23 Sketching tips for the beginner

By Nicole Tinkham


As a beginner artist, you most likely know two things are sure: 1) If you want to get better at your art, you’ll have to practice often AND, 2) you should keep a sketchbook handy. To improve and grow as an artist you’ll have to be all in. You’ll need to start taking your art seriously. If you make one commitment today to better your art, make it to sketch DAILY. If you’ve purchased a brand new sketchbook before, you know there’s no better rush of excitement than opening it up to the first page. But don’t stop there. Filling that first page in can set the pace for where the rest of the sketchbook will go. So, where in the world do you start? Our best piece of advice is to just get started. And we have a list of 23 sketching tips to help you do just that. Note: These tips will cover a little bit of everything from choosing the right pencil to shading techniques. Let’s begin!
1.    Always start with the basic shapes. Draw these in lightly and add in more details as you go.

2.    Avoid smudging by placing a sheet of paper under your hand when shading. Right-handed artists should shade from left to right and left-handed artists should do the opposite.

3.    Don’t use your finger to blend! The oils from your skin will end up on your project and they can make taking away graphite in these areas difficult.

4.    Instead, use a blending stick to blend the graphite. Use a small circular motion for even blending. This will give it a more natural look.

5.    When shading, work from light to dark. Otherwise, the dark graphite could get stuck on your blending stick and mixed in with your lighter areas.

6.    Add some texture by using different mediums in your sketch like watercolor pencils. You can add water on parts and leave other parts dry.

7.    Use “H” (harder) pencils for lighter lines and “B” (softer) pencils for a darker line. More on pencil lead options here.

8.    Get a very soft look by scribbling on a scrap piece of paper with your pencil. You can then pick up the graphite with your blending stick and transfer it to your project. This way you won’t get those pencils lines in your sketch.

9.    Choose a paper with a “tooth” for added texture.

10.    The closer you hold your hand to the end (lead end) of the pencil, the more control you have.

11.    Use a photo as your reference. The nice thing about photographs is your object won’t move and the lighting won’t shift on you.

12.    Vary your line widths for a more interesting drawing.

13.    Use cross-hatching or stippling to shade for a different and unique look.

14.    Practice every single day! Whatever you’re struggling with, just keep sketching it out and you will get better.

15.    When creating 3D objects, you’ll have three different tones to pay attention to: highlights, shadows, and mid-tones. Your highlight area will be the part directly facing the light. Shadows are the area facing away from the light and mid-tones are the other area (not directly facing the light source and not directly away from the light source).

16.    When choosing a reference photo, make sure there are both light and dark areas.

17.    To achieve accurate proportion (especially when working on a portrait) use the grid system. Lay a grid over your reference photo and lightly draw a grid on your drawing paper to scale.

18.    Practice blind sketching. This is a fun technique that loosens up your drawings, like a drawing warm up. Basically, you’re drawing the subject without looking down at your sketchbook. This is just a fun way to get those creative juices flowing.

19.    Carry a sketchbook with you everywhere you go. Observe and sketch often!

20.    Draw what you see. Pay close attention to your subject matter. Really look at shapes and shadows.

21.    Always keep your outlines light. Real life objects don’t have dark lines running along the edges. However, if you’re drawing in a cartoon style, this tip doesn’t apply.

22.    Choose which details to include and which ones to leave out. It’s not necessary to include every single detail in the leaves of a tree. Think about what’s aesthetically pleasing and decide what can be left out.

23.    Add color! Bring in some colored pencils, pastels, or even watercolor paint to your work to add some color.

We stressed in the beginning of this blog that these tips are meant for the beginner but actually, any artist regardless of their experience can use them. Print this post out and save it. These are excellent tips to look back on when you’re struggling or have artists’ block.

As with many of our other posts, we’re always adding and changing it based on what our fans have to say. If you have a killer sketching tip you want to see on the list, leave a COMMENT below and we’ll add it. Do you think we can reach 100 tips on this post??

6 Reasons why you can’t draw and how to improve

6 Reasons why you can't draw and how to improve

Ever hear the phrase “I can’t even draw a stick figure”? Of course you have! You may have even used it yourself. I know I have (Nicole). People think they simply weren’t born to draw well. They admire other’s work but never actually pick up the pencil themselves for fear of failure. It’s all an excuse! Yes, drawing is difficult but it’s not impossible. If you keep telling yourself that you can’t draw, we’ll tell you WHY you can’t and also give you ways on how you can improve.

1.    You aren’t practicing
How do you expect to get better at any skill if you aren’t practicing? Even if you have a natural talent in a certain area, you’ll never improve if you don’t practice it. Drawing isn’t something that you either can or can’t do. Anything is possible if you practice. And we recommend practicing DAILY if you’re serious about improving your skill.

2.    You aren’t used to the media
The way you handle charcoal, a graphite pencil, and pastels vary greatly. If you’re unfamiliar with these, there’s going to be a learning curve until you get the hang of it. Again, we’re going to tell you to practice. It really is the key to getting better in any area of your life.

3.    You don’t take it seriously
Things come naturally to some people and other people struggle with it. Don’t expect drawing to just flow from your hands like magic without putting the work into it. Take the time and really work on your skill. You’ll mess up and get frustrated but that’s perfectly normal. Keep at it and take it seriously if you really want to succeed.

4.    You don’t believe in yourself
If you don’t honestly believe you can accomplish something (like drawing), you won’t ever achieve it. You have as equal an opportunity as everyone else. Anyone can draw well if they practice and put forth the effort. You’d be amazed at what you can do when you start cheering yourself on.

5.    You aren’t focused
It may sound silly but talking can greatly effect your drawing and not in a good way. Since language uses the left side of your brain and identifying images uses the right side, trying to do the two at once can cause a brain freeze. Don’t use your drawing time as a social hour. Instead, get focused on your drawing.

6.    You aren’t seeing the world as it really is
If you’re struggling to draw your object how it looks, you might not be seeing it clearly. Here’s what we mean. Things can appear larger for example if they’re closer to you. Again, we’re going to tell you to keep practicing! If a drawing looks off to you, examine it and figure out where you went wrong and how to correct it. Sometimes looking at your artwork upside down or in a mirror can help you pinpoint where the mistake lies. You also may not know where to begin. If you’re having trouble getting your “artist eye”, we recommend taking a workshop to learn the basics.

What it really boils down to is your belief. If you don’t think you’ll ever be able to draw like a pro, you need to change your mindset. This applies to any area of your life. Believing that you can do something is always the very first step. Next you want to practice, practice, practice! It is so important to keep working on your art in order to improve. Get focused, take it seriously, and never give up. Even if you think you don’t have the drawing skill in your blood, you can learn it.