Would you like to learn how to draw?
Drawing is fun, relaxing, rewarding and is a skill that can be learned.
In this post, I am going to go over exercises and drawing tips that will enhance your drawing skills.
You will learn how to get better at drawing faces, flowers, animals or whatever subjects you would love to draw.
Drawing Tips For Enhancing Your Drawing Skills
By the end of this post, you will know…
- The best drawing supplies for your drawings
- Understand the different grades of pencils
- How to control your pencil
- Different mark making techniques
- The elements of shading
- How to create sharp edges
- How to protect your drawing surface
- Understanding different textures
- How to create smooth value changes
- Working with photo references
Before I talk about drawing exercises to improve your drawings I would like to mention the importance of using high-quality art supplies.
The pencils, erasers, and paper you use for drawings will affect your finished drawing.
The good news is that drawing supplies are relatively inexpensive.
Practicing the drawing tips and techniques outlined below with premium supplies will help you to become familiar with the tools you are using.
Below is a list of drawing supplies I use daily:
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Smooth
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Velum
- General’s Factis Magic Black Eraser
- Tombow Mono Zero Refillable Eraser
- Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber Erasers
- Alvin Dry Cleaning Pad
Understanding Your Pencil Grades
Now that you have the proper drawing tools lets take a minute to talk about the different pencil grades that are available.
Graphite grading scales are used to measure the hardness of a pencil’s graphite core.
The letter “H” indicates a hard pencil.
The harder the graphite core is the lighter the line will be on your drawing surface.
The higher the number is the harder the graphite core will be
The lower the number is the softer the graphite will be.
Common “H” pencils:
Tip If you press down too hard with a hard pencil you will increase the odds of damaging your drawing surface.
Always use a light touch when you are drawing with “H” grade pencils. You can make the area darker by drawing over the lines with the same grade.
“B” indicates the darkness of a pencil’s mark.
The higher the number is the softer the lead will be.
The softer the lead the darker the mark will be on your drawing surface.
Common “B” pencils
You will also have an HB grade. This grade is in the middle of the “H” and “B” grades.
Draw a box with each grade of a pencil to understand the value each pencil offers. This is one of the best drawing tips for beginners.
Having the right pencil for shading is crucial and this exercise will help you to know what pencil will be appropriate for every situation you come across.
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Continue this exercise with each pencil grade you have.
Drawing Tip – The soft lead pencils will leave little white dots when you are adding graphite to the drawing surface. To make you’re drawing more realistic start with a harder lead like a 2H pencil to condition your drawing surface.
The hard led will reach the bottom of the “tooth” which will eliminate the little white dots.
Make sure that you do not press too hard or you will destroy the “tooth” of your paper which will make it difficult to add darker values.
Control Your Pencil
There are several different ways you can grip your pencil and each way will affect the marks that you make on your drawing surface.
Learning how to control your marks with several different grips will allow you to create the perfect lines every time.
Below are the most common grips for drawing:
- Traditional grip
- Underhand grip
- Overhand grip
Traditional grip – is the way most people learn how to grip a pencil when we first learn how to write.
You will have the most control with this grip and it works well for fine details.
Underhand grip – is held loosely between the index finger and the thumb. The other fingers are used to stabilize the pencil.
This grip forces you to draw with your shoulder not your wrists and is perfect for loose drawings and laying out the subjects you are drawing.
Overhand grip – is like the traditional grip, but you are holding the pencil towards the back of the pencil. This grip works best with new pencils so you can place your hand farther away from the tip of the pencil.
I use this grip for conditioning my paper and adding soft values to the drawing surface. It creates a light, delicate marks.
Practice Different Mark Making Techniques
There are several different ways you can apply graphite to your drawing surface and the ones you will use will depend on the subject and style you are drawing.
Practicing each of the techniques listed below will help you to have more control of your pencil.
With a little practice, you will be able to feel confident drawing anything your mind can imagine.
Different drawing methods:
- Hatching – shading with closely drawn parallel lines.
- Cross-hatching – shading with intersecting sets of parallel lines.
- Stippling – the process of drawing, painting, or engraving using numerous small dots or specks.
- Small circles – shading with small circular motions
- Scribbling – shading with the use of different lines
- Blending – blending graphite with a blending tool like a Tortillon or Blending Stumps
Practice all of these pencil sketching basics until you feel confident you can apply them on a real drawing.
On the examples above I traced a nickel to create the circles. Then I applied the different techniques to create depth.
Below are some drawings I did with different shading techniques.
In this graphite drawing, I used the blending method. You can purchase a print of this drawing by visiting Happy Your Home Print.
In this ink drawing, I used a combination of hatching, small circles, and stippling. You can purchase prints of this drawing by visiting Rustic Watermill Print.
Elements of shading
Understanding the elements of shading and how light reacts to objects will help you to create photo-realistic drawings
The 5 elements of shading are:
- Full light
- Core shadow
- Reflected light
- Cast shadow
Learn more by visiting Drawing Tips For Realistic Drawings – The Elements Of Shading
Once you have an understanding of how light reacts to different subjects and materials you will be able to use the drawing techniques above to create a realistic drawing.
Control Your Edges
Edges created by value define the separation of objects.
In real life, there are no lines around objects.
You can see an object by the values of the object and the different values of the space around the object.
Value is the relative lightness or darkness of a color.
You can see in the drawing below that I was able to create separation from all of the objects by concentrating on the edges of each object.
Practice by creating an edge and adding value to the area without ruining the edge.
Draw a straight line and add lines that connect with the line. Make sure that there are no gaps between the lines. The lines should be touching each other.
Draw another straight line and draw lines that touch the edge and go away from the edge. All of the lies should connect with the first line and not overlap them.
Draw a curve and add curved lines that touch the other lines. Make sure there are no gaps between the lines.
This is a valuable exercise and it will help you to have control of the edges of your subjects.
This is not an exercise that will help you to improve your drawing skills but it will help you to protect your drawing.
Always keep a piece of paper between your hand and the drawing surface.
If your hand rests on the graphite your drawing surface will become smudged and oils from your hand will soil the drawing surface making it imposable to draw soft value changes.
Tip – Always lift the paper your hand is resting on before moving it. If you drag the paper over your drawing surface the shielding paper will remove some of the graphite and add the graphite to areas that you do not want it.
Understand Different Textures
Observe the different textures of the subjects you are drawing.
You will have to adjust your technique fur different textures because light reacts differently on different objects.
For example, metal is a smooth surface and you will have to keep the values consistent and use soft value changes to create depth.
On the other hand, tree bark has a rough surface with a lot of valleys that light will not reach. In this situation, you will have to add different values to create the illusion of the cracks in the bark.
Before you start drawing observe the object and determine if the subject has a smooth surface or a rough surface.
A smooth surface like chrome on a motorcycle will have higher contrast and prominent highlights.
A rough surface like tree bark will have low contrast and little highlights.
Practice the different surfaces by drawing a soda can and a tree trunk.
The soda can will have smooth value changes while the tree trunk will have inconsistent values creating the illusion of bark.
Smooth Value Changes
Proper blending requires smooth value changes.
Before you can create smooth value changes the create photorealism drawings you must learn how to apply the pencil line and properly and learn how to use blending tools.
Soft value changes start with the lines you put on your paper.
No amount of blending will smooth inconsistent lines.
If there is space between the lines or the darkness of the lines are inconsistent the blending will be off.
How to draw smooth values:
- Start by applying your pencil lines softly and in the same direction.
- Build value by using different pencil grades not by pressing too hard on the drawing surface.
- The first layer of graphite should be done with a 2H pencil.
- Start with the darkest areas and work towards the lighter values.
- Keep drawing over the area with the 2H pencil until you have reached the maximum darkness your pencil can produce.
- Take your HB pencil and add more value to the area starting with the darkest part and work towards the lighter area.
- Continue this step with your 2B pencil, 4B pencil, and 6B pencil if needed.
The values should look even and gradually lighten.
I did not use any blending tools with the drawing above. Everything was accomplished with a pencil.
To soften the values of your drawing you can use a blending stump, tortillion, q-tip of tissue with no lotion.
Smooth everything out with a blending tool by moving in the same direction you used to draw the values on your paper.
Use a light, even motion starting with the dark areas and work towards the lighter areas.
Practice adding dept to a sphere like the one below. Pay attention to the 5 elements of shading.
Study Photo References
Notice how light reacts to the surface
Identify the texture of the subject.
Even though the image is two-dimensional try to see the subject as a three-dimensional object. Doing this will help you with the shading.
Notice the soft value changes within the subject. Print a black and white copy of the subject if you are having a difficult time seeing the value changes.
Drawing is observing and transferring what you see on paper.
Continue to look at your reference images while you are drawing.
Practicing Will Enhance Your Drawing Skills
Drawing is a skill that can be learned just like guitar or drums.
A person does not play their favorite song the first time they pick up a guitar.
It takes many hours to learn how to play guitar just like it takes many hours to learn how to draw realistic drawings.
If you draw every day you will soon see that you are able to draw whatever your mind can imagine.
Use the drawing tips outlines in this post to help you speed up the learning process.
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