometric construction of perspective is a complex process, so we use it in a simplified form for freehand drawing.

Perspective drawing can be practiced by drawing basic geometric solids, starting with the cube. The cube is the simplest geometric body, so it is best suited for understanding perspective.

The elements of perspective drawing are as follows:

  • The horizon line is always at eye level,
  • the vanishing point on the horizon line,
  • orthogonal lines converging at the vanishing point,
  • transverse lines which are horizontal and always parallel to each other and to the horizon line.

The vanishing point (there may be more than one) cannot always be defined to be within the drawing. It is sometimes located outside the boundaries of the drawing sheet.

The object to be drawn can be viewed at eye level, from below, or from above. Therefore, there are several types of perspectives.

lampposts in one point perspective
Lampposts in one-point perspective

One-point perspective

We use a one-point perspective to depict objects that are viewed exactly from the front. In this case, orthogonal lines merge at one vanishing point on the horizon line. The depth of the objects is shortened, but the height and width do not change.

To draw the cube from a one-point perspective, the first step is to draw the horizon line and determine the vanishing point.

cube in one point perspective
Cubes in one-point perspective

Then draw the front face of the cube and draw orthogonal lines from its vertices to the vanishing point. Draw the other faces of the cube so that the edges coincide with the orthogonal lines.

Two-point perspective

From a two-point perspective, you can draw objects that have two sides visible. In this case, we define two vanishing points on the horizon line. The depth of the objects is shortened in this case as well.

To draw a cube from a two-point perspective, first, define the horizon line, and then the two vanishing points (in some cases, one of the vanishing points may be outside the drawing sheet).

cube in two point perspective
Cubes in two-point perspective

Draw the edge of the cube pointing towards you and draw lines from its vertices to the vanishing points. Draw the two adjacent faces of the cube and also connect the newly defined vertices to the vanishing points. Finally, draw the other faces of the cube.

Three-point perspective

In a three-point perspective, we draw objects that are very tall or very deep, such as a tall building or a cityscape seen from above. In this case, in addition to the two vanishing points on the horizon line, a third is also determined.

3 point perspective
Three-point perspective

The third vanishing point is on the side of the horizon line closer to us. You can’t always define the vanishing points inside the drawing, sometimes they are outside of it because they are farther away.

How to draw a circle in perspective?

When we draw a circle in perspective, an ellipse is created. We can accurately represent a circle in perspective by drawing a square into which the circle can be inscribed.

circle in one and two point perspective
Circles in Perspective

Draw the diagonals of the square and the midpoints of the sides of the square. Draw the ellipse in this square shown in perspective.

Aerial (atmospheric) perspective

The further an object is from the viewer, the less clear it appears, and the lighter its tones and colors are due to the atmosphere until it eventually gradually blends into the background.

This way we can create the effect that objects recede into the distance. Therefore, aerial perspective is a way to realistically represent three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface.

Details of more distant objects are not drawn in as much detail as those of nearby objects. The closer the object is to us, the sharper its lines are, and we draw it in more detail. Its tones and colors are also vivid.

5. Shading, tonal rendering

The perception of light and shadow in our drawings is what we can use to visualize the spatiality of objects. In this way, we can turn plane shapes into three-dimensional objects. Shading enhances the three-dimensional appearance of objects in a drawing.

simple still life drawing

Tonal rendering with a pencil or pen and ink can be done in the following ways:

  • Shading with one-way lines can be applied in one or more layers and at varying densities. Lines can run horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
  • You can create shading with lines perpendicular to each other, which can consist of two or more layers of horizontal and vertical lines.
  • For multilayered diagonal or angled shading, we use lines in two or more layers that are at different angles to each other.
  • You can also create shading by drawing dots of different densities.

Do not smudge the graphite pencil price with your fingers or a blending stump. It is better to work with the shading methods presented above, so we can achieve much richer tones and more professional results.

If you work with charcoal or pastel, however, they can be smudged. You can use your fingers, a paper towel, or a blending stump.

6. Light and shadow

When light illuminates an object from one side, a shadow is created on the other side. One type is the form shadow that is formed on the object itself, the other type is the cast shadow that the object casts on its surroundings.

The cast shadow is darker than the form shadow, which is made brighter by the rays of light reflected from the environment.

Light can come from two sources, natural and artificial. Our natural light source is the Sun. The artificial light source can be a lamp, a reflector, a candle, or an open fire flame.

The shape of the shadow depends on the shape of the object, the position of the light source, and the surface on which it is cast.

Types of light sources

Sunlight causes shadows that are parallel to the picture plane. The angle and direction of incidence of the light rays will determine the shadow. The lower the sun on the horizon, the longer the cast shadows will be.

The light comes from a central light source such as a lamp and is diffused. In this case, the shadow will be determined by the angle of incidence of the light beam and the distance from the base point of the light source.

In addition to the above, the light may come from a moving light source, a linear light source, or multiple light sources.

7. Measurement techniques and determining the proportions of objects

To draw the observed objects proportionally, we need to master the correct measurement techniques. A pencil can be used as a measuring tool, but a thin, straight stick is also suitable.

The correct way to measure

  • Our body position should be the same for every measurement we make.
  • Always measure with your arm outstretched so that the measuring stick (pencil) is always the same distance away from your eyes.
  • The distance from which the measurement is made must also be unchanged.
  • Close one eye while measuring and it should always be the same eye.
  • Hold the measuring tool perpendicular to your line of sight.
  • Slide your thumb up and down to make a note of the size on the measuring stick.
measuring with a pencil
Measuring with a pencil

With this method, you can measure the proportions of the elements and their angles. Select a size, such as the width of a vase, and see how many times it fits into the height of the vase. Working with these dimensions, you mark the objects in your drawing with construction lines.

8. How to draw a still life of simple objects?

Let’s start by drawing the composition of 2-3 simple objects, illuminated by a central light source coming from above.

still life drawing
Simple still life drawing
  • The first step is to determine the orientation of the drawing sheet. If the height of the composition is greater than its width, set your drawing sheet to portrait. If, on the other hand, the width is larger, set it to the landscape position.
  • Mark the outer boundaries of the composition and then draw the larger shapes, taking care of the proportions and correct placement. At this stage of the drawing, we are still working with faint guidelines. These can be deleted later, but in the case of study drawings, we can keep them.
  • As a third step, tint the darkest shadows, halftones, and light tones in faint layers, and then continue working, always on the entire drawing surface, from larger parts to smaller details.
Never start your work of art by drawing the details, always work from the larger shapes to the smaller ones and develop the whole drawing at the same time. The same procedure must be followed for hatching and tonal rendering, which is also developed gradually over the entire drawing at the same time.

9. How to draw people and animals?

The knowledge you have acquired so far through the above exercises will be necessary for drawing people and animals, but it will not be enough.

Michelangelo Seated Male drawing
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Seated Male

Knowledge of body proportions and artistic anatomy is also essential for a realistic representation of people and animals.

It is not recommended to draw people by copying photos. This is not a professional method and does not develop the skills you need to draw from life.

10. Learn from the greatest masters of drawing

We can learn a lot from the great masters of the fine arts, so don’t miss this opportunity! Copying the drawings of great artists is a very good way to help you learn drawing.

In his notes, Leonardo da Vinci himself recommends copying the works of the great masters at the beginning of the learning process. Notice what lines they drew, how they shaded, and what principles of artistic composition they used in their works.

The internet is the easiest source to find drawings of old masters. These works are in the public domain and can therefore be used freely. For example, you can learn from the drawings of Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, and John Singer Sargent.

Final thoughts about how to draw for beginners

As I said above, drawing skills can be learned and developed. It takes learning the basics of drawing and a lot of practice. Don’t despair if your drawings aren’t perfect yet. With persistent practice, you will be more confident and your creations will gradually improve. Drawing has been proven to have many benefits in different areas of life.

Draw as much as possible, the world around us is full of things that can inspire you to draw. And for some further information on the subject, here’s an article on what beginners should start drawing.

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