Graphite pencil drawing of an apple

What Should I Start Drawing as a Beginner?

In the initial stages of learning to draw, an important question is what subjects should beginners choose?

If you’ve ever tried to draw an object beyond your current abilities, you know how frustrating it can be when it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to.

The solution to overcome the initial difficulties is to learn the basic principles of drawing and practice regularly. With this article, I want to help beginners who want to improve their drawing skills.

Beginners should start drawing simple shapes and objects. As your drawing skills improve with regular practice, you will be able to draw more and more complex subjects.

• The first thing to start with is to draw simple straight lines and basic geometric shapes. They form the basis of all further, complex forms.
• The second step is to draw simple objects with which you can already create the illusion of spatiality.
• The third step is to draw simple still life compositions consisting of a few objects.

By drawing still lifes, you can learn the basic principles of drawing and develop the skills necessary to create more advanced drawings.

How and with what tools should you start drawing?

Use a larger sheet of paper, at least A3 size, for practice. Attach the paper to a drawing board, which is best placed in a near-perpendicular position. You can use a painting easel for this, or if you don’t have one, you can lean the board against the back of a chair.

A graphite pencil marked HB or B is suitable for beginners. Sharpen the pencil often. By changing the pressure of the pencil, you can draw lines of varying strength.

Do not hold the pencil as if you want to write, but as shown in the picture below. Make sure that you do not grip the pencil with a cramp, but in a relaxed manner. Don’t just move your wrist while drawing, but your whole arm.

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

When correcting errors, erase as little as possible. But if you do erase, it is best to use a kneadable eraser or putty rubber, which is gentle on the surface of the paper. When making corrections, always draw the corrected line first, and only then erase the wrong one.

1. Drawing lines and simple geometric flat surfaces

These exercises are important for developing good hand-eye coordination, which is important for successful drawing. Using rulers and compasses does not help the development of freehand drawing skills.

Practice drawing straight lines going in different directions. They can be perpendicular to each other and parallel to each other. It will definitely be difficult to draw straight lines at first, but you will improve with practice.

Practice drawing circles and polygons in different sizes and positions until you become confident.

How to draw a leaf in three steps
How to draw a leaf, starting with a pentagram

2. Drawing three-dimensional shapes

We will use the simple geometric shapes presented in the previous exercise as a starting point to draw the three-dimensional shapes. This requires a basic understanding and application of perspective and shading.

Perspective in art

In order to create the illusion of spatiality in freehand drawing, knowledge of linear and atmospheric perspectives is essential. Specific forms of perspective were already used in antiquity and were later perfected by Renaissance masters.

Linear perspective in drawing means that the lines of the objects point in the direction of one or more vanishing points on the horizon in the distance. The horizon line is at eye level in every case. As objects get further and further away from us, we see them as smaller and smaller.

Drawing of geometric shapes and solids
Geometric shapes and solids

Atmospheric or aerial perspective means that we draw things further away from us with less and less detail and sharpness. This is a very useful tool for creating a three-dimensional effect outdoors when drawing cityscapes or landscapes.

The circle is drawn as an ellipse in perspective. We use this when drawing bottles, jars, or other cylinder-shaped objects. We also draw an ellipse when we want to represent circular objects in perspective, such as a bowl, a plate, or an orange cut in half.

If you are interested to learn more about the subject, you may wish to read my article on perspective in drawing.

Shading as a tool for spatial representation

By shading the object you draw, you can show the effects of light and shadow. If you draw a circle, it will just be a flat geometric shape. If you add shading, it becomes a sphere, that is, a geometric solid. The drawing below shows how I drew an apple starting from a flat circle.

How to draw an apple in four steps
How to draw an apple in four steps

One type of shadow is that which appears on the object itself. This is the core shadow or form shadow, and it helps to define the shape of the object. Another type of shadow is cast by the object on its surroundings and helps to represent the spatial location of the object.

Shading goes a long way in making your drawings look realistic instead of appearing flat.

3. Simple still life drawings

In the initial stages of learning, simple still lifes are the best subjects. Their big advantage is that the objects don’t move, so we have plenty of time to observe and draw.

We can find plenty of subjects to draw among household items, fruits, and vegetables. By practicing drawing still lifes, we acquire the skills we will need later to draw more complex objects and living beings.

Setting up a still life composition

Let’s choose one, two, or three simple objects to start with. They can be placed at eye level or a little lower. The lighting of the still life composition should preferably come from a single direction because it will be easier to draw the shading.

Proportions are important in drawing

Always pay attention to the proportions. First, determine the ratio of the width and height of the object or composition you want to draw. Based on this, you can decide to place your drawing sheet in a portrait or landscape position.

You can measure and compare the proportions with a pencil or a thin, straight stick. When measuring, it is important to always measure from the same distance. It makes the measurement easier if you close one eye.

Choose a dimension from among the elements of the composition, which will serve as a basic unit of measurement during the drawing process. You will compare the length and width of the other elements to this dimension. Mark the measured size on the pencil or stick with your thumb, and then compare it with the other objects.

When drawing objects, always proceed from larger and simpler shapes to smaller ones. Draw the smaller details later, when you have already placed the larger shapes correctly.

Representation of materials and textures

All natural and man-made things have a characteristic surface texture. We have to take them into account if we want to make a realistic drawing.

The surface of a glass or metal object will be smooth, and the bark of a tree or a textile may be rough. In addition, the surfaces can be matte or glossy and highly reflective.

The next step: Simple landscapes

Once you’ve learned how to draw still lifes along with the basics of perspective and shading, there are many things outdoors that can inspire you to draw. In addition to trees, flowers, stones, and other organic forms, buildings also serve as an excellent subject.

I encourage you to go outdoors with your sketchbook and some pencils to sketch. You can use these drawings as reference material later when creating drawings from your imagination. While on the subject of sketching, you may wish to learn how to draw more accurate sketches.

Final thoughts

Beginners should start by drawing simple things. first, you have to learn lines and simple flat surfaces with confidence.

You may not be satisfied with your drawings at first, but don’t give up. I encourage you to practice diligently, as drawing is a learnable skill. There is no doubt that learning to draw is worthwhile, as it has a positive effect on our quality of life.

Then still life compositions of simpler objects can follow, and then landscapes and cityscapes. To draw people and animals, in addition to good drawing skills, you also need to be familiar with artistic anatomy.

About Me


My name is Debora, and I’m the founder of Drawing Fundamentals. I work as a civil engineering technician. I acquired the basic knowledge necessary for freehand and technical drawing during my school training, further developing and perfecting these skills throughout my years in the profession. Through my blog, I aim to assist anyone interested in learning to draw.

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