Skip to Content

How to Practice Drawing (Full Guide with Drawing Exercises)

Wondering how to practice drawing?

Drawing! What an incredible thing to do. To have a vision in your head and be able to translate that to paper with mere pencils and colors only. It truly is an amazing thing.

That said, a lot of people struggle with drawing, which is a totally normal thing to do. Nobody is born an artist, artists are made, some just earlier than others.

So if you struggle with drawing, this article is for you! I’ll be discussing different drawing exercises that’ll help you practice drawing!

If you want to practice drawing, you should draw with intention by practicing specific drawings that you want to improve at whether they be objects, landscapes, figures or portraits.

Also know that getting better at drawing takes time.* You can expect it to take 2-3 years to develop your drawing skills and reach a place where

To get better at drawing, you need to draw every day. Drawing requires training your eyes to see details that they don’t see initially, and training your hand to replicate those details.

If you’re worried about running out of ideas for drawings, you can follow a prompt list or a guide.

Lots of artists create different prompt lists every month. You can follow along and draw every day, that way you won’t have to come up with something to draw!

Make sure you follow something you won’t find too difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. If you don’t like the idea of going out and looking for a prompt (maybe you’re like me and can’t decide on anything) then you can check out one of our articles here! It’s 17 Drawing Ideas For Beginners To Warm up and Build Basic Skills

For now, let’s talk about the different practices you can do to improve you’re drawing.

Why You Should Practice Drawing

Why should you practice drawing? Why can’t you just draw a masterpiece the first time you put your pencil to paper?

You should practice drawing if you want to get better at it. You won’t just magically be good at drawing simply because you want to. You have to practice and make many mistakes.

If you’re on the journey to becoming a better artist, note that you will make mistakes. You will feel like you suck. And you will hate your own work. These are all normal feelings. I’ll even say they’re part of the process.

But no matter what you feel towards your progress, whether it’s frustration, anger, or sadness, never give up. Every drawing you make is a step taken towards becoming a better artist.

If you’re feeling frustrated, drop the pencil, and take a walk (or do what I do and pace around with music blasting through your headphones). Once you’ve calmed down, get back to your artwork and continue but this time, accept that you’re not all that happy with it but you’re going to finish it anyway.

The trick is to always finish what you’ve started. If you scrap every drawing you make that you’re unsatisfied with and start from the top, that means you’ve practiced drawing the beginning more than you’ve practiced the end.

Let’s say you start every drawing with the eyes and end it with the lips. If every time you’re unhappy with your work you throw it out to start back at the beginning, never reaching the end of your work, that means you’ve practiced drawing eyes more than you’ve practiced drawing lips.

The same can be applied even if you’re just drawing eyes. Say you start with lashes and end with shading the drawing. If you keep coming back to drawing lashes before you could even reach shading, then you’re a master at lashes and a complete beginner at shading.

Keep your progress consistent and finish what you start. No matter what you’re drawing or how you feel about it.

Deliberate Drawing Practice

Deliberate drawing practice is focusing on improving a certain part of your drawing by repeatedly practicing until you’re satisfied.

In your journey as an artist, you’ll come to find that there are things you can easily draw and things that will have you pulling your hair out and screaming at 3 AM because you simply cannot draw this thing.

For me, it poses. I suffer from ‘character-standing-because-I-can’t-draw-fluid-poses’ syndrome and it’s hard out here. I fight for my life every day.

But if I applied deliberate drawing practice, I can get better at drawing poses. How do I apply ‘deliberate drawing practice’?

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Figure out an exercise plan
  3. Practice

First, I identify the problem which is that I’m not good at drawing poses.

Second, I figure out an exercise plan by gathering what I could do to improve on this certain skill. This could be looking at poses done by brilliant artists or studying anime scenes to see how characters move and pose.

Once I’ve done my research and laid out what I’m going to do, I move on to the third and most important part of the process: practice.

You may not always hit the target, especially at first, but that’s why you gotta keep practicing.

Deliberate drawing practice tackles a specific problem in your art. When trying to become a better artist, you have to understand that you can’t be good at something all at once. You’re gonna be a pro at faces but suck at hands.

That’s where this drawing practice comes in. You pinpoint the weaknesses in your art and work on them specifically.

Drawing Exercises

If you’re a beginner and you have no idea where to start, here are a few drawing exercises you could do to improve your drawing skills.

Before we begin, take note of the three most important things that you need to consider when it comes to drawing:

LinesYour lines will define your drawing. The more confident your lines are, the cleaner they’ll look.  
ShapesEverything can be broken down into shapes. If you understand shapes, it’ll be easier to understand angles and perspective.
ShadingShading is one of the things that make your drawings come alive. Shading in the wrong area can break your drawings.
Important things to consider when drawing

A Pattern of Straight and Curvy Lines

Try to begin with a pattern of straight and curvy lines. Now, this might seem basic but it really does help, especially with your linework.

Draw continuous lines and vary their thickness. To make it more fun, you can even try different pencil grips while drawing (I talk about them in a different article. You can read it here).

By doing this practice, you are training your brain to be more conscious of your lines. Beginner artists do this thing called “chicken scratching” where they repeatedly go back and forth on a line of a sketch. A lot of artists discourage this way of drawing, but personally, I think it’s perfectly okay to chicken scratch at your drawing, especially if you’re just sketching. That said, it’s not good to only do this every time you draw.

You should practice drawing clean lines and the best way to do this is by drawing patterns. Patterns are not only quick to do, but it’s also easy to compare each time you draw a line.

Draw in One Line

After you’ve practiced with a pattern of lines and curves, try to practice drawing in one continuous line next!

This practice will help you with drawing less shaky lines. Try to do it slowly first then as you get used to it, move your pencil a bit faster.

You’ll notice that the faster you move your pencil, the straighter the line is. The goal is to be able to draw straight lines fast without it being shaky. Once you’ve practiced enough, you’ll notice your lines will start to be more confident and outlines will be so much easier to do. You won’t notice right away, but if you look back from where you started and to where you are, you’ll see the difference.  

3 Dimensional shapes – Boxes / Triangles / Circles

To take it a step further, draw 3-dimensional shapes. Shapes will always be a great starting point for beginners.

Not only will 3D shapes be good for practicing your linework (as shapes often consist of many straight lines), but drawing it from different angles will also help you with perspective!

Start with the simple ones, cubes, and triangles, then really get into it with hexagons and octagons. Remember to draw them from different perspectives every time.

If you’re confident enough, you can even apply basic shading. Spice up your circle by giving it a light source and a shadow. Introduce yourself to methods like stippling and hatching by shading each of the shapes differently.

And once you get the hang of it, take it a step further by combining different 3D shapes. Again, draw them from different angles. Make a house with a cube and a pyramid but draw it from a worm’s perspective. Don’t be afraid to have fun!

Do a quick sketch of what you see (it can be your living room/bedroom/backyard)

You did it. You’ve played with shapes and lines and now you want to sketch an actual something. Start with your environment and do a quick sketch of what you see.

Don’t go to a park and start randomly sketching people just yet.

Start with what you’re used to seeing first. Draw simple objects with shapes you can easily define like a coffee table or that book you keep telling yourself you’ll read.

Put the clean lines on the back burner for now and focus only on sketching the object (make a lot of messy lines and chicken scratch your paper to death). Make it quick.

It doesn’t have to be a perfect copy of whatever you’re trying to draw. It just has to be recognizable as that object.

This is the perfect warm-up to getting you to eventually draw what’s on your mind. By looking around you and making quick sketches on paper, you are basically telling your brain, if I can draw this, I can draw anything.

This practice helps your brain get used to the idea of drawing so much so that it becomes a habit. Once drawing becomes a habit to you and picking up the pencil to draw the vase your cat just knocked down becomes as normal as picking up the T.V. remote, drawing will be much much easier.

Try drawing the same thing every day (and utilize different angles)

You’ve sketched everything in your living room, and you’re out of things to draw, but you’re still not confident with your art. Try drawing the same thing every day but this time, use a different angle.

This will help you with perspective and angles.

If you find it difficult to draw something at a certain angle, break it down into shapes. Remember what you learned when you first started out playing with shapes and apply it to whatever you’re drawing. Washing machine? Cube with a circle. Pringles can? Basically just a cylinder.

Anything can be broken down into shapes and the more you do this, the more you’ll less likely to   

Just as with the previous tip, this doesn’t have to be perfect. Make it quick and make it messy. As long as you’re able to put the object down on paper, that’s all that matters because this isn’t about clean lines, this is about having your brain get used to the habit of drawing.

We are what we repeatedly do.

– Will Durant

Loose figure drawing – Gesture Drawing

Once you get used to sketching and have a basic grasp of perspective, it’s time to dabble in loose figure drawing. This practice is an excellent entryway to learning basic anatomy.

Loose figure drawing is, as its name suggests, drawing figures. Draw human poses but stripped down to their bare form, which is basically just circles and rectangles.

With this practice, you don’t have to worry about small details like ears and eyes, you just have to worry about the poses your figure is making…..Do this as quickly as you can*

If you’re not sure what poses to draw, you can take your favorite movies and screenshot some scenes. Don’t try to copy the screenshot or draw the characters, merely study the poses and make an interpretation of it on your sketchpad with shapes and lines.

The goal here is to get you to study dynamic poses and make fluid figures.     

Choose a weekly/monthly theme

This next practice will help you diversify your subjects. Once you’ve gotten used to drawing figures, you can start to expand your subjects and pick weekly or monthly themes.

This turns your practices into a fun little challenge that can help motivate you. You can even ask your artist friends to join you.

Just pick a theme every week/month and draw them. This week could be about plants, next week could be animals, and the week after that could be about buildings. The possibilities are endless.

If you miss a week, that’s totally fine. Forgive yourself and move on to the next theme.

It’s important for artists to recognize when to take breaks. This helps them avoid things like ‘art blocks and ‘burnout’.

If you punish yourself every time you miss a day or a week, you’re gonna eventually resent drawing and you’ll start to see it as a chore (which is something we don’t want).

Pick a weekly or monthly theme and try to draw as much as you can based on that theme, but don’t be too harsh on yourself when you find that there are days when you can’t draw. That’s okay.

Smudge Drawing

While I drew this digitally, I still did a lot of smudging and blending (and crying). Reference: Thor 2011

You did it! You made it this far with shapes, lines, angles, and sketches. Time to start smudging your drawings.

Smudging is actually a method of shading also known as blending. This method helps your drawings look more three-dimensional.

To do this, simply color in an area of your drawing that you’d like to shade, then smudge that area around with your fingers or cotton swabs (or a blending stump). If the shade is too light you can go over it again with your graphite pencils.

If you have multiple pencils with different levels, you can use a 4B or a 6B. If you’re new to the different levels of a pencil, have a quick look at this video:

Understanding PENCIL GRADES

If you’re a beginner, you can try smudge drawing on sketches first. Sketches are quick to make so if you make a mistake when smudging, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted that much time.

However, I do suggest gradually moving on to cleaner drawings. Once you’re confident enough, draw a portrait and shade using the smudge technique.

Draw from life

You can now make quick sketches, make confident lines, create smudge art, and dynamic figures. Take it up a notch by drawing from life. There are two ways to do this:

  • Still Life
  • Plein Air

Still Life is creating art inspired by your surroundings, often inanimate objects like a clock or that clutter on your desk you’d said clean up.

While this type of art is usually done with painting, it can be applicable to pencil drawings

Similar to our earlier practice where you draw from your environment, pick a spot in your house (start small like a rubber duckie) and draw. But this time, instead of just sketching, draw with clean lines and apply the smudging technique.

Try to imitate the subject instead of just interpreting it. This practice is a great way of studying light and shadow. It’ll also serve as an introduction to Realism, a type of art that depicts reality.

If you get tired of your house, you can also try Plein Air.

Plein Air is about creating art based on outside surroundings. Just like Still Life, this is usually done with painting. However, pencils and paper will do just fine. Go to a park and pick interesting but easy-to-copy subjects like a bench or a tree. As with Still Life, try to actually imitate the subject. You can try different shading methods with this one, like hatching or stippling to make it more fun. The end goal here is to have you end up with a drawing where you’ve applied everything you’ve learned so far. A subject that can be broken down into shapes, drawn with confident lines, and well-shaded.

Drawing Exercises

You did it! You made it through all those practices and now you can sorta-kinda-maybe draw a tree. Nice.

However, if you really want to take another step and improve your drawings further. Here are a few more practices you can do daily for you to improve. Note that these are just suggestions and you don’t have to do all of them, but they’re a fun way to keep yourself drawing.

Contour or Outline Drawing (only drawing the outline of a figure/face/object)

  • Contour drawing is simply drawing the outline of an object or a figure.   

Try drawing using different grips

  • If you’re not familiar with the different grips, you can have a look at my other article, but basically try to use alternate grips for different drawings. Say you want to make dark shades, use the Overhand Grip. If you want to make feather-like pencil marks, use the Painter’s Method. Mix and match and find what grip you’re most comfortable with.

Try Drawing with your non-dominant hand

  • This one is just a fun little exercise where you give your dominant hand a break and draw with your other hand. When we draw with our dominant hand, we tend to be a bit more of a perfectionist. This causes us to be a lot more critical of our work. However, when we use our non-dominant hand, all those thoughts of perfection are thrown out the window because we know our drawing is supposed to suck.

Draw without looking (try to draw a face without looking at the paper)

  • This exercise is a great way of knowing whether all those studies of shapes and figures have actually stuck with you. Your drawing will depend solely on the movement of your hands because you won’t be looking at what you’re creating. Obviously, the first few times, your drawings are not going to make sense. The lips are going to overlap with the eyes. The nose took a walk down the end of the paper and your eyebrows are divorced. But the more you do it, the more your brain is going to know where to put where without actually looking at the canvas.

Draw with a time limit (see what you can draw in 5/15/30 minutes)

  • I love this exercise! This exercise is an incredible way of showing how the time you spend on your art can affect the quality of your drawing. You’ll see that a 30-minute sketch will be ten times better than a 5-minute one. Maybe that terrible drawing you threw out wasn’t all that terrible? Maybe you just didn’t spend enough time on it?

Negative space drawing

  • Negative space drawing is basically flipping the switch and shading the whole background except for the subject of the drawing. Leave the subject unshaded. This exercise will help you become better at silhouette drawings.

Try different drawing mediums (and different canvases)

  • Lastly, try using different mediums and canvases. Let go of the pencils and pick up a paintbrush. Use watercolor for the first time. Play with markers. Dip the papers and use cardboard. Get chalk and go wild on your pavement. Do not limit yourself to only one medium or canvas. Artists are naturally versatile and chaotic. Feed into the chaos by never sticking to one medium. Draw one drawing where each part is a different medium.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are some beginner drawing ideas?

There are a lot of beginner-friendly drawing ideas out there. Here are a few of them:

  • Landscapes
  • Feather
  • 3D Cube
  • Flowers
  • Human Skull
  • Dog
  • Horses
  • Eyes

And many more! If you want a more detailed discussion of these ideas, you have a look at one of our articles here.

How do you get good at drawing?

Keep drawing and keep making mistakes. There’s no secret to getting good at drawing (or anything for that matter) fast.

The answer is to just show up and be consistent.

If there are days when you just can’t draw, get your pencil, make one quick doodle and call it a day. Small progress is still progress. As long as you keep practicing and keep learning, you will get good eventually, even if it feels like you’ll never get there.

I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.

– Abraham Lincoln

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, we may get a small share of the sale from Amazon and other similar affiliate programs. You can read our complete legal information for more details.