9 Drawing Mistakes Beginners Make

By Nicole Tinkham

Art is a very difficult skill to master. First of all, every artist and instructor has a different way of doing/teaching things. Many times there’s no right or wrong answer, which can add to the struggle. All we can really go off of are tips from artists who have made the mistakes and learned from them. That’s the sure fire way to grow as an artist; by making mistakes and figuring out how to fix them. So instead of becoming frustrated, embrace those mistakes! We know that drawing in particular can be extremely challenging; there’s so much to understand when it comes to the various types of paper and pencils as well as techniques like perspective, proportions, and shading. In this blog we’ll discuss the 9 most common drawing mistakes beginners make and tips to fix them. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself making these very mistakes. Every artist has been there and at some point has done them too.

1.    They only use one pencil

Artist pencils come in a variety of different lead hardness, each one producing different shades. The system in which these pencils are measured is known as the HB system. Pencils with an H lead are harder and will produce lighter lines. Pencils with B lead on the other hand, are soft and produce darker lines. There’s also a range between the two from 8B (the softest) to 6H (the hardest). HB lead is located right in the middle of the spectrum and is also known as your ordinary #2 pencil.

That being said, more than one pencil is needed in order to produce a nice drawing with various values. We suggest having a variety of artist pencils including one in the H range, one in the B range and an HB.

For more information on artist pencils, check out What is the Difference Between H and B Pencils?

2.    They avoid black

Many new artists are afraid to go dark in their drawing. Dark gray is common but black can be intimidating for the beginner. Not going very dark when shading can limit your depth and make your drawing look flat.

The solution: Put a black piece of paper in the corner of your drawing and challenge yourself to go dark, really dark! Keep practicing until you feel more comfortable with it.

3.    They outline

It’s common for new artists to draw a hard outline around the object. However, this is not realistic and takes away from the depth of the drawing. Instead, practice value drawing. Create an illusion and let the edges be defined by two tones meeting rather than harsh outlines.

4.    They use the wrong paper

There are many options when it comes to paper so it doesn’t surprise us that this happens to be one of the most popular mistakes beginners make. You’ll find it difficult to produce a decent drawing on cheap copy paper. Don’t even try it! Instead, choose a thicker artist paper (we recommend 70 lbs or higher) with a little bit of a texture. Completely smooth surfaces will show even the slightest variation pencil marks and can keep you from achieving deep values. Your best bet is to look for artist paper made specifically for drawing (it will specify right on the pad).

5.    They work from images taken with flash photography

Flash photography flattens all of the features leaving you little to work with. Don’t use it!

Tip: Have your model turn slightly to the side and use natural lighting. You’ll be able to clearly see the skin tones and features which will help you in your drawing.

6.    They make proportions perfect

You’d think you’re on the right track with perfect proportions but think about it for a moment. Is anything in life really perfectly symmetrical? Train your eye to see even the slightest uneven proportion. It takes time to really recognize it but just acknowledging that it’s there is the first step. Remember that irregularities are what brings interest and makes a drawing unique.

7.    They start by focusing  on the details

Don’t get us wrong, we love detailed drawings but it’s all about timing. Many beginner artists start working on the details right away when really they should focus on getting the large forms and layout correct first. The most frustrating thing is putting an extraordinary amount of time and efforts into detail and having to erase it later because the positioning was off.

Solution: Get everything laid out FIRST starting with large objects and working your way down to the smaller ones. Details always come last.

8.    They leave parts of the paper white

How many times have you left eyeballs and teeth in a drawing white? Seems natural but you actually don’t want to leave any part of the paper totally white. When we say white, we’re referring to the color of the paper itself. You’ll want your pencil to touch every part of the drawing even if it’s very light.

9.    They think they’re done learning

No matter how advanced an artist is there’s always room to learn and grow. Just because you have some serious skill and everything’s coming naturally to you doesn’t mean there isn’t room to improve. Make a promise to yourself right now to never stop learning. There’s always new inspiration out there and like life, there’s always something new to discover.

Making mistakes is a difficult thing to handle especially when you’re working so hard on improving your drawing skills. Always remember this: for every mistake you make, you’re getting one step closer to where you want to be. Any form of art is a learning process. Sometimes you have to take a step backward in order to take two forward. Keep going, keep learning, and keep being inspired!

Which mistakes (either on this list or otherwise) have you been making? Let’s discuss over on our Facebook page!

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