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Top 15 Drawing Tips for Beginners (Tips to Get You Better Faster)

drawing by zack nicholas

Here is our post on drawing tips for beginners

All artists start from scratch. No one is born a master at their craft.

As beginners, we always want to know the trick to get better faster.

We ask around and scour every crevice of the internet to look for that one magic trick that can get us from 0 to 100 really quickly.

We badger professional artists for tips like they’ll one day drop a cheat code that can finally get you to draw the other eye perfectly (if there is a cheat code. Please give it to me. I BEG.) But the trick is…

There is no trick. It’s all practice and hard work.

To get better faster, you need to do your research, practice a lot and hone your skills in areas where you know you’re lacking. To get better faster, you have to get used to making mistakes and trying out different aspects of art.

Of course, this does not mean you have to work your body to death.

The most important thing is to have fun and love what you’re doing, otherwise, you’re gonna see drawing like it’s a chore and you’re gonna burn out real quick.

So practice a lot but also don’t forget to have fun.

If you wanna know my 15 drawing tips for beginners, keep reading!

Table of Contents

    Drawing Tips for Beginners

    Here are my 15 tips for beginner artists!

    1. Use a Gesture Drawing or Light Lines to figure out basic shapes

    When starting to draw figures, know their basic shapes by utilizing gesture drawing or light lines.

    Gesture drawing is when you take a subject and break them down to its basic pose or form.

    One of the most difficult things to draw is figures. So many shapes and details make up the human form that to a beginner, drawings figures can be intimidating.

    But this can be remedied by taking a subject and, instead of worrying about all the details, only looking at its pose. Once you’ve gotten down their basic form and laid out the lines that make the gesture, look at the subject again and add shapes to the lines.

    Don’t worry about perfection or details like fingers and eyes. Only look at a figure through the lens of shapes, lines, and gestures.

    2. Draw Big Shapes First Then Smaller Details

    Start with big shapes then gradually move on to smaller details.

    Bigger shapes are usually easier to draw than small details. Focusing solely on small details can be intimidating for a beginner. We think “Oh my God, how am I gonna draw all these?” when looking at all the specific details that make up an object.

    But if you look at the bigger picture, take a step back, and focus on the shapes first, you’ll find that maybe it’s not as hard as it looks. Maybe a slice of pizza is just a triangle and circles and not parmesan cheese and pepperoni and burnt crusts.

    Always start with the shapes of your drawing first before hammering down on the details. You can worry about those later once you got the form figured out.

    3. Focus on Proportion and Relation

    Always keep proportion and relation in mind.  

    Earlier I wrote about how shapes are a great way to start a drawing. One of the things that make shapes great is that with them, it’s easy to know if your drawings are proportionate or not.

    Shapes make it less difficult to measure the proportions of an object. It’s easier to compare whether a square is the same size and length as another square than it is to compare a full arm to another arm.

    Once you’re satisfied with the measurements of your drawing, try to understand how each part relates to the other. This will make proportions easier for you in the long run as understanding the relationship of each part allows you to draw things more accurately.  

    For a brief introduction to proportion, have a look at this video:

    PROPORTION in Art | The Principles of Design EXPLAINED!

    4. Use Reference Images

    Always use reference images.

    Throw away the belief that using reference images is somehow cheating. I can’t stress this enough but it’s not.

    Reference images are fantastic learning tools for artists. We don’t always know what something looks like and not all of us have this photographic memory. So we need something to guide us and what better guide than reference images?

    A reference can help you be more accurate in your drawing, it can also help you spot mistakes and make corrections, and most of all, it can make drawing a whole lot easier (and faster).

    You can’t always depend on imagination and memory alone. You’re going to need references to be able to know how to draw something, and if you stop yourself from using them simply because they feel like ‘cheating’, you’re basically depriving yourself of a learning opportunity.

    And guess what, the more you use references, the more something will be ingrained in your mind. Eventually, you’ll barely need references, but while you’re starting out, use references as much as possible.

    5. Learn About Different Pencil Types

    A lot of artists tend to overlook this but it’s just as important to learn about the materials you are using and their purpose as it is to learn about methods and skills. Learn about different pencil types.

    There are many different kinds of pencils out there. All with specific strengths and weaknesses.  They are:

    • Graphite pencils
    • Carbon pencils
    • Charcoal pencils
    • Colored pencils
    • Watercolor pencils

    The most common pencil used is graphite pencils. Artists use it for anything, be it sketching, outlining, or shading. That’s because graphite pencils come in a range of grades from 9H to 9B, making them useful for anything.

    Charcoal pencils are for those who want darker and more expressive drawings. Colored pencils are for artists who want more color in their art.

    Basically, what I’m trying to say is there are all sorts of pencils out there and if you want to improve as an artist, you’re eventually gonna have to learn them. This also helps you in the long run when you decide you want to switch it up and learn a new art style.

    If you don’t know what pencils to start with, I suggest going for graphite pencils. They’re easy to work with and come in a range of shades. Here are my top picks for pencils:

    BrandList PricePencil Grades
    Staedtler Mars Lumograph Drawing Pencils$23.494H, 3H, 2H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B
    Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Sketch Pencils$222H, H, F, HB, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B
    Koh-I-Noor Toison d’Or Graphite Pencil (Artist Set Tin)$13.262H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B
    Prismacolor Premier Graphite Drawing Pencils$37.996H, 4H, 2H, B, 2B, 6B, and 8B
    Castle Art Supplies 12 Piece Graphite Drawing Pencils$14.995H, 4H, 3H, 2H, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, and 8B

    6. Practice Shading

    Work and practice on shading.

    Things like shading and highlights are what make a drawing come to life. But if done incorrectly, it can be what ruins a piece.

    When learning how to draw, be sure to always practice shading. Study how light works and how it interacts with objects. Learn the different shading methods and apply them to your drawings.

    Shading is what makes a drawing look realistic, blurring the line between 3D and 2D. While it sounds simple, a lot of artists actually struggle with shading.

    But basically, all you have to do is know where the light source is. This is why it’s important to practice shading. Practice how to shade when light hits an object from different angles and perspectives. Learn about mid-tones and things like bounce lights.

    Research what pencils work best with shading (I use pencil grades from 5B to 8B). Once you’ve mastered this aspect of drawing, you’ll find it easier to create realistic portraits.

    7. Avoid Smudging with your Hand

    Try to avoid making smudges in your drawing with your hand.

    While this is difficult, it’s not impossible. You can try by holding your pencil in a different way to do this, but personally, I like to take a small piece of paper and put it underneath my hand. This helps with avoiding smudges.

    However, the problem with the ‘paper-under-hand’ technique is that you’ll see less of your drawing which can be annoying. So the best way to do this is to learn how to draw without your wrist touching the paper. And to do this you gotta…

    8. Try Holding Your Pencil Differently

    Just as there are many different kinds of pencils out there, there are also different ways to hold a pencil. For a more detailed discussion on this, you can read my other article 7 Ways to Hold a Pencil for Drawing – Find Your Preferred Grip here.

    But basically, there are different grips and methods that come with holding a pencil, and each one has its pros and cons.  

    The grips are:

    • Writing Method (Tripod Grip)
    • Extended Writing Grip
    • Drumstick Method
    • Overhand Method
    • Underhand Grip
    • Painter’s Method
    • Inverted Method

    The most common way we hold our pencil is the Tripod Grip but artists often utilize different methods for different effects. For example, shading is done easier with the Painter’s Method than it is with the Tripod Grip. Extended Writing Grip keeps your drawing smudge-free more than the Tripod Grip as your wrists won’t rest on paper.

    The Inverted Method will get your pencil out of the way, allowing you to see your drawings more clearly. The Underhand Grip makes it easier to do quick light strokes. Different methods have different purposes.

    By practicing holding your pencil differently, you’re opening yourself up for ways to make drawing easier for you. Some methods even help you to loosen up and use your whole arm instead of just your wrists, helping you to draw more fluidly.

    9. Using a Blending Stick

    Get used to using a blending stick whenever you’re blending.

    Oftentimes we opt for things like our fingers whenever we blend. While it does do the trick, it doesn’t do the job quite as well as using a blending stick or cotton swab.

    Using your fingers doesn’t actually blend your drawing. It just creates smudges which can be pretty ugly at times. The worst-case scenario is if you accidentally rip your paper by smudging. So I advise against using your fingers to blend.

    Instead, utilize blending sticks or blending stumps. These were designed to actually blend your drawings so you can expect the outcome to be good. However, it does take some time to get used to. You’re gonna have to through some trial and error before you get the hang of it (I once broke my blending stick the first time I used it).

    If you don’t like the idea of a blending stick, go for the inexpensive way of blending by using cotton swabs. Although these don’t blend as well as the stick, they still get the job done better than your fingers.

    10. Using an Eraser for Highlights

    Use an eraser for the highlights.

    Once you’ve shaded and blended a drawing completely, use an eraser to add highlights. This can help your drawing pop and give it life.

    Related: See our full guide here on kneaded erasers and how to use them for highlights

    Highlights are where the light hits the object. Depending on where the light source is, a highlight could be big or small. Either way, to get it done, you’re gonna need to get rid of the dark areas of your drawing. And what better way to do that than to use an eraser?

    Better yet, a kneaded eraser. Kneaded erasers are a great tool for adding highlights to portraits and drawing because unlike a regular eraser, kneaded erasers can be molded into a shape.

    So say you want to erase a small and specific part of your drawing, with a regular eraser you’ll have to cut an eraser down to a point where it can be small enough to do that. This can obviously be a waste. But with a kneaded eraser, all you have to do is shape it to a point and you get to erase all you want. Making it the ideal tool for highlights.

    11. Be Okay with Erasing, Re-Doing, and Starting Over

    As an artist, it’s important to get familiar with and be comfortable with making mistakes. Because you’re gonna make a whole lot of them along the way, and that’s okay.

    Erasing, re-doing, and starting over is a ritual for all artists at this point. But that’s part of the learning process. Each time you make a mistake and you notice that mistake, means you’ve learned something.

    Never be ashamed of grabbing the eraser far too many times because that means you’re noticing mistakes. And the next time you draw and start over, you’ll make sure to avoid them.

    As cliché as this sounds failure is just as vital, or even more, to your learning process as success. Of course, it’s good to have a drawing and be proud of it. But it’s also good, and even healthy, to have a drawing you’re not proud of but are still okay with it.

    It’s fine to have a drawing that’s gone through a thousand erasures just as it is fine to have a drawing that has never met the rubber end of the pencil. Both failures and successes are good because either way, they’re yours. You made it and you should be okay with it.   

    12. Don’t Worry if Your Drawing Doesn’t Look Good in the Beginning

    You’ve probably heard the phrase “Trust the process” more than you’ve heard the phrase “Here’s a million dollars.” If so, then you truly are an artist.

    Joking aside, don’t worry if your drawing doesn’t look good in the beginning. If you don’t trust yourself, at least trust the process.

    The beginning of your drawing is just the skeleton. Of course, it’s gonna look weird or ugly. Wait until you’ve added everything else before you make your judgments, and if you find that even then you still find your drawing to be below your standards, go back to my previous tip and shake it off.

    The important this is you see your piece to the end. Unless of course a drawing is really bringing you down then know when to let go. But as much as possible, finish what you start.

    13. Try to Practice Drawing Everyday

    If you really want to get better at drawing, try to practice drawing every day.

    Make drawing a daily habit. Set aside time on your schedule to make a few quick sketches. Your practices don’t have to follow a strict routine, you simply just have to draw.

    If you’re someone who’s always pressed for time, get a small notebook that you can carry with you everywhere and just draw. A quick scribble or a 30-minute sketch, it doesn’t matter, as long you were able to draw.

    Of course, you’re gonna have to pick a day where you set an actual hour to learn and practice drawing, but for the most part, all you have to do is draw every day. What help is one scribble a day gonna do?

    In the long run, if all you did was made scribbles then it’s probably not gonna do you any good. But if you sit down and draw every day for a few minutes, drawing will start to become a habit. And once it becomes a habit, it becomes harder for you to go a day without.

    Soon, instead of just drawing scribbles, you’ll want to sit down and spend more time drawing.

    14. Focus on the Positive

    So you’ve been drawing for a while and you’re still not where you want to be. Focus on the positive.

    Look at the bright side. You’ve been drawing for a while. When you first started you didn’t even think you could draw! There will always be something you’re not satisfied with when it comes to your art and target-locking on it will cause you to lose motivation.

    Your artwork isn’t made of 100% mistakes, no matter how much you think it is. There will always be something good about it.

    Perhaps your linework is sloppy, but your shading is impeccable. Perhaps your shading sucks, but the way finessed that anatomy is something to be proud of. Maybe your anatomy’s wonky, but how you captured the body’s expression is insane. There is always something right, even if it’s just one thing.

    And if you can’t find anything good to say about your drawing then find something good to say about yourself. Look at how motivated you are! Look at how you’re still going even though your pencils have all broken and your erasers have rested in peace! You’re amazing. Give yourself the credit you deserve for going down a road as difficult and turbulent as learning how to draw.

    15. Accept the Frustration

    How you deal with frustration and failure will directly affect how far you go in art

    Everyone has had those frustrating art days when they can’t seem to get the proportions right or when it seems like they have to keep starting over and over again.

    Its okay.

    Take a break, do something else, binge a tv show, and decide to start over tomorrow. The only way you really don’t learn or don’t get better is by quitting drawing or art all together.

    Its okay to be frustrated and its okay to fail at a drawing just be okay with starting over and trying again.

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    Can I Teach Myself Drawing?

    You can teach yourself anything. As long as you’re dedicated and passionate about art, you can teach yourself how to draw.

    There are many resources that can help you with your learning. For example, this one (eyyy). In fact, if you don’t know where to start, start here: How to Practice Drawing (Full Guide with Drawing Exercises)

    The internet is full of places that can teach you to do anything. You don’t need to go to a prestigious school or pay buttloads for a private tutor, you just have to open your computer and know where to look.

    If you feel like you really need a teacher, look no further than the art teachers on YouTube. Channels like Ethan Becker, Lazy Arts, and Proko are great places to get advice, tips, tricks, and tutorials. If you feel like the presence of a classmate will motivate you more than just learning alone, you can always join Discords and find spaces on Twitter (question mark) where you can make friends with people who are learning to draw as well.

    In short, what I’m trying to say is there are many ways to learn drawing on the internet. You don’t need a good school (although, if you have the opportunity, why not right?), you can teach yourself drawing in the comfort of your room.

    How Should Beginners Start Drawing?

    Beginners should start with simple lines and shapes.

    I know that sounds boring. It is. But trust me, lines and shapes are a great entry-point for learning how to draw as everything you see is made up of lines and shapes.

    Once you’ve gotten past that stage, move on to a simple and easy-to-draw subject. More preferable if the subject can be clearly defined by basic shapes. Things like an apple, a box, or an eye are great beginner things to draw.

    If you want to know more beginner-friendly drawing subjects, have a look at our other article here: 17 Drawing Ideas For Beginners To Warm up and Build Basic Skills

    I hope you found this article helpful. Thanks for reading!


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