Like any other skill, learning how to draw takes time. But, you don’t have to draw boring exercises to learn. Draw what you want to draw! Here are 10 valuable drawing tips and tricks for beginners I have compiled to make sure you keep having fun while learning a new skill. Let’s start!
Drawing Tip #1: Have a backstory in mind
If you want to avoid doodles and focus on a fun well-executed project, you need an idea.
Ever dreamt of a character or a specific scene? Now’s your chance to make it come alive!
I have found that when you have a certain narrative in mind, your artwork will stand out.
You don’t have to visualize your story literally.
Let the viewer put 1 + 1 together! So, what story do you want to tell?
How to come up with a drawing idea
For example, I want to draw an adventurous character. In my mind, I created a story:
There’s a girl. She’s been through a lot. Bad guys are after her.
They all need to get to the same location before it’s too late.
The only problem is, it’s hidden away deep into the jungle. *Ominous music increases*
To visualize she is travelling through the jungle her clothing must be jungle proof. Some boots, a shirt with short sleeves, and perhaps a backpack.
We can tell she has been through a lot because her skin has some scratches and her hair is messy.
She has a weapon because she has to defend herself against enemies.
Maybe she’s holding a map that shows how to get to her destination? (See how her backstory helps here!)
When imagining your character you imagined it in a certain way. What style was it? Realistic or cartoony? Have you got your own style?
Drawing tip #2 Use (free) tools to collect and display reference
Draw inspiration from Pinterest for your drawing We always need visual inspiration. Don’t skip this step!
I assure you- you will have to interrupt your drawing streak and lookup references. It takes you out of your concentration.
Use Pinterest to collect references for your drawings
Pinterest is an excellent source for this. You don’t have to collect references in the style you’re going to draw in. Anything that inspires you helps. Make a board and start pinning!
Use Instagram to save artwork that inspires you
Instagram is also a great source of inspiration. Anything that looks interesting to me I save.
Don’t take your references too literally: sometimes I save an image just because the lighting looks nice. Or the color scheme is great. Or I like the composition.
Use software to keep your drawing references organized
PureRef is amazing software that allows you to combine references and display them neatly. You buy it for a price you decide. You can even fill in 0 dollars and come back later and purchase it. Worth checking out!
Drawing tip #3 Design the layout of your artwork by making thumbnails
Every idea needs a plan. That’s where thumbnailing comes in.
Thumbnails are small sketches that help us iterate the end design of our artwork.
We thumbnail to decide the layout, composition and frame of our drawing. It’s no so much about the character- or environment design, but about where each object goes.
Going back to our example: We have a character that’s been travelling through the jungle. Do we want to include the jungle in the background? If so, where should each tree go? and the character?
Thumbnails are supposed to be small (hence the name) and fast. You don’t have to draw everything in detail.
Draw some circles to represent the trees and a stick figure to represent your character. It’s all about the layout design.
Drawing Tip #4 Don’t start on your final paper
I have 2 kinds of paper in my studio: Sketchbook paper & my expensive paper.
I use my sketchbook to design and practice ideas. My expensive paper is saved for drawings I will spend a lot of time on (and will possibly sell).
Sketch your character on a separate piece of paper. You can go to town: Erase, press hard, erase again, go over lines a few times etc.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and improve your design.
Once you’re done you should transfer your sketch onto clean paper so you can start shading.
Also, if I’m coloring my drawing I never start with the most important thing (like the face). I always start with something less important (like a character’s pants).
This way I can warm up and once I’m in the zone I can start on more difficult areas.
Drawing Tip#5: Choose a shading technique and stick to it
Shading, also referred to as rendering, is a drawing technique in which the artist makes their sketch look like it’s an actual subject made out of certain materials (like wood, stone, or something organic like water or skin).
There are endless shading techniques. Most commonly there’s hatch shading and cell shading.
Decide how you want to shade your drawing and stick to it. Don’t mix shading techniques, it can look like you don’t know what you’re doing.
Do you want to stick to graphite? Then hatching might be an option. Rather go for a cartoon illustration like Among Us Characters? Cell shading sounds like your thing!
Drawing Tip #6: Use Perspective when drawing skies
Okay, hear me out. You probably know you should use perspective when drawing indoor scenes. But, drawing skies in perspective is what everyone forgets.
Drawing clouds is pretty hard because we tend to draw them like they appear on a 2D surface. Once you added perspective lines you realise we’re looking up at them. We need to draw the bottom!
Tap to see perspective grid overlay:
Tip #7: Clear your desk to avoid distraction
Having a clean clutterless environment to work in does wonder for your art. Unconsciously, you are constantly being distracted by clutter. Without the distraction, your brain can fully focus on visualizing your story.
Tip #8: Watch and read video- & blog post tutorials
I think this is the most valuable tip in this article. Watching & reading tutorials on how to draw makes a HUGE impact on your drawing skills. Even watching speed-art helps. Reading blog posts and articles like these is how I learnt how to draw. All those little nuggets and pieces of information will help you tremendously.
There are tons of events in the animation and illustration industry. Want to know what those events exist out of? Mostly demo’s and workshops. Not only do these professionals, who work for companies such as Disney, Pixar & Dreamworks, know they can learn more, they really want to learn! That’s why they never stop reading articles and following tutorials brought to them by their peers. So, good on you for reading this!
Drawing tip #9: Trace & Learn
If you’re venturing into something new to draw, find an example and trace it. A hard thing to draw is emotion. Drawing them straight from a reference can be quite disappointing. Especially if your reference is realistic and your going for a stylized style. You need to figure out what to draw that translates that emotion. So what can we do? Trace!
If we simplify the lines on our realistic reference we can see which areas are important to capture in our own design. After we’re done tracing, we can take a new piece of paper and draw our stylized character with those key lines in mind et voila, now we learned how to draw that emotion.
Tip #10 Protect your work
Last but not least, protect your work. Once finished, it’s a good idea to seal your work with a protective spray.
They’re fairly cheap and come in many kinds. Make sure to get the one suitable for your medium and spray away.
Do this outside so you don’t inhale it :’)
I hope this got you well on your way to start your next drawing. Feel free to ask me any questions! What’s the first tip you’re going to use?
Some bonus drawing tips & tricks
When working with characters why not name them? It makes you care more about them and you will be more likely to finish. Plus, it’s fun!
Make sure to make time to do your drawing projects. Write it down in your planner! Don’t you dare replacing it when something else comes up. You are allowed to invest time into your hobbies ♡
Developing a skill isn’t a straight line up from sucking to greatness.
Sometimes I draw something that attracts multiple buyers quickly. But the drawing I make after that looks… questionable (I woudn’t dare showing it on social media).
Remember that we are people, not machines. We make mistakes all the time and sometimes we have to make them more than once.
By doing studies I mean drawing something as best as you can, from reference. Either a picture or plein air (out in the real world).
I once studied how to draw a rose. Now I can draw a rose in a matter of minutes, without reference!